Around this time last year, I was panicking about not having enough playwriting opportunities in 2019 and wondering if my playwriting career stalled where it was, if that would be okay. If that would be enough. If you were my friend a year ago and you’re still my friend now, thank you for your patience during one of my most dramatic times. I wish I could say it’s few and far between but come on, y’all.
If you were my friend in 2013-2015 and you’re still my friend now, you know that I *frequently* panicked about not having any sort of career at all and that I was determined to either go to law school OR get my PhD in English because getting my MFA was clearly such a big mistake.
Again, if you were my friend then and still my friend now, you’re a real one.
If you were my friend in 2011 and you’re still my friend now, you’ll remember that I was WRECKED about getting a theatre degree, had suddenly realized I wasn’t good at anything at all and was just an overall mess. Completely lost and just kind of letting the wind decide what my next steps should be because I had no idea. Or at least that’s what I said.
Thing is, I did have an idea. Yes, yes, yes I said I wanted to be a corporate defense attorney since I was about ten. But you know what I did? In class, I would get bored and write poems in the margins of my notes and all over my homework. In high school, I wrote novels (multiple) that my mom had bound for me and we’d pass it around the school the way I think the cool kids passed around drugs. In college, within my friend group, I DID THE SAME THING.
If I was reading the story of my life as a book, I would be like “This protagonist is so oblivious. Like, this is bad writing. She’s too oblivious. She’s obviously a writer, not a lawyer.”
So if I knew it, why couldn’t I accept it? I knew the what but I didn’t know the how. And that made it seem impossible.
Within the last month, I’ve been to three different cities (in three different states) for three totally different reasons. Oct 14 – 19, I was in Sarasota, FL for a playwriting workshop as part of one of the commissions I received this year. Oct 23 – 26, I was in the twin cities for a work conference. And this past weekend, I left town for a wedding in Dallas. (And that’s not even all my travels for the rest of the year. In two weeks, I’ll be in Wisconsin and in six weeks, I’ll be in a different city in Florida.)
I usually only like to travel once a month but what was nice about traveling so frequently for different reasons kind of gave me a moment to look at my life from three different angles: personal, professional/day job, and professional/playwriting. As my Saturn’s return is ending, I’ve felt really challenged to…well, look at my life and look at my choices.
Thing is……..in regards to both my personal life and professional/day job stuff, I won’t have any final answers until December. So I guess I’ll be ending the year with those posts. All I can say about it right now is it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll have to make a major decision before the end of the year but I haven’t made my mind up yet and I don’t want to jinx anything.
So, playwriting it is.
I know, I know South Park is horrible for a million reasons but it’s one of my guilty pleasures. (I’m also the girl who likes Taylor Swift. Clearly, I have messed up tastes.) But there’s this moment where one of the parents tells his son, “You gotta calm the f*ck down, buddy.”
If there was one thing I would tell my past self, it’s that: “You gotta calm down.”
And, to give my younger self credit, yes, I have anxiety issues. And a whole mess of other reasons why I can’t exactly just calm down immediately. But to be honest with myself, it’s also part of the aftermath of being a gifted child and being maybe just a little too relentless #slytherin.
I want everything immediately, all the time because that’s what I got used to. School wasn’t hard. I took naps in high school and got straight A’s. In college, my GPA was horrible because I partied too hard but when I put in minimal effort, I was able to get A’s and B’s. In grad school, I got straight A’s and took classes out of my discipline to challenge myself…and still did really well. My brain is wired to believe that “but if I try just a little, I’ll be successful.”
What a wild and wrong theory to live by.
If things were that be simple, would anything be worth it? I, to this day, do not know where any of my diplomas are (my parents lost my high school diploma). I think my undergrad and grad are in storage? But I do have my first ever playwriting contract framed.
I’m not saying that we should only celebrate things that require struggle but I am saying that if my playwriting career immediately kicked off while still in grad school, I’d be the worst. I learned so much about who I am and what kind of plays I want to write by not getting into things. By having to try again. By making connections in a non-traditional sense. And I am still learning, all the time. That’s why I love it.
Also, what was I expecting? A Pulitzer by 30? For what? I can’t even think of one of my plays right now that even deserves to be nominated……..
And, again, I’m only 30. And I just turned 30 like five months ago. I got my MFA in 2015 and I haven’t written anything yet where I’m like “This is the best play I’ll ever write.” Many of my favorite writers have said, “Everything you write before you’re 40 is shit.” So, what exactly was my hurry? What exactly is my hurry? I don’t a single womxn playwright of color who “made it” before 30. Hilariously, I keep talking to playwrights of color and I keep having moments of “Wait, you’re 36?” Or “Wait. You’re 41?”
I’m young. It’s too soon to call anything at all. Even I don’t get another production until 2024, I’ll still only be 35.
Calm down, sis.
Also also, 2019 ended up being an amazing year. I wrote eleven plays, received three commissions, had seven readings of six different plays…which, run that back, means that I had six different plays read this year across the country. I also saw Abortion Road Trip finally getting produced and got to travel to three new places this year.
What was I so worried about?
Not to be basic (but again, I like Taylor Swift. I’m basic), but the road ahead is hella unclear and who knows what happens next?
Isn’t that what’s kind of exciting though? Don’t we stop reading the book if we’ve already guessed how it ends?
So, to any other emerging artists out there, calm down sis. You got time.
PRO-TIP: We technically stayed in Richardson, TX instead of Dallas. And I definitely recommend TEN 50 BBQ. I kind of forgot to end my traveling posts with food recs lol