It’s kind of incredible to have a day off. Between now and April 30, I am workshopping Black Mexican, As You Are, and Good Bad People. I am also working on directing Adored You right now, directing As You Are in March and April, prepping for the virtual world premiere of Black Mexican, and editing Rich B*tch as part of a commission. There’s also a reading of You Were Mine in March and I’m still not sure how I’ll fit in rehearsals for that while I’m directing As You Are. While I’m doing all of this, I am also teaching 4 classes this semester, adjusting to a new job and to a new city in a place where I don’t really know anyone. Between today (Jan 24) and March 24, I don’t have a full day off. That’s 6 plays in 2 months….
When I tell people this, they tell me I’m “living the dream.” And how this is exactly where I “wished” I would be five years ago and that I should be proud/happy/excited/humbled.
I’ve got two dreams. One that’s incredibly unrealistic and one that’s only slightly unrealistic. I’ve had the first one since I was 15 and the second one since I was 25.
The incredibly unrealistic one: In my wildest of dreams, at an airport bar, I meet a person that’s about 10 years older than me and wealthy. We flirt for a bit and exchange numbers. After sending each other silly pictures and mini-poems back and forth, they ask me on a date. All they give me is an address. I show up to the address. Turns out it’s a private airport. And our first date is in Venice (they fly me there). From that point, we just date around the world. Second date in Rome, third date in Buenos Aires, fourth date in Barcelona…you get it. We just travel the world, living our best lives. Since we’re both writers, we still send off our work. (In my imagination, this person is a novelist. I don’t know how I feel about dating another playwright.) And yes, we love our work but it isn’t our whole lives. I work on maybe six shows a year and they write a book a year, assuming they’re as prolific as I am. But at the heart of it, our lives are about enjoying life and good food and great art. We live in a different city every two years and just make the most of it while we’re still here.
The only slightly unrealistic one: I would like to be financially secure enough to work on playwriting and maybe TV writing but also have time (and money) to travel. I’d also like to teach 1-2 courses online (preferably playwriting + script analysis) so I can still engage with students. With the way the world has evolved to fit with COVID, we know it’s possible for me to be in Cape Town while workshopping a play in Orlando and teaching students in Houston. Would I live in Cape Town? No. I’d just visit for a week. I’d likely live in the US but which city would change every 3-4 years. And I’d be partnered. And we would still find time to do sh*t that has nothing to do with work. Dance in the kitchen, eat at restaurants (when we can do that again), go on a hike, swim in an ocean…still enjoying life like my incredibly unrealistic dream but on a much smaller budget.
Either way, it is NOT my dream to be working so much that I can’t sleep because I’m anxious I’ve forgotten something. It is not my dream to not have enough free time to even make friends because I’m staring at my computer 14 hours a day trying to get everything done. It is not my dream to be working nonstop just to barely make a living.
And I won’t lie. I tend to overwork myself because I don’t know how to say no. And also because there’s a certain quality of life I’m striving for and the only way I’ve figured out how to have it is to work myself to the point of exhaustion.
But that’s a problem.
We should want more than this. We deserve more than this. We deserve more than working until we pass out or burn out, only to make 45-50k/year.
The scarcity model has lied to us. Because we work in an industry that tells us we have to take the jobs we can because we’re “lucky” to do them, we keep saying yes to unacceptable sh*t. I don’t feel lucky to be passing out in my living room, alone, and wondering if I had died, how long would it have taken for someone to notice?
Real story by the way: I fainted in my living room on Jan 14 from stress. Came to, took me a second to realize where I was, and then got on my computer and got back to work. I had to get to rehearsal.
This should be no one’s dream.
I remember a couple years back, I had such a hard time writing my obituary (for an exercise about what we wanted our career to look like). Suicide ideation aside, I kept telling everyone that I didn’t like to put to paper what my life should look like because life kept surprising me and I didn’t want to limit myself.
And that was mostly true. But what was also true was that I was too afraid to give myself permission to want anything outside of theatre because theatre can be all-consuming. So I knew the career highlights I wanted but not the personal highlights because, as far as I was concerned, my personal highlights would be informed by theatre. Would I be married? Don’t know. Depends on if theatre gives me enough space to even have a partner. Kids? Um, probably not. I know parents make it work but theatre makes it really hard so no, I guess. City? Wherever I get the job that lets me do theatre.
Theatre has dominated my life. And people keep telling me that this abusive relationship is the dream.
It ain’t mine.
I recently revisited by obituary. But 30, I was supposed to have a show at the Goodman in Chicago. I am now 31. By 40, I am supposed to have a MacArthur. (LOL) And by 45, I am supposed to have a Tony and Pulitzer. By 50, a Nobel peace prize. If you go back in this blog you’ll see I have mentioned the trifecta (Tony, Pulitzer, Nobel) quite a bit. It’s something I’ve wanted for so, so long.
And at 31 I am already behind schedule.
There was this exercise I sent a bunch of friends on NYE that they all thought was cheesy and stupid. But I loved it: It was write a resignation letter to the role you play in your life that you want to leave behind.
Writing that letter was so incredibly powerful for me. For the last 15 years, I have been defined by ambition. For the next 15, I want to be defined by balance, by warmth, by taking small moments here and there to just remember “Holy sh*t I’m alive” and really immerse myself into the beauty and the surprise that somehow I’m still here.
My dream is to be happy and for that happiness to be contagious. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
* I was going to write about networking (again) now that apparently I’m on the other side of it but this felt more important. Also also, what is time anymore? I try to write on the 15th and 30th but I’m busy next weekend.