What Now?

I have recently taken a few steps back from acting. 2011 was really about concluding a huge chapter of my life, a chapter filled with rainy days in Vancouver, strange aliens from another galaxy, more make-up than I would ever wear on a normal day, and consistently responding to a name that was not my own.

 

The final day of filming on Smallville felt so strange. Strange, in that it was no different than any other day. There was no special send off, no signs, no fireworks, just a box of pictures, a few cards, and a closed trailer door. The end of ten years was so simple, unassuming. But after packing my bags, turning over the keys to my loft, and boarding a plane for NYC I accepted the finality of it all. It was truly done. What now?

 

I was stuck on that question. “What now?” It haunted me. And it seemed to be the first line of all pleasantries. I would see an old friend: “Hey you! So. . .what now?” Give an interview: “So, Allison. . .Smallville is in the can. . .what now?” Even my big brother, in his ever so loving and protective way, put his arm around me and said, encouragingly, “What now? I mean, where do you go from here?” Face to face with old friends, random journalists, and one loving big brother, I had no answer. I’m talking serious crickets.

 

I expressed this concern, this incredible feeling of loss and lack of direction to a dear friend and mentor of mine, Keith Raniere. He asked if I had ever thought about taking a little time away from acting to see what I would find. He inquired about times in my life when I did not work, times when I didn’t attach myself to the title “Allison Mack, Actress” and was just plain, simple, me. On top of being a powerful, actualized character called Chloe Sullivan for the better part of my twenties, I spent fifteen years prior to Smallville being different daughters, best friends, girlfriends, and troubled teens. I have gone from one wardrobe office to another director’s chair my whole life.

 

As wonderful as all these characters were, and are, they are not actually me. None of them have the unique habit of swearing like a sailor (the f-bomb is my favorite word, especially when coupled with “dude”), peeing in front of friends (that’s how you know you have been accepted into my close circle), and laughing like a drunken opera singer being goosed. There is a definitive woman behind the mask of all the others, but she has been so ignored, so undervalued for most of my life that if I am not playing someone else’s story I feel incredibly shallow in my own. I have almost no memory of myself without the identity of “actress.” How strange.

 

So I decided to take Keith’s advice and give myself some time to build the character of me. The actual me. I had no idea what this would entail, but I wanted to give it a shot. A sense of self sounded like a good thing. I could definitely use some of that.

 

I have always wanted to change things in the world. Wanted to be a woman that helps to redefine how all women think and feel about themselves. I have wanted to be a superhero in my own right, “Be the change I want to see in the world” (thanks Gandhi) and help others do the same. Interestingly enough this desire can only be actualized from the inside out. No amount of make-up, hair, lights, or script lines can get me the inner strength and fortitude necessary for achieving such goals. I have to build it in myself. There is no faking this.

 

So, cut to me, three months later. I’m on a panel at a conference and someone from the audience asks me “What now?”. . . crickets. . . bastards. . .still no answer. And now. . . without Chloe, no alter ego, no pre-written snarky lines to answer those daunting questions for me.

 

What do I have to offer now? I am not providing any sort of service, not fulfilling any job title. So then what am I doing? And, still, with that same damn question present, “what now”?

 

Terrifying.

 

It turns out Keith asked me to look at the one area of my life I felt most insecure. I felt as though I had ripped the very foundation out from under myself and I felt paralyzed. Where was I supposed to go from here? Years of transforming the nods of approval that used to come from behind the camera into nods of love and affirmation. I grew up like an Olympic gymnast looking for her score cards. “And it’s a 10!!! The crowd goes wild!!!! She has permission to continue to exist!!” Which is exactly why I now want to prove to myself that I am alive without the applause. I am worthy without the curtain call. I want to trust I am still here without an audience.

 

Coming up to my second spring in NYC, it has been almost one full year without score cards, without nods of approval, without a perfect wardrobe and flawless make-up. I am learning to approve of myself in a different format, for a different reason. Instead of filling my time with kryptonite and super human abilities, I am now writing for my blog, potential books, and magazine articles, and singing, lots and lots of singing. And I have found a passion project, something I believe will change and nurture the world while changing and nurturing me in the process: I am working with an incredible new women’s organization, Jness. And through that work I am discovering things about myself I had no idea existed before. All these things were living in the shadow of who I thought I was, who I thought I should be. Now wouldn’t it have been great if the woman behind the curtain was more together, more elegant and consistent than before. But instead I get all this newness. A baby giraffe standing for the first time. On ice. What do I do with this?

 

And I suppose that is the question of the hour. Instead of focusing on “what now?” maybe I need to shift my focus. Instead of focusing so much on accomplishment I could instead explore.

 

Maybe my life isn’t intended to consist of job, applause, rinse, repeat, job, applause, rinse, repeat. Maybe this momentary pause in the pattern is about wonder, the unknown, and expansive curiosity.

 

And maybe, just maybe, those crickets are serenading in perfect harmony. And if I just listen I will learn to sing along.

