I woke up early one morning with the sun coming up over the New York skyline to the familiar sound of a person coughing up a lung in the alley across from my apartment. It was the morning the show a friend and I wrote was opening. And closing. It wasn’t a flop it was a one-night event, now chill.
We finished our sound check in midtown and I was in need dire need of caffeine due to my lovely early alarm clock courtesy of the smoker across the street. I walked across West 55th to grab a coffee from a little hole in the wall New York coffee shop I frequented (okay fine, it was Starbucks) and sat down to kill some time before my show. Cradling my coffee in my hands I tried to sip away the butterflies in my stomach. Not butterflies, that makes them sound too cute and gentle. They were more like evil Viking butterflies that had those weapons that you swing around aimlessly for 360 access to infliction. I had no reason to worry, we were performing a silly little show we wrote with our silly little friends at a silly little venue. Except that last part’s a lie. It was actually the Broadway concert nightclub that featured nothing but Broadway’s legendary artists. And us. I don’t think that’s why I had Viking flies in my stomach, though. It was probably a combination of things like too much coffee, not enough sleep, and the general wondering how the heck I ended up here. I really had no business singing at this place. They obviously could care less because we were making them money, but still I had to ask.
You see, in High School I aggressively initiated an evening of drama because outside of the “spring play” my school had zero theatre to offer or barely any understanding arts for that matter. I obviously had to take matters into my own hands for these poor uncultured people. You’re all welcome, by the way. I annoyed people to get them to do scenes/songs for this event and had to personally force (ahem, “inspire”) the volunteers (I use that loosely…) to learn their lines. I wrote this ridiculous short play that ended the evening and treated that stupid script like my artistic masterpiece. It was a slightly more sophisticated version of backyard theatre (something which I had become an authority on) and with my homemade fliers and an audience of mostly parents, “Drama Night” as I so brilliantly named it, went off without a hitch. What was funny about looking back on that night is, my show in New York felt like basically the same thing. I mean, this was a legitimate venue with a legitimate paying audience of people who had seen real theatre before and the majority of them were not related to me (albeit a small majority). And yet, it still felt like I was playing dress up in the back yard, or like I was dragging my unwitting high school friends into a skit I wrote. It felt like nothing had changed.
But not because my New York show didn’t feel professional, it completely did… but rather because of how seriously I treated my backyard plays. It’s embarrassing really.
I think the nerves came because, for the first time I realized, I was actually doing this, for real. How did this happen? Playing dress up and make believe and putting on little skits I wrote… it didn’t stop after childhood. Sure, I probably should’ve just grown up and gotten a real job. Could of saved myself the stress and subjecting myself to a rat infested city where my work is at the mercy of tons of public criticisms. Maybe I was nervous because I didn’t want to care about the criticisms. I just wanted to keep playing, keep making people think, making people feel, making people laugh. To tell stories in a way that no one feels alone. Which pretty much sums up why I keep doing what I’m doing. In New York you’re surrounded by the most eclectic array of humanity. I mean, on one ride on the subway you can be sitting in between a hobo, a pigeon whisperer, a rabbi, an African prince and a robot. And in the midst of all of that, God had only increased my certainty that I needed to keep doing what I was doing.
I was commuting back late one night some weeks before our show, just trying to keep myself awake on the subway. I heard the five-word decree that every tired NYC subway rider dreads: “What time is it?? SHOW TIME!” I assumed the necessary position by pulling my arms in front of my face in a defensive boxing position and pulled my feet underneath my seat and prepared to get kicked in the face from a teenage break-dancer attempting an under-practiced back flip off the subway pole. Uh, I hate New York, I thought. I was disenchanted from a day of battling similar New York scenarios and annoyed with the exhaustion it simply takes to survive here. Feeling like I should have achieved more at this point in life, bearing the weight of difficult relationships, artistic criticism and wondering if I should’ve picked a more predictable life plan.
I talk a lot about how the reality of living in the greatest city in the world is often not very glamourous. The city life takes a toll and the perks grow painfully normal. In the midst of my tired thoughts, grateful I didn’t get break-danced in the face, God whispered gently into my heart, you have what you once prayed for. I obviously didn’t pray for the stress, the anxiety or fantasized about it being so hard, but I’m really doing what I always said I would do. What I was made for, and what God promised to me. Too often we get caught up in praying for the promise that when it comes we are so quick to respond, “no, not like that.” Instead of “thank you.” Living in the promise is wonderful but often messy and harder than if we had never received it at all. But if I’m supposed to write in a way that lets people know that they’re not alone, then I should probably understand what it’s like to be overcome by the messiness of life. And when dreams come true and promises are fulfilled, yep, there’s still messiness there and plenty of interrupted sleep (*cough* looking at you, cougher). But It’s so worth it.
By: Rachel Goddard