Friday, March 15, 2019

Learned Behaviour

I wake up and realize that- for me, anyway- Spring Break has truly begun. It's just Friday, but my work week tends to be front-loaded, and Friday/Saturday are my days. I snuggle down in my bed and relax. My apartment tends to be under-heated, but in the perfect pair of Alpaca socks (and the space kitty onesie), I am cozy and warm. 

Most days I would cruise Instagram for a while, but since I've mostly abandoned Facebook, that "while" has been creeping up and up. Recently I realized that I was often on there for over an hour a day. An hour a day! Not acceptable. Even my YouTube hero Casey Neistat has recently said he spends too much time scrolling through social media on his phone. If he can cut back, anyone can. So now I  pay attention to the warning on the app that tells me when I've been on there for fifteen minutes... and when that fifteen minutes hits, I stop. No ifs, ands, or buts. Less time on social media is one of my Big Goals this year, so making this change is necessary. I'm learning, slowly, to make changes so I'm less addicted to social media. It's amazing how quickly I don't miss it. A few days are usually enough. Always scary how fast you can get re-addicted, though. 

Instead of mindlessly phone-scrolling, I read a friend's blog. She hasn't been writing as often, so it's a delight to see that she's back... and in Spain, no less. A playwright by trade, she has a wonderful knack of painting a scene with some well-chosen words. I decide to update my own, with some ideas that have been floating around in my head for a while now.

But first: le Francais. Another change. My mother and I sat down in January and plotted out a summer trip to Europe. Not only plotted, but put down some $$$ on plane tickets and AirBnBs. Paris, Bruges, Berlin, and Prague await! We are determined to be able to order food in German and French. (Flemish and Czech? Well, I'm determined to know "please" and "thank" you in those two.) So as I write this blog I'm also doing French lessons on Duolingo, where a happy owl dances delightedly whenever I finish a lesson. My mother has embraced German with a passion, but I find French more fun, since thanks to my Canadian education I already know some. 

More changes: the goals I put on my bedroom wall on post-it notes wave in their colourful way as I get out of bed. Since it was the first  time I'd ever done anything like this, I made the mistake of putting a lot of long-term goals up there, but not as many short-term ones. So, lofty goals like stop using paper cups, write a song a month, and write the first draft of your play will likely be up there on the wall for the whole year. It does not escape my attention that fitness goals (do a bike challenge; do yoga every day for a month) and writing goals (make notes for future playwrite songs for future play) are getting accomplished a lot faster than theatre or music goals. Form a new band? The current one hasn't accomplished much yet this year. Get headshots? Too expensive. Theatre is once again on the back burner as I immerse myself in music teaching. 

Good thing I didn't walk away from it, as I was tempted to do this winter. High on the success of Fiddler on the Roof, plus two other large productions, I pictured a successful return to freelancing, with no more teaching. Ha. I chafed against teaching life the first few weeks I was back, missing the applause, missing the camaraderie of my cast-mates, missing the easy routine: Show up and try to be excellent, every day. Okay. In teaching, the routine is more like, Show up and try not to murder anyone. Or, Try not to expose the gaping holes in your knowledge. 

I love it though. Teaching. I learn to love it more every year and it's hard-won love, which makes it more special. It's never easy but sometimes now it feels wholly right, in the way that performing does. 

Back to the Goals. When one gets accomplished, I peel the post-it note off my bedroom wall, fold it up, and stick in in a big jar, along with other post-it notes which have particularly happy or important moments written on them. The idea is that at the end of 2019 I will have a jar full of wonderful goals and happy moments to read about. That jar sits next to a much smaller tin which is slowly filling with money. Another new thing: all twonies and loonies are put in the tin, which has Croissant Fund written on it. By the time the Europe trip rolls around I hope to have several hundred dollars in coins, which will buy me delicious French pastries. I am learning new behaviour around money, at this advanced age. I am learning to make do with a little less now, in order to have a little more later. 

One of the reasons I gave up on Facebook: almost no one's story ever changes. You can take a break for months and when you come back, everyone is still posting the exact same thing. I am trying to change my story a little bit, with goals and French lessons and saving money. Some things are harder to change than others:
I will stop eating all sugar
I will drink nothing but green smoothies for breakfast
I will stop eating croissants and bread until Europe
I will exercise every other day
I will do yoga and try not to outgrow any of my clothes. 
Still some work to do here, obviously.  

