Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Impossible Dream

Musing on following your dreams...

There's only so long after you've "moved in" that you can keep saying "we just moved here."  Today marks the 3-month anniversary of our Chicago Move-in Day, so I think I may have used up my "just moved here" time.  Three months ago I stood in our empty living room, directing traffic as the talented and persevering Allied Van Lines moving crew dispersed our belongings throughout our new home.  The moving supervisor had invited his local 15-year-old nephew along, offering him a few bucks to help with some heavy lifting. 

I was impressed with young Pedro.  His conversational skills far exceeded those of many adults my age.  He made good eye contact, asked follow up questions.  He skipped past petty small talk to ask questions of substance.  After sharing with him that I had been working as an actor in Los Angeles before having a baby and moving here to Chicago, he asked, nonchalantly, with what I swear was a cocked eyebrow,

"So was that, like, your dream?"  I felt a stutter creep up my throat, and then a little bit of heat behind my cheeks.  Even precocious Pedro wonders what you're doing with your life! the devilish angel on my shoulder whispered in my ear.

D is for Dream
I picture the bright-eyed me of my childhood, dreaming of all the things she wanted to do someday - sing on a Broadway stage, star in a Hollywood film, become a best-selling novelist - and I see her disappointment as she looks up at me, a stay-at-home, wanna-be creative-type, not-currently-contributing-financially-to-the-family mama. 

I went on an audition recently.  I know I did it in part so that I could tell "childhood me" that I was still living the dream.  A local Chicago theatre was holding its season general auditions.  I stapled a headshot to a resume, drove in the rain, and waited (nearly an hour and half) to present my monologue and song. 

It was one of those auditions where there's just a thin curtain separating the space where the auditions are taking place from all the actors waiting to audition.  So you can hear everything, and you know that when it's your turn, everyone will hear you.  The director was asking everyone a question, "so, what are you working on now?"  Historically, that's an anxiety-inducing question for me.  The answer is a well rehearsed (but totally natural sounding, because, you know, I'm an actor!) "elevator pitch" that makes it seem like I'm busy, I've got a lot going on, I've got options, but I'm also "totally available" if this theatre wants to cast me.  If I was working on something, I'd have to find a way to make it sound really cool.  And if I wasn't... well, it's amazing how many ways there are to say I'm "in between projects."

But today, a calm comes over me.  No, I haven't been working on anything in a while... but wait... yes, actually, yes, I have been working on something.  I've been improvising characters, working on my voice, writing alternate lyrics, exercising my storytelling chops.  I am a dancer, a singer, a contortionist, a dramatic reader, a comedian, a chef.  I create the world, present it, to the most wonderful, eager, hopeful, fulfilling audience member of my life.  There is no rehearsal for this performance, I have to make it up as I go.  She is going to see every stumble, every flub.  She'll see when I'm having an off-night, will be able to tell when I'm "phoning it in."  And she'll witness some real moments of vulnerability and truth.  Those moments during a performance when you realize for as much as you're giving to your audience, nothing compares to what you receive in return.  They are moments that will stick with both of us for the rest of our lives.

There's a dream you didn't even know to dream because it was simply impossible for you to imagine how much you wanted it.  There was nothing any parent could have ever told me about parenthood that could have prepared me for how much love I would feel, or how much more I could grow.

Maybe "being a mom" isn't everyone's dream, but I'll tell my little girl someday... Dream big, dream about the thing that is the greatest thing you can imagine, and then do it, make it happen!  But save a little room for dreaming of the thing that is so great, that makes you so full, so rich, that's even better than anything you could have ever pictured.  Be open to that dream too.

So the answer to your question, Pedro, is yes.  It was my dream to be an actor.  And all those childhood dreams, sure, I still want them to come true.  But that was long before I knew there could be something even better.  To live only for that old dream would be settling.  Right now, I'm a mama.  And I'm living the dream. 
The Impossible Dream - today's blogpost title is a song sung by Don Quixote at the end of the first act in Man of La Mancha.

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