My only saving grace in this downward spiral of intuition guilt, is what a well known theatre director once told me.“You know you’re doing what you should be, when at the end, it feels like you didn’t do anything.”
Becky Forbes is an actor, blogger, teacher, and painter. She is a very active member of the New Brunswick Theatre scene, as well as being heavily involved with the film community. Currently, she is working as an art teacher at Magnetic High School in Moncton, NB – she has an AMAZING instagram account where she shares the art she does with the kids (@MsForbesArt)
On her blog, http://www.newpinkapron.com, Becky shares her mistakes and successes in the kitchen as a way to chronicle her journey to fitness. “I hope to inspire and motivate others while also gaining support for myself. I also use my blog as a form of therapy where I can unload about my life.”
I went to university with Becky. We took the theatre program together, and she was ridiculously inspiring. I loved watching the way she lived her life. When she walks into the room, you smile. I think we all know those people.
With that said, I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing the following interview. Enjoy.
1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?
I think the biggest thing that is constantly pushing me forward is recognition. That may sound terribly vain, but it’s just true. I crave a pat on the back, I love knowing that I’m doing a good job. I NEED THE APPLAUSE!! It’s like a drug. I cannot get enough of it. When I do something in my career that is awesome, I a) want people to see what I did because I’m proud of it and b) I LOVE seeing the joy on people’s faces when I do it!
I am definitely still that 8 year old little girl in the pool yelling “Mom! MOM! Mom! Did you see me?? Did you see what I did??!! MOOOOOOMMMMM!!!”
I love when people get excited about something I do. I think that’s just human nature….right? RIGHT?
But I’m also at a place in my life where my ambition is fueled by fear and a little bit by anger. Yep, I said anger. I am 31 years old and I do not have a job to call my own. I live in a constant state of uneasiness and instability. And that makes me angry. AND SCARED! So part of my motivation to always be better than yesterday, is simply me trying to PROVE to EVERYONE that I’m GOOD!! PICK ME!!! I deserve a job! I work hard and have good ideas and can execute them!!!!
In the same breath, I’m always wanting to push further because it’s simply frigging fun.
It’s that simple.
I am a dreamer, I dream big. And I have been called an idealist MANY times in my life.
I ENJOY reaching.
It is so insanely amazing when you set your sights on doing something outlandish or risky or unheard of, and then you accomplish it….and you accomplish it with pinache. It actually tickles my soul when that happens and I think that is what keeps me going. Whether that is on stage or in the classroom.
2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).
This was the hardest question of the bunch. Maybe I’m naïve but I don’t think of anything I’ve really done as a “failure”. I’ve made mistakes and god knows I’ve made a lot of them, but nothing that I would consider a failure.
I guess there’s a few times in my life when I’ve had a shift in consciousness though.
One happened when I was doing my Bachelor of Education and I was doing a theatre minor at the same time. I was also doing A LOT of film work that year and I was feeling really good about myself.
I wasn’t feeling good about my Bed because I thought the class/lecture section was boring and pointless, and I wasn’t having a very good practicum either, so my main focus was always on my theatre and film work because it filled me up!
Well, I had to deliver a lesson one day to the grade 5 class I was observing, and I bombed it. I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t very engaging. After school that day, the teacher I was working with sat down with me to go over my evaluation and he was not impressed. He basically tore a strip off me and told me that if I spent more time focused on teaching and less on acting than I would have done better.
Not because I was sad, because I was embarrassed. Actually, I was mortified.
So I went home that night and had a good long cry and then realized he was right. I was being an ass.
And I realized right there and then that I needed to get my shit together and figure out what my priorities were.
I had been sailing along thinking that I could do it all, when in fact I definitely could not. And not only was I screwing myself by not learning as much as I could from him, but I was being SO DISRESPECTFUL!! What a waste of his time!
That’s a moment where things shifted for me and I realized I had to grow up a little more.
I think I view a “shift in consciousness” as a moment when you are forced to grow up; a moment when you’re forced to deal with your shit.
And these will continue to happen for the rest of our lives. It’s just the universe giving us a push.