Sometimes our stories change drastically for sad reasons: death, divorce. Sometimes we make decisions that change the course of our lives, like one of my favourite bloggers recently did. Our stories don't have to change at all. But getting stuck in a rut is so easy: we blame having kids, we blame being poor, we blame our jobs, and we never change. And that's lame, quite honestly. 

Recently I was in a music class of kids with autism, and as always, we asked a check-in question. What do you like to learn? we asked, and a hulking teenaged boy answered I like to learn about social skills, and my heart just melted. People with autism often struggle to learn social cues and behaviour that neurotypical people take for granted. This guy has identified a challenge and he's out there learning about it. I love that. It drives me crazy when people say I hate parties. I'm socially awkward. I'm shy. Adulting is hard.* 
You know what you can do? Learn. Practice. Change your story, little by little. Go to parties. Learn to make polite conversation. Practice. Call a friend instead of watching Netflix for hours. Practice. This is learned behaviour. If people with autism can do it, so can you/I.

*These are all things I have said, by the way. 

It's now 10:45am. I am still in bed. On the plus side: I wrote, I stayed off social media. On the minus side: I am still in bed. I will get up soon, and I will probably not have a green smoothie for breakfast. I will think about what parts of my story I want to change and hopefully I'll keep practicing and saving money and staying off Facebook/Instagram and doing yoga and I'll immerse myself in the daily business of not getting into a rut. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Gave Up Ambition For 2019 (clickbait title)

Can we talk for a second about guilt?

Specifically my  guilt, because I don't know if you've ever felt like this. Or maybe you have?

Do you, as a "creative", feel guilty if you're not doing something All.The.Time?

Do you glance over your shoulder to see if the wolf is almost at the door if you have a few days or weeks to put your feet up?

Ever felt like less of a person because you weren't madly writing your next play/song/book?

Let's talk about this quote for a second:

For the record, I agree with Mr. Tozer 100%. But here's the thing. If we're not taking a little time to enjoy our progress before launching into the next thing, what's the point? 

Let's recap:
Five years ago in January I was subletting an apartment. Then I moved into my brother's place. For three years. I barely got any work in the city, putting all my effort instead into my spring/summer job up north. I had yet to meet my boyfriend. Finding the 500 dollars (!!!) I needed to pay rent for the bedroom I lived in was often a challenge. I had never taught a class. I had almost never performed professionally, except up north.

And now:
It was almost exactly two years ago that I found my sweet little basement suite on Craigslist. I have never had to borrow money to pay the (substantially more than $500) rent, and I've never been late. Not once. I started teaching music classes. I've performed professionally all over the place. My new band has recordings I actually enjoy listening to. In order to help pay for the apartment (and to pursue my theatre dreams instead of playing it safe), I was out of town; away from my home and my love for 25% of the calendar year

So here I sit , at 11:30 am, in my Space Kitty onesie and a toque (my apartment is cold in the winter, it turns out). I had a green smoothie for breakfast- part of a regimen of health and lifestyle changes and challenges I'm spicing up my life with- I did my yoga, I was just about to get into the shower... 

And then I thought: I don't have to. I don't work on Thursdays, the onesie was soft and fleecy and warm... 
So I sat my fleece-covered ass down and started writing this post. 

You know, if you've read this blog before, that I struggle with The Hustle. I love my work, but I also love my downtime. I believe strongly in a work-life balance, except for me? the scales will always be more weighted on the Life side. 

I came back from two months away and I started working pretty soon after, but let's be real here: I only work about 20 hours a week right now. I have a sweet deal, because my teaching jobs pay pretty well. So, what's happening during the hours in which I do not work? 

Am I calling colleagues and making connections and generally hustling for the next contract? 
I am not, but I AM calling venues and looking for places to play gigs and gearing up to play regularly with my band after a forced hiatus because I was away for so long.

Am I writing songs?
I am not, but I've started work on adapting a favourite novel into a 1-woman show.

Am I running/doing HIT/going to yoga class?
I am not, but I'm doing 20 minutes of yoga a day at home (thanks, Yoga With Adriene!), drinking green smoothies, cutting out alcohol and coffee, limiting sweets, cooking at home, walking or biking to work, drinking lots of water. 

