Last weekend, through a wave of hairspray and eye-lash glue, I was cautiously climbing the stairs to the very dusty backstage when I felt it. I had just finished a very quick, very meek scene for our local production of “The Music Man” – a true to form classic that I have never had the honor of sharing in until now.
Something about the simplicity of the scene, or maybe the distinct smell of the theatre; the fleeting lights of the orchestra, or making my way to the dressing room adorned with smiling faces of my newfound family; something, or maybe the combination of them all, brought on this unembellished wave of joy to my heart. Not the kind that’s easily recognized or foreseeable, but this perfect serenity in knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment in time. I relished in it, and can only compare it to that feeling of closing your eyes and “making a wish.” A naive, optimistic, innocent practice that I’m grateful hasn’t gone out of style in our automatic world.
Being in theatre my whole life, I always close a show knowing that the experience has been unparalleled. People are different, scripts are one of a kind, every production brings out a new “you” – literally. Maybe that’s why actors love it as much as we do; that exhilaration in finding a new side to yourself. The rush in getting to play with different kids on the playground and learning from them.
Theatre is exceptional in that it’s impermanent. Just as the expectancy of opening weekend creeps in, you find yourself tearing apart the set that you’ve finally grown so accustomed to. It’s heart-breaking, but yet exquisite for that very same reason. You’re on a time-limit and thusly become this emotionally driven sponge; wanting to soak in all the people and all the time and all the memories one person possibly can. You become open to getting to know people in a way that’s typically unheard of and often labeled “too much.” You intentionally set yourself up to experience a love that you know will end, in a way.
It’s the kind of vulnerability and openness I am so often accused of even off-stage. I get the “You’re young, that will change.” or the “Give it time, you’ll be bitter too.” at least once a week. But why? Maybe youth does have something to do with it; maybe 20 years from now I’ll read this thinking “The people were right.” But honestly, I really, really, hope not.
There’s something to be said for excitement and susceptibility. If a chocolate cake was sitting in front of you, do you resist it because you know it will either go bad, or be eaten? Or do you eat that bad boy piece by piece, savoring every decadent bite and shamelessly face the gloom when the plate is empty? Either way, your end result is identical.
I am a lot of things, but I ruthlessly refuse to be bitter.
What is the purpose of being here if we can’t let these experiences get to us? If we can’t enjoy ourselves? I challenge you to channel your inner mid-performance actor, and fall in love every day. Become the emotionally driven sponge we all know you can be. Funny thing is, life is impermanent too. People will come and go, but ironically enough, those impermanent friendships almost always become lifers once we open ourselves up to them. Even if you’re sure something will end, have fun while it lasts. Beautiful things can happen when we relish in that make-a-wish moment.
Fall in love with the way your house smells, even when it’s messy. Fall in love with getting to know someone, becoming comfortable with someone, or in the ease of your life-long friendships.
Fall in love with the excitement of something new, or even the sadness of something ending because it means you had the time of your life. Fall in love with busy days and fall in love with boring days. Fall in love with the people who smile when they see you and the people who need you to smile first.
Fall in love with rainy days and the sunsets that follow them. Fall in love with the feelings you’re so incredibly lucky to feel, no matter what they are, and fall hard. Fall in love with your world and resist the nagging urge to become bitter.
Stay soft, stay vulnerable, eat the chocolate cake, and be in love.