You have the vision of working at a high level as an actor, you can just about see yourself onscreen performing the characters of your dreams, and you can almost feel what it’s like to walk down the red carpet. But if you do indeed succeed (and I’m sure you will!) what will your life really be like? Living the dream–yes, with a healthy paycheck, steady work, recognition, financial freedom, glamour, prestige … It’s all anyone can ask for, right?

I think it’s safe to say people like Marilyn Monroe, Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, and James Dean underestimated the price of success and fame. Even the most talented, trained, ambitious, and revered can be caught off guard by the realities of the acting job. With all the imagination the field requires of individuals, for some reason it can be so hard to imagine that one’s dream coming true can actually create tremendous personal strife on occasion.

You have to ask yourself if you’re prepared for the times you’ll need to live on location away from family and friends–with the attendant isolation and loneliness it can trigger. Are you prepared for the potential strain on your most intimate relationships? Are you ready for people to hassle you for photos and autographs on the street when you’re sick or having a bad day? Working long hours that exhume enormous amounts of your energy? Such hard work and long hours may not be as glamorous as you might think. And many stars confess to the fear that their current success may vanish with their next project. That’s undeniable pressure.

The stories of successful actors include both triumph and tragedy. When you’re dreaming of your future, consider how you might approach the unique challenges this field can throw at you. Take a realistic look at both the positives and the negatives of the acting profession, and move forward with your eyes wide open. And when you do make it big time, you’ll be better prepared to make the most of your fate, and never look back!