A friend has a joke that my ancestors are tired because they keep urging me to go in one direction and I’m insistent on running in the opposite direction.
If you read this blog you know I’ve spent a bit of time trying to figure out exactly what the next step is. I’ve been struggling with not being able to write, struggling with whether or not I want to write for TV, struggling with whether or not my playwriting career is over…basically it feels like someone slammed on the breaks and I’m at a four-way stop sign trying to figure out which way to go next.
Last night, I wrote a monologue for a commission. And again if you know my work well, you know this already but in case you don’t, I don’t pre-plan anything when it comes to writing. I just write and see where it goes. So I sat down, while dying from food poisoning, and kind of spat out this monologue. I let it sit last night and decided to re-read it this morning.
It feels very stupid to say that getting older feels like a trap. Like one day I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be 35 working my corporate job looking out my window thinking these were the good days.
And I’m going to have to wear heels and business suits and smile when I feel empty inside and I just
If I’m already doing that now, do I want a lifetime of that?
There should be a way to pause. Like, I don’t want to
I’m not thinking about
But I wish there was a pause button you know? I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired.
My body feels like it’s carrying a weight that was meant for someone so much stronger than me and I’m collapsing under the weight of “it’s gonna get better”
Does it really? I’ve seen the news. Everything just keeps getting worse and there’s no way to just catch your breath and collect yourself from the last bad thing because the next one is already here and there’s no way to just say
STOP I CAN’T HANDLE THIS RIGHT NOW
The monologue is meant for high schoolers and in this monologue, the speaker Minnie (a name I’ve definitely used before) is hiding in the closet on her 18th birthday because she needs a break. She’s having an anxiety attack because the world just keeps coming at her, relentlessly, and she just wants to press pause.
Well doesn’t that sound familiar?
I’ve written about this before but I don’t think I’ve written about it nearly enough. As artists, when do we rest?
Because the arts are so severely underpaid in this country, we often take on too much work just to pay rent. As I’ve recently told my old supervisor, I can be anti-capitalist all I want but rent is not optional. I have to participate in a system I hate just to survive and that’s not the same thing as “selling out.” And frankly, I want more than just survival; I want to be happy. So I take jobs and I work myself to the point of passing out because sometimes I like to take myself out to dinner and don’t want to feel guilty about spending money.
As we’re working and pumping out pieces of ourselves to be mass consumed by strangers, I often wonder what would it mean to say no? To limit your audience? To refuse notes from artistic directors? What would it mean to say “I said what I said” in playwriting?
It would mean you’re not working.
So not only are we working ourselves into the ground, we’re all on our best behavior and being as gracious as we possibly can be so we can keep working, we can keep being exhausted, we can keep having our work neutered so that it’s more relatable. It’s exhausting trying to create work for people I don’t know and honestly likely don’t respect. Because they don’t respect my right to exist in this world*.
When do we rest? Why do we say “enough”? And more importantly, at what cost?
Because the ugly, ugly truth is that many of us can’t say no. We need the money. We need the exposure. We need the connection. We need the reputation. It’s a vicious cycle that the system is built upon. If you’re poor, if you’re a person of color, if you’re queer, you have to play game or get cut because there’s always another queer/POC/poor person ready to step in and take your place. Crabs in a barrel. The system was built this way on purpose.
So what does rest even look like in a system like that? Is it the naps you take in between jobs? Is it the drinks you buy while you carefully do the math in your head to make sure it’s not too much money out of your budget? Well no, because being anxious about spending $20 isn’t being at peace. And collapsing after working too hard isn’t rest; it’s recovery.
The upcoming full moon (the eclipse) is in my 12th house. My ancestors, the stars, the cards, every single bit of magic inside of me is saying figure out what you want but first, REST. And I realized I don’t really know how to rest. I’m an extrovert. I always want to be out and about, always want to be working on something, always doing.
I know it’s not everyone’s thing but I really do feel like my ancestors stepped in and intervened. I can’t write because I’m not supposed to right now. I’ve got more plays than Shakespeare at 32 (39 plays). If someone needs a play, I’ve probably already written it…
But much more importantly, I do not exist in this world just to make things for others. I do not exist in this world to work myself to the point of exhaustion every 3 months. I may not know what it means to rest but I am going to figure it out.
And I hope you do too.
*Don’t come for me. You cannot ask me to “tone” my work down for your “conservative” audience members and still pretend like they respect me in any way.