“December to Remember”

Apparently, that’s what people who are gettin’ ready to make romance-related life decisions call this time of year. Or so says one of the comments on my friend’s Facebook status, the status that reads, “IF ONE MORE PERSON GETS ENGAGED, I WILL FLY INTO THE SUN.”

Yep. They’re at it again. The aforementioned friend and I went to the same university, but while we might have a newly engaged person or two in common, she and I are probably talking about separate friend groups… which kind of makes this worse. Last week, over the course of two days, FIVE people I know got engaged. Five. Two from my university (one is graduated, one is not), two from my theatre internship (they got engaged to each other), and one from home. And those are only adding to the five or so other people who got engaged earlier this month. I am going to scream and cry.

I tried screaming and crying at home, where I was when I found this out, but my parents weren’t having it. My mom told me to drop it. My dad said, “It’s just the right time for some people.” But neither of those comments helps me. Because I can’t drop it. I could only drop it if the engagements, marriages, and children were not piling up, proving that THAT is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, not the hodge podge of things that I’m actually doing. If it’s the right time for them, as my dad claims, why isn’t it the right time for me?

When I sobbed this question to my mother a little over a month ago, in the deepest and most dangerous depths of my consuming sadness,  she told me that it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything with my life; I’ve been concentrating on school and my career. And yes, that’s true. But what’s also true is that all of these engaged/married/with kids people- or even those in general steady romantic relationships- have been doing that… and also finding the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It’s very true that over these past few months, I have been sequestering myself more than usual, but that’s just the last few months. What about the last almost-twenty-three years? Am I really that unnoticeable?

And going off that last question, the answer to it seems to be… no. I am noticeable. I don’t know if it’s a new thing or I was just oblivious before, but I have recently picked up on the fact that guys do look at me. But… that’s it (well, besides the catcalls. But that’s the kind of noticing I can do without.) And to be honest, it doesn’t make me feel better when I tell someone I’ve only ever had one romantic relationship and they look all surprised and say something like, “But you’re so pretty.” Because if I am pretty, then what’s the problem? Yes, I know it’s all about the inside, but it’s the outside that attracts most people initially, and if there’s nothing wrong with my outside, then it stands to reason that the problem is the stuff that’s supposed to matter: my personality, my intelligence, etc. The stuff that’s supposed to make that person stick around. Pretty girls get asked out, at least, and if I am one of those… what’s the deal? I get looked at, and then I get passed over.

This is turning into more of a “pity me” post than I meant it to. I just find it frustrating that I’m so far behind on the important life events that 98% of my peers are entering into. Because now, even if I do get married in the future, I’ll never be in the “married in my early twenties” group. I missed that boat, and it’s not coming back for me. Nor do I have even a prospect, and that makes everything kind of worse. A lot of this, to me, means being chosen. My friends that are married, engaged, or in a relationship, have all been chosen. Someone likes them enough, romantically, to spend the rest of their life, or at least a significant amount of their life, with them.

I wouldn’t mind being chosen.

Merry Grown-Up Christmas

This year, Christmas was a little different. Then again, my life has been a little different since I entered the “real world,” so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised :p

The first difference was something that has happened a few times before: my mom had to work. She works at a hospital, where, just as in other healthcare professions, the patients need to be taken care of whether it’s a holiday or not. When I was little, her co-workers would make sure she had off so she could be with my dad, my sister, and me for Christmas morning, and now, she does the same for her coworkers with young kids. Since Allie and I are grown up (theoretically), Mom does work more holidays. This year, she worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Luckily, my aunt Terri, who hosts many of that side of the family’s gatherings, was willing to host our usual Christmas Eve gathering a night earlier, especially after she heard at Thanksgiving that I might have to work, too. Even though I didn’t, Aunt Terri hosted us on the 23rd instead of the usual 24th. It was the usual super-fun family gathering and afterwards, I drove back to my parents’ house.

