By Ian Aric
I’m certain it’s a commonly shared childhood memory: raising a conch shell to your ear (whether you actually found it in the sand or at the gift shop), and hearing the ocean. It’s a hollow sound at first, but if you listen closely, you can hear the jagged waves rising and falling. To have that sound encapsulated in an object made me laugh as a kid. As I have grown older, however, it’s a stirring reminder of some of the most strengthening, maddening, and dedicated days I’ve ever lived.
My name is Ian Aric. I am a Military Veteran and a current student at Atlantic Acting School’s Full-Time Conservatory.
My first job was as a lifeguard at my local pool in Lorton, Virginia. I balanced my time there with soccer games (a passion that exists to this day, though my knees have indicated to me that my days on the field should indeed be left in high school) and school plays (I’d be remiss not to mention my first foray into the arts as The White Rabbit in Through the Looking Glass in 5th grade). I was a busy kid, relentless in my efforts to find where I felt most at home.
I was passionate about being a lifeguard, to be sure. I took my job seriously – I knew the possibility of a crisis occurring did exist, and I was prepared.
Likewise, I was passionate about the drama department. It was on stage that I fully learned to rid myself of the self-consciousness that would attempt to cloud my experiences in other aspects of life. It’s striking to look back and see that the complicated relationship between the call to service and the call to storytelling has always existed within me.
At the age of twenty, I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.
A life in the military entails waking in the early hours, remaining constantly vigilant, supreme attention to detail, and the ability to both follow and relay strict orders. As a Boatswain’s Mate, I spent four years engaging in Search and Rescue and counter narcotics operations. Stationed first in the Caribbean followed by a span of time on Cape Cod, MA, my days were devoted to maintaining the safety and welfare of those on the water.
The Coast Guard’s Motto is Semper Paratus: Always Prepared. These words are ingrained deep within me after my years of service. They exist in tandem with the motto my BM2 relayed to my unit (although as a joke at first): Semper Gumby. In other words, Always Flexible.
A key aspect to Military life is knowing when to strictly adhere to a given plan and when to adapt to a specific situation at hand…
While stationed on Cape Cod, I attended a performance of David Ives’ Venus in Fur starring Atlantic Alumna Lexi Langs. The second Lexi walked on stage, I was smitten. I jumped at the opportunity to introduce myself after the show, and the rest, as they say, is history. We blinked, and we were engaged – blinked again, and now we’re married.
I had a plan for my life – I would remain in the Military. I was prepared for this life. Semper Paratus.
Lexi, however, brought a new energy – and a new possibility. She is the reason I came back to the arts, and she brought up the idea of applying to Atlantic’s Conservatory Program.
I ended up participating in three plays on Cape Cod as my time in the Coast Guard drew to a close. I left Cape for NYC ready to begin my journey as an actor. Semper Gumby.
I applied for the 2.5 year Conservatory Program at Atlantic. They had never enrolled a Veteran in their program before, so there was no previously existing infrastructure to support the GI Bill. I spoke with the admissions office and the student affairs office, and they worked tirelessly for many months to make it happen for me. The GI Bill provides a monthly housing stipend and covers all tuition.
I am currently in my fourth semester at Atlantic, and I most admire how we as students are highly encouraged to create our own work. In my first year, I wrote my first full length play. I have since put forth two staged readings and am working on a third. Atlantic has been so supportive and helpful along the way, lending me space to do the readings as well as facilitating communication with fantastic Alumni.
At Atlantic, I feel valued. My military experience is so fiercely intertwined with who I am, and Atlantic has always respected this while also encouraging me to be honest and truthful.
At Atlantic, I feel at home.
The most poignant piece of advice I’ve been given during my time as a student came from Anya Saffir. While in the midst of a scene or perhaps in the middle of the “As-If” exercise, she’ll remind us to “Keep it jagged!” The note calls for a willingness to be messy, impulsive, and unplanned. The note calls for us to simply be fully alive in the moment.
We can be Prepared. We can be Flexible. And still, life seldom goes according to plan.
My journey towards becoming an actor was certainly not straightforward…in fact, the one constant in my life is that it has been ceaselessly surprising – and why would I want my art to be anything less?
I look back on my military experience with deference and regard. It’s not lost on me the striking parallels that may be drawn to my current pursuits as an Actor and my previous work in the Coast Guard. At the root of it all lives the memory of seven year old me clutching a conch shell to my ear, dizzily smiling at the sound of the rising and falling ocean waves.
Semper Paratus. Semper Gumby. Keep it jagged.
Ian is a 27 year old veteran currently attending Atlantic Acting school. Outside of school, Ian is a playwright and screen writer. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Lexi and his dog Luna. You can find Ian on Instagram here: @ian_aric_official