From the moment we enter drama school or tell someone that we want to work in the theatre we are told how likely it is that we will be unsuccessful. It's true. I'm nearly 30 and I would say about half of the people I did my training with have dropped out of the industry. The issue, however, is not that we have such a high dropout rate but rather the stigma around moving away from the arts. We are wrapped up in the cult of the artist. Making art is a passion, not just a job, so to stop is admitting to the world that you have lost your passion. The shame!
I'm here to say that quitting this incredibly difficult and corrupt industry is not the end of the world. It does not mean that you have "failed." It does not mean that you are weak. For too long we have seen pain and suffering as dues we must pay to be a great artist. You have to suffer and if you cannot stand the suffering you are a weakling that was never meant to be an artist. You don't love the craft enough to continue suffering. What a load of bullshit.
It's true that you need passion and love to stick it out in this industry. But do you know what else you need? A good start in life, no financial pressures, a strong support network, excellent mental health, and no small amount of luck. Those are things that are, for the most part, not in our control 100% of the time. This industry does a good job of trying to squash the love and passion you have for the art form. So there is no shame in quitting.
Your happiness and mental health should always come first. Moving away from theatre because you need to keep yourself healthy or simply because you don't love it the way you used to is not a failure. It is a smart decision and one that takes no small amount of bravery. On the other hand, if you see your friends bow out of the creative arts, you should be supporting them wholeheartedly. They do not deserve to be belittled or looked down upon. Even if you stay in the industry your entire life you will still have many moments of contemplating getting out.
Theatre offers a wealth of transferrable skills to those looking for other avenues. Public speaking, organization, administrative skills, work ethic, and multitasking are just a few. Finding a new passion or even just a job that earns you a living and doesn't make you miserable is an excellent aim. If you want to just take a break, you can also come back to the industry. We do not need to be tied to theatre, or any job, for our entire lives. Do your part to fight the stigma around leaving the industry.