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I spent most of my childhood, growing up in a small town in Florida.
When I was a kid…
- We played outside.
- We played outside without our parents having to watch us.
- We played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers or War. (and never really thought about actually owning a gun!)
- We dug in the dirt.
- We made forts and hideouts on empty lots with brush and debris.
- We rode bicycles for hours. (Without helmets.)
- We sometimes built a fire and slept in a tent in the backyard.
- We were often barefoot.
- For special entertainment, we played outside at our cousins’ houses.
When I was a kid…
- We had daily chores like dusting and washing dishes.
- We read books. My sister and I checking out 20 books at a time from the library.
- We learned how to grow vegetables in a garden.
- We saved our allowance all year so we could buy Christmas presents for our family.
- If we wanted candy or ice cream, we picked up pop bottles and cashed them in for their deposit at the nearby convenience store.
- We did our homework without being told. (And it actually affected our grades.)
When I was a kid…
- If we had fast food it was a special occasion. A sit down restaurant was an event.
- We watched television less than 3 hours a day.
- When we wanted to look something up, we used the encyclopedia.
- Telephones had cords and were only used for important (short) conversations.
- We wrote letters and mailed cards for birthdays and holidays.
- Dessert was a rare treat not a daily source of nutrition.
- We drank water from the tap (or even from the hose). We had pop/soda no more than once a week.
- Other than going to the grocery, shopping was only something you did for school clothes and at Christmas.
- If there was something you really wanted, it didn’t magically show up at the end of the day. If you were lucky in might show up under the Christmas tree.
- We didn’t hang out at the mall or see all the current movies. (I can count the movies I saw growing up on my fingers.)
- We learned to draw, write, and made and built things with our hands.
- We knew how to use our imaginations.
When I was a kid…
- We didn’t have computers, or Internet, or Smart Phones or cable TV.
- If we wanted to communicate, we opened our mouths.
- Safety was something you did, not a government mandate.
- Teachers weren’t babysitters, they were actually allowed to teach class.
- We didn’t always lock our doors.
- Black Friday didn’t start in July.
When I was a kid…
- We loved our country and believed in the American Dream.
- Politicians were intelligent and respected– they were our heroes.
- Congress did something.
- We weren’t afraid of Police. They were there to help us.
- Guns were only used by soldiers, police and hunters.
- Most families we knew only had one working parent, with one job and they were able to live comfortably.
- We were taught honesty and hard work were the keys to success.
- We thought people were just people regardless of color, class or religion.
- You could believe what you heard on the news.
- Everyone wasn’t out to get you.
Then we grew up…
And everything changed.
It’s been quite a roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of changes to get used to, a lot of decisions to make; and most of all, I’ve had to get reacquainted with parts of me I’d forgotten, locked up or ignored.
There have been a lot of feelings going on in my head and it’s not always easy.
It’s called being human.
I’m about as human as they come. I could never be accused of being a robot. I tend to wear my passion for whatever I’m doing, on my sleeve; and as a result, I may come off a little intense and dramatic.
Out in the real world it is expected that you behave with a certain amount of coldness. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as: professionalism and decorum. This requires you to bottle things up and not be completely honest. That lack of honesty, my friends, is one of the biggest failures in our society’s increasing isolation. Real communication is becoming obsolete.
Time and time again, I have watched people sit completely stone-faced and not express themselves– when I know they have definite opinions or feelings on the matter. It’s really hard to watch. How do you interact with that? I know, I’ve tried it– how should I say it… in the name of civility… and I usually fail miserably.
One of the biggest realizations I’ve had to face is that the feelings and responses to the things around us aren’t always going to be considered appropriate. We have to be okay with that. I think of all the people that medicate just to avoid feeling and I never want to be in that place.
We can try to ignore and avoid our feelings… even feel guilty about them but then how much are we really living? How much are we really experiencing life? It’s not always necessary to express all our feelings to other people but we at least need to acknowledge them ourselves. Appropriate or not, our feelings are real— if only to us. The people with whom we engage have those feelings too. Everyone deals with things differently… the important thing is that they are dealt with and not ignored.
