This or That

I’ve been thinking and ruminating about how I see myself, the labels I assign myself, and just how limiting that can be.

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Dear readers, hello! I have missed this little cyber spot, I have missed you, and I’m glad to be here and writing something that’s not academic, that’s not going to be graded, and that has nothing to do with my thesis research or my future work.

…well, actually perhaps this does have to do with all of that? See, I’ve spent this past semester of grad school playing on a strange binary scale that I’ve forced myself into and since I’ve had some time to decompress from last semester I’ve been thinking and ruminating about how I see myself, the labels I assign myself, and just how limiting that can be.

So let me take you back in time just a bit and recap all of life since January:

Grad school started and I made shows and wrote papers and had seminars and slept only a little bit, hardly showered (it’s nearly impossible in grad school), and thankfully had my Mister Brooklyn by my side to set plates of food on my desk on the days I would hole up to study and write for hours on end. Grad school was intense and I hardly spoke to my friends or family and there were a number of times I thought I should quit. But thank heavens for my dear ladies of grad school; together we cried and lamented and freaked out about the whole process. In short: grad school was exactly as it should have been—challenging, humbling, rewarding.

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This was one of the lighter study days I had

Let me talk to you about challenging:

Tuesdays at 9 am I found myself in the belly of the Center for the Arts building where I had my historiography seminar. Those mornings were early and I always thought to myself, “I am just not a morning person” as I drove to campus grumpy and under-slept. As I found myself settling into my seat, pulling out papers and pens, my professor would greet us by saying “good morning historians!” She would sometimes ask us questions like, “what kind of historian are you?” “How does your voice as a historian come through in your writing?” Those questions tended to rub me the wrong way; often I would think or say out loud that I am not a historian and that I don’t identify that way. I hated being labeled something I felt I was not.

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Note the lower right corner/one of many days my Mister kept me well fed.

Often during the semester faculty members sent out email blasts for a number of theatre conferences call for papers, opportunities to be published in academic circles, or opportunities to present our research at symposiums on campus. I hated these too—I would think to myself, “I am not an academic and don’t want to be published or share my research.” And this even came up in my historiography seminar; my professor asked us if we were seeking out opportunities to get published or speak on panels. I of course didn’t hesitate to say that I was not, that I was looking for opportunities to make theatre, to direct, and to figure out my own method of crafting work.

Do you see a pattern here, dear reader? It’s ok if you don’t. I didn’t see it at first either. It wasn’t until well into the semester, when I got feedback from my historiography professor on an assignment. “I think you might be operating in a binary track of being an artist or an academic. Can’t you be both? It can be limiting to categorize yourself in such a way.”

I am not a morning person.   I am not a historian.   I am not an academic.

I said and thought these things over and over for the past 5 months. And as I am writing this now, I am reminded that our thoughts and our words are powerful. The more I continue to tell myself I am not an academic, the more I continue to believe that I don’t fit into a scholarly world and I limit myself and what I can create. Perhaps the more accurate thing to tell you, dear readers, is that I don’t feel comfortable in an academic setting all of the time–I feel intimidated and sometimes stilly and even (as is the ever constant feeling during grad school) like I am a complete imposter. All of those are just fleeting feelings though.

And so, since the semester has ended and I have ruminated on that comment from my historiography professor I realize she is right, to say I am this or that limits my potential. Have you found yourself in a similar place too, is there that one thing you’ve been dying to try but find yourself thinking “I’m just not one of those types, I could never…”

Maybe you just need to wake up at 9 am and sit in an early morning class where you sometimes say things like “I am not a this or I am not a that” and find that shining person to gently remind you that you are indeed a great many things and that you are the type to do the thing you’ve been dreaming up for yourself. You are, dear reader, so many things. And if you don’t have the 9 am class, you’ve always got this here blog to remind you.

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You are a great many things

Happy summer friends!

 

In The Right Kind of Light

I’m sitting in the sweet little coffee shop just down the street from where I live.

