As a teen, I had no idea what the self was. Changing skin like a chameleon came naturally to me, but the self felt like a plastic chair in an airport where I’d have to sit and wait for the next radical character to define who I’d be that season. Acting grabbed me by the gut.
An actress friend gave me the name of her psychoanalyst, who introduced me to the concept of a “through line to self,” which sounded like a blind fishing expedition. After ten years of guidance in interpreting the symbols in my dream journals while free-falling through the lives of characters in scripts, I landed on my feet. I discovered my passion for listening to other people’s stories, for empathizing with their dilemmas, and for sitting with them as they excavated their pasts.
In retrospect, intuition and luck guided me on the right path. I think of this as following one’s bliss. As The Power of Myth author Joseph Campbell said, “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. . . . I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
What changed was my entire orientation to others. The hypersensitive antennas that used to tell me who I was supposed to be, when entering a room, now are helpful when assessing how to be of service. What changed is that it’s not about me. We are exquisitely interconnected.
What terrifies me? When I read about plots of evil taking over the world and obliterating women’s hard-won rights. I want our children’s children to be free to walk safely down the street, girls to attend school, and women to work. I hope we continue to have freedom to wear what we want, worship how we want, study what we want, publish what we want while assuming personal responsibility for one’s moral character. I’d like to believe that following one’s bliss is a human right.
Julie Carmen, LMFT, ERYT-500, is associate director of mental health at Yoga Therapy Rx at Loyola Marymount University. She has starred in films, on TV, and on Broadway for directors John Cassavetes, Robert Redford, Michael Mann, and Quentin Tarantino and can be seen in the upcoming film Dawn Patrol.
PHOTO: JEFF HERRERA