Opportunity Knocks

If you know me personally, and even if you don’t, I think it’s fairly obvious that I am a person that stumbles into various opportunities and experiences on a fairly routine basis. I love it, not only because it gives me a cool story to tell (usually), but more often than not, I find myself meeting wonderful people and being offered yet another cool experience.

I believe, especially as an actor, that it is super easy to make personal connections (and, I guess in a pretentious-actor sort of way, “network”) backstage and on-set because all it takes is a smile and the willingness to introduce myself to strangers and trust that I’ll be able to find something in common with them.

Today was no different– I got a call awhile ago from a gentleman who runs a production company that was planning on filming in the Quad Cities. He’d heard about me through another director I’d worked with in the past and wanted to know if I would be willing to come in and act in a training video they were shooting for a private security firm. Of course, I said yes.

One strange bonus about my hair is that it’s gotten me a lot of acting work. I’ve worked for five or six different video companies, mostly playing some variation on an angry teenage hooligan/angry teenage punk– although with the benefit of my “spaceship computer voice” and a wig, I’ve been able to play a few more normal parts— I did a pretty fun video for John Deere awhile ago that involved a complicated script about manufacturing– I think I understood maybe 20% of what I was talking about, but it led to a small radio commercial as well, so I wasn’t complaining.

Anyway, so I showed up ready to get my hooligan on, and sure enough, I was harassing a security guard within the hour. (Not for fun, that’s what I was supposed to be doing).

I love doing training videos because most of the time, they aren’t scripted, so you just start talking and let whatever happens happen. It’s a fun acting exercise as well, because most of the time, the security guards or employees are ACTUAL security guards and employees, so it becomes my responsibility to make sure they succeed in the scene, not the other way around– which is kind of a fun challenge, especially when the person is shy or doesn’t know what to say. I think this work has also improved my ability to be able to make conversation with damn near anyone, no matter how little they might seem like they have to offer at first. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, I think.

Afterwards, I got to taking with a couple of the other actors and this woman from Palmer (where we were shooting) came out to talk to us and started telling us how much she would like to have some actors come in and talk to the students about dealing with diversity and patient communication. One thing led to another (as it usually does) and 10 minutes later, I found myself in her office discussing the best topic to speak on this Friday morning.

I don’t know why these things happen to me, but I feel so lucky that they do. Maybe it’s because I’ve made a conscientious  effort to be as open as possible to opportunity, but I don’t think I’ve ever said “yes” to something like this without having something come of it.

What’s the most awesome for me isn’t the experience or my track record in “and now something even more random has happened”– it’s what’s coming out of it. On Friday, I’m going to be speaking to Palmer students about my experiences with my movement disorder and the good (and bad) experiences I had being an “undiagnosable” patient.

I’ve talked before about my experiences and what it was like going through all of that, so I won’t go into it again, but something about being able to open up and share that experience with a roomful of future doctors is very cathartic to me. I’m not going to approach it with negativity– that would be too easy. Instead, I’m going to tell them how to prevent that experience from happening to their patients. I’m going to talk about their opportunity to affect lives and how powerful something as simple as a handshake and a smile can be when you’re scared and alone in the hospital.

I don’t have any big ideas that I’m going to shatter someone’s perception of reality or inspire the next Patch Adams, but I feel like maybe, in some small way, I’m might be able to positively impact some future patient’s experience, and that, to me, is the biggest pay off yet– and all because I smiled and introduced myself.

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