Last month, I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago for the summer. Chicago is not only my hometown, it’s where I started acting. It’s where I took my first class, got my first headshots, had my first audition, and did my first play. When I first started acting, I was in high school. I had no idea there was a such thing as technique or training, and I had no plans on acting professionally.
Ever since I could remember, I had dreamed of being a journalist and a dancer. I was about to graduate from one of the best journalism schools in the country, when in my last semester of college, I did a play that changed my life and the course of my career.
“I’m going to be an actor!” I told my family, upon graduation. Of course, they all thought I was crazy. I had never taken a single class; I didn’t even know if I had an ounce of talent.
When I look back on that choice at the time, I wasn’t aware that I stood at a professional crossroads. I didn’t worry about the results. I didn’t obsess about the future. And, I had no fear. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was actually doing exactly what is at the heart of all great acting: I was fully present, in the moment, and following my instincts.
The way I saw it, I was simply making a choice to START doing something I wanted to do. In that choice to start, I was open to taking a risk in the hopes of discovering where that risk might lead me.
Flashforward years later, and I’ve dedicated my life to this work. Along the way, I meet other people who want to do creative work, and they often ask me an array of questions:
Should I move to NYC or LA?
Do I need a day job?
Where should I go to school?
How am I going to pay my bills?
There is an avalanche of questions that—for better or worse—I never even asked myself before I took my very first step. And though I’m sure it’s smart to ask, I’m certain that’s it better to take a risk and simply start. I say this not because I don’t encourage making well-informed & educated choices, but because it is very easy to get paralyzed in preparation to start…and never actually just get to being creative, starting your project, or taking the first step.
Whether it’s creating a comic book in your living room in Westmont, Illinois, or moving to NYC to pursue your stage dreams, the first step is to start. So, to all of you that participate in & contribute to the Chicago South Asian Film Festival community, I encourage you to start whatever creative journey that you’ve been wanting to travel…to take the idea that currently lives in your imagination and bring it to life by just taking one small step. You never know where that road may lead you, but there’s only one way to find out –to boldly begin.
If you want to see or hear more from Puja, you can find here:
Also, you can check out a preview of her developing web series “Friendly Confines”, which is currently on YouTube.
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