It’s far too easy to become numb and go through the motions of living.
It can happen for a number of reasons:
- We’re too busy, obsessed or focused on one thing; ignoring, or refusing to deal with everything else,
- Afraid to become emotionally involved; of being used or hurt,
- Lack of self confidence and feelings of inadequacy; fear of being judged,
- Expectations of professional demeanor, void of expression; always holding your cards close,
- Purely for self preservation; protecting your self, job, relationships or image,
When we allow ourselves to fall into any of these patterns, we start living a life without. We alienate ourselves and our selves. We may find the temporary protection we need to get through any given situation but if this becomes the way we deal with every day life, something is missing. We can become lost.
Life is joy, celebration and happiness— anger, heartbreak and tears. It’s connecting and sharing those feelings with others that make us human.
It’s important to feel things.
It’s important to express things.
It’s most important that we not lose who we are in the daily routine of survival.
Take away these human traits and what do you have left?
A big blank. A life without.
Monday was the first nice day this year, where it was actually warm enough to sit out on the front porch and enjoy a cup of coffee without shivering between sips. I can’t recall, specifically, what I was daydreaming about— but my thoughts were suddenly interrupted when out of the corner of my eye, the sight of a light blue balloon drifting across the front yard came into view.
It was hovering for the most part, about a foot or two above the ground, dragging its fresh and clean, matching blue ribbon behind it. It would pause momentarily, the ribbon appearing to latch on to anything in its path— but then the balloon would tug at the ribbon and it would resume its journey.
When it reached the sidewalk that runs from the porch to the front gate, it suddenly lifted up, dancing its way through the branches of the lilacs that border the path, about ten feet in the air. By this point, I was thoroughly mesmerized and couldn’t help wondering where it was going and where it had been.
Did it escape from some unlucky child’s birthday party? A child, sheepishly letting go of the ribbon under the disapproving glare of their parents— Who, minutes before had told them not to let go?
Was it tied to a sign, alerting passersby of some impending open house or sale? Bored by the inactivity, did it tear itself free with the first convenient gust of wind that came to its rescue?
Had it drifted down, sorrowfully, from someone’s memorial balloon release? After climbing high in the sky, helping some poor mourning soul release some of their pent-up grief— it drifted far out of sight and had started its own descent in search of a final resting place?
As I followed it, I found myself getting very philosophical. My head filled with metaphors… all because of this silly blue balloon.
There are things happening all around us that often go unnoticed. Life is happening all around us. Sometimes it’s refreshing to let go of our all important tasks, open our eyes, and see things with a new, undetermined clarity.
Like this balloon, people drift in and out of our lives. Some stay for a while, becoming friends or co-workers, while other simply pass through hardly noticed. This is not to say that there is not always some impact, great or small.
Some of us find ourselves wandering, searching, exploring life– propelled by the winds of change, adapting to our surrounding, then moving on until we find the place we belong.
After a while, the balloon ended up being trapped between the front shrubs and our fences. The wind was picking up and the temperature was starting to drop. The balloon started to deflate and was forced to roll about, back and forth, trapped in the narrow path between the shrubs and fence. The ribbon continued to wrap around rocks and twigs, holding on as long as it could, until the wind would once again give the balloon the momentum to break free.
I went back to my tasks, for a time— but then later, went back out to check on the blue balloon. It had somehow freed itself from its spot and was all the way across the yard to the west. I’m not sure how it got there but it was now dirtied and shriveled, appearing to finally be at the end of its journey.
It got dark, I forgot about the blue balloon and life went on.
When the sun came up Tuesday morning, I thought to look for it again. I went to where I last saw it, looked all around, but it was gone. I had thought its life was over— I was wrong. It journeyed on.
I’ll let you fill in the metaphors here.
I’m sure most have us have heard it at some point in our lives: “Why are you here?” or “Why aren’t you ____?” Or “So what’s holding you back?” I can’t think of a better way to invalidate someone’s life. Sometimes these questions are intended as compliments — insinuating that you could do, or deserve better. Sometimes the question is more pointed: “(If you’re so good) Then why are you here.” My new response is going to be… “Walk a mile in my shoes and then ask me that question“.
