I can't imagine this is actually a unique experience, but I suffer from self doubt. Maybe it's the constant presence of happy selfies and hashtags, but it seems like self doubt isn't allowed anymore, making it all the more shameful that I experience it. Don't get me wrong, I feel pretty comfortable about many things. I think I've earned my stripes, etc. But when it comes to my "career" (Sylvia Plath loathed the term, and it's never been my favorite,) I think I've undercut my own ambition, maybe without even knowing it. There have been moments when I look around and see what everyone else is accomplishing and think, "why haven't things happened for me?"
Or maybe it's more, "why haven't things happened to me?" Have I been waiting for my professional life to be presented to me on a doily-lined silver platter? Is this what entitlement feels like? Shame. Shame. Shame. Bring in the scary woman and her bell!
Since graduating from the University of Washington's schools of drama and dance in what was the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression, I've had a lot of jobs. Sales and service. Service and sales. My mindset has been less focused on "career," and more focused on surviving. I truly felt like a traumatized animal entering the world with an arts degree when no one wanted to hire anyone, especially when you specialize in playing pretend. I hadn't much considered "career" outside of my interest in performing and finding ways to continue performing and continue eating. What else had I set out to do? I was in total survival mode. The same feeling came after graduating from the University of South Carolina, now toting an MFA in acting. This time, however, I felt more acutely aware of who I was and what I could offer the world making the impetus to see things happen even more strained. And yet, there seemed no easy way of bringing this to fruition.
Sales and service. Service and sales.
And then, like a swift tide, an empire fell...right into my lap. The fall of Carthage.
My friend and cohort Don Russell was working at Carthage College in the lakeside town Kenosha in Wisconsin teaching theater courses as well as a required freshmen writing intensive course called Western Heritage. He had been threatening to get me to teach at Carthage for about a year before he made it official and when I finally got the job, I was elated. Finally, I was applying my terminal degree and getting paid to do it! Sure, it was an adjunct position and really not enough money to live on, but still! I was going to be respected. I was going to work in a field that was much better suited to my personality (I am very very not good at service. Or sales.) And I was going to finally get past my deep seeded self doubt and build for myself something of a "career" in academia, a noble profession, working at an institution named after a legendary empire...that fell.
One important detail to remember is the course I was hired for, Western Heritage, was in fact not a theatre course. It did not involve movement, dance, or acting. It did involve the ancient texts of the western canon; Homer, Plato, and Aristotle to start. More importantly, it involved me knowing these texts within a month. And, it turns out, there is a difference between knowing something and knowing something well enough to teach it to 18 year-olds who can smell your fear and feed off of it with snark and sass until you want to cry silently behind the lectern if only they would leave if only the would JUST FUCKING LEAVE.
I love my students. Let's get that straight. But they do smell my fear, and even though I am now in the second year, coming up to the fourth semester of teaching these wonderful yayhoos, it turns out the self doubt does not go away. This is true, even after "arriving" in the place you always thought you should be. Now I am also teaching in the theatre department, so there you go.
I can't speak for Sylvia Plath, (more on her in another post,) but I wonder if she loathed the word "career" for the same reasons I think I do. I have always feared a prescription for a life. To me, the idea of setting up a plan for your whole existence is more terrifying a notion than almost anything. It seems as if, by deciding on a career path, one is resigning to walk in that one, unchanging direction. That one makes a choice in the early days of adulthood, when we are most unsure and unknowing of ourselves, and then sets off resolved to complete said journey, despite whatever changes in weather arrive. I don't want to know. I don't want to pretend to know what my life wants to be. I don't believe I really do get to decide that, to choose that. Is this passive? Weak? Indecisive? Maybe I do believe that my life, professional or otherwise, will be presented to me. And that it will change. And change again. And along the journey, there will be an endless variety of opportunities that will be offered.
It's ironic that Sylvia Plath had this same aversion to "career" as I do. It was that very "endless variety of opportunities," of not choosing a path, that stifled and gnawed at her throughout her all too short life. She was like her own little empire.
It has been. Many many. So much has.
Do you ever feel like you're starting and stopping. All the time? How do I even? Ok.
