Written by Dorcas Solomon
Meaghen is one those people I feel fortunate to have met. Her positive energy is contagious, and her selflessness, kind heart, and intellect are just a few things that make her quite exceptional. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and was delighted to share her story with you.
Dorcas: Let's talk about social pressures, parents’ expectations, and dreams.
Meaghen: As a little girl I felt pressured to be strong, intelligent and always to do my best, and as a young woman you learn that you need to have a job, get married, have a house, a car, and that’s what success is – that was the life for my generation. And I think my parents were thinking a doctor, a lawyer, a secretary, or a teacher would be a success story. So when I decided in my last year of high school that I wanted to go into theater, they were very disappointed – they thought since I had an “A” average I could do anything I wanted. I remember telling my father that I got into musical theater school and only 14 or 15 people out of the hundreds that applied got in. Instead of saying congratulations he sat at the dinner table with his steak, fork, and knife, and didn’t look at me and said: “you could buy your ticket anywhere why would you pick this.” I was broken because I always wanted to please my dad. But somehow in me, I thought I could always go back and take that other degree but the artist, the artist’s calling, my heart is going towards this other field and you only have a small window as a theater artist especially as a female. It’s kind of like being an Olympic athlete you have got to take your opportunity when you get it.
So I graduated, ended up in theater, did pretty well, but I don’t know if it was my own mind getting in my way, wondering if I was worthy of this career, or what makes me special - I just never broke through to the next level. I was working a catering shift one day and I got off early and I remember walking to the hotel where one of my mentors was staying and I said today my life is going to change. I gave him my grad application form. Got into grad school with a full scholarship and thought I’m going to try this. I left my boyfriend at the time to give this one more shot. Within 6 months I was on probation. They said I was holding on too tight and that I needed to let go, and they were willing to just let me go. I thought what am I doing wrong, if I can get through this I can get through anything. But of course we forget these lessons; we forget when we overcame a huge mountain. And so fast forward I finally moved back to Canada, and I’m working as an actor which is great, I get my agent, I get my head shot, a great film class and everyone is telling me I’m going to get a series if they ever see me, but then no doors are opening. I always use the analogy of it’s like having your own shop, a restaurant and you have put your whole heart and soul into this restaurant and then you put the open sign on but then nobody walks through the door.
So I got my taxes done that year and I had something like 13 jobs, and I was still in the red. So I thought I need to make a huge change, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen.
With no other opportunities, I started working for a marketing company handing out newspapers to business people coming off the go-train and all of them had a place to go and they looked like dynamite, they looked so put together and I was standing in the middle of the sea of business professionals and I was thinking wow I really stand out, and someone finally stopped me and said “what are you doing here?” and I thought: I have no idea. I stand out but I do not fit in with this industry nor do I fit in with the industry I’ve chosen. And so I thought how do I find a place where I can utilize what I’m good at but also really fit into that world.
Two weeks later the head of the dramatic art department at the University of Windsor called me up and offered me a position as a seasonal professor. The morning I got the call I was literally handing out the 24-hour news and crying behind my sunglasses thinking where am I going, what’s happening with my life? When I got the call she said do you want this position it might only be for two weeks or maybe two months. I had other acting jobs lined up, and I would have to cancel a lot of different things. So I sat down with my friend and it is really important that people do this. Sit down with your friend and have them just watch you talk about the topic because at the end of the conversation my friend said: “every time you talked about the teaching option your face lit up and you were passionate, and this is what you should be doing”.
And so I decided whether its 2 weeks or 2 months I’m giving up everything and moving to Windsor and so I did. It ended up being two months of teaching and it was like crash course teaching, threw myself into it and next thing I know I’m back in Toronto and wondering what I’m I going to do with my life. But that was the seed because I took that risk that seed started growing over the next years and when positions came up they called me. Now since then, I have had people just offer me positions. I would take little opportunities even if the pay was not much just to make connections and cultivate it. If you feel like you are doing good work and you feel like you have a sense of purpose and you are really affecting and helping people then I think doors start to open, and they have for me here. And so I can’t deny that even if it wasn’t my initial dream, I have to wonder if maybe there was some sort of plan for me that I didn’t really envision. So that’s where I am now and I’m hoping that I can continue to affect people in a positive way and give people the strength to really go after what their passion is, and help people to find out where they really want to be and where they feel they can do their best work.
Dorcas: WOW!! What was the lesson you learned through this?
Meaghen: I think when all the balls were in the air, when I had five or six jobs I was just working on survival mode. I wasn’t really able to figure out who I was and where I was going because I was just trying to get by everyday. We always say if only I could get through till Friday if I could just get to the weekend. So I think something I’m learning is when you are doing purposeful work you can try to live for the moment instead of wishing away your life. I learned that early on when I used to work in a factory as a teenager, and one of the men said: “don’t ever wish away your life Meaghen, all these people are doing a job that they don’t really love and all they do is wish away their life.”
