February is normally, like, the worst.
Because it is.
This blog is written in two parts.
Part one is typed in black. Part two is typed in red.
Part one was written on February 19th, a particularly cheery day.
Part two was written on February 21st, a particularly awful day.
Watch the conversation unfold.
I had a close friend in high school who loved February. He always said,
"February is the best month to be born into because you have the least likely chance of doing it. Therefore, everyone born in February is inherently luckier than everyone else."
This is the same friend who rejected Valentine's Day in favor of National Hockey Day and would give hockey pucks to his most beloved friends.
Bless you, Jonathan, for your affinity for wit.
Curse you, Jonathan, for your ever-present cynicism towards the system.
I've always disagreed with my friend about the quality of the month, as I think the majority of people would. It comes at the time of year when winter has been going on for far too long and spring still doesn't feel right around the corner. It usually sucks royally. And, for those of us who are running low on Vitamin D, it sucks more than... more than... something creative I can't come up with due to my lack of Vitamin D.
But it doesn't suck. Not this year. Maybe.
This year, I dye my hair blue.
Okay, not really, but that's how I feel, somedays. Ready to do anything, with emotional capacity reaching over 9000 in both directions.
Here's why. I finished my tours with PFCT and NTC in the fall, spent winter searching for a job and a place to live, and have only recently moved into an apartment and my next phase of life: post-college work. Moving in with my parents after my tours, I expected to spend an indefinite amount of time there until I was ready to move back down to the city with whatever job I could get to support my art. I had saved up enough money to last me until I had to start paying loans back, but I needed more income. I worked for the newspaper, I helped with the high school theater, and I even acted as a paraprofessional for a day. None of it was enough to get me by, and I knew that it wouldn't be. Plus, all of the jobs I applied for in the area had turned me down faster than a sack of potatoes falling down an elevator shaft, so I eventually decided that I should probably broaden my scope and escape from my captivity. During the search, I was helping my dear sister move into her new apartment with my other siblings when, as fate would have it, my sister-in-law's car wouldn't start, and before you know it, we were having a conversation about an opening at her work, ACR Homes. One thing led to another, and within a month, I had been hired AND I found a place to live with a friend back in Minneapolis. Boom, bam, peanuts and jam.
The job is great because I work during the long and dark and lonely hours of 10 PM to 6 AM. If I'm lucky, I'll see a deer out the window at 4 AM (which is quite magical). Then, while everybody else tries to force themselves into clothing and get to work, I easily slide back home, out of my clothes, and into bed. I then easily awake in the afternoon to sunbeams and joy filling my new morning with all the splendor of freedom and 2:00 PM butterflies. Not only that, but it gives me the flexibility to work on my own projects while at work, because I simply have a list of tasks that need doing, and once they're done, I CAN DO ANYTHING. Thus, this blog is getting written at 3 AM. Suck it, sunlight. Nobody needs you anyway. Except me when I'm sad. Then you should come back and punch the moon in his stupid face.
As a now functioning and contributing member of society, I've had to learn the importance of contributing to the world around me in every moment, regardless of whether or not its "valuable" or even "fun." It's not easy. I've never had a full-time job before, so this was a hard lesson for an arts-minded individual like me who has spent the past forevers exploring my passions and sensitivities while refining my skills in communication and creative expression... And not having a job on top of that. In fact, I had been so artsy fartsy that I had developed a tendency in the past to think, "If it's not fun, then it's not worth doing!"
Now don't you start thinking, "A Wayne's World reference!? And he's talking about not having fun!? Dude, he must be sellin' out! Ah, man, this sucks, I'm not reading this anymore. I no longer subscribe to your bologna, Mr. Sell-Out. You used to be cool." There's more to it than that, okay!?
DON'T LEAVE ME.
All I'm saying, is... We all gotta do our taxes eventually.
Well, that's not exactly what I'm saying, but that's also true.
I'm saying that if I want to really pursue my dreams and really dedicate to the art I want to create and share with the world, then I need to pay for it. I need to figure out how to provide for myself, and be an artist. Maybe someday a stranger from Brooklyn will see my work someday and say with a cigar in his mouth, "I want that boy to have a million dollas" so that I don't have to do other work just to feed the monster under my bed mysteriously labeled "Student Loans." But that probably won't happen, so I guess I'll have to do it myself. Thanks for the encouragement, cigar man.
Now there's really only one way I can really get into what I want to do, and that's why this February might not be a sucky February. I have to throw myself into the art that I want to create whole-heartedly and see what comes out of it.
If only it were that easy. Now shut up, Happy Me, and let's get sad.
After graduation, I thought I would finally be able to do just that; throw myself into art. After all, I had already secured several jobs from just a few auditions. By taking school out of the equation, shouldn't I have all the time and energy to do whatever I want and get all the roles I want? A year ago, the only answer to that was yes. I mean, I'm talented, I'm diligent, and I can pretend to be confident (too confident). But I have to be honest; those things mean nothing if I'm not honest, especially with myself.
I was told by all of my mentors that I should be prepared to audition for 100 roles and maybe get 1 or 2. I knew what that meant logistically, but I didn't know what it would mean emotionally. And frankly, I didn't think they were serious. Having done at least 20 auditions since November and not landing a single one gets really discouraging when you think that you're the exception to the rule. It gets even more discouraging when you realize that you're not. I'm no exception. I'm just another artist.
The very nature of being an artist involves experiencing some line between humility and pride. That's just what happens when you spend your time convincing people that your art, a piece of your very essence, is worth "buying." And when it seems like no one wants to buy, you end up questioning your worth. Or, you end up questioning your identity. Like, maybe you're not actually an artist, because artists make art and sell it for a profit of some kind. You can't even get non-paid work, let alone profit. You even struggle telling people that you're an artist of any kind because you don't believe it yourself.