Here we go. It's been about eleven hundred years since I last made a post on this site. But it's the new year and let's face it, about eleven hundred things have happened since I last posted about Lina back in the spring of 2018. I cannot believe it's been so long. Truth be told, I won't get around to writing about everything and I know that very few people will end up reading this. Maybe it's just for me. But regardless, much has happened.
One thing that happened, just yesterday in fact, is a swift and dramatic change to my website. It came out of necessity of necessity and I think it nicely reflects the growing that's led to it's metamorphosis. This was the result of my most recent plan: To make a business out of my skill set as expert of movement. I am working on developing classes, workshops, series, of body work for trauma patients. This is a dream I've had for a while now and I'm finally investing the hours to make it happen. More on this later...
...But what I've realized as newfound person-who-makes-business-without-knowledge-of-how-to-do-so, I've come to know a certain roller coaster activity that seems to be ongoing and endless and ongoing. This being the high of highs (actually working on stuff and feeling like, yes, this is the thing I should do with my hours) and the low of lows (dear god, how do I do this and why do I seem to get nowhere and why don't I have any money?) This vacillation can also be represented as a little line that swirls and swirls, rather than going straight. There must be progress happening, but can it be seen?
I'm not a 'business person.' In my 4th decade, I've only just begun consistently keeping a monthly budget. I giggle when people ask me how much I expect to be paid for my work. I am constantly undervaluing myself and I'm not sure why. These are things I'm ashamed of, and this is what I would most like to change about myself. Contact me if you have ideas...
But the reason I tell you this is because in my formless, business plan-less plan for starting a business, I've swirled and twirled for a few weeks now trying to push ahead in some kind of way to achieve some ideas I've had. One large goal was to reach out to a number of professionals who may be interested in helping support my ideas or collaborate or host workshops, etc. This effort took SOOOOO much longer than I had anticipated! Why? Procrastination, maybe, but honestly, because to write a pitch, you have to know your shit and look the part. There were a number of steps I had to take before I could reach out, and one major one turned out to be about my website.
So far, this website has been a showcase of an actor. Some images and videos to help interested parties get in touch with me leading to more work. But now I am suddenly wanting to offer more than acting. I want to teach. I am a teacher. I want to see what else I can do. And (as much as I seem to dislike the digital representations of people that are so very necessary for success,) I want this to represent this growing, becoming version of myself. I also just finished listening to Michelle Obama's memoir...so thanks for the title, M.
Lisa Bufano - lovely inspiration for Lina
I spend a lot of time waiting. At least it feels like that. Hurry up and wait. Go to work. Make rent. Feed the cat. And wait for that thing. What is that thing? What am I waiting for, and why isn’t it here yet? I ask. That’s not what life is supposed to be, at least this is what yoga says. This is what Suzuki training says. You are here now. It starts now. You are in it now. It has already started. It is already moving. You are still, and it is moving. It is always turning and turning inside of you.
But, no. But nothing’s happening. But I’ve come this far. But if it’s turning inside me, if it’s moving inside me, why am I not going? Why haven’t I progressed? And if I’m supposed to, where is that place?
I feel like I’m traveling down a long trail and it’s years and years of walking at a steady pace. Watching the trees. And then…
And then. There’s maybe a small town. And you stop at this town. And you pick up a menu. And drink something refreshing. And eat something nourishing for once, instead of beans. And you meet someone who wants to talk about poetry and laugh. And spend the whole night celebrating something. Anything. Celebrating the walk. Celebrating the steadiness. Celebrating food and laughter and love and life. And you finally get a good night’s sleep. And then, you get up and keep walking.
I think this is how it feels to love something like theatre. To love something that you feel so rarely comes to you. Or, maybe the kind of project that just opens a door and invites you in, instead of you having to knock. It’s elusive and rare. It wants you to find it, and then gives you its hand. And you feel like, maybe the only reason I’m walking at all is to have one night like this one.
Lina. Lina. Is the first play that has been written just for me by someone who knows me not at all. She’s holding her hand out and I, with such gratitude, unburden myself and follow her in for some tea.
Click to view my Pinterest page research on Lina, formerly known as The Woman with No Legs, part of the four-part Stories of the Body by Andras Visky. An easy, visual element to the process.
Exploration for Stories of the Body: The Woman With No Legs
"Vientulais Engelis" by Peteris Vasks, violin by Alina Pogostkina