I'm also learning German. (More on this soon.) I quit using Facebook again (okay, only 2 days so far, but it feels good).

I have a list of goals on my bedroom wall, in colourful post-its. I am actively working on most if not all of them. 
I'm also watching more Netflix and YouTube videos than I have in ages. In my onesie. 

This is precious time for- much as I loathe the term- Self Care. Precious time to enjoy my home  and re-connect with my sweetheart after being away for 8 weeks. 

So, do I have a takeaway from this post? Is this just monstrous self-justification for a month of laziness? 

But you know, when I stop feeling guilty, I realize that I also feel... happy. Would I want all my months to look like this? Well no, but I also don't want all my months to be frantically busy, either. 

I think we- as women, but also as a culture of creative, self-employed people- are conditioned to sacrifice, to be uncomfortable, to hustle, to be overburdened.

 [Read this post, by a blogger I adore, if you want to get an idea of what it means to be juggling too many things.]

When we don't feel like this: stressed out, exhausted, juggling multiple projects, we feel guilty for not Doing It All. What bullshit. 

I have a holiday booked for this summer. When it rolls around, I want very much to feel that I earned it with a lot of honest, hard work. But when the soft times come, I also want know that I savoured them in the best ways I could, with leisure and self-improvement and domestic pleasures.

And then, just maybe, the wolf at the door will also just lie down on your doorstep and take a little nap. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018: Year In Review

I stared writing this blog entry just before Christmas 2018, and now I'm into day 2 of 2019, and back home in Vancouver after 2 months away. 

I'm in Saskatoon, into the home stretch of a two-month-long contract of Fiddler on the Roof, looking forward to being home with my love (and back in my cosy basement den), but sad to leave such a beautiful production behind. On Instagram I wrote that this show has given me the gift of helping me become more of who and what I am, and I think that's actually true of this whole year, now I think about it. In 2017 I started realizing that I could never step away from performing, and that teaching would always take a backseat to my being a musician and theatre artist. This year, I was able to realize those dreams; in large part due to a lucky, lucky fact: just as I'm stretching my wings as a performer, it is truly becoming the era of the Musician/Actor. More and more productions are abandoning expensive pit bands for shows where the actors also play all the instruments. As far as I'm concerned, long may this trend continue. Of course, going (mostly) back to contract work had its downsides too: I endured a nasty stretch of being super-broke this fall, and had to battle Imposter Syndrome with every contract. Being a performer also meant going where the work was, and this has meant around 4 months of being away from Vancouver in the last 12 months. Being away for a good third of the year has meant that my future as a teacher is less certain, and that I can't always be there for my friends, or my band. I am supremely lucky to have friends who understand, and a partner who is unfailingly not only supportive, but generously excited about every thing I do. It's been so wonderful to watch him stretching his wings this year too, taking on exciting new challenges as his marketing and design ventures begin to ramp up. We may not be the youngest power couple ever, but by god, we're going to be movers and shakers some day!
Here's how 2018 unfurled for me:

January: Halfway through the month I packed my bags and sailed for Vancouver Island to perform in a production of Once at Chemainus Theatre. It was strange and beautiful to be back in a place where I'd lived and performed multiple times over a decade before. Chemainus was in the thick of its quiet season when we began rehearsals, and the constant rain and shuttered businesses made me feel as if I was living in a ghost town. On the plus side, I was living in a house with a fireplace! Rehearsals were packed full of music, and soon, so were our brains.

February: Once opened, and Jay was able to come over from the mainland to take in opening night and explore the Cowichan Valley with me for a couple of nights.  The show was joyous, and in my down time I developed a passion for antiquing (especially for little silver items). My roomie and I enjoyed many nights of post-show fires and wine, but unfortunately the weeks of heavy rain took their toll, and quite a few people in the cast battled viruses. I battled insecurity: sometimes I'd feel on top of it all, and sometimes I'd feel as if I had no business being in a play at all.
Not the most flattering shot ever of me, but I've got a nice crew. 
March: Once closed fairly early in the month and I headed back to the mainland, and back to teaching. My calendar says that I taught some Spring Break classes at Arts Umbrella, but I have very little memory of this. I also celebrated one year of living in my delightful apartment. It took a good long while to lose the cough I got in Chemainus, and my memory is that I still had it in the spring.

