Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Don't Do Sadness

A friend - not a close friend, but a friend - recently told me that he finds me a very angry person. Which, in spite of the fact that you could easily say was true, I have to admit I took a little bit of offense to.

I have an acting teacher who likes to put negative emotions - at least in terms of their usefulness in acting - into a binary of sad or angry. He likes to ask whether you find yourself more angry or sad, in terms of how you DEAL with negative feelings, and which you have an easier time expressing. As you may have guessed from the subject, I of course fall to angry. As with any human, things make me sad, of course, and I react as an ordinary human would - which is to say, well, sadly. You know, crying and the lot.

Perhaps because I am more prone to be self-critical rather than self-pitying, however, by and large I find anger a much more productive emotion. There is a time and a place and a god-given necessity for wallowing, and if I need to do it, I'm going to do it. But mostly? Wallowing is for healing oneself or finding a way to deal. Reactionary anger is that way to deal.

I'm not saying it's always good; my temper has gotten me into trouble before and most assuredly will again. I'm quick to fly off the handle and I often say things I don't mean, and in rare cases I'm still paying for that. I hold a grudge. I can forgive being slighted but I do not forget. But for example, when you, say, get kicked out of your apartment or yelled at by your director of your play 2 days before opening for a bunch of very good reasons that you nonetheless should've been hearing about two weeks ago, I find that anger is more likely to get off my dead ass, work harder, and get shit done than sitting around feeling bad for myself.

Listen. I'll deal with my shit the way I see fit, and if I'm hitting the roof instead of hitting others, I'm okay with being "angry" - it beats the hell out of being pathetic.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

About three years ago this week, I was prepping for my senior showcase at Harker - our graduation was later than this years' class is, so I suppose actually this week was Urinetown if I'm being technical. Nonetheless I've been thinking about this as my Facebook mini-feed floods with pictures from Les Miserables, Harker's musical this year, and as more and more statuses concern Senior Showcase.

In high school, around this time - right before graduation - I was all about endings. Milestones. Measuring each little thing I would never do again, that would never be quite exactly the same. From the important - senior showcase, say, or the musical - to the utterly trivial - last drive out of the parking lot as a student, I was acutely aware of all these endings.

I find myself approaching graduation again, suddenly and without warning. Yet this time, I find this series of little endings passing me by, wholly unnoticed until after the fact. I've noticed in the past few months that, with a lot of major things, I experience a sort of delayed emotional processing. I've always been someone about whom it could accurately be said needs to let her heart catch up with her head; most things resonate with me intellectually long beforethey do emotionally.

The disconnect is much more pronounced with the "bad" than the "good", a sort of protective impulse I have to try and understand something in my mind to mitigate it before I feel it in my soul. Obviously, there's no protective factor with good things so I feel happiness immediately, spasmodically, limitlessly. It's just those feelings I have a little less control over that grow exponentially the less and less I am able to keep a tight, intelligently packaged lid on them.

I have certainly been understanding a lot of the implications of graduating lately without feeling them; I've been excited and scared and happy and proud and nervous, but I have not yet myself feel the natural melancholy that comes with ending something. I'd say it's because I simply haven't had time to admit to any of these feelings, but in the end I suspect it's because I don't actually know how, in this case. In high school it was easy to mark the ending - moving away from home, departing from the school I'd spent the last decade of my life at and the people I'd grown up with. But now... my friends will be here, I'll still live in New York, my life will still continue very much as it does today. With one pretty major exception.

Tonight, as I raced out of Kimmel from Cleftos to go back to rehearsal for 5 Women, I was struck several blocks from the building that I'd just left my last ever rehearsal for Cleftos. And I don't think I had considered, REALLY considered, until that moment exactly how much the group meant - and means, and HAS meant - to me.

Cleftos was the thing I found freshman year that made me feel less lost, gave me something to do and somewhere to be and something to be passionate about when I was, well, adrift in a sea of homesickness and the backlash of feeling that I should've been happier at my "perfect" school. I have since, of course, overcome that feeling, but my gratitude for finding Cleftos and my love for the group - for giving me a constant, for belonging, for friendship, for making me work hard and laugh harder every week, three times a week - is something I've never lost. It's easy when I'm stressed and trying to have a job and do shows to wonder why I would continue to kill myself trying to not let this group down, but like clockwork, Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday night at 7 pm hits and I remember without question or complaint. To know that my time with this group is now drawing rapidly to a close is something I still don't quite understand, but have a nagging feeling it'll dawn on me with a display of highly sentimental public waterworks sometime this Saturday evening.

There will be other endings - last classes with my favorite teachers, last exits from Strasberg where I have left and gained so much of myself in the last three years, last shows, last journeys to campus, last flashes of my NYU card to get into buildings. Because I may not be leaving New York, and I may not be leaving my friends, but the inevitable is that there is most assuredly an ending coming my way.