  • Stephanie

    I wish to thank you for this message and I would like to tell you that it’s a beautiful decision that you made. I had same questions after my thesis and I hadn’t neither answers. I was following your soap and I was wondering how you could playing these heroes without forgetting who you are. Because, after each episode, I was sad because I was aware this was only a story. This was weird. And I was wondering if, being actress or actor, it was tempting to forget his “human”life… I am writing stories too and I have a tendancy to project myself in my books for forgetting the real life. It’s the better way for being deceived all the time but I can’t help myself. So I find your decision very courageous and I wish you find your way into the new chapter of your life. (Sorry for my English – It’s not my mother tongue obviously)

  • http://twitter.com/71creative 71creative

    I have to say that after spending several years growing so attached to Chloe Sullivan, it’s so refreshing to to hear from the lady behind the mask. I’m not an actor, but often I feel like my career and direction is just this long “tv series” where I continue to anticipate the end when I’ll find my real purpose. I always have this feeling that someday I will quit my job and fulfill my real passions for art and initiating change. Allison, take every opportunity to do more of what you love!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tiffany.rwilliams.31 Tiffany Williams

    Allison I have been watch episodes of smalleville with my husband and son, in all the while wondering what has happend to the cast memebers. As the interenet provides us with so many resources into(sorry) one’s personal life storys, I came accross this letter you wrote. Not realizing it would read as if I wrote it, not realizing that this is what I am experiencing right now as I attend school for my BA, raise my son and be the best wife I can be. I am trying to figure out what now in my life, I feel stuck and have no answers when family or friends as what are you going to do with your degree, am I still going to stay as a stylist and work in a salon or will life change. I appreciate your comments about redefining who you are, and not falling into the repeated trap of your characters. It seems as women we don’t want to fall into the repeated trap as wife, mother, and homemaker/buisness woman. Life has to have more meaning it can’t be this complecated. I look around see other women, other countries who’s women don’t have the opportunities we have and wonder am I living to the fullest or am I simply riding the roller coaster of excuses.

  • micky s

    allison mack u should act after ur long vacation grab a piece of paper and everyday write down one thing first put what should i do now with acting u could be the new wonder women ,catwomen,find away to be in a new movie never made and star in id call it superwomen or play in a new spiderman or batman movie if a new one comes out my great great grandma and grandpa one was striaght germen from germany and one was striaght irish from iraland spelled wrong but im sure u understand so my blood ant to far from where my people came from

  • Chris Bandt

    A friend tells me you are still with Jness. No one can tell you what your hart wants, only you can do that. Come back to Califonia, and leave the Crazyness of New York behind. (Or better yet) find the ones who have always loved you (for you) and seek comfort in their arms. You did amazing things before Nancy Salzman (and even Smallville) and you are soooo young still. By the way, your singing (as seen on youtube) is something Simon Cowell should be looking into. Most of the actors I’ve met over the years, love the structure of prewritten dialogue (that arrangement of words in sentences to be spoken in just the right way). It can be even a stronger drug than the applause. Find your own voice, your own words, then that person, who not only adds to yours but harmonizes. I wish you all the love and support in the world, and I (and thousands of your fans) know you can do anything you put your hart into.

    If you ever make it back to Cali, don’t forget to watch the sunset in Long Beach, it is almost as good as Pacific Palisades.

  • Pat V

    Dear Allison, I’ve been watching the reruns of Smallville, which I loved, and wishing it had never come to an end. We are all looking for hero’s around us and the cast of that show worked so well together and just fit. I really miss all of you. My prayers for you is that we’ll be seeing you again soon and don’t forget to have fun, good clean fun. Always remember that God loves you no matter what and He’s always waiting for you to come to Him. Thank you so much for the fun and enjoyment that you brought to my life.

  • Nitesh Garg

    For me Smallville was never about Clark Kent, it was always a story of a girl who wanted to change the world for good. She had a dream of better world. Clark was one of the heroes she helped to make that dream come true. When I was watching Smallville I fell in love with chloe over and over again. When it ended I felt a hollow inside and I was wondering how would you be feeling about separating from the character. I felt it was kind of an alternate life that you lived for 10 years and now you are back to being Allison, and how would you be surviving this change. I started to feel connected with you. Time passed and I started to know you from your blogs and I found out that you are the same person. You and Chloe are actually the same person. Chloe had an impact on the world although not many people knew about her, she changed the world. Now that I see your blogs about you making that impact in real life and changing the world, it makes me so happy. Thank You Allison for being an awesome person and inspiring a lot of people like me.

  • Chris

    I would like thank you for getting me threw a very hard time in my life. If was for smallville I don’t if I would made it

  • Jayme Flom

    I seem to be coming late to this particular party, but I wanted express that it’s really awesome that you are able to step back from your career and focus on yourself as a person instead. We will miss you on our television screens, but I respect you a lot for deciding to concentrate on the character development of Allison Mack. I also really love this entry because I think it’s something that everyone can understand and relate to, something that everyone should focus on.

  • Rock

    Good time to visit Maine and have a cup of coffee with a not so stranger. Just an invitation.

  • https://twitter.com/miviciondemundo mi vicion del mundo

    es hermosa tu historia allison mack la mujer mas aya de un papel en la tv y ahora que sigue es una pregunta que sera constante en mi vida sin direccion

  • rfuesting

    Ms. Mack

    I just stumbled across your website and blog. I trust your journey of self-discovery is going well. I like your writing style, please keep it up.

    Rick – just a cog in the great machinery of life.

  • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

    I find it a strange coincidence that I’ve discovered this site and particular post now. I’m a writer and have always loved writing. But I got so caught up with the whole world of platform building, success, status & achievement I lost something. And I consulted with trusted friends and realised this was an issue about identity, about where I was grounded and knowing who I was.

    So I took a sabbatical from public blogging, just wrote a private blog for myself, and am now reading books on identity, strengths, calling. I’m now just wanting to ground my identity somewhere deeper than success or numbers, but in something which matters, which is true – and I can build my purpose and mission once I have that. And I’ve set no deadline on this. Reading your post reminded me why I’m doing this, and that I need to give it as much time as it needs. Thanks for encouraging me Allison.

  • Jerry

    Thank you for creating such a wonderful character such as Chloe, not only was she beautiful and funny but she was also intelligent, three qualities that I really appreciate. I wish you the best for a very bright future, I hope to see more of your work in the future, On screen, on stage or in print.
    Remember that it does not matter what others believe of you, only what you believe of yourself, I hope you have an astounding journey, xx