May God bless you with discomfort at half-truths, easy answers, and superficial relationships, so that you will live deeply and from the heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people,
so that you will work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those in pain,
so that you will reach out your hand to them and turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with just enough foolishness to believe that you can make
a difference in this old world,
so that you will do those things that others say cannot be done.
I have been working at the Performing Arts Project for just over two weeks, and I could not be more thrilled to be spending my summer here.
I attended the Performing Arts Project two years ago as a student, and my life was absolutely changed by my time here. But after I left I learned that I had not effectively internalized all that I experienced and learned while at the program. I dealt with (or at least surfaced) a lot of junk during my time here, many worries, fears, challenges, attitudes I had in regard to my identity as an artist and my place in the theatre industry (and the world). And I was able to continue processing, to continue building and growing upon many brilliant ideas that were thrown at me for months and years after I left.
My time at the Performing Arts Project was not a comfortable one, but was, in fact, a time of rather strong discomfort. In many ways, my education at Sarah Lawrence, though extremely stretching, has often seemed smooth and even convenient. Through my own curriculum design, I had and (unfortunately) have continued to avoid a few choice areas of theatrical study, areas that I surely need to improve upon (see: any and all styles of dance). At the Performing Arts Project, I was forced to face those areas head on and often in front of my peers. It truly may have been the most uncomfortable, crunchy three weeks of my life.
But this kind of discomfort, the soreness of growth, is truly the best ache.
Returning here has cemented one thing completely, something I either did not notice or simply did not appreciate when I was here two years ago: the Performing Arts Project, and the family created each year of students, faculty, and staff, is truly a safe place. Yes, all artists who convene here during the summer are encouraged to try and to fail. And when failure comes, we celebrate because something was risked and something was learned.
But even more than that, the Performing Arts Project is a safe place because here each artist is cherished. Here, all hearts are held and protected and encouraged. Here, love abounds and covers every soul. It is this profound safety that allows us to risk and to fall, because we are certain there will be a crowd of our biggest fans waiting to help us back to our feet.
It's astounding and deeply tragic that these communities (artistic and otherwise) are few and far between. So often we are encouraged to divide, to fight, and to compete. While we may also often be encouraged to support each other, individual survival at the price of others commonly seems like the more strategic move.
Here's the kicker though: the most strategic move is actually the road of encouragement, support, and love. Turns out, there is room for all of us in the theatre industry. There is room for all of our gifts, all of our attributes, all of our bodies in the community of theatre makers. And, even more, there is room for all of us in the world.
Nothing is gained through exclusion. But everything is gained through inclusion.
I am incredibly grateful to have found artists who fight for me, artists who I fight for. Here's to making mistakes. Here's to being loved. Here's to soulmates. Here's to failing forward.
Of the three or four things that all human beings require in order to survive, rest always seems to be the first one thrown out the window.
I'm more familiar than I would like to admit with the groggy morning showers, the mid-afternoon energy slumps, and the lashing out at others in the name of stress and exhaustion. Young people, especially young people in college, seem to be at the center of this lack-of-sleep epidemic. (Maybe I feel this way because it's the world that I live in, or maybe because it's simply true.) My friends and peers at Sarah Lawrence, while extremely unique and different from each other, seem to always have one common trait: we are tired.
The source of this tiredness is, of course, our busyness and, for young people at least, our desire to continue doing more and doing better. That desire isn't inherently bad; it speaks to our passion and commitment to changing the world and being the best at what we do. Striving for excellence has led the world-changers of the past to be just that: world-changers. This excellence is a good and honest goal, especially when spread across the many disciplines, subject areas, and interests of my generation. It's the striving that I'm not so sure about anymore.
The one course that has taught me the most at Sarah Lawrence is the one in which I've done the least. For the past two years, every Tuesday morning, I have hidden away in a sunny room on the top floor of our theatre building with my favorite professor while my classmates and I have learned how to stop trying. This class is a part of my theatre program, yes. It's branded as a movement class (although we don't do much moving) but it has taught me much more about my heart and my mind than about how to create art onstage or how to use my body efficiently (though the class has taught me those things as well).
In this course, I've finally learned and internalized that I don't need to work so hard. None of us do. Separating the passion I have for doing the things I love and am called to do with excellence from the tense, teeth-gritted striving makes all the difference. Nothing that I have ever done with painful, begrudged labor has been half as rewarding or excellent than the things I have simply allowed and trusted. Work is not evil. Work is rewarding, shaping, and strengthening.
Forceful, tense striving, however...again, I'm not so convinced.
After the stress and exhaustion of this year of school, my body and my mind have needed some time to actually put what I've been taught in this class for the past two years into practice. So, for the last few weeks I've been resting with intention. I've been feeding my body and my soul with the things it has needed but lacked for so long: exercise, sunlight, good stories from books and movies, sleep. And I've finally flipped the scale of importance from being productive to simply being whole.
On the first day of summer vacation, a friend of mine asked me to share with her my goals for the break. I was taken rather off-guard; in completely honesty, I hadn't really thought about it. Or, at least, what I had thought about didn't seem like a goal that was worth sharing. The goal I had is simple: I promised myself that this summer I would not do anything that I didn't want to do. I would take care of myself, love myself, and rest. I would remove the pressure of all the "I should..."s that had weighed on me all year, and I would let my body and my heart feel what they wanted to feel and do what they wanted to do. I would feed my soul with the sleep, the stories, and the nourishment that it needs. I would feel strong again, because I would be focused solely on being whole.
I have since made other goals for this break, of course. But most of the new goals are in service of this first goal, this promise I made to myself in mid-May.
I know my time of rest can't last forever; in just two weeks, I'll be heading to North Carolina for an internship where I'll be working every day for five weeks straight. And this time of rest really shouldn't last forever. The need for productivity will return once again when I'm put under the pressure of a new school year, a new job, and the ominous promise of life after graduation.
But, every once in awhile, a brief pause, an intermission, for rest is absolutely necessary, even if only just to remind us that we do not need to strive and that being whole is truly the most important thing.
What am I reading?
What am I listening to?
What am I watching?
After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear – but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.
Lingering in Happiness by Mary Oliver
Time moves whether we acknowledge it or not.
We know this.
Time passing without our watching, without our conscious observance, is freeing and joyous. The years and months come and go without so much as a fleeting thought crossing our minds, and we awake one morning to realize that we haven't watched a single day happen. Or, rather, we have watched them all happen, but we haven't thought about their happening. We have only thought about the moments, as each comes and goes.
Sometimes, though, another thing happens altogether and time passes as we consciously watch. We watch and experience and think and plan as each new moment materializes and then fades away. Observing our lives in this way allows for a beautiful and full report on our progression (or digression). But this can be torturous. Instead of living inside the moments, we are watching them happen from the perspective of an on-looker, allowed to comment and judge the choices we are making. We watch and cringe and laugh and celebrate and grit our teeth and worry and cheer and promise to try harder tomorrow.
But, every once in awhile, as I experienced this morning, both seem to happen simultaneously. Time moves, runs away, and then stops dead in its tracks. And I am left suspended while all of my thoughts/feelings/judgements/worries/excitements/plans/fears catch up and then hit all at once.
My best friend is leaving.
I'm almost twenty-one.
Many of my friends are graduating from college.
And I am next.
Everything is changing, as everything always does. I haven't noticed for so long, and now that I notice again, the change is drastic. And exciting. And terrifying.
For now, I would like to linger in this space. I would like to feel, and think, and experience, and cherish.
I would really love to linger here.