Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 24: Choice

This week was intense, crazy, wonderful, exhausting, satisfying. I got very little sleep, I didn't go to the gym, I ate like crap (comparatively speaking), I learned a ton. I don't regret a second of it.

Completely of my own choosing, I set myself up for this crazy week by having both a play I was producing and a show I was performing. I could have easily said, no I can't do the Opera on Tap gig since I already had the play scheduled some time ago. But I didn't. Because I wanted to sing again (and was being encouraged to do so by my best-boyfriend-ever) and because I wanted to be part of such an amazing evening to help fundraise for Haiti.

I very easily could have gotten super stressed out and cranky and short-tempered this week. After all, having so many days in a row with dinners eaten on the subway can make a person a little nuts. At one point, I found myself asking said-self what it would feel like to just come home after work and half nothing else to do (which sounded very appealing at that particular moment). Then I remembered: I tried that a couple of years ago when I quit pursuing my opera career, and after a couple of months, my sanity had grown alarmingly precarious.

I choose this life. I choose to have money be a struggle, to have my schedule on my palm pilot look like a game of tetris, to not have stability, to relentlessly pursue something that I may never be financially successful at, to constantly put myself out there in ways that leave me vulnerable to disappointment, frustration, and grief -- but in ways that also leave me vulnerable to intense moments of creative joy that surpass any joy I have ever experienced in any other facet of my life.

Artists (including myself) often say "this is not something you choose to do -- it is something you are." I have been known to say that this is not a career you choose unless you have to -- unless nothing else in this life will make you happy. I guess that's what it is for me. I recognize that it is a choice, though it doesn't really feel like one because the consequences for not doing it are so unbearable that I couldn't ever choose to not create.

At the Opera on Tap benefit on Wednesday, I could scarcely believe the talent that was gathered there. Not by audition or screening or any other means than that these were all musicians who happen to know Annie (the woman who runs OOT). Every act was incredible. The whole 5 hours worth. And I doubt very many - if any - of them actually make a living performing. In the past that would have depressed me, but this week, that observation felt like a big comfy blanket -- "I'm in such good company." For years I've felt like such a failure for not having "made it", like everyone must look at me and think I'm foolish (and untalented) for continuing to pursue my art when I'm not getting major recognition for it. Well, no more. I'm good, I know I'm good, and there are so many other amazingly good people out there who also don't "make it". I think perhaps we need to change our definition of what "success" means when it comes to art.

I come away from this week with a renewed sense of my place in this world as an artist. With a renewed sense of self, and a rekindled desire to strengthen friendships with fellow artists/creatives in my life, to help me keep my own creative fires going strong.

I have some challenging life/work choices in front of me, but after this week, those choices are clearer.


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