Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: my year

On the TV and radio, from friends and family, I keep hearing the same sentiment about this New Year's: may 2011 be a hell of a lot better than 2010

I understand why -- this was a hard year in many ways.  Many people are still struggling financially, with unemployment and foreclosures.  There were also a lot of cataclysmic disasters, both natural (Haiti) and human-caused (oil spill).  Politics seemed to reach new heights of absurdity (the likes of Christine O'Donnell and Carl Palodino) and the chasm between left and right grew deeper than ever.  Unfairness abounds -- Wall Street is now more profitable than ever after having all-but-destroyed our economy, and yet few new jobs are coming with those profits.  So I can definitely see why people are glad to say goodbye to 2010.

But for me personally, it's quite possible that I will look back on 2010 as one of the most notable years of my life.

Always a goal-setter, I outdid myself this year not only in the setting of goals, but in the attaining of them.  For those of you who've been reading my blog, little of this is news.  Creatively, I set out to write a play, and not only did that, but had a public reading of it with top Broadway talent (and raised almost $4000 to make that happen).  Of all of my creative endeavors so far, this is by far the most monumental thing I have ever done.

I also set a career goal of being able to quit my office job and just teach full-time by the end of 2010.  I started off the year working 3 jobs and now I can proudly (and a little nervously) say I am entirely self-employed. A major life goal accomplished.

About half-way through the year I set a smaller personal goal for myself: to participate in my first-ever organized athletic event (a 50-mile bike ride).  I am proud of this because it represents a significant change for me: though I've always been active, exercise has historically been the thing to get sacrificed when there wasn't enough time.  But with my boyfriend's help and inspiration, I managed to squeeze that in.  Not only does this bring me joy, it also helps keep me healthy -- which I desperately need to be to accomplish all the other things I want to do!

On a more personal note, after several years of relationship drama worthy of an opera plot, 2010 found in a calm, supportive, stabilizing, delightful, and loving partnership with my best-boyfriend-ever.  We inspire each other, we support each other, we challenge each other, we make each other better people and we help each other reach our goals.  I don't know if I can say that I would never have accomplished my goals without him, but it sure as hell would have been harder and even if I had managed to, I certainly would have been far less sane.  I'm glad I have finally recognized that theater (and my own crazy brain) give me all the drama I could ever want or need -- I don't need it in my relationships too.

I am immensely grateful for all that I have in my life, and for this incredible year of growth and accomplishment.  To feel as if I am starting anew creatively, career-wise, and personally at age 38, is remarkable and encouraging: to know that there are always other options, different paths to be taken if you just keep looking and follow your truest desires.  That makes me very hopeful for my future, wherever it might lead me.

So, thank you 2010, I will always remember you fondly.  And for those of you to whom 2010 wasn't so kind, I wish you a 2011 filled with growth, change, accomplishment and, most importantly, joy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The other side of "if only"

Today is a monumental day: my last day as someone else's employee.  I have been an executive assistant at this little consulting firm for the last 5 and a half years -- longer than I have been at any other job.  As far as office jobs go, it was the best I have had and the best I could ask for.  Nonetheless, it was still a "job" and not a career.  I realized after my divorce that I didn't want to just be working "jobs" anymore -- things to pay the bills while I was biding my time to get famous and "make it" as a artist.  I wanted to make my money doing something I was trained to do, something I loved and that brought me fulfillment.  The thing I love most - and am best at -- other than performing and writing is teaching.  As of 1:30pm this afternoon, I am proud to say that I am now entirely self-employed as a voice teacher. 

I am about to finally, finally see the other side of if only.  I have spent so many years of my life waiting, hoping, longing, telling myself if only I were hired at the Met; if only I were famous, if only I could make my living solely as an artist, then my life would truly really begin.  In the last two years, the narrative changed a little: if only I didn't have to work my office job, if only I could have more time to write, if only I could just teach to make my money, then I could live the kind of life I want, no longer ruled by my time trifecta where I must sacrifice either my writing, exercise or sleep on any given day.  Suddenly, after today, I will be living that life.  I will actually have 2-day weekends again, for the first time in 2 years.  I will be able to get more than 6 hours sleep a night.  I will be able to exercise and write.  I'll have time to go grocery shopping and do my laundry.  I can hardly believe it is really happening.

It is also more than a little bit scary -- the freedom of being completely self-employed is accompanied by the vagaries of students canceling, going on vacation, or quitting, plus my own needs for time off (as I felt keenly last week when I had to cancel a day of students because I was so sick).  Taking a sick day or a vacation takes on a whole new meaning when you know exactly how much it costs you.  I'm learning to set aside money, to plan, to create my own vacation/sick day/retirement fund, but it isn't easy.  And there is no safety net.  I have no one to rely on but me.

