Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break Adventures: The Introduction.

One of my favorite things to do is travel.  Anywhere, anytime, with an assortment of traveling companions or on my own, short trips or voyages.  I always knew I wanted to explore - chalk it up to the seafaring blood that pumps hearty through my veins from Portugese, Italian, British, and Swedish ancestors.  Last year's Spring Break was my first chance to really explore beyond my limited range: I boarded a plane (with the help of family and knowing there were friends waiting when I landed) for my first international adventure, to Trinidad and Tobago.  For Carnival.  It was 9 of the best, most incredible, eye-opening days of my life.

So I think it's understandable when I say I was exicted for this Spring Break but not expecting to be blown away.  After all there would be no red eye flights, no international exploration, no Soca music, no fnacy costumes and exuberent holidays. But I was offered a chnace to explore - a friend of mine's family has a summer home in New Jersey, on the coast.  A group of us were invited to spend part of break there - someplace new.  Someplace I hadn't been - which was exciting, and I jumped at the chance.  Jersey also put me closer than I'd been before to a City I'd never seen, Philidelphia.  One of my childhood friends goes to school there, majoring in filmamking.  And just outside of the city, I have an older (pseduo) brother who I love seeing but rarely see.  It was the perfect chance to have a great Spring Break.

So naturally, I hesitated.  Would I be able to afford the various buses, trains, and subways involved?  And if I could, would I have enough money to buy grocerries with after, when I was back in my small collegetown supporting myself?  And what abuot spending time with immediate family - shouldn't that always be a priority?  Back and forth, with a hundred reasons why it was just so impractical to go, why I'd be better served to stay at home and spend time with Boyfriend and Mum and the Kid.  The funny thing is, it was Mum and Boyfriend who most disapproved of my hesitation.  Mum reminded me that even if I ended up totally broke "It's ok to be poor when you're 21 - it's not ok when you're in your 40s.  You're in college, so take advantage of your one shot at being broke and traveling."  Boyfriend reminded me of how much I like to travel and how much I've always wanted to see Philly and generally miss my brother.  Their gentle prodding and the prospect of seeing my friends was enough to send me on my way - and off onto adventure.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Getting Lucky

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Today was my first day off in ages and ages and ages.  As usual, it's been a busy semester full of classes, work (I got some extra hours this week!  Woo hoo!), and rehearsals which I love!  However it can sometimes be a little exhausting.  For example, here is my typical Monday:

7:00 am, I drag myself out of bed and into clean clothes, etc.  Grab my bags and books and stumble off to. . .

8:00 am Pedagogy class which goes until

9:30 am at which point I go to job #1 in Advising.  I file, make appointments, take messages, and otherwise hold down the front desk until

10:50 when my voice lesson starts.  Voice ends just in time for me to get to 

11:30 Modern 6

1:00 lunch with my roommate

1:30 twenty minutes at the gym before

1:50 Dramatic Literature, which is only an hour long so I get out by 2:50 giving me exactly enough time to go to

3:00 Physical Therapy for an hour and fifteen minutes, getting me out at 4:15 so by

4:40 I'm in Jazz 6 which ends at 6:10, which is convenient since

6:15 is when Hairspray rehearsal starts, which runs until 10:30

10:45 back in my room to start homework which takes me until 12:30ish to complete and call Boyfriend.

Then it's off to bed by 1ish, so I can get up, rinse, and repeat.  The classes change, the length of time at the gym changes (someday I get in almost an hour!) but thats about it.  It's a busy and fulfilling life, to be sure.  I love it.  Which is why today, on my first day off, I spent it making sure I could continue living almost the exact same way.  I edited my resume and started sending off copies of my headshot, (adjusted) resume, and contact information to local theaters/playhouses/summer stock companies.  I researched different performance venues and internships - all of which is work I should have done ages ago, but couldn't because of this stupid hip injury.  I didn't know when or if I'd be ok enough to rehearse/perform this summer.  If I'm lucky, though, I'll get some performances and some additional work to go along with my day job!

