Swimming in the Question Marks, Dancing with Conjecture
This has taken me so long to write, y'all.
So, a couple weeks ago, my momma said something to the effect of “you still haven’t written a blog post to commemorate the end of Newsies.” To which I responded something to the effect of “I’ve tried but no eloquent words came to me.”
Somewhere in the depths of my computer sits a document with all my failed attempts at writing something that would properly express my gratitude for the cast, crew, and production of Newsies. It’s not a good post. Not because I didn't have anything to write about, or the show wasn't worth commemoration. On the contrary, I grieved the closing of Newsies more than I have any other show in a long time. It was merely the fact that I was scatterbrained, thus the writing was poor. Be glad it wasn’t published.
So I’ve been waiting to write this post until I was hit by sudden inspiration.
I'm a huge proponent of "quality over quantity," and would rather write a small number of decent blog posts than a large amount of white noise.
So here we are, about a month after the closing of Newsies, and I still don’t have much inspirational jargon to throw your way. Sorry about it. Here's some honest thoughts I've had of late instead.
Newsies is over. It was the shortest contract I’ve ever had. And it was arguably one of the best and most life changing experiences I’ve ever had.
When asked what made it so special, my answer matches that of many of my peers and is always the same: "It's the people."
I truly have never met more incredible, loving, grounded, and all around wonderful people as I have here in this random city of Lynchburg, VA.
I first heard about Newsies in a burger joint in Raleigh, NC with a couple of friends (see center picture); one of whom suggested I send in a video audition for an upcoming production she was music directing. Fast forward to present day and this rockstar is my roommate. Shout out to Katy for not only getting me involved with the Alluvion Stage Company, but for sharing her home, her friends, her insight, and encouragement these past few months. She truly is the reason I'm where I am right now and I'm forever grateful.
At the time I signed my Newsies contract, I saw this season in Lynchburg as a rest stop on the journey of my career. It was a holding place, a new resume credit, and a place to go while I waited for the next thing. I was (and still am) waiting to hear back from a few different companies about potential upcoming contracts. Now, annoyingly and conveniently enough, the contracts are rolling. This means I could hear anything at any time in the next few months without any given deadline.
WHICH IS FINE
WE’RE ALL FINE
I LOVE INSTABILITY
Anywho, soon after arriving in town for rehearsals, I got word of upcoming auditions for a production of White Christmas. Some of my fellow Newsies were planning on auditioning, and I decided that if I hadn't received any offers by the second week of rehearsals, I would join them. Fast forward, I've been cast as Betty Haynes and I'll be staying in Lynchburg through December.
But what I want to write about today isn’t the logistics of my career or an update on my life. I want to talk about something that every actor deals with, talks about with fellow actors, and then sweeps under the rug. A few months ago, I had a realization:
Every day we live with instability and uncertainty so extreme, the muggles (non-theatre folk) reference similar periods as a "dark season" in their lives.
Allow me to explain. I am from the Southeast United States: The Bible Belt. Thus, I grew up with a "Bible Belt" series of experiences that I hadn't recognized as unique until recently (within the last 5 years). One of these was listening to people's "testimonies." In this context, a testimony is a story of one's experience coming to Faith or about the role one's personal Faith played in helping them to overcome an obstacle of some kind.
(The first photo is of one my youthgroup's fall retreats and the second is from the Heroes of Today program at The Inn in Franklin, NC)
Of course, every person's story is a little different, but some common obstacles were...
"that time I was unemployed"
"that time we moved away from everything we'd ever known"
"that time we threw up our hands and left our fate to God"
We've all heard stories of this nature. We've been bombarded with cheesy YouTube videos of inspirational anecdotes; feat. acoustic guitar or piano and slow-motion videos of sad children and animals...
"In the aaarrrmmmsss ooof an aanggellll...."
uhh, moving on...
Up to now, most of these blog posts have revolved around experiences and the lessons learned from them.
Today’s post revolves around coming to terms with a lifestyle in which THERE IS NO CONCLUSION
Do you remember what it felt like to have everyone ask “what are you doing after graduation?”
