2021 has actively tried to take me out, even to its last days. This is the year I struggled with suicide ideation, worked past the point of exhaustion, switched jobs four times, lost my grandfather and my cat, got divorced, and now I’m very, very sick with no end in sight. I had a deeply dark thought that if this year ended up literally taking me out with this sickness that would be on brand with the general gist of this whole awful year.
And the sort of f*cked part about all of this is this is also the year that my career took off. It felt like everyone was watching me and I didn’t have the energy to smile back. It’s like one of those nightmare scenes where the cameras are finally on you and you’re throwing up outside the window of your car. I won the Yale Prize! Paula Vogel called me! I won the National Latinx Playwriting Award! I got staffed on a TV show! I had three virtual productions, lots of workshops, lots of people reaching out to me trying to get to know more about me
……all while I was metaphorically emotionally puking outside of the window of a speeding car.
The awards and workshops and readings felt like I was filling out checklists. What should’ve been the most amazing time in my life felt hollow. Nothing quite felt like enough. I told a friend recently that I’m worried I bring up the Yale Prize too much, that people probably think that’s the best I’ll ever do, and that I had peaked. My friend’s response was “Then do something better.”
A good lesson I’ve learned since getting into astrology is that as a Cancer, I sometimes read too much into what people say to me so I’m working on hearing what was said and not what I interpret. So when my friend said “do something better” instead of spiraling, I thought to myself “What does the next step even look like? Is it even up to me?”
And honestly, it doesn’t feel like any of it is up to me. I stand by the fact that I think White People by the Lake is just as good if not better than Apologies. But I can’t push it any harder. The most I can do is wait. And that’s the part that sucks the most. Because I’m usually about 2-3 years ahead of theatre. I wrote Apologies in 2019. It won the award in 2021. I wrote Well-Intentioned White People in 2016 (!) and people are still “discovering” it and talking about how relevant it is to 2021 (while I personally find it to be super dated).
Do something better.
When I take a moment to think of things that actually brought me joy this year (and it’s not much), it’s getting the cats, learning about tarot and getting more open about my spiritual and ancestral practice, and moving to the Twin Cities. All of those things are connected to dark, dark moments in this year as well.
This year, I got some of the brightest light at the end of my darkest days. But is that what I want for 2022? To have to suffer so much for just a little bit of sunshine?
To be honest, there isn’t a single piece of me that’s excited about 2022. Watching theatres close down while the people in charge walk around like “Nothing to see here. This won’t be like 2020” is triggering. It feels like we’re being badly gaslit by folks who can’t face their own truth. The truth we can all see. Meanwhile, the government has taken a very “remain calm” attitude while the CDC has shown us they care about protecting businesses, not people (5 days!!! WTF!!!). It’s good to know that all the apocalypse movies were wrong. We wouldn’t shut down at all. We’d just find new ways for the working class to die while the rich get safer. And theatre folks who refuse to accept that digital theatre can be just as powerful and are determined to get back into the same room ASAP are making sure we stay in this vicious cycle of closing and opening and closing and making it even harder for new playwrights to get produced because theatres are backlogged….
Do something better.
What if our worth wasn’t connected to what we created? I’m ambitious and I’m also a bit broken so unfortunately as much as I want to say that prizes and awards don’t matter to me, of course they do. But what I learned this year is even as I was getting the prizes I’ve wanted for years, it meant nothing to me because I was so miserable. I couldn’t even enjoy it. It just felt like “okay what else do I need to do to get theatre to notice me? What else do I need to do to be produced, to get name recognition, to finally be seen as a great American playwright…”
What if the something better isn’t what I can create? What if the something better is challenging me to find a different way? I’ve been stuck in a trauma response. Just trying to survive the grenades that have been thrown at me this year. I’ve been trying so hard to stay afloat, to tune out the voices in my head, to be everything, just to prove nothing was going to knock me down. I wanted to be smarter, faster, better.
Nothing was ever good enough because I wanted everything. All at once.
Assuming this current sickness doesn’t kill me and it just might, here’s what I want for 2022:
- Peace of mind
That’s it. That’s the list. I can’t want everything anymore. It’s killing me. So right now, all I want is to know that no matter how dark things get, that I’m going to be okay. That we’re all gonna be okay.
That’s the most I can ask for.