Cross you fingers, blogging world - I'm looking for my lucky break, so I'm trying to be prepared.  How do you spend your days off?

Joy and Sorrow Part II

Have you ever had just an amazing day? One where you feel like nothing can go wrong, and nothing can hurt you? How about the opposite? A day when only bad news and sadness seem to follow you, whispering in your ear and coloring your sight. The past weeks have been filled with days like these. Days where it seemed the world stood still for a moment - frozen in sadness, or suspended in joy.

There has been so much sadness in the past few weeks.  Several people I know - several people very dear to me - have suffered losses in the past two weeks.  There have been more condolences, flowers, and black dresses then I ever want to experience in such a short time again. In addition to these losses, there has been a bitter-sweetness in the air as Boys Next Door (our Spring straight play) completed it's run.  This May will have a particularly important graduating class - the first BA Theatre class from my school, and Boys Next Door featured a large part of that class.  When closing night came and bows were taken, an entire generation of performers had their last round of applause on a stage that is "home base" for all of us.

Even with all of these things happening around me, I cannot say that these past few weeks have been bad ones.  While each moment of sadness has been big - huge, even - they can't undo the overall warmth and joy I've had.  The happiness comes from a hundred small things through out the day, and I think it is because of the big sadness that I've been tied to I've been able to feel the joy all the more.  The feeling of relief as you open an exam and realize you know the answers to a question.  The homey feeling when an old nickname is used in a new scenario.  Or the peaceful rhythm of completing silly routines and rituals.  For instance, every Saturday is cleaning day for my roommate and I.  We scrub the condo from top to bottom, doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, clearing off the always-cluttered table.  This Saturday when we finished cleaning, we took a few minutes and made breakfast together: bagels, turkey bacon, hot tea, fried eggs, and an 80s music playlist.

Happiness this week was opening my mailbox to retrieve my stolen-and-then-found-and-sent-home-to-Mum cellphone and finding not only my phone, but a big red box of chocolates waiting.  The best part wasn't the first nougat filled bite, or the satisfying crinkle of cellophane.  It wasn't the candy apple red sheen of the box as it poked cheerfully up out of my heavy bag.  Happiness was opening the white package and seeing something - anything - inside.  The thought.  The extra bit of love.  I think that's maybe the biggest part of happiness: seeing, feeling, sharing, giving, knowing love.  At least, it is for me right now, at this particular moment in this particular life.

. . . . . .
Joy is different things to do different people - or even to the same person at different points in their life.  I'm so lucky to be in a place in my life where joy can take more than one form.  It's a real, tangible thing, being happy.  Something I think every sense can experience - for instance:

*I tasted joy in shared spoonfuls of creamy icy green, as me, Rob, and Karly split a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the caf.

*I heard joy in a voice lesson that went better than anticipated: another song learned, putting me two songs ahead for the semester.  Hearing notes soaring out of my own throat that I was so afraid of so very recently - feeling their resonance in my chest and their lightness in the air.  

*I smelled happiness all around me as the first truly spring like weather reached out and held the east coast.  The first hint of melting snow and sap stirred trees mixing with that special something only spring time has.

*I saw happiness in a friend's smiling face as I turned a blue dress, a sheet of shiny yellow fabric, a black bubble skirt, and a spool of red ribbon into a snow white costume, complete with train and bows.  She looked so beautiful!

*I felt happiness in my first trip in the car with the windows down - it was only to the grocery store with my friends, but it was long enough for the sun to warm my face and the wind to tug my hair loose from my tight, sleek, winter ponytail.  

Everyone of those things is so small - especially when compared to the weight, size, breadth, and depth of the sadness that has touched our (me and my friends') lives recently.  Isn't that the beautiful thing about the human spirit though?

It takes a hammer to break us but only a single laugh to lift us back up again.  

Wishing you Joy, dear readers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Joy and Sorrow Part I

Have you ever had just an amazing day?  One where you feel like nothing can go wrong, and nothing can hurt you?  How about the opposite?  A day when only bad news and sadness seem to follow you, whispering in your ear and coloring your sight.  The past weeks have been filled with days like these.  Days where it seemed the world stood still for a moment - frozen in sadness, or suspended in joy.