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Montreal in winter/me in the upper right corner freezing to death!

It’s the longest I’ve been out of the house in weeks probably. See, we’ve had a great deal of snow over here and even after 3 winters under my belt, it still gets to me. Tiny flakes trickle down and I retreat in doors, under covers, and I seal up all the windows so not an ounce of winter can get in.

 

But today, I figured I’d better hunker down, suit up and get out of the house. So I trekked the two blocks to go work from the little coffee shop near my house. I set myself up in the window, looked out and thought, “Sweet Jesus, I really hate all of this snow.”

I do, I really hate it.

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See? It really is gross. (photo: assets.atlasobscura.com)

I know, you’re gonna try and tell me, “but it’s so pretty! You can ski and sled and build a silly snow man!” Well, to all of that I say BAH HUMBAG! I hate all of those things and I don’t think the snow is pretty—in fact, most of the time it’s mucky and slushy and brown and down right gross! But today, as I settled in and sipped a hot cup of really good coffee, the clouds did part and the sun shone through—literally! And you know what? The damn snow looked beautiful. Like glitter was trickling down and every thing was sparkling.

 

As I sipped and watched, I realized that the things we find ugly, the things we hate the most, well, they have their own kind of beauty. Sometimes you just have to wait for the clouds to part and the sun to shine just right to see it.

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Seen in the right light, it’s not so bad…I suppose.

 

A Shifting Season

My dear readers, how are you? Is the sun setting a little earlier where you are? It certainly is here, the crispness of autumn is beginning to touch down here in Buffalo, leaves are slowly trickling down from the tree tops. There is a little tug on my heart as I watch summer recede, and yet there is still beauty in the shifting of seasons.

These days, I feel I am a shifting season too and I feel the tug at my heartstrings ever so slightly when I think of my proverbial summer receding…

It was a good summer. I started playing with an improv group here in town, I went home to help my best friend with her thesis show,

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Blurry shot from the tech booth during the bestie’s thesis show rehearsal.

I started grad school, and finally after many, many years let the sun set on my time as a server. I’ve worked in food service for well over a decade; a huge portion of my identity was (and to be honest, still is) associated with being a server. The day I set foot on my campus, I felt such a shift within me. It was strange and unsettling and unnerving and full of so many questions and fears.

 

I spent so many years putting myself in an environment where I did not come alive or thrive, I went to a place to earn money that made me feel lowly, tired, and perpetually broke–there was never much hope for me in restaurants. But over time I came to accept all of those unfortunate things it made me see myself as. All of the lack of hope and those negative thoughts seeped into my subconscious for so long I figured my life would always have some type of restaurant job in it and I would never fully make theatre my life.

When grad school started and when on the first day I had to introduce myself so many times as actor, as director, as person interested in creating my own work I felt so damn weird and fraudulent!

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Day one of grad school, not too bad for a first day.

It felt strange and unreal to introduce myself without mentioning that “I’m just a dumb server.” But I tell ya, the beauty in the shifting of seasons is something to marvel at.

 

Summer has set on my time as a server. I spend all the moments I have reading and writing and thinking about theatre and performance in its many forms. I wake up tried in a new way; one that makes me want more, one that makes me realize that it’s no use assigning your identity to any one thing. And sure, it does tug on my heartstrings in a million different ways–I’ve cried a lot in these 2 weeks of grad school because so much has changed in what feels like such a quick time; I’ve cried because this is hard, I’ve cried because I can’t believe my good fortune, I’ve cried because I realize I could have been better to myself and left restaurants a long time ago. The challenges will be good, the gratitude for my good fortune is good, and right now I am finally being good to myself.

So darling readers, what I’m saying is: I think we’re all just shifting seasons (you know, proverbially speaking). Perhaps you’ve been doing something for too long that just doesn’t make you come alive. Well, remember you’re a shifting season, you are destined for a change. That change maybe you’re greatest challenge, but you are bound to do the stuff that ignites you.

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I am a shifting season