The other time I’ve been forced to grow up is when I ended a very serious relationship. I was engaged and ended it. I met Tom while I was with this person and my intuition told me that Tom was the one. I knew it. I knew it more clearly than I had ever known anything. But that doesn’t mean that I dealt with that information right away.
But there came a point where I knew I needed to grow up and just do what needed to be done.
It was THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this person. Nothing. He was sweet and handsome and I knew he would love me to the ends of the earth.
But he wasn’t who I wanted.
Giving back an engagement ring and telling someone who loves you that you don’t love them is……unbearable.
After this experience, I felt like I had aged. I could actually feel it. I was literally a different person. I looked at things in a new perspective and I thought about things differently.
I think if I had to name one thing in my life that is a “failure”. I would say this. I’m not proud at all of how I handled things, and I’ll always carry the weight around that I hurt someone incredibly deeply.
3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?
I am happy. Happiness is knowing that I have friendships and relationships that have genuine value. I have never EVER been the girl with a gazillion friends, but I have always had a few near and dear friends that I know won’t run away when shit gets tough, or who I can call at 3am because I’m having a panic attack, or who make me laugh so hard I can’t breathe. Happiness is the security of knowing those relationships exist.
I think that if my world was crumbling around me, and I knew these people were still going to be there when the dust settled, I could get through whatever it is. DON’T GET ME WRONG! I WOULD STILL BE VERY UPSET AND DEVASTATED, but I know that I would have support and love to get me through.
And that definitely makes me happy.
Happiness is also knowing that I am needed. That I am useful and essential to someone. And I have that.
My boyfriend needs me to love him and support him and to laugh with him.
My step-daughter needs me to love her, to teach her, to mold her, to nurture her, to discipline her. Holy lord, she needs me in ways she doesn’t even understand yet.
My students need me to teach them, to excite them, to make them laugh, to guide them and to change their perspective from time to time.
My family needs me to love them, to enjoy them, to support them, to cry with them, to laugh with them…..and you know…….to walk the dog every now and again, or pick up the mail when they are gone. Everyday simple things.
But I am NEEDED and that fills me up!
I also have a bright outlook on the future. Meaning, I have many ideas for what my future will hold, stuff I want to do, things I want to experience, places I want to see…and I think having that hope or wonderment about what comes next keeps me in that happy place. I’m always thinking ahead to what I still have left to experience.
I’ve always just kind of been a happy person. I like to laugh, I like to laugh at least once every single day, and I do! Most days I laugh really REALLY hard!
4. What do you think is your greatest strength? On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?
My greatest strength is my intuition. MUCH of my life is based on my intuition. Many times I have thought about my life and how I got to where I am now, or how I got through certain situations or what made me make decisions about things…and it all comes down to intuition.
Some of the greatest choices I’ve ever made have come from that tiny little voice inside my chest (I say chest instead of head here, because I don’t feel that my intuition is my mind…I think it’s in my heart.) Some of the TOUGHEST decisions I’ve ever made in my life are decisions that went completely against the grain of what other people might do, or even what my own mind would tell me to do! But almost 100% of the time that I make a move based on intuition, I win. I succeed, or I get the outcome I want.
My intuition has served me very well over the years! It’s how I make art, it’s how I teach, it’s how I live my life! Which is FANTASTIC! Because I always feel that my heart is involved in everything I do. And it quite literally feeds me. Feeds my soul and makes it happy! This might sound really strange but when I’m painting, I can literally FEEL IT in my soul. It’s an actual physical feeling….of knowing? I guess?
BUT! It has some pretty major drawbacks too. I always feel like a fake.
I live a lot of my life wondering if someone is gonna come tap me on the shoulder one day and say “Alright, we figured you out, you’re outta here.”
…And I also always imagine that that person is a police officer from Brooklyn.
I feel like I don’t know ANYTHING. Truly. I am always flying by the seat of my pants. Often when I do an art lesson with my students, I have a VERY HARD time explaining in words WHY the lesson is beneficial to them. I KNOW why it’s beneficial because I can feel it. Or when I have students ask me for help, I rarely feel like I am explaining what I want effectively. Only when I SHOW them what I’m looking for by doing an example or a demo, do I feel like I’m making sense.
