During an important theatre talk/interview for a new opportunity, I was asked what I did for fun, to relieve stress. And I fumbled. It was the first and only time in the conversation that I did. The fumble was not graceful. They asked twice what my hobbies were and my answer was that I really enjoy going to see new plays when I’m not working on them. Later that day, I posted a joke about it on Facebook.
And it was a joke…….until it wasn’t.
The next day I headed to Vegas with my laptop and a script in hand, totally ready to edit four different plays and then somehow still get into this conference for my day job (that no one asked me to go to) and was ready to work work work.
Here’s the thing: I think theatre folks joke a lot about our whole lives is theatre and when I look closer, it’s not 100% true. Many playwrights I know are English teachers, journalists, lawyers…their day jobs aren’t also theatre. And that’s great.
But…that’s not my situation. I’m a playwright who for the last nine years has also worked in production. In fact, right now for the last five months, is the first time I can think of since I graduated undergrad that I wasn’t working in production. And I’ve been struggling with that because I’m used to a production schedule. I’m used to not getting two-days weekends, to working at least one 10 hour day every eight days. I’m used to being tired and worn out and sick from working too hard. It became my new normal. I’m struggling so much with job right now that I’ve asked for more work.
But what’s really interesting to me is that I had that job and I hated it. I hated waking up at 4 am for load-ins, I was impatient because I was soo tired, and I wasn’t able to write anything. In fact, when I left that job, I feel like I had a creative burst. From my last day on that job (in March) to now, I’ve written 8 plays, which is a lot even for me. It was like plays were falling out of me because I finally had the time to write them. So I know working 50+ hours a week, every week, is not sustainable to my playwriting career. So why do I miss it so much?
And looking even deeper into that feeling, in many professional development opportunities, they have you write your obituary. And they emphasize that you have to include your personal life. I’ve failed to do that every time. Because for so long, my answer to what my personal life looks like depends on my professional life. Am I still married in 30 years? Dunno. Depends on the job and the city. Do I have kids? Dunno (although for this one, highly unlikely). Where do I live? Dunno. Wherever the job takes me. I know what awards I want, I know what titles I want, I know what I want them to say about me when it comes to work……….
But who am I outside of that?
Before theatre, I had hobbies. I used to read about 100 books a year, I played sports, and I swam. I played board games with friends (chess was my favorite) and I used to dance…a lot. I actually only stopped dancing because I was good but not great at it and felt like I had to be great at it if I was going to keep doing it. I didn’t occur to me that even if I was horrible at it, I could still do it. Just for me. Because doing anything just for me wasn’t an option.
Frankly, I wasn’t raised that way. My parents didn’t really have hobbies. They had habits, good and bad, but they weren’t really hobbies. My mom, my dad, my stepmom worked. A lot. And if they had a hobby, they turned it into work. Especially my mom. The only hobby I can think of that my mom had was reading and really I think she just did that in between things, while she was waiting for the next job to start. It was about survival. And I am so thankful for what they sacrificed.
But….I don’t want to live that way. I don’t have to live that way. I need a hobby. I need to get active again. And I need to do something that has nothing to do with theatre. To be fair, I have folded my hobbies into a career and that’s great. I still read a lot but I only read about three or four books a year now. I read about 300 plays a year. I’ve been active-ish in the sense that working backstage requires a lot of movement. But that’s not going to cut it anymore.
When I posted the joke to Facebook, a dear friend posted “Ok but keep an eye on that please.” And it’s so true. I love theatre. But I need something else. I need to take care of myself. It’s not okay that I expect to get debilitatingly sick every four months. This last flu got bad and I still made myself work. Currently, no one is making me work this way. I was just built that way.
But that’s not a good thing. And sometimes we have to re-build ourselves. Being highly capable is a slippery slope. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.
The plan is to join a soccer league or a gym with a pool next year and once a week, I wanna spend 4 hours not thinking about theatre at all. Just four hours. Which sounds small but feels huge.
Also, if you’re whole life is theatre and you love it and everything is amazing, I’m not knocking that. That’s great! I’m just saying that my body breaking down every four months isn’t working for me anymore. Is it really working for you? Are you taking care of yourself?