April: This was a busy month. I started teaching at SoM again. I also began a theatre workshop called the Greek Play Project, which was a whirlwind of devising, Suzuki exercises, Viewpoints work, and songwriting on the fly. I went to a little event called BC Distilled- which was fun, by the way- got a little (ok, a lot) drunk, and quit drinking for 3 months. Started recording songs with the Rogue Crows, at wonderful Monarch Studios, an ongoing project that spanned the spring and summer months.

May: Another busy one, with lots of changes. The Greek Play Project continued and concluded. I finished teaching at SoM. Jay and I snatched a short but beautiful holiday on Saltspring at a converted aerial gym shaped like a church, with 40-foot ceilings and gorgeous acoustics. We ate, we drove, we jogged, we swam, and we recorded music together. It was a dream. And then we came home and I dove into rehearsals for my second production of Once. At the Arts Club. Another dream come true. A cast with some old friends, some new ones, and more laughs than I'd ever imagined. Still, I fought with shyness and imposter syndrome, but mostly I just had fun.

June: I settled into the pleasant routine of rehearsing, and then performing, a show. There are many reasons I love doing plays, but one of the big ones is having a stable schedule. Of course, the downside is that your evenings are all taken up for weeks at a time.

July: was more of the same. One of my great pleasures in doing this contract was my constant biking to and from Granville Island. A leisurely 30 minute trip either way, and mostly along the seawall. Between the biking and the fairly active show, I lost a bit of weight and felt healthier.

August: Once extended to the 5th, then closed. I immediately bought a new bike to counter the post-show blues, and enjoyed going on expeditions with "Livy" all over town.
True love.
Unfortunately, heavy smoke from BC forest fires meant that some longer excursions- like a trip to the Island- were curtailed. Jay and I saw Nathaniel Rateliff at the Burnaby Roots & Blues Festival. At the end of the month I took a short but super-fun trip to Toronto to see my friend Theresa and to run a 5k race with her on the lovely Toronto Islands.
I ran a (tiny) race!

Having fun with my new phone's camera in False Creek.
September: As I had decided to accept an offer to do a musical in Saskatoon in November/December, I was not able to return to Sarah M school to teach, as they didn't want me making a brief appearance and then having to leave again. So it was back to the world of freelancing, with all of its excitement and uncertainty. One of the gigs that got me through (and was really fun to do) was Secret City: Robson Square, for which I interviewed a dancer and turned the true story of how he met his now-wife into a song.

October: As I wasn't teaching, I went back to my favourite seasonal job: the Pumpkin Patch.
Typical Pumpkin Patch scene.
Sunny, dry weather made for fun shifts there, but the downside was that in my second month of freelancing, I was BROKE. It was sobering to have a bank account that was sometimes in single digits again, but luckily, money started to come in by the end of the month. I also got to be a part of a workshop of a new musical that told the true story of a labour dispute here in Vancouver. It was exciting to be part of something that was still early in its development phase. A quick drink with my love on Halloween Night, and it was off I went to the prairies in...

November: I flew to Saskatoon November 1st, and began rehearsals the next day for Persephone Theatre's production of Fiddler on the Roof. Our brains full from cramming sheet music into our memories, our bodies sore from holding instruments and from choreography, we struggled- as every production does- with getting it all done in time for opening. And we did. Jay was even able to fly out to cheer me on at opening night (and eat some Saskatoon Berry pie!).

What Saskatoon looked like for much of my stay.
December: Fiddler extended four times, taking our run almost to the end of the month. Having been scared that the cold would keep me inside and inactive, I was relieved to find it invigorating. It didn't hurt that it was relatively "warm" there too- never got colder than minus 21. I walked miles, I hung out with other cast mates, I read a lot of books and ate at many fine cafes. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were surprisingly magical, even though I was far away from loved ones. My mother joined me on Boxing Day, saw my show, and hung out with me for a final couple of days before we flew home together on December 30th.
No fun whatsoever.