And then I feel guilty sometimes when they finish an assignment and it’s beautiful, and I feel like I was useless to their success, that they did it all on their own, and they didn’t need me.
My only saving grace in this downward spiral of intuition guilt, is what a well known theatre director once told me.
“You know you’re doing what you should be, when at the end, it feels like you didn’t do anything.”
In that context, we were talking about directing a play and he/she talked of how a good director creates an environment where the actors can really do the work. That a good director’s job is to support the work that is happening in the room and gently guide it in the right direction.
I try to apply the same idea to the classroom.
Whether I actually believe that or whether I NEED to think that to just get through the day and still think I’m a good teacher, is beyond me. It’s a toss up.
5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?
There was never a moment in my life where I wanted to be a visual artist.
I am being so honest here. Christine, what are you doing to me!!??
I don’t even like to say I’m an “artist”. Because I again, I feel like a fake! I’ve always enjoyed painting and coloring, but it was always something I just kinda did for fun. When I was in high school and taking grade11-12 Art I started to realize that I was fairly good at what I was doing, but never ever did I feel like I could BE an artist. I still don’t!! I would NEVER want to try to make a living by being a visual artist. My way to make money from being an “artist” is by being a teacher.
I find IMMENSE satisfaction in teaching art. I LOVE instilling a sense of fun into art, and letting students know that art doesn’t have to be so serious, and that mistakes are good! That. I love.
BUT. I have almost ALWAYS wanted to be an actor.
I remember catching the acting bug back as far as grade 3. I was a nuisance in class, I was struggling academically and my teacher suggested to me that I try out for the school play.
I did. I got a main part and I was hooked FOREVER MORE.
Gosh…..thinking back on that first play. It was a Christmas play where I played Santa’s head elf, Hughie. I felt SO incredibly important. My character was kind of a trickster and was always doing ridiculous things and I remember getting laughs from my peers and it feeling like THE BEST thing in the ENTIRE world.
That year my school also held a drawing contest to design the cover of the play’s program, and my entry won. I felt on top of the world that year.
But from then on, I never stopped doing drama in school.
Except in junior high when we only did one show, and I was so incredibly sad the rest of my time in that school.
Drama was really all I had. It was the ONLY thing in my school years that made me happy. I was a TERRIBLE student. To this day I don’t recall doing any school work…..ever. No homework, no studying, I don’t even remember class time.
To me, the school only had three rooms. The theatre, the art room and the music room. If it hadn’t been for these three rooms and these teachers, I don’t think I would have survived high school.
I’m not even being dramatic. I think the story of my life could have gone in a completely different direction. If I hadn’t had a place that made me feel special, a place that challenged me, a place that allowed me to show the world that I was good at something, I would have been eaten up.
I can tell you honestly that the experiences I had in high school are what made me believe that I belonged in the arts. Somehow.
But when I got to University and started taking my theatre classes, I REALLY learned that I have something valuable to offer. I had never been challenged like that before. I had also never been put in my place like I had in those classes. Ha! I came into first year thinking I was hot shit, that I knew everything already, and all I wanted to do was musicals.
Holy hell, was I in for an awakening experience!
I was challenged by the other students in the class, who were doing better work than me, and I was definitely challenged by my director. That man pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, that there were days where I DREADED going to theatre class.
BUT, at the end of those three years…I felt that I had learned so much and I also felt prepared to attempt directing and acting on my own! Outside of our safe little classroom.
I am so grateful to him for that. He is NOT a man of many words, and I …..clearly am. I mean, shut up already, Becky. I like words. I like feedback, I like being PATTED ON THE BACK!
But he is not that guy.
He made me critique myself, he made me search for the answers myself, and he made me celebrate myself! If that makes any sense? He taught me a very valuable lesson. That I’m not always going to have someone there to fan my feathers! That I need to figure out and search and see if the work I’m doing is decent on my own.