That's what our lives feel like literally every day.
So…what happens if you meet someone?
So…what happens if you don’t book this job?
So…are you coming to NYC yet or…?
So…do you ever plan on settling down?
So…what’s the ultimate goal? Do you want to be on Broadway?
So…where do you live?
So...when are you gonna get a "real" job? (sidebar: this is super rude)
So...how do you pay for things between gigs?
...I'm gonna go run around the woods and cry/laugh. Stop asking questions...
Over the last few weeks, I’ve grown to recognize just how incredibly brave nomads are.
I am a perfectionist and a planner in one of the most unstable careers in the world. So what does one do?
I've spent a lot of time (too much time) in the last year wallowing in the stress of the unknown. I've desperately looked to varying distractions in an effort to cope. I felt like I was drowning every time I found myself without the anchor of a "next gig." And I only just decided recently that I don't want to live my entire life like this.
Nobody panic: I'm not quitting anything, least of all my career. Instead...
I'm learning to swim in the question marks and dance in conjecture.
First of all: every fear, every concern, every panicked phone call, and every evening spent curled up on the bedroom floor is justified. But courage isn't the absence of fear, it's the act of facing it head on. And while the unknown is frightening, it's also liberating and full of vast possibility.
I'm tired of focusing my eyes on a half-empty glass when life is full of incredible opportunities most people only dream of
I've always been intrigued and saddened by the idea of a "mid-life crisis." (stay with me, I do bring this back around. I haven't jumped ship) Because I define a mid-life crisis as a desperate action resulting from unrealized dreams and unmet potential. Mid-life crisis's happen when people rush into significant life events (or "finish lines") prematurely instead of living in the present and taking advantage of every opportunity. And I don't want to suffer one.
In my case, as a woman raised in the Bible Belt, the "finish line" I am expected to prioritize over everything else in my life is marriage and children. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a family of my own one day. But I'm not going to lament the season I'm in right now (or on the flipside--be afraid of THAT season when it comes) because it goes against some pre-established "order" my life is supposed to follow. (I also want to clarify; having a family does not mean I stop being an actress. A new chapter of life does not make the ones that preceded it null and void) Besides,
I haven't followed the status quo this far, I'm not likely to start because I hit some metaphorical "finish line."
Rushing anything, avoiding anything...both actions will rob one of the opportunity to live wholly in the present and soak up years of incredible self-discovery and adventure. I could go on and on, but if any of you are interested in reading a brilliant blog post by one of my fellow Newsies, I highly recommend you do so here.
Hannah writes about her broken engagement and 5 things she wish she'd known beforehand. It speaks to the importance of living your life, not another's; as well as to the dangers of rushing into significant life events prematurely. I love and admire this woman so much and am incredibly grateful for her vulnerability. This is such an important message.
I’ve gone on a tangent (I’m realizing this is a habit). Bringing it back.
Any person who aims to make their living as an actor (or really any creative) is going to sacrifice many "norms" for the sake of their dreams.
Dating someone in the same location.
And, you guessed it, stability.
So while it's an adjustment to learn that instability is the name of the game, I’m learning to be grateful for the opportunity instead of afraid of the uncertainty.
I have had the chance to travel all over the US; I've met incredible people from all different walks of life; I've tried a wide variety of food; listened to stories that have left me crying, laughing; gone running on many trails through many forests. I've taken part in self-produced projects; hiked up mountains to watch the sunrise. I've looked out into the dark abyss of blurry silhouettes and thanked God for the chance to serve another audience; a different community.
My testimony is ongoing. Everyday I have the chance to live by faith in ways others never will. This instability is a unique opportunity. And for the first time ever, I am so grateful that I have no idea what I'm doing and no idea what's next. The unknown does not equate doom. The unknown equates possibility.
I'm constantly learning and I'm getting better at appreciating the present. At the end of the day, it is completely futile to try and force my life into a set trajectory that I ultimately don't have much control over.
So, pass the champagne! Let’s celebrate the present. The future will take care of itself and the past is nothing but the path that brought us here.
And I would prefer we all learned to swim and dance rather than drown and fall.