Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Still Getting In: Looking and Finding

When I was graduating from college, I found myself trying to figure out--was I to be a psychologist or a writer?  Was I to be a theater person or a TV person? When I landed at One Life to Live shortly after graduation, I soon found myself trying to figure out--was I to follow a writing path or a production one? Was I to ride the waves of where I was or move to other shows to get more varied experience? In each case, I made choices that created my path. And I suppose that with each choice, I little by little found myself.

Now, years later, I watch my kids beginning to find themselves. They are neither close to graduating from college nor several years into their careers. They are just kids. Yet, as we negotiate the current "getting in" process, I can't help but wonder how kids just beginning to find themselves are supposed to find the path that is right for them. They are just beginning to figure out what matters to them, yet, they are called upon to write and talk, with passion, about what matters most to them. They are just figuring out what is right for them, yet they are supposed to know, or at least guess at, the places and journeys that will be the right ones for them.

I know that they will "find themselves" many, many times over the years. And, while the "getting in" path we are walking now sometimes feels as though it requires that the self-discovery happen now, I remind myself that finding oneself is an ongoing process--it certainly has been for me, and it will be for them too. So we keep looking. And we work on the "getting in." And we hope that the "finding" will find itself somewhere in between.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Lifer For Life

I ran into a former One Lifer in Central Park this weekend. It's not particularly surprising--there were quite a lot of us over the years (and I was there for quite a lot of those years!), and despite assorted retirements, moves to LA, and untimely deaths, many, many have stayed in New York. I see some, not regularly, but when someone organizes a gathering, or when we network through the crazy world of NYC production. Yet, the surprise encounters, whether on a street I always walk, or in a place I rarely go, always manage to make my heart skip just a little. There is a connection, both in the history, and in the loss. There is the feeling of it all being just yesterday, and a simultaneous feeling of it all being very long ago. There is an elated feeling about how far we've come, and a winded feeling about the effort it sometimes took to get there. But I guess that's what history and memories are all about--they force us to look just a little farther down that street that we might walk every day. And they let us see not just where we have been, but where we are going, just a little more clearly.

I ran into a former One Lifer in Central Park this weekend. And, as always, that little step back is helping me move forward.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Still Getting In: Along For The Ride

I admit it--being up all night for work makes me a little over prepared (translate: obsessive) about school admissions processes. During the day, a person can act on seeing schools, asking questions, bouncing ideas off others. But overnight, a concerned parent is left to her own devices (translate: hopes, fears, paranoia). The results can be miraculous--registration for a tour before the rest of the world even awakens, discoveries on a website I've viewed and re-viewed, ideas that simply wouldn't come about in the noise of a busy day. I have learned a lot of things about a lot of things. I have made lists and plans and calendars, and I am ready. The problem is, while I can create the agenda, while I can draw the road map, I am really not the driver. I may be the travel agent, but I am really just along for the ride.

Getting in starts quite early for a New York City family. When we explored schools for two year olds and four year olds, and even 10 year olds, I actually was the driver. While I might interpret a child's behavior as like or dislike of a certain school, and take that into consideration, I was the one writing the essays. I was the one determining what time we would have to start our days and how far we would travel. I was the one deciding which way to turn.

This trip is different. I can suggest, even push for, a different route. But in order for us to get to what is really the right place, I have to respect the driver's opinions. I can bring all the maps and program the GPS, but it is not my foot on the gas pedal. I can reach for the steering wheel, but if I do, I will mostly just create chaos.

So, this time, even if I have laid out the trip, I am mostly just along for the ride. It's a little young, perhaps, for a kid to be "at the wheel." But I suppose it's never too soon to start learning what it takes to sit in the driver's seat...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Would Viki Do?

I sometimes wonder whether the Viki multiple personality storyline on One Life to Live was popular simply because it made for good drama, or also because it was so relatable to those of us trying to survive being different people every day.

It's not that I am making less of the mental illness or trauma involved in the story. Clearly, the plot line was about far more than balancing the different aspects of one's life. Yet, on a day when I spend the early morning working (but also texting home to check on my kids), the afternoon pursuing a creative endeavor (but also grocery shopping to make sure we have dinner), and the evening trying to prepare for the early morning work (and my family's following day, week, month, and future), I can't help but feel a little of that headache Viki used to get when she was crossing from one personality to another. I can't help but forget, at least sometimes, who I was at one part of the day when I have moved into another. And I can't help but let things slip through the cracks as I transition from one "me" to the next.

