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  • Writer's pictureDavid Fisher

Jude Merkel | Navy Veteran | Actor, Comedian, & Writer

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

I had been anxiously awaiting the day I was able to transition out of the military, but when the time actually came, I felt crippled to make a decision. There were so many different things that excited me, and I wanted to do them all; narrowing this down to one thing was extremely challenging. In the end you just have to take a risk.

I knew that I always Ioved to make people laugh and I loved developing characters. So, I decided to pursue a career in acting. I admire and look up to so many successful people, and they all had different paths to get to where they are today. I began to realize there is not one path to happiness and passion.

As a college football player at the Naval Academy, my path through sports was much more mathematical and systematic. The best basketball players go to Duke or North Carolina, and the best football players go to Alabama. So what does the path look like for someone who just spent the last decade in the military, and now is looking to get into comedy, acting, and writing?

I don’t know, and I still don’t know, and the fact that there is no right or wrong answer can be liberating but also daunting. So, I decided to take a risk and try something in the creative industry because I was passionate about it, not because it was a means to money or fame. I am currently using the GI Bill to go to the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in West Hollywood, California. Lee Strasberg is a method acting school which incorporates film, theater, writing, directing, and all types of acting. This new life does not have the monetary stability like I had in the military, but I have never felt more passionate about what I’m doing. To be around creative and artistic people daily is so inspiring, and while there has been immense struggle, the rewards have been far greater than anything I achieved while in the military.

My teachers tell us: “you can’t give a fuck about what other people think about your work, you are exploring.” I have grown so much as a person and become self-confident in my craft and who I am. I’ve grown from my Irish catholic household that forced extreme catholic guilt upon me, to an independent and confident person, knowing that my sense of “good” might be different from my parents, but that’s okay. My efforts in school have taught me the value in taking risks and trying something new. Failure is just a valuable learning point, not a dead end. Developing characters has given me a newfound freedom to try and fail, and fail, and fail again. You really never know what could happen from that exploration. Daniel Day-Lewis said “it could take six months, six years, or a lifetime attempting to develop a character.” I’ve learned to go for it. If you fail at something, or are not good at something, at least you tried. It’s far better than the person with regret saying “I should have” but didn’t give themselves the ability to learn from failure. My path is not the traditional one for a military veteran, but no path should be the same. I do know that I will fail falling forward...Do what makes you happy, the rest will sort itself out. I promise you you won’t regret it.

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