I know that I'm still "understanding" this loss rather than feeling it. But I feel the pangs of melancholy, of nostalgia, of impending change beginning to resonate in that nebulous region of the emotional processing centers that sneak up on you before you're aware you're feeling anything at all. And while that's scary and weird, in an equally weird way I'm sort of okay with it.

In high school I tried to follow the words of Dr. Seuss - "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." I mostly succeeded, give or take a few months around September of 2007. Finishing this absolutely breakneck sprint to the finish line of college, I don't think that's it. I think it's "cry because it happened. smile because it happened. laugh because it happened. scream because it happened. dance because it happened. sing because it happened. feel because it happened."

So this one's for the Cleftos. Here's to the first last, with all my love.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Being grown up isn't half as fun as growing up

Sometimes, however, when you make an impromptu trip to the grocery store at 11 pm with your roommate that includes the following:
1) Truly excessive use of the word butthole
2) Embracing and laughing hysterically over a comparison between James Dean and Jimmy Dean sausage
3) Going to the grocery store for ice cream and coming back with the most typical poor college girl's shopping bag ever (milk. diet tonic water. ice cream. pop tarts. lean pockets. toaster waffles. etc.)
It takes the sting out.

It's funny; every time I'm at the grocery store now I remember being a little kid and looking with longing at the foods I always WANTED, but that my parents would never, in a million years, have agreed to buy. I remember, as I'm sure everyone does, being, say, 9 and vowing to myself that when I could shop on my own, I would buy all manner of delicious sugary goodies and junk foods without impeding the need for vegetables and sugar-free cereals.

As it turns out, of course, I rarely buy these things - the most "rebellious" I get is to buy pints of Ben and Jerry's, Nutella, and sometimes tortilla chips. Oh, and reduced fat Cheese-Its. Not exactly the stuff of small-child legend. Tonight I fixed myself a dinner of boxed Kraft mac and cheese, but I paired it with sauteed yellow squash and asparagus with fresh garlic. And I liked it. And okay yes, I chased it with ice cream but it was froyo.

Grocery shopping, when I leave with bags mostly full of veggies and uncooked meats to prepare and plain pasta and healthy-ish foods to try and eat on the go during my insanely busy existence, becomes an act that generally makes me acutely aware that I am, in fact, in a small way, becoming a grown up.

But I did buy POP TARTS tonight on our PathMark adventure. Score one for my inner child.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes

As of late, I have been struck by a strange feeling of something akin to anxiety, but not really appropriately or adequately expressed by that word. Existential restlessness might be a better term, but I'm still trying it on for size.

There is exactly one month until the end of school, but for the first time in 18 years, I am not anticipating a summer that is bookended by the eventual return to class, routine, new and old books, teachers, and faces. It is a summer that signifies the end of my sojourn as a student, rather than a brief and restful hiatus. I am extremely, unbelievably, ridiculously excited to graduate, but the pangs of uncertainty are beginning to hit in a very palpable way.

It's been beautiful out lately, and all I want to do is lay out in the sun and daydream about the future and think about a life without obligations and school. I want to tan in Hudson River Park and take naps in the breeze in my bedroom and walk around NYC for hours in the warm weather and complain about the humidity and understand why people are always so happy to leave the city in the summer. But it's only April. And it's too early. The weather shift automatically does positive things for my general mood and outlook on life, but it also wreaks a little bit of havoc on my work ethic.

It doesn't help that the impending summer, for the first time in my life, is one for which I have no plan. I couldn't identify that this was part of the cause of my anxieties at first, but for this compulsive planner the fact that I can't even say with 100% certainty what CITY I'll be in for the summer, much less what I'll be doing there, is starting to give me pause. I'm waiting to hear from about 11 different internships who all promised a "beginning of April" date to hear back; because I haven't heard from any yet I'm of course beginning to assume that the real world sucks just as much as NYU and no news means bad news.

Then there's the Cleftos/5 Women debacle. For those not in the know - though I'm not sure why I qualify; I allegedly have readers but it seems odd to me that my musings reach an audience. I've strayed. For those not in the know, my final Cleftos concert is the 24th of April, a Saturday evening. My final show at NYU is 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, scheduled to open Wednesday April 28th. Astute theatre people might already be seeing the conflict here, of course that a show opening on the 28th would logically be teching on the 24th. I've bored myself to death with all the things that suck balls and are killing me about this conflict, but suffice it to say there is no day that goes by that I don't think about this since I learned about the crucial error in judgement I had made by alleging that, why yes, it is in fact possible for me to be in two places at once. And suffice it to say that I feel acutely the quantity of people I WILL be letting down with my inability to do that one crucially important task.

I'd be remiss not to recognize that this boils down to this being the final month of an extremely important first chapter of my life. And I'd be lying if I said that that wasn't a large - if not the undeniably largest part of my... funk?

But how to combat it, when I move from excited to anxious to stressed to apathetic to elated to terrified to confidently motivated to blasé to serene ten thousand times a day.

The same way I've always dealt, I guess. Have another sip of a strong cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and just keep on keeping on.