I readily admit that I don’t know what I am doing. I am an amateur at mostly everything, especially life. But I love to learn, and I keep stepping to the stage.
It started out small. I remember being no more than five fingers old, packed tightly in a car full of my loved ones, grown-ups in the front seat, little cousins perched precariously on the laps of big cousins in the back. We were on our way to the Alamo. I don’t remember much about the Alamo, despite that being it’s thing… REMEMBER THE ALAMO, but I do remember the road trip. The time spent in the car, the time wasted out of the car because of the multiple unscheduled stops my urgent and unpredictable restroom request caused (my young bladder was not cut out for the open road), the game of Catch-22 (long before I understood what a Catch-22 was) I played with my uncle where I tried to get candy (if I asked for skittles, he mischievously claimed to only have “ski-diddles” and when I asked for “ski-diddles” he confusingly only had Skittles). This road trip to the Alamo contains my first memory of trying on other people’s lives: observing actions, speech, mannerisms, and then reflecting them back. It is the prequel story to the saga of my passion for acting.
The first scene, takes place in front of a mirror, hanging on the wall of the motel room my extended family shares together. I notice my Uncle “Ski-diddle” grooming in the mirror. I have been captivated by him ever since our game of “chase the rainbow”; he is a giant and kind and playful, and without trying he nurtures my silly side. Eventually, observing isn’t enough, so I stand next to him in the mirror, just barely tall enough to see over the dresser, and mimic his every move. We wordlessly continue our little drama: he brushes his hair… I brush my hair; he adjusts his clothes… I adjust my clothes; he shaves his facial hair… I shave my non-existent facial hair. My very first improv scene. My very first stage.
As a young girl, I wanted to be many things when I grew up, but I always included actress. Growing up in church offered unique opportunities to “perform” before an “audience”. One story, which I shall share in another post, and which my big cousins have never let me forget, involves having to be tactfully removed from the pulpit and separated from my new best friend, the microphone. I was way too comfortable on stage.
Another moment, I can never live down, involves being obsessed with the movie “Coming to America”. I loved the scene where the Prince of Zamunda meets potential wifeys. My favorite thing to do was reenact one part in particular: I hold an imaginary lighter beneath my palm as the flames dance along my unflinching flesh, and quote in a most serious and monotone voice, “I was Joan of Arc in my former life”. Oh yes! Waaaaay too comfortable on stage.
Fast forward in my timeline past my awkward, insecure pre-teen adolescence, past loss and grief, and pause for a moment at my high school self. I took acting very seriously. I believed I was good at it, and I certainly loved telling stories and playing roles on stage. But there’s is a but. Having to audition, be judged, and compete for roles made me feel insecure. I was no good at auditioning, and in fact, I had to tryout over again for three years before I ever made it into my high school’s theater company. My senior year, I was finally able to perform in front of an audience, and yet I began to shrink on stage.
Shakespeare wrote that all the world is a stage. The bard’s metaphor definitely applied in my case. I shrank from a lot of stages in my life. I continued to hold tightly to the desire to share stories and tell them truthfully, but I was less bold, it was like a birthday wish that you never speak aloud because you are superstitious it won’t come true. I was afraid it would never come true. I was conditioned into believing that it was not a sensible dream at my age: “you should study computers”, “do you have a backup plan”, “hardly anyone makes a living like that”. Advice meant to helpfully shield me from the pain of failure, only redirected my energy at my short comings, and I acted out (or rather opted out) of fear of failure itself. I traded in my dreams of writing and acting for more practical ones. I didn’t major in theater or writing, and then later I became a slave to The Struggle (a perpetual cycle of working to earn money to pay bills and rent… only to work more to pay even more bills… saving little yet owing a lot, never getting much farther ahead); I reached a stage in my life where it was nothing but work or study: I neglected my personal needs and relationships and ignored my dreams completely. But the thing about a calling is, it won’t shut up. The small voice, no matter how drowned out by distractions or distorted by self-doubt, it remained nagging me during the quiet hours or in my sleep.
Now fast forward to the part of the story where, I finally decide to listen and trust the small voice, to be more intentional, to take more positive risks, to once again step to the stage and follow my dreams, and to even have the nerve to blog about it.
I’ve shared my intentions, my struggles, and my hopes, but I realized I have been leaving you out of the process. Up until now, I have only been sharing my dramatic revelations, the stories that, despite being delayed by tedious perfectionism and harsh self-critique, would not be silent and insisted on being told. I haven’t connected with others who can probably relate to my struggles, people still learning and unlearning similar lessons. I have been sending postcards after the fact, as opposed to keeping you informed the entire time. I haven’t let you in on the everyday moves I make toward that elusive horizon where my dreams live. I haven’t let you follow along as I co-create my new life. I left you out of the process.
Sharing in this manner, only when I have profound revelations, does a disservice to both storyteller and reader. It is giving you an obstructed view of the stage. And how can we connect more deeply under such conditions?
Henceforth, my goal is to post at least once a week. Publishing a new post every Tuesday.
I don’t have this whole, “what to do, now that you’ve started a blog” thing figured out, but I did learn that it is important to schedule post instead of posting on a whim. I have a schedule now! And now that I have shared the schedule, I have more accountability to anyone reading this. See how I am learning new things!?!? (Writer pats herself on the back, as she smiles way too enthusiastically at the fact that she created a schedule). Have I told you how happy it makes me to share my work with you?! Thank you so much for reading!
I am inviting you back on that field trip I promised a couple posts ago. I want to share a more complete picture of the journey I am on. I happily share this stage with you.
2 thoughts on “Coming to the Stage- Part 1”
You describe this so exactly that it could be my own history you are writing about. I too was always fascinated by the stage and grew up with those dreams. In high school I loved to act, and went on to study drama at University where – unfortunately – I realised that I was useless at auditioning and at most of the technical aspects of performing. (I didn’t breathe properly, my voice was the wrong pitch and my body shape always seemed awkward no matter what I tried.) I ended up hating performing but stayed the distance and became a stage manager.
In my forties I turned to writing and finally found what I should have done years before – except that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the experience that my years in the theatre have given me. That’s my Catch-22 conundrum!
I look forward to reading more of your posts, and admire your decision to stick to a posting schedule. I manage to write one post a month on three separate blogs, but I’m working on trying to post more frequently. I probably spend too much of my writing time reading other people’s blogs, but I love to read the writings of others…
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Thank you so much! This is my favorite part about blogging, discovering shared stories and connecting with people. I love that you were brave enough to choose a different narrative for your life after so many years. It is inspiring! As for Catch-22 conundrums, my life is full of them too! I love stories and reading and learning, so that just like you, I have to be careful not to get too lost in other people’s work, neglecting my own. I look forward to catching up on some of your posts!