"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."
- John Winston Lennon
Isn’t it absolutely hilarious when you've been planning for one particular goal for the better part of your life, and you think you are on the right path towards achieving it because everything is going according to plan, but all of a sudden life comes at you and hits you in the face with a brick and yells "PLOT TWIST!!" and it takes a full 180º on you?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either. As to say, I am actually very familiar with the experience, but it really isn't a hilarious one. In fact, I’m quite surprised that one year to the date I'm not still curled up in the fetal position, crying, eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. I know it isn't very dignified, but I was sad and I deserved my time to cry. The good news is that I'm done crying. The bad news is that I’m still eating my feelings.
I had the right to be angry. To be sad. To feel down for a second. It’s very uncharacteristic of me to feel defeated, but being virtually alone in this huge city was difficult at that time. I had only a handful of friends who I barely saw, and a long distance boyfriend who couldn’t really hold me as I cried, unless you count sitting ass to keyboard on my laptop as “holding”. It was actually very difficult to stay afloat that time. I was depressed, and I felt completely defeated. I knew deep down that I would be fine, that second guesses were never really necessary, that everything would work out the way it was supposed to. But at that moment in time, I was lost. Fully, utterly, and irrevocably lost. What had gone wrong?
I had my degree, didn’t I? I took other classes, was part of other programs, practiced as much as I could, and wrote every. Single. Day. How could I fail out?
I actually had done it all wrong. Half of the people in my class were part of two or three other ensembles outside of ours, and had been active in the city for a while. They’d earned their spot in this class. They’ve fought to be in this room. Me? I just got here. I got a job. I auditioned and was just good enough to get by. I fell through cracks and faked my way into the ranks. I got excited. It was exactly what I moved to the city for, and it was working out perfectly. Living the beginning of my dream. I got to and through levels one and two, and I realized how lucky I had actually gotten. I mean these people were good. These people were really good. Who let me in? And how long is it going to take them to realize that I’m not supposed to be here?
That very mentality would be my downfall. I read the email as I checked out a one bedroom apartment I was thinking of moving into. “A spacious floor plan, with beautiful wall-to-wall windows.” the landlady droned on. “Lots of natural light, two short blocks from the beach, and right next door to a rejection email from level 3." Honestly, that's exactly what she said; or what I heard anyway, because my mind was instantly pulled away from renters heaven and into a live-action, post-modern version of the actors’ nightmare.
When your dream is to be a sketch comedian, and one day end up on SNL, getting cut out of the legendary Second City Conservatory program can feel like a pretty awful blow.
In retrospect, it really wasn't as big of a deal as it seemed then. I had no idea at the time, but stand up would turn out to be something I seemed to be innately good at, and I would also end up falling in love with the writing program more than the performance. I would continue on performing and writing just fine, and nobody would kick me out this time because I kicked ass there. I’d earned my place there. I had fought to be there.
I just didn’t know it yet. And back then, it showed.
My father has always said that shit happens for a reason. Specially when we find ourselves on the way to fulfilling our goals and dreams in life. Shit can happen. In fact, it will happen. And the closer you are to getting to where you want to be, the more you’re going to have to wade through it, and even harder than you ever imagined. The key is to make it through. To fight, even if you do it with tears running down your cheeks. To see through the anger, even if everything is red, and all you want to do is scream. To fight the exhaustion, and to keep going, no matter what. And most importantly, to act through the fear, because that is what courage really is.
Unforeseen things happen to everyone, every single day. We just have to learn to keep our eyes and ears open in the face of adversity, whether it be in the shape of something relatively trivial as failing out of conservatory, or something more serious like a debilitating illness, or a terrible loss. We have to learn to keep our eyes wide open and to believe that when something goes wrong, it is to pave the way for something even better. A clean slate to create something even more beautiful. All you have to do is keep going.
“As long as you keep trying, something's gotta give.”
In my father’s words.
With all my love, and sincerely trusting that you too will figure it out,
PS: In the meantime, there's always wine.