This show made my heart grow at least 3 sizes. 
2018 felt like a year in which I got to spread my wings, with all the dangers and thrills that accompany flight. See you in 2019!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Storytelling and Theatrical Truth

Two snapshots:

  1. Three people duck and weave through torrential rain in search of a bar. When they find an appropriately dark and cozy spot, they slump on their chairs. One woman puts her head down on the table. The other woman stands and stretches her back, which is stiff and sore with tension. All three of them feel emotionally flayed by what they have just witnessed. 
  2. A reading of a new musical still very much in progress. It's about a violent, shameful event that took place here in Vancouver, just blocks away from where this event now takes place. At the end of the event there is a wonderful moment when two members of the longshore workers' union meet with the cast. One of them tells a short true story that illustrates why this musical about a long-ago event is still, sadly, relevant today. 
I love stories. I think that stories are the reason we have theatre, art, music, dance. As we struggle- more and more in these dark times- to make some kind of sense of our human condition, these stories won't save us, but they may help us to understand. To process. And maybe even to learn from the past. 

I spent five years in a place where the past was mined daily for stories. Literally mined, in some cases, as this was a gold rush town. We sang, we danced, we interpreted the past- for entertainment, yes, absolutely, but also to keep those stories alive. To say You were here, and we remember, and we honour you by telling your stories now. We acknowledge that this piece of our past was important. You did not always do the right thing, and your treatment of the environment and the local indigenous people was often, frankly, appalling, but we are not perfect either, and we can learn from what you did. We ARE you, separated only by the passing years. Sometimes the history we interpreted was told in a way that was frankly, pretty cheeseball. Sometimes it erred on the side of being accurate, but dull. And sometimes, like Goldilocks' porridge, it was just right. 

It's an interesting puzzle, deciding on truth versus theatrical truth, and I remember a perfectly civil but passionate discussion between a playwright/director, a historian/playwright and a writer/historian about staying absolutely faithful to the truth versus telling a compelling story. And here's where I declare my allegiances: I am passionately on the side of theatrical truth. (And just as passionately against cheesiness, but that's a whole other blog post.) But it takes a discerning storyteller to know when the truth needs a tweak, and when to leave it alone. I am reminded of a wonderful passage in an L.M. Montgomery novel where the young heroine writes down and publishes a story that someone told her, and is confused when someone praises her for her work. "But I didn't do anything," she protests, "I just wrote down what he told me, in his words." "Exactly," replies her friend. 

So then, we get to storytelling. Which is a whole other art, and one that's ably celebrated in Vancouver by events such as The Flame and StoryStoryLie. The format varies, but often there is a theme or prompt, and storytellers tell a true story that has something to do with that theme. 
And we get to my first snapshot, where three people spent an hour in a bar trying to digest the stories they'd just heard, and finding it rough going. One of those people, of course, was me. 
We'd played music at a storytelling event, a fundraiser, where the prompts were Best Laid Plans, and Confessional. Which, obviously, have a lot of room for interpretation. But for whatever reason, all five true stories went to dark, dark places. There were
  • Two stories from people dealing with serious, life-threatening cancer
  • Two #MeToo stories
  • One story-slightly lighter- about racism
  • And us, a 3-piece band telling stories through our songs all three of which happened to be written by me.
All of the stories had laugh-aloud parts, and all of them were well-told.

Well. I can look at the bright side and say that seldom was our music as welcomed and probably even needed by an audience as it was by that one. Reeling from the emotional impact of all this personal darkness, the audience was silent and spellbound by our songs, and applauded enthusiastically after each one. 
But on a more serious note, I can honestly say that never in my happy, mentally stable and privileged life have I ever felt more viscerally the need for trigger warnings. The stories I was hearing were  devastating to hear, and my friends and I ALL felt bruised by their impact. And afterwards, in that bar, we struggled to make sense of it all. It felt, I said, a lot like being accosted by that person who you've just met, who proceeds to tell you unsavoury details about their lives before they barely know more about you than your name. (In fact, I met a person like that very recently.) Why were the storytellers placing such trust in strangers?  And on the flip side, what about our trust as an audience? Was it being betrayed by being exposed to such a poorly-curated event?

Art can and should lead us to the dark places. One of the most-lauded shows in Vancouver this fall was a story about a father and his changing relationship with his adult, severely disabled son. I didn't get a chance to see it, but 100% of the feedback I heard was strongly positive, in the vein of GO SEE THIS NOW. The musical I was recently involved with (snapshot #2) tells the story of a violent and deadly labour dispute in Vancouver through songs and scenes. 
So what's the difference? Do we, or I, need a veil of fiction to go safely into those scary places?  
I think there's some truth to this. Fiction takes the story and makes it universal. We see a story and think That could be me. Whereas if someone's telling you their story, I think that it's actually easier to withdraw, to become desensitized to their woes.

