Sunday, November 16, 2014

Giving Up, Letting Go, Holding On

My brain is full. It's been almost two months since I've written anything here so grab a drink and settle in my friends. There's a lot to go through...

To be honest, I've had a very hard time functioning these past three weeks due to a contract negotiation that I had to do on my own. It was the first time, as a professional singer, that I felt I finally had something worthwhile to offer; that all my prior experiences and my years of paying dues were finally good enough to bring to the bargaining table. But that's also a very scary place to be, especially when you are A) not an Equity member and B) have no one else, like a manager or agent, in your corner, doing the heavy lifting. There is a very fine line between standing up for what you believe you are worth, and shooting yourself in the foot by asking for too much.

This time though, it worked. I negotiated and tried to stand my ground as best I could. While I couldn't get what I originally asked for (Equity membership), I was able to negotiate for better pay. This is the first time in my LIFE that I've been successful. Even after two national tours, people still just say no. Take our offer or we'll find someone else who will do it for cheaper. So I am grateful to this theater. While it may not seem like much to them, the small bump in pay means a lot to me. It is expensive to live in New York...and that's where I'm staying.

The contract wasn't exactly what I expected. I had originally thought that I would be flying down south to Florida for the next two months. Not true. I'm staying here and essentially am "on call" for their production. If the woman I'm understudying gets sick, they'll fly me down on 8-12 hours of notice. So technically, they can call me at 8 AM and I could potentially be in Florida, singing at 8 PM the same night. This is the kind of stuff that I am made for; having sung the role so many times now and traveling on such short notice. It doesn't phase me one bit.

Having my life on hold, however, does.

And that's what it's been the past three weeks. This holding pattern of waiting and praying that they were actually serious when they contacted me. The initial inquiry came in while the show was already in rehearsals. I had no clue whether they would be flying me down the next day or the next week. I still don't know. And I am still waiting on the final paperwork that I need to sign. But as of last Friday, the offer had been completely ironed out, and I confirmed the dates with the theater. We are all now waiting on two signatures, one from them and one from me.

And the stress won't leave my body until I have that piece of paper in my hand. And it's scary. So I'm going to write about the fear and frustration to some degree. It's the only way I know how to cope. But this doesn't always please people. I've had some interesting, and other times discouraging, interactions with people over the past few weeks. Even just last night, as I was surrounded by "friends", one mentioned that I post too much, that "no one cares that you're going to an audition. We all are."

On some small level, he is right. I do tend to post a lot about what I'm doing. It's the only way that I will actually do it. It's been a struggle to get out of bed every morning for the past god knows how many months. So yes, when I actually get out of the apartment to do something, I'm going to talk about it. But there's also a part of him that is very wrong. I have people who care. I have people who like to cheer me on. I have many friends who are not in this business and don't have the faintest idea of what it is really like on a day to day basis. So I share for them as well. For me, it's the whole point of life on this earth; to share our experiences and learn from them in some way. To give love and have patience. To be supportive and kind.

When people aren't quite on the same wavelength, I move them to my "acquaintances" list on Facebook. They generally don't see the day to day minutiae of my life. I've realized however, that my posts as of late haven't been as discerning. I've needed more support than ever before so I've been speaking about it and asking for it from everyone. Which is generally not an easy thing for me to do. I grew up having to be self-sufficient, mentally and emotionally. It was expected of me. I was taught that you don't speak and you don't ask. Being the black sheep I am, I did the exact opposite. And this is where it has landed me today; slightly too open with my thoughts, and constantly terrified of saying and doing the wrong thing.

But I am also very lucky in that respect. I have the most amazing group of people behind me; the ones who are there with a simple "like" to show support or a few small words of encouragement. I am so grateful to each and every one of them. It may sound trite to say, but it truly makes a difference in my life. Sometimes, those little comments are the only thing that get me out of bed in the afternoon.

My birthday this past week was not something that I wanted to celebrate in any big way. Turning 35 last year was hard. What came after was worse; the loss of people. Some passed away. Some disappeared from my life without a word. Some I've tried to let go. We are constantly making connections all over this world. Sometimes we make right friends with wrong people. Sometimes we sleep with wrong people at the right time. Sometimes things were just meant to be. Or not.

And somehow, we just keep going.

As the Beatles song says, "I get by with a little help from my friends." And I'm learning how to ask for it. I may not do it in the exact way I should. I may ask a little too loudly. But at least I am asking. I am not cowering alone in the corner, unable to move. I am not so without hope that I take my own life. I am struggling and trying to deal like every other human being on this planet.

But I still worry that I say too much, that I come off as needy and full of myself. So every time I sit down to this keyboard, I temper myself. How much can I actually say? Who should I actually let into my world? How will my words affect everyone else? Because I know they do. Everyone we come into contact with is impacted in some small way, even if they are not aware of it.

I spent my actual birth day alone for the most part this year. I did things I wanted to do without interruption or other influences; visited my favorite French pastry shop and gorged on the best macarons I've ever had in my life. Spent hours in my favorite bookstore finding books that spoke to me. Had a dinner that only *I* would want on this day (of course it was southern barbecue). Then I did the one thing that truly makes me happy in this city, I listened to my extremely talented friends play at Rockwood Music Hall. It is the only place where I am free to enjoy life, where I can let go of all my worries and be surrounded by a greatness that is indescribable.

After the set finished, we congregated in another part of the bar. I had my time to catch up with everyone. I could finally talk about the details of everything that had been happening in the past few weeks. It was a huge relief. I was finally in my happy place. But as I was leaving, one friend mentioned that I was now his "project"; that he would do what he could to help me make my way. My posts had been so stress-filled in the past few weeks that it was further inducing stress onto him. That is the last thing that I want to do, cause people to worry or complicate their lives in any way, especially people who I hold in such high esteem.

So I am back at the awkward crossroad that is my life; asking for help and dealing with the consequences, forever questioning how far should I let people in. Who to keep and who to let go. And how to hold on to those who are worth holding onto.
So when people leave, I've learned the secret: let them. Because, most of the time, they have to. Let them walk away and go places. Let them have adventures in the wild without you. Let them travel the world and explore life beyond a horizon that you exist in. And know, deep down, that heroes aren’t qualified by their capacity to stay but by their decision to return.
—The Staying Philosophy, Isa Garcia

So, in closing for tonight my friends, thank you for holding onto me. For taking time. For dealing with my messy self. I know it's a lot to handle at times. But in the end, I promise you, it'll have been worth it.

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