In the course of writing this play, I have changed. I no longer define myself by the job I have to pay my rent, but by what I consider my work in the world--in the theatre, in my personal relationships, and by my own sense of curiosity and imagination. There's still a lot to figure out, but this realization makes me feel a little freer as I continue exploring my own life.
This week, I have received the most amazing phone calls, texts, emails, snail mail, and social media shoutouts from so many people in my life. Family near and far, friends from high school, college, grad school, my various day jobs over the years, all across the globe...the outpouring has been heartwarming and humbling. Thank you to each one of you who has supported me with this project.
This support, sometimes from the most unexpected of people, has shed light on my past conversations with people in my life around the "How's work going?" question. Up until recently, I would see family or friends or exchange messages online, and people would still ask about my day jobs first. "How's work going?" was often the most frequent question I was faced with. And to own up to my own complicity in this conversational epidemic, I asked that question of the people in my life as well.
Over the holidays and in the New Year, I spent a lot of time with family and realized that the conversations had begun to change. After catching up about the weather and the latest political circus act, people began to ask me "How's the play going? Are you auditioning for anything these days?" I was amazed at this change. What happened? When did it happen? How did I suddenly find myself invited to talk about what it is I love to do?
The explanation is actually pretty simple. I started talking about what I love. In a way, it actually was that simple, and at the same time very challenging. You see, I always assumed people were not interested in hearing about my creative work, but the truth is, that I didn't often give them many chances to be interested. If they didn't bring it up the topic, I didn't talk about it. It wasn't like I brought up a play or project and was flat out rejected. I just didn't bring it up at all. Nobody is a mindreader. I wasn't completely fair to the people in my life in this way. These days, conversations have a different shape, and I too, am being more conscious to ask the people I love questions that show them I want to hear about what is happening in their lives that really matter to them. Instead of talking all about our 9-5's, I get to share news of my play or latest baking adventure, and learn about vacations,concerts, dance classes, sewing projects, and book recommendations. I feel so much more connected to myself and my community.
You might say, "But I DO talk about what I love, and the people in my life still don't respond to it." This may be the case. You might be putting forth all the effort and feel like you're losing a one sided war. If you are in this situation at the moment, I understand how downright awful that can feel. I've been there, and with some people in my life, I'm still there. It's hard. I'm not saying that it's completely up to you to turn the conversational ship around, but what I am saying is that without effort from you, there's no chance of changing the conversation. Can you still be trying 100% and not be getting anywhere? Sure. But at least if you're trying, you are doing all you can do. And I have a hunch that if you talk about what you love enough, sooner or later it will attract the kind of people in your life that share your love for acting, reading, hiking, whatever it is that brings you joy. And once you find this community of people that are yours, it's much easier to deal with the nay-sayers.
Start today. Do you have work you really love to do? A hobby that you are super into? Do you love your partner, your pet, your recent trip to California? Then talk about it. Don't wait for someone to ask. Speak up and don't apologize for it. Don't let the fear of sounding strange or different deter you.
The evolution of conversation and connection may take awhile, but I know that it is possible. Conversations with family that used to start "How's work?" are now "How's your theatre stuff going?" or "What's new in your life lately?" I've been trying to shift this conversation for over a decade now, and the effort on all sides is paying off.
Don't wait for someone to give you permission to talk about what you love. If you find yourself faced with one of those antiquated questions such as "How's work going?", look the person right in the eye and consider saying something like "It's fine, but what I'm really excited about? The new hip hop dance class I signed up for." Don't let your ship be steered into status quo waters. And who knows? Once you break the mold and start talking about what you really love, I can guarantee that you will inspire someone else to do to the same.
The process might take awhile, but it's worth it. It may be cliche, but we've only got so long on this earth to explore and connect and experience--we might as well get right down to it.
What do you love? What matters to you? Do you feel that you get to share that with the people in your life?
In case you missed it, hop over to Howlround and check out my guest blog with the Perpetual Visitors Theatre Company on the process of creating BIG WORK! "Interviewees, Actors, and Audiences: the Theatrical Balancing Act of Documentary Playmaking"