A little over a week ago, a friend of mine received heartbreaking news.  His mother - a deeply beloved single parent whose entire life was devoted to her children - had passed away.  His grief was instant, total, and deeper than any wound I can even imagine.  I was so proud of our family - our Theatre family, here at school - as we came together around him.  By the time the wake arrived, two vans had been borrowed from the school by our professors to take students to support our friend.  We had cooked meals and snacks, created a scrapbook, gathered donations for his mother's favorite charity. When it was time to go, in addition to the vans most of the juniors and seniors car pooled in their own vehicles, including myself.  Our upper classes here are very small - maybe 20 people in all, and our friend was part of the first Theatre BA Class ever, so all of us in the upper years were there with him. At the funeral the next morning, three pews were filled with students, faculty, and staff . . . none of whom knew what to say or do, only that our brother needed us.

As I type, I can feel the weight of those two days' sadness settle on me again. A few instants in particular are crystalized in my mind, tiny sharp, cold, vivid, pressed forever in my memory like stones settled at the bottom of a riverbed.  One was at the very end of the service, as the casket was being carried out.  The pallbearers stopped in the center of the aisle for a final prayer, and the head of the casket was directly in front of me where I sat on the end.  As the priest began to speak - the words are gone, but the tone is still there, echoing - my friend reached his left hand out and lay it on his mother's casket to say goodbye.  His right hand he reached out behind him, for comfort or strength or something else I can't put a name to.  His reaching fingers found my open hand, and I held on as tightly as I could.  I can still feel the heat from his palm, radiating, intense, as though he were on fire.  I remember thinking how funny it is that grief and sadness are thought of as greys: as rain and clouds and subduded voices, muted tones and dark skies.  This grief, the grief of a youngman on the edge of the "real world" without his mother's hand, was fire.  It was red and it was burning and it seared me right down to the middle of the middle of the center of myself.  I tried to say a prayer but even my thoughts were tongue tied, so I gave over to God all the things I was feeling, trusting that he understood the language of my heart.

The second moment that I'll carry with me was midway through the service.  I was sitting at the end of a row of mostly seniors, next to a good friend of mine who is graduating soon. We had just gone and received communion, which neccesitated passing by the grieving family.  I'd been doing my best not to cry (The service wasn't about me. I am stubborn. Etc. etc etc.) until then, but passing by the family, especially our friend, was too much for dry eyes.  As I knelt down to pray, two fat, round tears like liquid marbles rolled down my face. Before the second one had passed my cheekbone and curved its way down my chin, the friend who was sitting to my right had his hand on my back.  Without ever looking over at me or saying a word, he just pressed his palm against my shoulderblade, steadying my heart and resolve in one motion. I realized how lucky I was to have that hand on my back - how lucky we all were to have hearts to share in this grief together, as we had shared in so many other losses, as well as triumphs and joy.

You know when people talk about realizing everything they've ever known is a lie?

 All my life I was taught to mistrust people, to fear them even.  To be less an island and more an iceberg - not only alone and indepedent, but with most of myself totally hidden and perfectly cold.  As I've left that bubble and entered this world, I am finding the core of me isn't an iceberg at all.  It is warm, and it's soft, and it is human and flawed and so breakable.  Sometimes I love that, but often it makes me afraid.  It's scary to have a piece of myself chipped off and put in someone's pocket - some secret or memory or thought that I hadn't decided the whole world should see.  It makes me pullback to feel the invisible threads of true friendship tangle around me. Sometimes it hurts, you know, being part of the family - loving other people, sharing their lives.  Not only do you risk your own hopes but suddenly your heart rides with theirs, too tugged along by those invisible strings.  In the second my friend's palm rested against my back, I felt cracks radiate along every fault line in the frozen island I was taught to become.  And I realized the pay off for the worry, the vulnerablity, the trusting, is simple - I won't melt into the ocean alone.

There will always be at least one hand pressed against me, keeping me afloat.