On Aug 30, 2011, I arrived in Arkansas. My mom and my uncle drove me down from South Bend, IN in a single day. I remember on the drive down being equally terrified and excited. I didn’t really know anyone. I had A LOT of assumptions about Arkansas (most of which turned out to be wrong). But I knew I wanted to work in theatre and this was the only theatre job I got that paid.
On January 9, 2020, I packed up my books and my clothes to drive to Madison, WI. I was leaving behind two pets, a husband, and half my things. (Most of my books are still in Arkansas.) I needed to try something different. I felt like I had been walking in circles in Arkansas and wanted break the cycle. This time, I knew at least one person but my job, the city, everything was a complete unknown.
When my mom or friends call me brave, they usually reference those two big life decisions as examples of my bravery. Which always leaves me feeling…..like a fraud.
I’m not an incredibly brave person. I like that people think I am. I also don’t think I’m a particularly good person; but for the same reason, I like that people think I am. Honestly, I’m incredibly calculating and have plans for my plans. I have so many spreadsheets of me trying to figure out my next steps and what makes the most logical sense.
For both of those decisions mentioned above, I didn’t have a full plan. It just like felt like I had no other option. I needed a job after college and if that was the only one, then that’s the one I’ll take. For Madison, I did get a job here but had little plan for much else.
Both decisions went…..okay. Currently, the Arkansas plan feels like it went a lot better than the Madison one but I’m sure if I’ moved to Arkansas right before a pandemic, I’d have a lot more to say.
The thing is, being an artist takes a lot of bravery. It’s very, very brave to create something and believe that anyone will care. And not just care but also buy it. Or support you. It’s brave to do something we’ve been told our whole lives is a bad idea. I get so frustrated when I hear people say “Well I majored in theatre but then I grew up” and then immediately after start talking about their favorite TV shows. The arts seem like an afterthought to so many people in American culture except for when we talk about television and film. The disconnect is one of the strangest things to me.
But anyway, that’s a rant for another time.
My point is it takes a lot of f*cking bravery to be an artist and to stick with it and I am not an inherently brave person. If anything, I’m just someone with mildly narcissistic tendencies who is also incredibly competent. I can finish a project overnight. I can work tech and I execute an event. For me, it wasn’t about being brave; it was about showing off all my talents at once. Theatre seemed to be the only thing to contain me.
But, I find myself at another impossible place. Another “I don’t think I really have another choice.” And I’m so scared. I feel a lot like 22 yr old Rachel driving down that dark highway, thinking “what if this is the biggest mistake?”
For the first time in a really long time, I have no back up plan. I have no idea how I’m going to do what I know I absolutely need to do.
And that’s to be a playwright and an artist. I keep coming back to this. I keep saying “Okay this time I’m going to do it” and then I get scared and get a job that I hate just for the job security.
But if there’s anything that COVID-19 continues to teach me, there is no such thing as job security.
Back when I was driving to Madison, I was listening to Taylor Swift and crying the whole drive. I had to pull over a couple of times because of how intensely I was crying. The only thing that could calm me down was telling myself I would check back in on June 15. If it wasn’t working, I would just drive back. But then when the pandemic happened, I pushed that back to Aug 15.
But drive back where? Where is home? Fayetteville? LA? Do I have anywhere to go?
I keep getting stuck on what happens if I fail? If I can’t pay rent? What’s the fail-safe plan? How do I make sure I survive? I’m going to lose my health insurance. What happens if I get COVID? How will I pay for therapy?
And I’m starting to realize there’s no real way to plan anything. Not during a pandemic. Not really.
There’s a lot I don’t know. What I do know is theatre was my lifeboat when my job decided I wasn’t essential and cut my pay. So maybe, just maybe
It’s time to be brave.