My honesty moment approached me suddenly to ask that painful question... Am I a real artist? What am I even doing with my life? Am I wasting my time? Should I just get an IT job and make a bunch of money? Well... I guess I'll refer to Happy Me from two days ago to answer these questions:
I'll use my upcoming show with Juggler & Mime as an example to illustrate how I plan on becoming a real artist. Juggler and I have been working on creating a show called,
Juggler & Mime: A Tale of Two...
You have to look up after you read it. Did you see anything? That's what goes at the end. ;)
It's a curious tale about two fellows who can't seem to find their ending, nor their voices, as they travel on an exploration of their dreams. Through comedy, music, improv, (and yes juggling and miming), and probably more, the two friends play with the audience to figure out what they're supposed to do. There's more to it than that, but if I say any more, you might as well start your own J&M company to compete with us because I'll have told you all our secrets. Don't do that. Or do. Crap, nevermind. Just come see the show.
(7:00 PM, April 1st, 7th, 8th at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis! Facebook event coming soon.)
Okay, well, that's art, right? I'm doing something, right? I don't know. People probably won't even like it, and then I'll be back to square one! But what if they do like it? I hope they do. Then I would feel like an artist, right? Let's just see what else Happy Me has to say:
The reason I use J&M to talk about the beauty of this February and my advancement as a real artist stands strong, regardless of whether or not you see the show, and that reason is "play."
Well that seems to refer directly to my problem. How convenient.
Over the past month, Juggler and I have had the privilege to play at workshops, play during rehearsal, play at life with friends, and even play while seeing other shows of people playing! It's brought about perhaps the most playful predicaments a person could possibly perceive! The oodles of new people I've met, ideas I've generated, experiences I've cherished, and laughter I've exuded has energized me to do whatever it takes to express and share my dream. All because Juggler breathes playfulness, and it's contagious. I've known this about him the entirety of our friendship, and it's one of the serendipitous things we have in common; it's why we choose to work together!
Isn't it interesting how only two days later, I can feel like this exuberance has voided right out of me? Maybe this is like the artist version of a period. Is that insensitive? Maybe a little. Sorry, ladies.
This isn't the first time I've felt this way, and I know other artists who experience it too. Maybe it's simply part of being an artist. An artist must have a moment when he/she realizes that he/she isn't only an artist, but a member of society and a human being who has other needs besides self-expression. As Juggler would say,
"Well what are you gonna do about it?"
I refuse to answer that question. Somebody else do it. Happy Me?
...Seriously? Now I'm just confused.
That would be our company T-Shirt, over at Juggler & Mime.
Oh, this is gonna be awful.
We love play. Play is the sense of "I'm gonna do this because I want to, and it's gonna be FUN." Play is the disregarding of anything that isn't in the present moment by focusing solely on one thing and exploring it with all of your energy. Play could be writing, running, jumping, rolling, smiling, laughing, pretending, talking, and basically any verb that isn't "working," as long as it is the sole focus of the player.
And, in my humble opinion, it happens most honestly when involving another person. Why? Well... Because play is meant to be shared! When you play, you explore the fun, you find the fun, and then you share it! That's play. JUST BECAUSE. If there were another reason beyond that, then it wouldn't be the sole focus! When we play, we relieve stress and we put our core self into the expression of freedom and fun, rather than the structure of how life is "supposed to be." I always tell Ladyfriend when she's going to do something she hates, like driving or cleaning her closet, "Find the game. Make it fun!" Usually, she just glares at me while I smile stupidly, but that's fun for me, so it's a win-win.
Through play with Juggler, I have learned a valuable life lesson that I only recently discovered can have huge payoffs. Play can become more than a single act or a period of time, play can become a lifestyle. Living a playful lifestyle means that we take whatever comes our way, be it work, relationships, problems, family, ANYTHING, and decide to say with as much gusto and confidence as can be mustered, "Hm. I have no idea what I'm doing. LET'S DO IT." That way, you can find joy, your biggest tool against the darkness of the world, and wield it proudly. It's a lot easier than allowing the problems of life overwhelm you, and it's way more fun. And sometimes, you end up making something really cool out of it. Like this video Juggler and I made when we saw a show and, because of our playfulness, were invited to hang out with the cast. That's the kind of play I want and what I think would be good for anyone. Even you.
Sometimes, I hate listening to myself. Especially when I know I'm right.
Wow. I didn't expect this reflection to be so illuminating. Now it stands that I must bring it back to my honesty moment. "Am I real artist?"
For now, I'm going to have to say "let's do it" and "I am an artist." According to somebody who knows something, that's probably what I have to do. After waking up today and feeling like I'm pretending to be who I am, re-reading what I wrote the other day, and talking with a few close friends, that's what I've decided to do. Accept that I don't have the money to take the workshops or see the shows or buy the equipment I feel is necessary to be taken seriously; accept that I don't actually have the confidence to just be myself and ignore whether or not everyone likes me; accept that the path I've chosen is not easy and will demand my very soul and I like it that way; accept that honesty, humility, and authenticity with myself will spread those very same traits to others if I'm willing to play.
That doesn't sound so bad, does it?
I don't know. Maybe my Vitamin D pills are finally kicking in.
Shut up, Happy Me.
Thanks for reading! I hope you liked what you read! If you were confused, try going back and reading only the black text again to get a look at what this post was going to be about.
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Be glad and confident,
Actor, Director, Editor, Producer