But there was someone missing from the celebrations on the 23rd: Allie. Because she also works in healthcare, just with animals, and she, too, had to work. And since her work is six hours away, she wasn’t able to come home. This made me very sad. Since forever, Allie and I have slept in the same room on Christmas Eve and I’ve jumped on her bed to wake her up before the sun the next morning. Since our parents didn’t get up that early, we’d hang out in the living room, sometimes watching a random Christmas movie, sometimes falling back to sleep on the couch, or shaking our presents under the tree, which was always the only light.

So it probably goes without saying that I missed that this year, the first year it hasn’t happened. While I did sleep in her room, as mine is bedless, she wasn’t there and instead of getting up at dawn, I got up at nine, after my parents. I had a dream right before I woke up that she came home at the last minute. Yes, I’m incredibly sentimental. But even though she wasn’t there, my parents and I had a really great Christmas morning.

I think I need to get used to this kind of stuff. It’s like as the years passed in college and fewer and fewer friends came home for breaks. I’m growing up and people have their own lives, just like I do. The time has already come where I can’t go certain places or do certain things because of whatever I’m doing in my life, so I need to be able to deal with that on the other side.

Being a grown-up is hard.

“I Can’t Actually Kill Him.”

I see some very strange things while working in the city. Most of them are just downright weird (like the lady who was smoking under her table at work the other week and then ate food off of other people’s plates- at other tables-  when they got up to dance) but sometimes they’re funny. Today contained one of the latter.

When I wait for my tour patrons, I stand on the corner by Reading Terminal Market. The four corners there are home to buskers, protesters, and, at this time of year, the Salvation Army collectors, bell-ringing and all. The guy who works the same corner where I stand and I see each other fairly often; sometimes I give him chocolate. He’s a very friendly guy who never seems put out when people ignore him or don’t put money in the collection bucket.

Today, he was ringing his bell as cheerfully as ever, wishing people a merry Christmas as they walked by, and this old lady with one of those rolling shopping carts stopped in front of him. She was probably about a foot and a half shorter than him and she said, with a Russian accent, “If I give you this [money], you put it in here.” She indicated his red apron, then pointed to the collection bucket. “Not here.” The man nodded. “No. You don’t put it in the bucket when I walk away. You keep it. You put it in the bucket, I kill you.” The bell-ringing man started laughing and saying, “Okay, okay.” “You keep it!” the old lady kept repeating. “Or I kill you. You hear me? I kill you.”

This was like a reverse mugging; she seemed super serious about him not putting the amount into the collection bucket. A man who was on the other side of me, smoking, said to me, “Gotta love this, right?” Finally, the bell-ringing man convinced the old lady that he was not going to put the money in the bucket, and she started to walk away. But when she saw me laughing into my book, she stopped.

“I gave him fifty cents,” she informed me. “But I want him to keep it. I’m Jewish, so I can’t actually kill him, you know. I just don’t want to give money to that place.” I nodded and smiled and said something like, “Makes sense, I guess.” She squinted up at me. “Are you Catholic?” “No,” I told her. “I’m Protestant.” That was when she dropped her gaze and walked away from me without another word. I guess she didn’t approve of my Protestant-ness. Maybe I should have just told her I was Catholic…

Time Wasting / Life Wasting

I was talking to Stuart today and the shortness of life came up in the conversation. I said that I find the shortness daunting because there’s a lot to do and not much time to do it. And though this topic was a new one in our conversation, it was more like a continuation of the discussion/argument/scolding I’ve been having with myself lately. To put it plainly, I sometimes feel like I’m wasting my life. Don’t get me wrong: sometimes, it’s exactly the right thing for me to have to good, hard-earned relaxing time where the only thing I need to do is laugh at the wit of Gilmore Girls or turn the page of a book or scroll through my social networking site of choice for a bit. To do things like that is healthy once in awhile.

