The World According to Rachel: On Loving What You Do and Doing the Work

Rachel Ruecker, Senior Editor

Ya girl is about to get real meta — bear with me.

Many old adages say something to the tune of: “You get out what you put in,” “Work begets work,” “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary,” so on and so forth.

My friends in studio and I often joke about “doing the work” ‘cause it sounds kind of pretentious if we’re all being honest.

But it’s true.

Ask anyone who’s ever loved something enough to spend upwards of $70,000 a year to study it. We complain, kick and scream along the way, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t have it any other way.

As part of our studio requirement, most Tisch Drama students have to crew a show at some point in their first year. You literally have to do the work. Hanging lights, painting sets, spiking chairs, running light and soundboards and just generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Crew week is a feared institution. I had mine last week. I spent all day — literally 14 hours — Sunday in a theater doing load-in. And then nearly each day during the week I was in the theater — after a day of theater school — working the soundboard. When did I have time to do my homework? Great question. One night I literally fell asleep in my towel after showering at the end of crew. It was stressful and awful, but it was also amazing and inspiring, and I learned about 1,000 new things.

And that’s the point of crew, in my complete non-expert opinion. You get to watch a piece of theater come together after months of rehearsal, meetings, discussions and, dare I say: work. That’s what most of theater is. That’s what most of anything is. College is really four years of slogging through for a piece of paper that says you are qualified to do a thing. But it’s not about that. It’s about the work you did while you were here.

In high school, we spent nearly four months rehearsing for our main stage plays, which would then run for a week. Four months reduced to just one week. That’s it. That’s all we got. But really, we got so, so much more.

That’s why you have to love what you do. Because most of anything is grinding away at the behind-the-scenes stuff. Learning lines, doing research and mapping out characters. And really this metaphor stretches far, far beyond the theater and into all facets of life. If you don’t love what you do, then you won’t love doing the work. Then the outcome will be subpar, and a nightmarish cycle will continue until one day you will die, unfulfilled. Okay, that was pretty dramatic. But my point still sort of stands. I think. I hope.

So yeah, crew week was a grind and a half — but if anything, it inspired me more to do the work I love so that some kid can be sitting up in the booth, completely unqualified to be running a soundboard, and will get to watch months of work come alive on stage. When the magic comes together, we remember why we ever had this crazy dream to start with. Sometimes when I get so deeply bogged down with assignments, I forget that I go to drama school in New York City. Dan Humphrey didn’t even get into Tisch. He was just Gossip Girl. Which is better? Who’s to say? I digress. I’m just trying to do the work.

Maybe all of it only applies to me, so take what you will, agree where you want — but while you’re here, find what you love and do the work.

Email Rachel Ruecker at [email protected].