He was there to guide me, not do the work for me.
Holy shit, as I’m writing this now, I’m realizing how MUCH he taught me. About acting and directing but also about life and growing up.
Thanks Papa Len 😉
I’ve gone on a tangent here, but I think the answer is…..grade 3.
6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?
I’m terrible for following a routine but I can say that the one thing that makes me happy and puts me in the right frame of mind for a positive day is exercise. I DON’T DO IT VERY OFTEN!, but when I do it’s such a different day!
Even just walking on the treadmill or 30 minutes does the trick. It’s those endorphins!! I NEED EM!
Now I do have a morning routine, that I almost don’t want to share because I’m afraid you’ll make fun of me but, I will.
My morning (every school morning) must consist of a nice, hot cup of coffee and Netflix while I do my makeup and hair.
But I only like to watch, happy, nothing bad ever happens, shows in the morning. Some of my favorites include: Full House, Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Mindy Project….I need that dose of joy in the morning when I am at my most vulnerable.
I am NOT a morning person.
If I can manage to get some coffee and Netflix in the morning that I feel like I can conquer the day and whatever it has to bring.
7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?
Tom. Tom is the BEST person for me to talk to when I’m feeling like I’m floundering. I said before that I’m a big dreamer and that comes with consequences; I stress big too. I worry all the time about what I’m doing and whether it’s right and whether people will like it, or if it’s good enough. Or if I’m letting people down!! I think that might be my absolute biggest fear. Tom is very VERY good at bringing me back down to earth and helping me see the big picture.
But that doesn’t mean he always agrees with me!
Which is very important too. Tom doesn’t just “fan my feathers” either. He gives me his legitimate opinion and because I respect him so much, I LOVE hearing it.
I think he is so brilliant and it’s amazing to have someone who understands what I do, weigh in.
But let’s be clear, I also HATE hearing it at the same time, because when he’s right and I’m wrong, it’s the WORST! Ha!
But I also have MANY talented and intelligent friends who operate within the arts, whether as actors, directors or teachers, and I respect all of them so much that I always have at least someone to turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing.
8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?
I think a great artist might be someone who never stops learning. I don’t think being creative means that you were born like that and that you have an endless supply of awesomeness inside you.
I think people who are “great” are people who read books. Are people that read the newspaper. Are people that go out and try to experience new things or who try to experience old things in a new way.
You need to fill yourself up.
Being an artist means you have something to say. Whether you are expressing your own feelings or trying to make a comment on society. How can you effectively do those things when you are running on empty?
Talent is only one part of the equation. To be great, there has to be depth, and I think depth comes from knowledge and experience.
And it’s easy to fall into complacency! Believe me! I’ve done it! MANY TIMES! But it’s so much more fruitful and satisfying to feed your soul and let that nutrition seep out through your projects.
I have recently made a promise to myself to try to do more of this. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s hard! It’s so easy to waste HOURS on Pinterest or Facebook, or on those mind-numbing games that are so addictive! I’m lookin’ at YOU, Candy Crush! Or on NETFLIX! Hello, my name is Becky Forbes, and I am a television binge watcher.
And guess what, I haven’t felt inspired. I’M RUNNING ON EMPTY! So, I’m making an effort to do some of those “great” things that I know will help me in the end.
9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).
If I could talk to younger me, I would tell myself to just FUCKING GO FOR IT!
Stop being so afraid and just DO IT. Stop worrying what other people are going to think and just do what you want.
One of my biggest regrets was not applying to theatre school right out of high school. I didn’t do it because I had no idea how to even go about it, and I was also really really REALLY scared. I was terrified to become the small fish in the HUGE pond.
Please don’t be afraid of this. You can learn so much when you’re the small fish! Absorb everything you can from the bigger fish around you, and then come out the other side as one giant SUPER-FISH!
I’ll always wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone. Would I have succeeded? Would I have bombed and failed out? Would I have “made it”? I’ll never know.
I am extremely happy with where my life has taken me, but there is just this little nugget in the back of my mind that wonders…
I think as a young person, you should be forced to say yes to EVERY opportunity that is presented to you.