Now being 36 I’m thinking wow! I’m behind in some areas. And I guess the point I was trying to make is that I spent so many years just trying to survive that I still don’t really think I know myself really. I’m too busy trying to fulfill what the expectation is for me, trying to be what I’m “supposed to be” instead of just being present, and being satisfied in living in the moment.So I’m making my own rules as I go now day by day.
So I think the next part of the journey now is being content in my own skin. There is something called the ‘impostor theory’ – and a lot of women in high profile positions feel like they are going to be found out, that they are an impostor, that they are unworthy of the position so they put on a public face. As an ‘impostor’ you think you have to fulfill something. 15 years of me struggling, going after my craft and barely making any money, going from house to house, relationship to relationship, moving from one place to another and then to think once I get here that I don’t deserve it, like sometimes I just wish I could shake myself and say “yes you deserve it, stay, stay here, you are worthy of it!!!” For some reason there is that little doubt that keeps coming in and saying perhaps I will get found out!
And in the end what I try to tell my students is that if you can just be you, just allow yourself to be content in your own skin, then I think we have solved a lot of the world’s problem.
Meaghen: Let’s not make this a downer piece, (laughs)
Meaghen: We really don’t need to fulfill what our parents say is worthy, often they will change as you evolve. My parents changed by me trying to find my purpose and not letting go. Now my family supports me and wants me to be happy. I mean they still want to marry me off.
Dorcas: What can you say about fitting-in, in relation to career choices?
Meaghen: It’s a matter of when do you spend hours upon hours on a project, and you actually still feel fulfilled at the end instead of worn out? That’s when usually you will know you are in the right place. People will say to me I got to stick with it because I have bills to pay, but in the long run your family will be happier if you are happier, you will eventually make more money or you will just be a healthier human being, and a role model if you are happy at your job. A lot of people undermine the effect career plays in one’s life. And yes even your dream job has work to be done. They can’t all be perfect, but 80% of the time you have to enjoy your work or you should get out.
Dorcas: What are your favourite quotes?
Meaghen: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” – Seneca Latin
“Do what you love, love what you do, and the universe will take care of the rest” – Wayne Dyer
Meaghen: You know I wish I could tell you that I am living in a happy ending, like went to Toronto and worked 13 jobs, had failed relationships and lived in an apartment that had mice in it, and then poof Happy!….but no not quite. I think it’s just taking a step, just getting even one of the pieces of the puzzle figured out, and that will bring the rest eventually.
Dorcas: What advise would you give to others out there trying to find where they fit in.
Meaghen: As cliché as this sounds really listen to your heart, and to your inner voice, listen to your creative side and where it’s leading you because it will rarely lead you astray. Listen to that rather than the social pressures.
This sounds so simple but just not being worried about how you are being perceived from the outside. Really just walking your own path, not comparing yourself to others and where you need to be at each checkpoint. Just let yourself develop your own map. Also not being worried about the time line.
Find a way to love yourself, do the work on yourself. Even on your darkest days do something for yourself or someone else. And usually doing something for someone else brings you out of darkness.
I wish I didn’t spend so much time worrying about what race I was in. Run your own race all the way through.
Travel, experience other cultures, and listen to peoples’ stories. Don’t be afraid of information. I used to be terrified of reading a new book, I still am sometimes, maybe I will learn that I’m really stupid (laughs) so don’t be afraid of learning new things. Take risks. Fail, fail and that’s the way to grow.
Meaghen Quinn, born and raised in Cobourg Ontario, has been studying, instructing, and performing internationally for the past 10 years. She holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Windsor and a M.F.A. from Pennsylvania State University. Meaghen’s most memorable roles include: Singer/Ensemble in Vox Animae (Gina Lori Riley Dance Enterprises), Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Chicago Shakespeare Company), Maria/Antonia in Twelfth Night (Driftwood Entertainment), Miss Frizzle in The Magic School Bus Live! (Hummingbird U.S.A./Canadian Tour), Lady Macbeth(The Classical Theatre Project), Mother/Cousin in S27 (Toronto Fringe) and Frances in Frances and Marybeth which had its world premiere in 2013.
Meaghen’s artistic approach, to performing and instructing, is heavily influenced by the teachings of Michael Chekov, Sanford Meisner, Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints, Laban’s (space, time, energy) work, Yoga and Tai Chi Principles, Contact Improvisation, as well as her interest and experience with Devising Theatre under the tutelage of Gina Lori Riley of the University of Windsor. She is currently working as an instructor at the University of Windsor, teaching Theatre and Public Speaking.Meaghen is passionate about using theatre to help develop self-confidence, leadership skills, and creative expression.