Last week in my voice class, we worked on an exercise called River Stories. We were asked to find ourselves standing on the bank of a river—a river that contained every event in our lives from birth to the present moment. And we examined specific life events—stepping stones—plunging into moments that for whatever reason came to the forefront of our subconscious. For maybe one of the first times ever, I began to see my life as a linear chain of events leading up to this very moment. My stepping stones became dominoes and I could see how one event was linked to another. Cause and effect, over and over. And it ultimately brought me some peace. Every moment of my life so far—good or bad—has led to who I am and what I’m doing today. And I traveled through the river of my life unashamed (for once) of the events, decisions, and relationships that make up who I am. And I even shared some of those things with my classmates. What surprised me most about sharing was that there was no judgment attached—I felt no embarrassment or regret, I simply shared some parts of my life as if to say “Well, that happened. So, yeah.” No analysis. Just glimpses of who I am. And I in turn got to see glimpses of other people’s lives. And the whole thing was just kind of beautiful and messy and simultaneously tragic and joyful. So it goes.
I think it’s really exciting to be standing on the proverbial stepping stone that is this MFA program, and not know where I’m jumping to next. What stone will I land on? Right now, I just see a raging river before me with endless possibilities. And it’s okay to not really know what’s next. Right now I’m just trying to focus on my work and on the little things that bring me happiness on a daily basis. Things like having couches in my living room to sit on, a guitar to learn how to play, enough money to buy groceries, musicals to see (and sing while I do the dishes), a roommate to watch Tom Cruise movies with, and a cat to run around my apartment like a furry possessed spirit. I’m just going to stick to my stone right now, and enjoy everything there is to enjoy about this part of my life. Too often I widen my scope to the big picture and work myself into a frenzy because my big picture doesn’t look like everybody else’s. I’m turning 25 in a month and I keep telling myself that I haven’t accomplished enough because I’m not accomplishing the same things other people my age are accomplishing. But then I step back and remember that everyone has a different river, with different stepping stones, and different horizons.
I think what I find drastically different about this year is my willingness to really commit. I try to find ways every single day in class to push myself further and work even harder. I don’t want to be the silent observer anymore. I don’t want to be the person who has a million questions and never asks them. Keeping with this quasi-cheesy stepping stone metaphor, it’s really almost shocking to jump back one stone to last year. Thinking back to those first few weeks, I remember being constantly terrified. I remember tugging uncomfortably at my clothes because I didn’t like my body. I remember standing up in front of my voice class to share a poem and dissolving into a puddle of tears because the thought of sharing any part of myself was literally unbearable. I used to walk around the halls constantly berating myself because I “couldn’t do anything.” And I look back at that stepping stone with a lot of tenderness and understanding. Because I had the bravery and the pluck to stick with it. And now, I feel this tremendous sense of growth and accomplishment. Now, I’m not afraid to go first. I’m not afraid to make a mess, and I’m not afraid to play. Sure, I get monumentally frustrated and upset from time to time, but I just keep showing up and giving 100% (sometimes 95%, depending on my coffee intake).
Yesterday in my movement class, my professor said time and time again that in order to survive, we must move forward. We can’t go back—we can only press on. We must find the horizon and move toward it. The stepping stones of my life will always be there. The things that have shaped who I am will never cease to exist. They’re a part of me, and from time to time, I can revisit these stones and remember what it was like to live through them. But I’m going to keep looking ahead. And when it’s time to jump, I’ll jump. And I’ll land on a new stone, and I’ll never forget what came before. I may falter, I may fail, I may lose my balance, but that’s okay. I’m going to keep moving forward.