I am a fairly regular person, leading a fairly regular life, one not nearly as dramatic as Viki's (or, frankly, as that of ANY soap character). But once in a while, when that regular life starts to feel like SEVERAL regular lives, I remember a little bit of why we loved Viki so much. Whether her life was regular or not, she muddled through, for years, and somehow, managed to keep it together (often quite literally). So, if all I have to do is play a few different people each day of my life, I figure I can handle it. Because, hey--isn't that what Viki would do?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From A Distance

When I first started this blog, I was careful not to write ahead, careful not to plan or censor too much. Somehow, writing in the moment, on the day, felt authentic. Genuine. Real. It was exciting, and invigorating, and sometimes very stressful. But most of the time, the nearness and the immediacy worked.

Yet, as I head back into the endeavor, I am struck by the value of a little distance. From a distance, the battles may not seem nearly as exciting, but they are still part of a daily effort to make and keep life better and more secure. From a distance, the characters of the story may not seem as funny, as daring, as evil, as heroic. But they are no less part of making each day look and feel the way it does. From a distance, the emotions may feel a bit less raw, but they are no less the fuel that powers the choices and decisions that keep life status quo or turn it upside down. From a distance, the friends who picked us up still do pick us up, whether literally, or by text or email. 

The bottom line is that whether we act--or write--in the moment, or from the distance of careful thought, we are still living, and telling, a story that matters. And up close, or from a distance, it is that story that keeps us all, well, not washed up yet.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Still Getting In

Sometimes, it feels as though we spend half our lives "getting in." Getting in to the right preschool ("Can you play nicely," "Do your parents fit in?"). Getting in to the right kindergarten ("Have you learned to use scissors and to place beads in size order, and to know what pictures are not like the others?"). Getting in to the right middle school ("Are the grades and test scores you weren't even thinking about good enough for our school?" and (hey, this sounds familiar) "Can you work well with others?"

And just when you think you've managed pretty well, despite all the potential calamities, you are faced with the "getting in's" that some might argue REALLY matter--high school and college. I mean, who in the world really cares where you went to preschool, right? Or even middle school? But somehow, high school and college feel a lot closer to life. Mess one up, and you're messing with the life of an adult, not a four or ten year old. Mess one up, and you change the course of someone's history.

Okay, that's a little dramatic, but I guess that's my point. At each stage of life when we are faced with jumping through hoops to get what we want, we really do believe that our performance and our decision at that point will change the course of our history. And not just change it for next week, but change it permanently, irreparably. It's not untrue--each step we take builds the path we travel. Yet, at each point, whether it's school, or work, or life, we have the chance to alter our steps. The "getting in" may decide a lot of things, but it doesn't have to freeze in time who we are and what we might become.

So, as my family and I hunker down for more rounds of "getting in," I try to remember that it matters, but that it doesn't define us forever. I try to remember that it's worth a lot of time, but not too, too much trauma. And I try to remember that on the other side, there will still be steps to take, and futures to create. And a whole lot more "getting in" still to get through.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


I have worked with all kinds of people during the course of my career. But what I am beginning to realize is that all these types break down into just two types--those who start with the idea that you are less than competent and don't know nearly enough, and those who, once they know you, start with the idea that you will do your best (which is pretty good) for them. For the first group, what you know and do is rarely enough, no matter how hard you try. And for the second, as long as you bring your best game, there is a level of respect that makes that best game even better.

It has taken a long time for me to realize that what I believed to be deficiencies in my own ability were simply interactions with this first group of people. After all, unless you are one of those rare people with unbounded self-confidence (and if you are, I applaud you!), it's not easy to believe in yourself when a co-worker or superior outwardly exhibits doubt. I do some of my worst work when there is someone over my shoulder, figuratively or literally, questioning my every choice. On the contrary, when left to do what I do, when allowed to follow my instincts and employ my years of training, I deliver even in situations I've never faced before. That second group of co-workers and superiors get what they have chosen to trust that they have--a hard worker with the chops to do what needs to be done. I don't expect blind faith in my ability. But I do thrive under trust of the work in my hands.

So, as I continue to make my way through an ever-evolving freelance life, I learn how to handle the first type of people, and I thank goodness for all the second types whom I come across. The second ones are the ones who make me, and all of us, better. And, in doing so, make the work better as well.