On the other hand, I have to say that I am enormously glad that people are helping to remove the stigmas around abuse, mental illness, and other huge issues, by being honest and telling their stories. While I would not personally choose to go there on social media, I applaud my friends who have the courage to be graphically honest about things that have happened to them. I need to say this, so that you don't think that I want to sweep this stuff under the rug. I don't. Maybe the difference (for me, anyway) is that reading a piece that someone's written still allows me some distance and the option to absorb their dark story at my own pace. I can choose to read it; I can choose to leave it. Or I can have a conversation with a friend and feel honoured that they would choose to confide in me. But being in the same room as all that darkness laid on me by strangers felt very different, and by the end of it I felt used. 

So I guess I'm not posting this to say I have any answers. And of course, I'm sure that other people attended the same events I did and had totally opposite reactions than mine. Maybe they thought the new musical was boring or it didn't resonate with them; maybe they embraced the true stories as raw, honest, and necessary. 

We have entered an age of sometimes brutal honesty and oversharing, thanks to social media, but as many people have already pointed out, even the oversharing is more curated than we often realize. As more people come forward with their stories, I think we need to ask some questions: 
How do we best share dark things in a way that respects both the artist and the audience? 
As I head east to help tell a hugely popular fictional story with very dark undertones that has become shockingly even more relevant in the past week, I leave you with these questions:
What is the best way to tell a story? Truth? Fiction? Or an artful combination of the two?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Parallel Universes

Reynaldo is my hero today. 

He fixed my accordion straps with string so I could keep playing all day at the pumpkin patch. I don't know if you've ever played an accordion, but if you haven't? It's impossible to play one without straps. You need them to help brace yourself against the instrument so that you can squeeze the bellows that pump the air. When the metal loop that holds the straps on snapped today, it was just another blow for this poor, brave instrument that's suffered years of abuse at my hands. I love it so much and I've treated it so roughly! It now needs a complete overhaul: bellows full of holes, keys coming loose, reeds out of  tune, leather straps breaking, and now the metal loops becoming stressed and snapping. This poor thing needs to retire. Without Reynaldo's quick thinking (and a few inches of string), I couldn't have made it through an 8.5 hour shift today. 

I'm back at the pumpkin patch with a vengeance this year. Freelancing? No regular job? Damn betcha I need as many shifts there as I can get. It's actually wonderful to be back there a lot after several years of only doing a couple of shifts. I love it there. I love it. It makes me happy to be outside and it makes me happy to sing, so really this job couldn't be any better for me. I miss teaching, and I really miss having a steady paycheque. September was tight and October is way harder. Why sugarcoat it? My sweetie buys me toilet paper and my mom takes me for breakfast. Both of them give me frequent rides to work. I couldn't make it through without them. But in spite of everything, I am extremely happy. I have the almost grotesque luxury of choosing this life. I made my life harder because I chose to do a play next month instead of staying at teaching jobs and hating myself for not taking risks. How many people in this world get that kind of choice? 

Reynaldo and his co-workers don't get that kind of choice, I bet. They come up to Harry's farm from Mexico every year to work. They drive the tractors that pull the wagons I sing on. I'm sure that's super easy compared to the other jobs they have to do around the farm. I asked one of them how long he was up here for and he said "seven months". Sheila the fiddle player was asking one of them how his year had been and he said his marriage had ended. No wonder, if he's up here seven months a year. They are all brown-skinned and black-haired and I feel bad because every year I have to re-learn their names. I think Harry's probably a great boss. I've seen teenagers growing into not-so-young adults working in his market, through all the Octobers I've been singing and playing out here. I've seen the same Mexican guys driving tractors and slinging pumpkins year after year too.  Their English is pretty bad and my Spanish is way worse so I don't know much about them. I imagine they think it's pretty funny that thousands of people pay good money to bring their kids out to a farm right beside the highway to pick squash out of the mud, but then what do I know? Maybe they have pumpkin patches in Mexico too. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018


This time last week, I was watching an outdoor play that was a 6-hour journey from Vancouver. What a crazy thing to do! To get in a car and drive all day (massive props to Mom for driving, since her daughter STILL doesn't have a license), and by evening we were there watching the show, hugging our talented friends... and by the next day we were home again. The entire trip took less than 24 hours. 