But these days, I feel like I’m not doing anything that matters. Sure, I have jobs and I do them when I’m scheduled to do them. But serving people cocktails and teaching them about chocolate isn’t exactly meaningful. And my acting career isn’t exactly setting the world on fire (not that I’m not overjoyed to be in my show. I AM. I will cover that later.) I just think that having a month like November was for me really showed me what it’s like to actually, properly waste time. In November, the first of its kind in which I did NOT have schoolwork, I did not write a novel, as I have for the past three years and amid shows, classes, and life in general. I also did not work on the play I was so excited about in September and October. I did not socialize. I worked and I wasted time in my apartment doing things that meant absolutely nothing.

In my defense (or rather, as Stuart pointed out to me and I grudgingly agreed), November involved me doing a lot of emotional work. I had some panic attacks. I mentally abused myself. I had an actual breakdown. I cried a lot. I realized I needed to go back to therapy. All of that took time and energy (not all of it mine.) But, beyond figuring out that I needed professional help, it all come to nothing of worth. And I’m not a person who sits well with more-than-once-in-awhile wasting time. ESPECIALLY because I didn’t even have fun wasting it.

I think it’s especially hard to deal with all of this time-wasting because I’m doing it in a new life, of sorts. For the past seventeen years, I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns (generally at least once a year), listeless times, and just plain old procrastination, but I was always in school. And whether I actually liked writing those papers or taking those finals (answer: I probably didn’t), or whether the show was going well or not, I ALWAYS DID THOSE THINGS. No matter my mood or my state of mind or my nervousness, when something needed to be done, I did it. The papers were written. The finals were studied for (though perhaps not as well as they could have been) and were taken. The show, as the saying goes, went on. All of this happened through whatever emotional state was reigning in my head at the time. I knew what was expected of me, and I did it. Maybe not to the level I could have, but I still did it.

But now that I’m out in the “real world,” there aren’t papers to turn in or finals to take. Sure, there are bills to pay and rules at work, but it’s not the same. It’s much more of a free-for-all existence. I have a lot more choice, and most of the time, that’s more daunting than exciting. I feel like I’m making the wrong use of my time. The only time I feel where I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing something that matters, is at rehearsal. And I was without that comfort for seven months. I’m not saying that my little children’s theatre show is going to rock the world or anything. But it might rock someone’s world, and even if that someone is me, that’s good enough. Because it’s my life, and I love performing.

When I was without that comfort, however, I was completely lost. Even though my time in the rehearsal room or onstage is far too fleeting, I at least have that now. In November, and all those months before, I didn’t even have that, and I really felt like my time was just being wasted. I missed the world of school, the world of small accomplishments like homework and tests. I was good at that world, but now I’d graduated from it. I started desperately looking at grad schools, thinking maybe that was the answer to my problems.

In the end, though, I know that even if I do go to grad school (I’ve decided almost 100% that I will… one day), that, too, will end, and I’ll be dumped back into the real world with another artsy degree that I love and am proud of but that doesn’t do me an incredible amount of good outside of the training. But I still crave the safety of knowing what’s expected of me at all times and being able to achieve those small, constant things. I think that’s one reason why I love doing shows so much- I know that while I can play and experiment within the context of a show, what’s expected of me is to play my character as well as I can. I’m there to tell a story. I don’t feel that way when I’m waitressing, even if the paycheque is bigger and more constant.

