The end of the year is a time of reflection and reevaluation. We look back on which “what if’s” we’ve answered and which ones we’ll ask this year. Typically, our social media feeds are flooded with everyone’s biggest accomplishments, words of well deserved self-praise, and even hopes for “better luck next year.” While comparison can be our darkest demon, we all must remember that we are on our own timeline of growth and success.
Like many, I visualize myself in January 2018 and think about how I’ve changed and developed as a person and creative. Personally, I had some serious roller coaster dips this time around. I was dangerously close to giving up on my theatre AND music careers. What if I was better off getting an entry level office job and working moderately hard to earn a decent living? For months I tossed and turned about if that was a better life. Working myself to exhaustion, overdrilling my “never good enough” psyche, and continuing to let go of my mental and physical health because I couldn’t afford the time or money to tend to it. I applied to close to 75 office jobs...and didn’t get a single interview. People laugh, “well that’s the starving artist life!” That light-hearted, soul-sucking joke wasn’t cutting it for me. My own sanity started to matter to me more than pursuing the performing arts and songwriting. Was I crazy to consider giving them up as careers?
Luckily, some pretty positive things happened around that time. A week after the worst anxiety attack I’ve ever experienced, I was contacted about taking two gigs. They were one-time, short gigs but I hadn’t reached out or done anything to get them. They just showed up. Then I was getting e-mails about Phoenix Theatre’s New Festival of American Theatre. In about a month, Kelly Pekar and I were going to be one of two featured musical theatre writing teams that were flown out to Phoenix to present our original material for this festival. The universe was shifting. While my heart remained too heavy to move for awhile, my mind gradually realized that my hard work was starting to pay off in less obvious ways. We work hard now and crave validation from that effort but - at least in the arts - it doesn’t tend to work that quickly.
Outside of financial and occupational struggles, my love life was stupidly frustrating. I have a feeling that just earned a chuckle. I was allowing way too much leeway for my heart to get trampled on and engaging in potential relationships that were never on the same page. Constantly asking “what if?,” I questioned my every decision and pushed on out of desperation despite the red flags. My heart feels like it’s been stretched life taffy and slapped on the floor. Is that overly dramatic? Perhaps, but sometimes it takes being underappreciated to a certain degree to realize things need to change. I hope this resonates with anyone in a similar heartspace. No matter how much a therapist or friends say so, it’s a realization that only comes when you’re ready. If I’m the best candidate and friend for myself, then albeit I will love myself with every last bit of my being and it’s the rest of the world that’s missing out! Every single one of us deserves the very best and if someone can’t offer that (in any sort of relationship), that’s their game and you aren’t required to play.
Fast forward to the second half of the year. I found myself visiting Boston, Chicago, and doing a show in Miami all in a span of two months. Those trips, that job, and the beginnings of this blog were my creative life-savers. Graduate education became an option. My dreams of moving to Chicago were re-energized and fiercely motivated.
The musical, Kitty Hawk, reminded me why theatrical experiences are the most important thing in this world. When all finance and technology are a bust, nothing can take the education and dreams of theatre and arts away from us. That experience surrounded me with multi-talented artists and creators who see the potential of the arts like I do. With an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement, that group set me back on track to embracing my purpose for existing.
Is my 2019 already overwhelmed with “what if’s?” Absolutely. As terrifying as many of those questions are, we all need to act on them anyway. After all, if we never test the question, we will simply never know.
What are some 2019 adventures you plan on? What are some of your "what if's?" Share them below!
Have a joyful and motivating new year!
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Cover Photo by Skye Studios