As scared as I am sometimes, I am immensely proud of myself for taking this step.  At the beginning of this year, I set out two goals for myself:  to write a play in 9 months, and to build my studio to the point where I could quit my office job.  Amazingly, I accomplished both of these goals.  After years of feeling like my fate was always in someone else's hands (those who might hire me as a singer), I finally, finally feel like the author of my own story.  Having embraced creating my own art for the first time in my life, it feels eerily appropriate that I am now also creating my own life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Productivity Paucity

I set aside the evening last night, completely free of distractions of friends, boyfriend, and other obligations, to get some work done.  To write a blog post (I still owe 3 blog-by-request topics), to upload photos from the reading to the Breaking Pairs website, to begin gathering materials for my applications to some summer writing residencies, to update some script edits.  Exactly how much did I get done?

Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

I began a topic-by-request blog post, but I just couldn't seem to write.  Everything I wrote seemed clumsy, boring.   The other tasks all seemed too long and involved to begin.  I just could not seem to motivate myself to get anything done, other than cooking myself a nice, healthy dinner and watching more episodes of Lie to Me on Netflix (my current Netflix addition, though I fear I may be tiring of it and in need of another one... suggestions?). 

Some of you may be thinking something along the lines of "gee, that sounds like me most days".  I know and love many people who struggle constantly with motivating themselves to get things done.  But this rarely happens to me.  It is far more common for me to have to talk myself down from continuing to work, or to convince myself that it's ok to take some down-time to relax and watch something mindless.  When I get asked -- as I often do -- if I can teach someone how to stay focused and get stuff done, I honestly don't know what to say.  Because I rarely have to kick my own butt. My main thought is a Nike slogan -- just do it.  I'm used to struggling to decide which thing I will do,  not with trying to get myself to do anything.  So I was at a complete loss last night, not having many tools for how to get myself out of my funk and into working.  

I guess it's understandable -- I was working at such an insane, feverish pace for the first 10 months of the year that it shouldn't be surprising to me that I'm a little worn out and in need of some time to reset.  My boyfriend assures me that my productivity isn't gone forever, it's just on a little bit of a hiatus.  I'm sure he's right.

But for now, forgive me for the scarcity of my blog posts -- I had really hoped to pick them back up again with more consistency.  But I think that will have to wait until the new year, when I am once and for all free of my office job and will have an extra 20 hours a week to get stuff done.

Anyone want to wager how long before those 20 hours are scheduled right back up again?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

for Roger: Vera interviews her creator

One of the perks I offered for contributing to my play shower was a blog post on a topic of the donor's choice.  A creative request came in from Roger in Switzerland, a "big brother" to my play and the sponsor of the character of Vera.  He wanted to interview me in the voice of Vera, and supplied me with the following questions:

Where do I come from? Have I been inspired by a real person that you know, do I represent a personality trait of yourself or am I just a figment of your imagination?

You are a figment of my imagination.  You bear my grandmother's name, but you are nothing like her.  You are the complete opposite of Frank -- your bubbly, nosey, super-talkative perkiness was inspired by needing a foil for Frank's taciturn, stubborn curmudgeonliness.

Have worked out backgrounds for all your characters? And if yes, what does mine look like?

Backgrounds emerged for my characters as I needed them.  I have not fleshed out an entire life story for you from childhood, but I do know that you married young, had only one child (though you wanted more) and lost him in WWII as a very young man.  You yourself were not from a large family either, so you now find yourself alone since your husband died a few years ago.  But you don't let all that loss stop you from reaching out to other people.

Have I been part of your play from the beginning or did you add my character later to liven up the narrative bring a fun and color to it?

You were there from the very first scene I wrote, long before I even knew I was going to turn this into a full-length play.  I wrote the scene with you and Frank in the nursing home, watching Lawrence Welk and bickering over the remote, as an exercise for my playwriting class.  You've come a long way, baby. 
Why would a young thing like you write about getting old? Mind you, I know I bear it well, but I would anything to be your age again. That was so much more fun.

You must have been a riot when you were footloose and fancy free!  I can just see you, dancing up a storm in your flapper dress, sneaking drinks and smokes, egging on your friends and the boys for just one more dance.  But as to your question, honestly, I don't know why it is that I seem to tap into truths about what it feels like to age -- my mother asked me the same question, "how do you know how it feels to be you trapped inside an old worn out body?"  I guess my empathy stretches far enough for me to be able to imagine that.  I was also very close with my grandmother and my great aunt Rue before they passed, and perhaps I gleaned something from them.  

Your boyfriend looks very handsome, do you think he would take me for a ride on his motorbike when we have our next free afternoon at the retirement home?

You bet!  Nothing would please him more.  He is great with passengers (in fact, he might be too cautious for your tastes!)  He'll make you wear a helmet though, he's very strict about that.

I have loved working with you. So when you start working on your next play, you might consider writing a sequel or prequel focusing on my character. I think that would be just fabulous;)

I will keep that in mind.  You are an awful lot of fun.  Thank you for coming into my life.