But I’m getting away from the point: time-wasting. I don’t like the way I feel when I do it, and I especially don’t like the way I feel after a whole MONTH of doing it. Yes, I made an important decision that month, but I also spent a lot of that month lying in my bed and crying. I watched this video (which I did not look up; it happened to come up in my YouTube feed. Life is funny like that), in which this girl discusses that she sought help for her anxiety in part because she recognized just how much TIME she was wasting and how many opportunities she had missed due to her anxiety. I didn’t want to miss out on YEARS of my life. I still don’t want to. But I’m afraid that, even while working on my anxiety et. al, I’ll continue to waste time until finally I’m old and realize that I’ve done nothing with my life. That’s one reason why I decided to pursue what I actually want to do. It would have been so easy to just get a business or even an English degree- something that didn’t cause people to laugh at or pity me. I probably would have gotten good grades in almost anything word-related. But I really wanted to feel connected to my work and spend time- see, TIME- in classes that would affect the life I wanted to have after college. And that life, the one of an actor, is not so easy to come by. After seven months of constant auditioning, I finally have a little bit of that life, even if it is shared with other things that I think are pretty much meaningless. But getting that little bit of time that actually means something to me feels so great. I can never go back to the way I wasted time in November. I can’t stand it.

BACK ONSTAGE!

I meant to write about this awhile ago, but at first I wasn’t allowed, and then I got super busy. But now, I have the time and it’s VERY EXCITING!

On the first of the month, I was asked to come in for an audition. I had auditioned for the theatre’s season as a whole, and now a director wanted to see me for a specific show. I couldn’t make the audition due to giving a tour, but the director nicely agreed to have me come in on the fourth. As it happened, she was also seeing a guy for the same show, at the same time, so we auditioned together. It was run more like a callback than an audition in that the other actor and I read together, sang together, and were directed much more than one usually gets in an audition. The other actor and I worked very well together from the start; sometimes, you just have that connection with someone. After we had finished singing, the director sort of looked us up and down, and looked at us together, and then said, “Yes, I think you two would do very well.”

To get offered a part at the audition is, for me at least, a big deal. I’ve heard of it happening and I’ve seen it happen, but it’s never happened to me. I was pretty thrilled, and to know that an actor I clicked with (whose name is Travis) was also in the cast, was an added bonus. Another great part was hearing that I had gotten the part over someone they knew. That’s been one of the hardest things about breaking into the Philadelphia theatre world; people tend to cast people they know, and most people don’t know me. The other three actors in this show (The Emperor’s New Clothes) are usuals at this theatre, and it sort of sounded like the director had been considering another actor for my part, but she commented to Travis that the other girl was “younger and not as strong.” It feels so great to know that I impressed her enough to convince her to take a chance on me.

I’m very excited about this show- it’s children’s theatre, which I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and it’s a touring show that goes around to schools. We’ll be running for a weekend at the theatre (opening on my twenty-third birthday!) before we start the tour. I have always wanted to do a touring show, and while I dreamed more of a national tour level, this is a nice start.

We started rehearsals on Monday and have had two since then, and it’s all just great. It’s a musical, and it’s my first musical role that actually means something; though I can sing, I’m not as good as a lot of musical theatre artists and so generally get relegated to the chorus. But there are only four of us in the cast, so every part matters. The cast gets along well, and especially today, when Travis, the director, and I were working on the swindlers’ backstories, we had a lot of fun creating together.

I’ve only ever done one children’s theatre show, over two years ago when I played the title role in Alice in Wonderland. I really enjoy performing for kids because they’re really enthusiastic, and especially because we tour, I think we’re going to get the gamut of audiences, good and bad, which will be nice for my growth as a performer. I also love that our director is passionate about the show as a children’s piece. I play kids/young adults a lot, and one of the reasons I like doing it is because I like giving these characters a brain and a personality. So many times, you see kids played as really dumb or very one-note. I see kids and young adults as people with emotions and intelligence, and enjoy playing them as such. Relatedly, some people see children’s theatre as a lower level theatre, but today, our director said, “There is no change in presenting a character just because it’s children’s theatre. You will have depth and objectives, and ways to achieve them.”

The most notable thing about being in rehearsals again is how much my mood has changed. I’m not suddenly skipping around throwing flowers in the air or anything, but I’m finally happy for most of the time again. Rehearsals give me a lot of things: something to do, goals, relationships, challenges, and things to look forward to. Other things in life give me a few of these things at once, but acting is the only thing that delivers them in that wonderfully messy package called a show. 🙂