My other big piece of advice is to just ADMIT THAT YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. Because you don’t. Not only will you open yourself up to far more experiences and not only will you try to learn from those experiences, but people will WANT to teach you!
Being a kind, open, and UN-PRETENTIOUS artist is the key to getting everything you want. This is actually a very important concept for working in the arts. Theatre and film especially.
As an actor you can live and die on your reputation. I have seen directors cast someone who may not be the perfect fit for a role because the person that WOULD be a good fit is an ass-hole.
Creating a show is labour intensive and long and grueling. The dynamic of the group NEEDS to work. So don’t be the douche-bag that can’t stop talking about themselves, don’t be the lazy-bum that won’t pick up a hammer, don’t be the dummy that expects their costume to be laundered by someone else.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
If you work in theatre, become best friends with the tech crew because they do a shit-ton of work and without them there would be NO SHOW. And in my experience, they are some of the funniest people you will ever meet.
If you work in film, become best friends with the crew because they are the ones that make you LOOK GOOD. Have you ever seen your face on a big screen? It’s fucking scary. You’re gonna want the make-up person to LOVE you. You’re gonna want the lighting person to LOVE you.
And if you work as a teacher, make best friends with the custodians of your school. They are the keepers of EVERYTHING! Need more paper towel? Need a ladder? Need some curtains hung? Need a projector? More chairs?? Less chairs?? In my experience custodians have been essential for me to do any of the awesome, crazy stuff I do at school.
Just be nice. It’s so easy and so rewarding.
10. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
Oh my gosh! I LOVE that feeling. I feel it often!
I have felt it many times on stage. I remember talking about this with my friend and theatre director, Scott, and we talked about how when you get into “the zone” on stage it’s almost like everything slows down, but also that everything is going fast. It’s like meditation.
For me, my body gets to this place where it almost feels weightless and it just huuuummmms. Do you know what I mean? It’s like there is this really tiny, really skinny thread running from my feet, all the way through my body and out through my finger tips and top of my head and it’s been plucked….and it hums.
And it’s almost an out of body experience. I’m in it and I know I’m in it, but I’m also somehow able to watch myself. It’s very strange but VERY cool.
And once I get into that place, it’s hard to get out! Usually after a good show like that I am just ZOOOOOOMing! I can’t calm down and I feel energized! And fresh! And awake!
It’s so cool.
When I paint I get into the zone too, but not in the same way. I think on stage there’s an adrenaline rush that goes with it but when I’m alone and painting it’s more like a quiet meditation where I’m not even in control of my body anymore.
You know when you drive somewhere and you arrive there and you’re like, how the hell did I get here??
That’s kinda what it’s like! I go on auto-pilot and my body just does what it’s supposed to. My hands are just listening to my intuition and they’re just doing it.
I can get into the flow when I’m singing too. And it’s completely different than acting and painting. Mostly when I’m singing with someone else though. When I’m singing in harmony with someone it’s an incredible sensation. I get that humming feeling again. And there is just something about mixing your voice with someone else’s that is unlike anything, ever.
I used to sing in a girl’s choir and I can tell you that I’ve almost been brought, no, I HAVE been brought to tears, by the harmonies we would make. When everybody was in sync and we were all tuned into one another and that perfect harmony came out…. unbelievable. It’s like you could feel the vibrations mixing. I love it. I miss it.
It’s important to note though, that none of these “zone” moments happen all the time. It takes a perfect concoction of time, head space, and focus to get there.
11. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?
Oh god, my favourite book??
That is extremely hard.
Well, I guess I’m going to share something embarrassing about myself. One of my favourite books, actually 3 books because it’s a trilogy, is by Nora Roberts. The books are called the “Key” trilogy. Basically it’s about 3 women who live on a small island off the coast of New England or something, and they are witches. One who enjoys it, one who hates it, and one who doesn’t even know she’s a witch. Anyway, they are cheesy romantic novels but I love them. I have read them all more than once………………more than twice…..
Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees
Teacher Instagram: @MsForbesArt
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