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In Contrast to Hard News

Saturday, I leave for Hawaii.  It's a business trip, I swear.  I love it when conferences are scheduled in cool places, and when I can take Dev with me.  My parents will be there as well, which is a fact more cool for Dev's sake than mine, really.  Dev and my father will spend a week doing pretty much whatever they want while my mother and I spend a goodly number of hours seminar-ing.  (I do, however, have two days free for playing.)  I've nearly finished packing.  I'm not going to have much use for sundresses and shorts--let alone an evening dress--in the next few days.

Fellow VPXV alum jazzfish recently discussed personal hinge points, considering what a single different decision in the past would have changed.  He points out something important: the decisions made were the best that could have been made at the time.  (He has other cool things to say, too, so read the whole post!)  His comments made me think differently about my own hinge points, particularly the one I think most affected the course of my life.

In high school, I wanted more than anything to be an actor.  I'd performed in community and regional theaters since the age of nine and, by my late teens, had discovered I loved Shakespeare.  My parents thought theater was a great hobby and a terrible career.  When I wanted to audition for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, they showed me how I couldn't support myself on an actor's stipend.  When I had the opportunity to audition for Cal Arts, they told me they wouldn't give me the financial support I'd need were I accepted.  My high school guidance counselors supported their stance.

Not knowing who else to ask, and lacking the confidence to find other sources, I accepted the view I'd be better off keeping theater on the side while establishing a "real" career.  So I worked in the corporate world and dinked around with community college classes that never led anywhere.  And I worked in theater--non-equity, but stipend paying--until I became pregnant with Dev and moved from California to Indiana.  At that time, theater didn't match up with the kind of parent I wanted to be, so acting became something I once did.

In retrospect, the fact I didn't pursue professional acting might have been life-saving.  Had I ever been fortunate enough to succeed, I may well have been profiled on Celebrity Rehab or some such because the same traits that made me afraid to grab after my dream would have left me vulnerable to addiction, to being used and controlled by others.

So today, it isn't the decision I regret.  Rather, I regret the person I was, and the self-imposed limitations that lasted well into my thirties.  Though I worked hard to be the best at my endeavors--mostly writing, by that time, as well as teaching workshops and seminars--I didn't work hard to succeed at them.  Success was risky.  Competence, and following well-trod pathways, was secure, as if life should be lived by the Goldilocks theory of "just right."

Training in martial arts, in an environment both supportive of growth and demanding of excellence, changed me.  Limitations were to be overcome, either through strength or adaptation.  "I can't do that" had to be followed with "yet" or "exactly that way."  Better yet was the line, "I don't know how to do that."  I had mentors who had once shared my doubts and fears, and who were willing to share their strategies.

Living on my own, responsible for raising my son, changed me.  I could either transfer my doubts to him, through word and deed, or try to live as an example of how I hoped he would live his life.  His goals and aspirations are not always what I would choose for him, but I support him and help him find people who know more about them than I do.  I don't want to be the one putting limits on him.  There are too many challenges to leading a happy, fulfilled life as it is.

Caring for Dev's father in the final stages of cancer changed me.  I could have encouraged him to be a patient at a palliative care facility rather than choose for us all to move in together.  But by that time, I wasn't quite so afraid of my failings and weaknesses--even the ones I didn't yet know existed.  I found I'd grown strong enough to be an advocate, going toe-to-toe with medical teams over their advice and decisions.  I found I could walk up to death's door with a person, and not fall apart or run away when the experience turned gruesome.  As a result, I'll be doing some work for hospice organizations in the coming years.

Attending Viable Paradise changed me.  The professional and personal nourishment helped put my priorities in order and--perhaps most importantly--led me to realize my past is indeed my past.  Who I once was is not only no longer who I have to be, but no longer who I am.

Doubt and fear and anxiety are expected.  So is moving forward despite them.

So perhaps my true hinge point wasn't when one path was chosen over another, but when I understood why that path was chosen.  Maybe the truer one was when, once aware of the why, I opted to do differently.

In other news, my VP wall story is still out there.  I've past the "You can query after..." date, but decided not to bother until the trip is over.  If I did submit it incorrectly, and my waiting thus far has been in vain, another couple weeks isn't going to make a difference.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 28th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
You are such a strong lady and awesome person.

Have a safe trip. I hope you enjoy your free time.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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