Jessica Holmes (RTA ’98) is a comedian, author, and mental health advocate.
When I chose comedy as a career, I made the liberating assumption that I’d always live on a sofa in a friend’s basement. For years after graduating from Ryerson’s RTA program, I worked temp jobs by day and performed at open mic venues at night. It was the most creatively prolific time of my career. But that creativity stagnated once I got comfy on prime time and realized I finally had something to lose; an audience, a reputation, and enough money to stop buying no name brand wieners from No Frills.
Fear of failure can stifle creative fulfillment. At the peak of our careers, with years of experience under our belt, many of us plateau as we make safer, more calculated decisions. A few years ago when I felt myself towing the line and resenting the success of my counterparts, I reminded myself that I chose to study RTA at Ryerson so I could express my ideas, NOT so that I could repeat what other people are doing. It was then that I recommitted to following my inner muse, moved away from the limelight and into the barely-existent world of motivational comedy.
At around the same time, my husband Scott took a similar leap of faith when he felt inspired to leave acting and start a Spiritual Coaching practice. Suddenly, all over again, we had to get used to financial insecurity and managing unpredictable schedules, all the while hoping there would be markets for our new businesses.
There are easier ways to live and safer choices to make, but we didn’t feel like we were drawing on or giving the best of ourselves. There were discouraging setbacks, like when my motivational web series got zero views or when the kids, dog and I had to be quietly sequestered in a bedroom for hours while Scott saw clients in our living room. Eventually though the gamble paid off and we found our niches. I deliver comedy keynotes with a positive mental health twist across the country and Scott developed a full time practice helping people find inner peace at a real office outside of our house!
Choosing an unconventional path is not for the fainthearted, and usually takes years of work before seeing results. I often cite the example of my friend Martin Gero who graduated from Ryerson’s RTA program and decided to work as a barista for years after graduating so that he could focus his energy on writing his own projects. After years of watching his friends move up the TV ladder while he poured coffee, he’s become one of Ryerson’s great success stories as the creator and Executive Producer of the hit series Blindspot.
I’m grateful (and often relieved) that it’s never too late to start over. If right now you could use a dose of hopeful enthusiasm here are a few questions that can help reignite your career spark:
- What’s something I’m interested in learning more about in my spare time? (New knowledge reignites passion.)
- What fear or limiting belief has stopped me from being creative?
(Past failures can give you tunnel vision. Examine where your fear comes from and you’ll see it likely doesn’t hold any real, physical power over you.)
- How can I incorporate exercise into my life?
(This is a big one. Exercise motivates you to raise the bar for yourself in all areas of life.)
- What part of myself do I want to express more in my work?
(Expressing any of your virtues, whether it be wisdom, courage, enthusiasm, humility, creativity, integrity or patience will deepen your fulfillment at work. Your job can stay the same but your attitude towards it will improve.)
Jessica Holmes graduated from Ryerson’s RTA program in 1998 and went on to write and star on The Holmes Show and Royal Canadian Air Farce. As a stand-up comedian she has opened for giants like Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld and Russell Peters. She now tours the country doing comedy with a motivational twist, and wrote the book I Love Your Laugh. She is married to fellow Ryerson graduate, Scott Yaphe, and they have two children.