Which was followed by a 3:30am wake-up on the following day to get to the airport for a 6am flight to Toronto, so I could run a 5k race with a friend of mine. Two impulsive trips in the space of a week. (You can see lots of pictures of my travels and adventures here on Instagram.)

Toronto was amazing. The sun shone. I crammed a lot into four and a half days. And then, with my bank account dwindling, I flew home to some unsettling news: no Fall teaching job for me, due to (another) impulsive decision of mine: to accept a part in a musical in another city. I'd be away too long, and the music school, which patiently bore my many absences last year due to my theatrical career, changed their Leave of Absence policy (probably entire due to my shenanigans). I am now out of steady work until November. 

We all love to post memes and hashtags urging us to #FollowYourDreams; telling us #YouOnlyLiveOnce. It is part of our (my) privileged-as-fuck culture to do so. There is a part of me that is so happy and surprised that people want me in their shows, that wants to follow these opportunities wherever they lead. And there is another part of me that sits here, in my dream home, the home that the teaching job pays for, and wonders
                                                  what the hell did you do? 

I lead a charmed life. I have the luxury of having no dependents, so I can take these kind of risks. I know that I would have been angry with myself for turning down the risky performing job to keep the safe job. 

And yet. 

I don't want to be scared that I can't make rent over the next 60 days. 

I don't want to go back to "scraping by" instead of having a decent paycheque. 

I don't want to be replaced at work.

What I really want, I know, is to have my cake and eat it too. And sometimes, that just isn't possible. 

Sometimes, being impulsive is a gift, but sometimes, it can get you into some scary situations. 

I'll let you know how this works out. It will work out. I think. 

What do you do when interesting opportunities turn up? Do you follow the safe bet? Or do you follow your heart? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surviving a Post-Show, Pre-Apocalyptic August

My show closes on Sunday the 5th. 
Two-show-day: AC fail so sweating buckets; cast member sick; everyone sad but ready(ish) to move on; sing-act-bow-sing-act-bow-partyparty-sleep.
My beautiful show closes on Sunday night.

Monday morning, I buy a new bicycle. A beautiful blue bike and I ride it everywhere. I'm goal-oriented, so I make a list of all the places I want to get to, on the bike or on foot, and I GO. 

Deep Cove. 
Arbutus Greenway.
Port Moody.
Burnaby Heights Trail.

Those are the ones I've crossed off the list and there are more to come:
Bowen Island, Richmond Dyke Trail, Fort Langley, The River District, Vancouver Island. My satisfaction grows with every red line I use to cross off the names of places I've been. 

I have coffee with a dear friend I haven't connected with in a long while. I get free tickets (a perk of my job) and I see Mamma Mia with a new friend. 

I record two new songs with my band. It's some of the best work we've done. 

My love and I bike to the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, where The Rural Alberta Advantage sings keening songs about Canada, and the Suffers charm us with their funk, and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats simply blow us away. During their headlining set, the heavens open and sweet rain pours down, which is wonderful, until we have to bike home again and it's still raining. Hard. But we make it, and it's even kind of fun. 

For a few days it's cooler, and grey. Then the heat comes back and the air is sting-your-eyes thick with forest fire smoke. The world is burning up. 

I eat dim sum with a friend and go on a 25km bike ride, even though I am sick with a summer cold. I am knocked on my ass with fatigue that night, but the next day I start to feel better. 

I watch a concert in somebody's front yard, everybody sitting on steps or on the lip of the sunken patio to catch every note of the sweetest voice you ever heard.  Even in this grungy block between Broadway and 10th, in this nondescript front yard, there is so much beauty that it will make your eyes sting- with real tears this time, not just smoke. 

I catch the bus to a lake- A real lake! That you can catch a city bus to!- and I walk its small circumference, just like I did this time last year. Just like last year, it's hazy with smoke; just like last year I am filled with equal amounts joy and dread at the world. 

Just like last year I jump in and let the lake wrap her cool arms around me and I pretend things are normal and it's just another hot sunny day and maybe the world isn't ending, not just yet, please not just yet.  And then I dry off and wait for the bus to take my out of the forest and back to my home.