Students can be especially good at asking but usually it’s their way of saying, “Why should I listen to you?”
I had the chance to meet and catch up with an old friend (and former student) the other day. We reminisced over the ‘good old days’, played where are they now and talked a lot about where our lives have taken us. Cristen is a beautiful, petite, fireball who’s not afraid to tell it like it is… which is probably one of the reasons we hit it off. We both get in our share of trouble for being a bit too honest at times.
Cristen used to keep me company while building sets at the high school. The auditorium was her safe place and where she’d go to blow off steam. In those days, she dreamed of being a performer but when she got to college, it no longer seemed like the right fit. The passion had waned. Now, she finds herself, the wife of a choir director in a sleepy Missouri town with endless tales of small town life.
I remember our phone conversations when she was in college about her decision to change career paths. I remember feeling a little sad but wanting what was best for her. Talking with her about it now, it all makes sense. But at the time, I just hated to see someone so passionate, give up on her dream. I never judged her for it and I wasn’t really sure if she was looking to me for guidance, acceptance or confirmation of her decision. All I wanted was for her to be happy.
The important thing is that I couldn’t possibly understand where she was– because I was not walking in her shoes. Cristen was getting good roles in college right off the bat, so the decision wasn’t based on a little rejection, it was something deeper. The important thing to me was that her choices were her own and she was confident they were the right ones. How can you not respect that?
In my own life, I’ve made a lot of choices that have raised eyebrows and received a lot of critique. Do I think I’m talented? Yes. Do I think I’m good enough to play in the big sand box? Well, yes, to some extent — but on my terms. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of different artists in many situations and the bottom line is that I’m too emotional and opinionated to play with most of the big boys. I wear my heart on my sleeve. In the professional world, especially in the performing arts, you have to have a really thick skin when it comes to defending your work and negotiating. I don’t have that thick skin.
I have to love what I do to be creative. I’ve always found it hard to take on a project for the money, or even just to build my resume. If I can’t get emotionally involved in it, then it won’t be my best work. I remember being offered the opportunity to direct Camelot years ago, and my initial thought was, “Ick!”, not my type of show. I guess they really wanted me, so I listened to the score and read the script but it wasn’t until I watched the movie that I found my connection. It was a momentary glance between Guinevere and Lancelot that suddenly grabbed me… and not only made me agree to do it, it made me incredibly passionate and excited about it. If I had not taken those specific steps to get to that point, I would have missed out on a rewarding experience and never grown to love that show.
Through my experiences, I’ve built up a lot of calluses and the soles of my feet are thick and worn. I’m more cautious about my steps and walk proudly through each day, knowing I’m where I need to be at this moment. I still take chances, I still stumble… but each time I get up, I’m stronger and wiser than I was before. It’s my journey– my road– and the only person with the right to question my path is me.
By the way, Cristen shared with me that she’s started taking voice lessons again and is loving it. Where that will lead? Only she knows.
Today’s Pic: SHOES!!! Michael’s and my shoes in our pantry/mud room.
Today is my 49th birthday. I’ve been think a lot over the past few weeks of how I could commemorate this year. I decided I wanted to try to blog daily. I also want to try and take one photograph each day as well. It will be interesting to see if I can actually accomplish this.
The name for this blog comes from Jonathan Larson’s song Seasons of Love from the award-winning musical RENT. “How do you measure a year in the life?”
Every day we have the opportunity to influence another person and potentially change their lives forever. It has been proven time and time again that the actions of one single person can forever change the world. Each and every one of us have the opportunity to make a difference. Will we?
Working in the performing arts and primarily with high school students, I see the world differently than most of my friends. I have the opportunity to see it through young eyes and experience it through an older but wiser mind. Yes, times are changing and yes, it’s not like it used to be. The world is constantly evolving and we continue to adjust. How do we measure those efforts? How do I measure? That’s what I hope to explore.