In college, there were all these songs about independent women. One of my favorites actually spelled independent out so that women for the next decade would forever be able to spell the word. I still sing the song in my head whenever I want to make sure I’m spelling it right.
But, as obsessed as I was about singing about being an independent woman, I have never been one. In college, my friends took care of me. And I’m so thankful for that. I was undiagnosed then and my manic episodes were bad. I didn’t know how to recognize them (I’m still learning how) and often my friends had to lock me in a room so I wouldn’t take a plane with a stranger to “somewhere in Japan” (actual thing that happened).
After college, I moved in with my one of my forever friends, Natalie, and met Josh. And then both did a really great job of (1) teaching me how to budget, (2) getting to actually deal with the feelings I was having and (3) how to be a functioning adult. Natalie left and I moved in with Josh. There’s a lot to say about Josh but the most important thing is that he was always there. I never had to worry about anything really. Because he was always there and could fix any problem.
At some point, in grad school, I realized I wasn’t independent at all. I didn’t even know how to pay a utility bill. Or how to get internet. So I ended things with Josh and moved out on my own. And I hated it. I was all over the place. My mental health went completely unchecked and I went into a terrible manic episode that escalated when I burned the mail room down on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until I moved back into the house I had first moved into that I realized this just wasn’t working. So I went back to Josh. And, just like he always does, he fixed everything. And everything was fine.
The same thing happened with playwriting. I only went to the playwriting workshop because my old boss and forever mentor, Kassie, suggested it. At the playwright’s workshop, they suggested I apply to grad school. I did. You know the story. In grad school, I kind of went through the motions. I found something I loved but didn’t know what to do about it. I started a theatre company. I wrote papers. I went to conferences. I created my own class. I said yes to everything.
After working the MFA workshop and then later helping with administrative work at the Kennedy Center, doors started to open. (Thank you, Heather Helinsky!) I got plays out there and a network of people working on my behalf that I didn’t even know about. I’ve only been pursuing playwriting professionally since 2015 and when I take a breath, it’s been an incredible journey. I went from no name recognition at all to meeting strangers and being told they’ve read my work. It’s great!
Something that I’m sure will get said is that I had no support. That’s not true. Morgan, Jenni, Eve, Kassie, Andrea and so many more, thank you. You were the best support system I could ask for. And that’s just local support. I really loved that these really great women made room for other women and it changed my entire career. I’ve been able to “fall up” because of these women. I have never gone more than a month without a full-time job in theatre since 2011 thanks to them. And it’s given me an incredibly competitive resume.
It was all incredible. But…
What I needed personally, what my career needed, both my playwriting career and my production career was to take another shot at independence. As I was driving up to Madison, a car light came on and my immediate instinct was “Oh I’ll ask Josh to look at that” and then I remembered he can’t. He’s 12 hours away. Another thought I had was that I’d email a theatre company, basically like “I HAVE ARRIVED” and then I remembered no one here knows me. The only correct response to “I HAVE ARRIVED” is “um…k?”
The transition has been hard. But it’s mostly been hard because I’ve been waiting for someone to take care of me and I need to challenge myself to take care of myself. To push myself. To elevate my career by starting over and hitting the ground and networking.
And that’s not to say that I don’t believe in asking in help. I asked for help. I posted an update to Facebook recently and didn’t even realize I was asking for help. And then so many people pulled through, willing to help me. It was so affirming and incredible.
I’ve got my plays to edit. My job is slowly settling. I’ve got a list of theatre companies I want to volunteer for and I’m working on a travel plan to do some networking with Chicago theatres. I even am still looking for a hobby that’s not theatre (which right now looks like it might a competitive spelling bee competition — I’m a nerd!). And yes, it’s been challenging but it’s forced me to see where I’ll compromise and where I won’t. What I need and what I don’t. I’ve learned so much about myself in the last 14 days than I’ve learned about myself in the last year.
For as long as I can remember, people have called me “resilient” and “strong” but I didn’t see it.
Someone said to me she hopes that moving to Madison will remind me who I am and what I’m capable of. I’ve started to look at it as I hope this move will show me my power (I really loved Frozen 2, y’all) and give me the opportunity to fully step into it.
If you’re like, “Okay Rach but how is this about playwriting?” Well, again, don’t call me Rach but being a playwright often means moving to a city you don’t know to do something really kind of challenging/vulnerable. And sometimes that move is a week and sometimes that move is for a year (one day, PWC, one day). Moving can be scary and intense and nerve-wrecking. So this is basically me saying “I got your back.” I know how hard it all is. Also also, in my experience anyway, playwriting always takes me back to my personal life. They’re tied together. I moved for my career but I left my life behind.
Anyway here’s a fun song that’s been my moving anthem. “Taking this one step at a time. I got your back if you got mine…one foot in front of the other.”