"But there's something in me birthing on the horizon and nobody wants to hear me lament about the contractions I'm experiencing."
One of the reasons why I hate engaging with new people (besides the fact that I'm an introvert) is that, predictably, the "What do you do for a living?" question pops up. Sometimes it's camouflaged as, "What brought you to the city?" or "What industry are you in?" The answer to those questions is so complex, so layered, and so multi-faceted that I have to take 3 seconds to chose whether I want to tell the long story or the more acceptable abridged version of my life events. I often don't know where to start. Do I lead with my career as a professional performer, going into detail about my extensive acting, singing, and dancing training? Do I give them the modified "I'm a teaching artist who sometimes performs Off-Broadway" schpill? Or do I tell them that I actually make thousands of dollars a month pouring dirty Bleu Goose Martinis "for a living" and asking people if they want fries or coleslaw with their $21 medium-rare burgers? And then, that brings me to the question: what is "a living?" I mean, is it the thing that pays your bills or is it the thing that brings you the most joy? Or, perhaps, it isn't the thing that always brings you the most joy or pays your bills, but it's your calling--your divine assignment, the fulfilling of your destiny.
As usual, the conversation falls in my lap as these people I don't know listen with wide, googly eyes in awe of my very exciting and unconventional lifestyle. Compared to their boring 9-5 desk jobs, my life seems full of wonderful excursions, plentiful performance opportunities, and an array of possibilities for the future. But who I am and what I do for a living are two different things. Now, more than ever, it's becoming a choice between telling the truth or telling the fairy-tale. Who I am, right now, is a person preparing to pursue my passion for ministry, and although I've loved the fairy-tale of my many artistic adventures, there's something new coming my way and I have to fit that into the long list of things I explain to people who are fascinated by my daring to dream. I mean, do they really want to know the truth--that there is constant conflict between who I am and who I'm becoming? Do they want to hear the difficulties of choosing between seminary and doctoral programs? Do I tell the truth about how my many purposes and passions compete for my daily affection, that I cry through sleepless nights because I'm overwhelmed by the diversity of my dreams? My life is layered in such a way that already makes it difficult to unpack who I am in just a few minutes, and now, I'm also in labor. I've been pregnant with this possibility for years, and now I'm in labor. I've loved my life as a performer, teacher, creator, and producer, but I am in labor and there's no room for my labor pains in our surface-level conversation. Even whilst catching up with old friends, I experience this sort of isolation in my calling that makes it difficult to talk about "what I do for a living" anymore. Yes, I was excited about making my Off Broadway debut earlier this year. Yes, I'm thrilled to be traveling again this fall doing something I love, but there's something in me birthing on the horizon and nobody wants to hear me lament about the contractions I'm experiencing.
Generally, in conversation, I try to remain upbeat, withholding my lamentations for more intimate discourse. I give a tip-of-the-iceberg overview of who I am and what I care about while covering the giant mass hidden beneath. As I've transitioned into ministry over the past 12 months--answering a call that I've put on hold for years--the "What do you do for a living?" question has created much anxiety and I'm often not truthful with myself or others. Beyond explaining myself to strangers, I have to encounter those I've known for years and reintroduce myself. In that process of re-introduction, I'm met with questions that don't contribute to my growth or confidence, but, conversely, to my anxiety about stepping into this very unknown territory of myself. It's like, I'm giving birth and in the midst of my contractions, people are asking, "How'd you get pregnant?" I'm in the midst of pushing this unexpected "baby" out and people are saying, "I didn't know you were expecting," as if that's important right now, or at all. My pain seemingly goes unnoticed, the necessary isolation is immensely frustrating, and what I do for a living is increasingly irrelevant.
I want to crawl into myself in the middle of these conversations, but I die a slow death as I force myself to go into detail about what it's really like to be a working actor, or about the bureaucracy of public school systems that keep good teaching artists away. Maybe one day, when the infant becomes a toddler, I'll be thrilled to talk about the life that led me to myself. Maybe, then, what I do for a living will coincide with my passions and my purposes. Until then, however, my contractions become more frequent and I long for relief that I'll only get in struggling through this blog post.
Currently In Labor