“Like, I don’t think you understand how dead serious I am right now,” she said as she put another spoonful of Nutella in her mouth. My friend Rachel sat across from me on my bed, the only place to sit in my closet-sized New York apartment. Centered between us was the jar of Nutella we were eating like ice cream. This probably isn’t how Nutella was intended to be consumed, but we didn’t care.
We were talking about writing a parody musical about our favorite TV show. I was more entertained by the idea than committed to it. I screwed the lid back on the Nutella to indulge in the idea that we had any self-control, “I mean, if anyone should write this, it’s us.”
“Exactly!” Rachel unconsciously unscrewed the lid and we both stuck our spoons back in out of some kind of robotic obligation. “It wouldn’t have to be a big thing. We just need a studio, some music stands, and a few of our friends.”
If you know anything about irony or that life is riddled with it, you can probably guess that our show was a bit more than a few friends singing silly songs with music stands. Before we knew it, we had a stage manager, producers, a photographer, costumes, cameras, and an orchestration budget. (The orchestration budget certainly exceeded our original overall budget of zero dollars.)
I was sitting on the train one day trying to drown out the sound of a harmonica bucket drummer with the Hamilton soundtrack playing in my earphones. The conflicted noise on top of the general stress of a typical commute home in New York was making me anxious. I pulled out my ear phones to accept the harmonica bucket guy and listen to him. Not bad. But I was still weirdly anxious. The show had been completely written, and to be completely honest, I was completely certain it was not my best work. I’ve never had so many people to please when I write. Usually, I write for me. Deadlines or not, I call the shots and push myself to give everything I have to whatever I’m working on. But this was different. I had actors waiting to start memorizing lines, a team of people ready to make something of this silly thing we’d written. I had to hold myself to everyone else’s standards and forget my own for times’ sake.
And no matter what kind of optimistic spin I could try to put on it, the pressure wasn’t fun. (I also made the mistake of casting myself into the show, just to add even more to my plate. I know—stupid.) I sat there on the subway, watching the drummer use the subway poles as cymbals and that strange sound paired with his harmonica and bucket was actually very interesting, almost beautiful. I began to envy his boldness. Here is this artist, walking onto a train car of tired, angry New Yorkers and sharing his music, trying something that may have never been done before, and not seeming to care if anyone liked it. He liked it. He loved it. He smiled and closed his eyes and enjoyed his music and seemed oblivious to the fact that only about four people were acknowledging his existence.
So why does it matter? Why did he have play in such public, harsh settings? If his music was just for the sheer enjoyment of it, why didn’t he just play alone in his room? I thought about how I feel sharing my work with people. Terrified, mostly. But the enjoyment of my writing muses seems incomplete if I don’t share it. Whether it’s well received or not. It’s as if someone invested in money in me, and I just took that ball of cash and buried it in the sand. (I feel like someone else came up with that analogy before me… )
As the train pulled up to 34th street and the drummer began to pack up his sticks, it occurred to me that he had given me a strange piece of encouragement that he probably never planned to. He was just having fun. I thought. I should just…do that. It was truly the dumbest profound moment I’ve ever had, but I swear, it changed my life. Here I was, living in the greatest city in the world, doing what I love best which is writing, in my favorite medium which is theatre, about my favorite TV show, with my best friends. God had given me the biggest gift and was blessing every part of it, providing us with everything we needed and completing our joy. And here I had the nerve to be stressed about it.
I decided then to not care if anything was successful or if anyone even liked it. I was going to have fun. I was going to enjoy the gift I’d been given and not bury it because I was anxious.
If you’re wondering, the show did happen. Everything did work out miraculously. I felt like I was going to vomit the entire day, but I had the most fun I had ever had doing a show. And yes, we did finish that jar of Nutella.
By: Rachel Goddard
(Adapted from the Refined Magazine column Diary of a New Yorker: http://www.polishedconference.com/refined-magazine/ )