Like a lot of people right now, I have had a lot of time to think. I had planned on writing how my move had gone after I’d been in Madison for six months. But with all this time at home, it’s all I can think about lately.
I wanted to leave Arkansas because I felt stuck. I felt like I was walking around in circles and I had gone as far as I was allowed to go. I wanted to experience something different, something that would jump-start my heart again. And leaving came with some major sacrifices and a major loss I’m still processing and I’m still not ready to talk about. It came down to taking a leap and risk it all or staying somewhere safe and knowing that I had nowhere else to go.
So I left.
Madison has been such a trip. I moved here thinking I’d be living with my best friend until August. I moved out in February. I thought my job would be essentially what I was doing at the presenting house back in Arkansas but without the catering part. And then after a series of co-workers quit, my job turned into something much bigger than I was immediately ready for. And then just as I was reaching out to theatre companies and trying to build connections here, the world shut down.
I wanted something different. I’m not sure I wanted something apocalyptic.
It was in the news so I don’t feel like I can’t share this: I work for the UW system and they’ve recently announced furloughs meaning pay cuts. It’s really interesting to me that I always saw working for organizations as the “safe road” and this pandemic is showing me there’s no such thing as a “safe road.” Even the comfy university job can fall apart and you’re left kind of f*cked because you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck so even a $50 pay cut is drastic.
The flip side is I’ve been offered some interesting opportunities, playwriting-wise. In fact, one of these opportunities is providing me with a solid safety net (for the next couple of months) should my job decide to let me go, which honestly keeps feeling more likely.
And if playwriting is what’s saving me, why…am…I…doing…anything…else?
Last year, I tried to quit my job to be a playwright but I panicked and three months later got another job. I didn’t like not knowing how I would support myself and I had done the math wrong and only had 3 months saved and not 6.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately if I gave up too soon.
We’re living in a time when we’re all kind of living like artists. All artists know (or should know) you need a portfolio career AKA taking on a lot of different jobs so that if one fails, you have others to float you. You can’t do just one thing because, as we’re learning, nothing is forever.
And if nothing is forever, why do I keep working jobs that make me feel empty? I have this face I make in meetings, and thanks to Zoom, I can do it more often without anyone seeing me. Basically, it’s me dropping my head as low as I can as I silently scream. Then I take a deep breath, figure out how to say what I want to say without getting fired, and then drink a warm beverage after. Rinse, repeat.
There’s a part of me that’s driven to work as a part of a team, work to making the community better, and uplifting community artists. I love working with students and I love working with community artists. I love being introduced to art I could never create on my own and there have been some live performances that brought me to tears just because of how beautiful they are.
But, there’s also a part of me that wants to walk away. I want to finally start The Rachel Lynett Theatre Company where the whole point is to do 3 plays of mine and 1 play by an emerging playwright that I feel is in conversation with my work. I want the Young Jee Lee, the Lena Dunham deal. I want to produce my own work in 90 seat black box or a garage and work with like-minded artists and have wonderfully intense conversations with audiences about race, class, and gender.
And the urge to just do that, to make my own work and start my own company is getting so strong. I thought leaving Arkansas would quiet that impulse. That I just needed to be challenged in a different way.
I was wrong.
Two opportunities that I’ve been invited to are asking me for a production-ready play that isn’t already attached to a production. Well, I don’t get many development opportunities that aren’t attached to a production. But…if I had my own company…I could workshop my own plays and I could find a way to pay QPOC????
I guess I’m writing this to say that I’m just dreaming out loud. I’m not going to quit my job just yet. But I definitely might start writing out a values statement…
Artist friends, if no job is stable, why are we still rolling our eyes at meetings and not making art? What excites you? Why aren’t we doing that?