Saturday, November 21, 2015

On Being a Novice Dramaturg

If someone were to ask me, "Hey, so you dramaturg. How do you become one of those?" I would laugh hysterically and apologize for being the worst person in the world to tell anyone that.

It's true that I'm a dramaturg. If you've never head the term before, let me explain what it involves. It's often attached to literary departments in theaters and to playwriting, and involves researching historical and cultural contexts of shows, providing information on past productions, finding and writing scholarly and journalistic criticism, as well as providing writing aid and structural advice in the creation of new plays. As a professor of mine once described it, it's like being a midwife - you don't have the baby and you're not the doctor, but you're there to help the whole birthing process along. In terms of that comparison, I'm like a nursing student who just started her residency program. I've worked on couple of shows and proudly use the word to describe my career path (or at least career attempts) since others started using it rather than deferring to my box office "day job". But I don't kid myself and establish that there is a distinct difference between dramaturgs who a more professional career in the field and my endeavors. Let me break it down for you:

1) Experience: When people around you say, "Yeah, I've worked on over 300 shows," you can't help but feel really green. I'm new to the field. I know that. The bio I wrote up to be printed in the program of the show I just worked on might be the shortest bio I've ever seen in any theater program ever. So when people treat me like an expert in the field, I appreciate the respect, but I worry that they'll discover just how new I am. Likewise, being continually treated like I have no idea what is going on is equally worrying - because it makes me wonder at what level I have to reach to be considered a pro. Shouldn't it be the caliber of my work that can help make up for lesser experience? But I understand I have a long way to go.

2) Training: All dramaturgs I've spoken with have MAs or MFAs. Two did particular training in dramaturgy. While I now have plans to pursue further education, I've decided to go in a slightly different direction. After looking at dramaturgy programs, I feel pretty comfortable with my research skills, my ability to write critically about theater and plays and discussing them in our current cultural moment, and to work with scripts that need special attention (such as the works of Shakespeare). A great deal of this falls into the fields of my undergraduate work. What I'm not as comfortable with is my ability to provide help to new plays in terms of writing advice and play structure. At the same time, I'm looking to improve and my explore my own playwriting abilities and start calling myself a writer, damn it, instead of always adding it as an afterthought. So I've decided to start looking into MFA programs for playwriting. And the best part about MFA programs? Most of them don't require you to take the GRE. Which is seriously why I've avoided looking into grad school until now.

3) Reimbursement: Of course, one of the clearest divide when I talk about my work to others is the fact that I continue to work as an intern or on a volunteer basis. During my playwriting class, I described this to one of my classmates and he was aghast that anyone would work for free. I explained to him how this is kind of the norm in the fine arts world, especially in dramaturgy. After being told of grad students and those with masters degrees still working for free until they can get to whatever magical job or experience level grants them monetary reimbursement for their work, I'm not terribly surprised that I have (and likely will, for the foreseeable future) be working without pay (though I along with it rather grudgingly most of the time). I'm getting people interested and managed to get work - and that's a far more difficult hurdle. What's far more frustrating is seeing the reaction of, "What do you mean, you work for free?" and that this is so far off the radar for many people while it's been a reality in my life since I first started applying for internships in college.

4) Dramaturgy in practice: I admit that I have not exactly take the most orthodox approach in my pursuit of this field. I don't have much of a performance background in theater, I haven't done much scholarly writing in the field, I haven't worked directly in writing aspect of a new play, and I haven't done much public writing about plays as of yet. What I have done is a lot of visuals - putting together a book of photos for the cast creative team on a show, posting quotes and photos for another show for the same audience, and creating display boards for audiences to look at. I'm really interested in audience engagement and, as this is something that theaters are beginning to look at and find more important, is something that can really help me along. But it's not always the first thing that comes to mind when dramaturgs are asked aboard for a show. So I've got my own personal interests - how to better engage audiences with show, how to give them more background about productions and scripts and historical context - to contend with when approaching opportunities. And a lot of this falls on me to say, "Yes, I'll do this AND I'm also interested in doing this, if you'd like." Thankfully, my box office and front of house experiences helps me out a lot in these respect.

Clearly, I have a lot to learn. But here's what I do have: a lot of compassion - for people, for theaters, for subject matter plays deal with; a whole lot of curiosity - I'm one of those people who look up one article on Wikipedia and spend two hours jumping from topic to topic; and a knack for research - I've been fortunate enough to have a liberal arts background that's begun to help me out in the long run. I also have the privilege of having family and friends that supports me and the fortuity to be around the right people and in the right places at the right time. Also, I'm used to listening rather than talking - I love hearing people talk about what they are passionate about and what they care about. Which is very helpful - dramaturgs do a lot of listening and a lot less speaking during the whole rehearsal process. Though we aren't recognized for our work the way that actors and directors are, there is a certain reward in knowing someone has learned from you and that you've helped a production in a unique way, filled a certain void that others may not have even known was there. And for me, that's accomplishment enough.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Into the Unknown

If someone had told me last November that the next twelve months would be the most incredibly changing months of my life thus far, I probably wouldn't have believe them (and then been worried for the next twelve months at what exactly they meant). But they have been profoundly life-changing. Where I'm at right now is an entirely different place from where I was just a year ago.

Let me catch you up a bit. Since just September alone, I've gotten a new box office job (back at one of my favorite theaters in town, the Guthrie), landed a dramaturgy gig with a show that opens this Friday, gotten two leads on further dramaturgy work, seen a hell of a lot of theater, read some plays, took a playwriting class, started writing a couple of new plays, and began looking at MFA programs. I've been doing nothing but theater and I've never been happier.

Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been a walk in the park. I've had the usual experiences - perpetual fatigue, no social life, a diet based mostly on carbs and protein-based substances (lots of eggs and lots of pizza) that when expressed is generally preaching to the choir. And then there's the idiosyncrasies of any production - the show I dramaturged was a big learning experience and an insight into the complexities of the production process. And then there's the crippling self-doubt - also unfortunately commonplace - in which I wonder why the hell am I doing this. During tech, it's not unusual for actors to proclaim that they hate theater. It's a little hard to not go through it all and not have a small bit of hatred for what you love. As messed up as that might sound to you, trust me that you learn to deal with it and it often makes the successes all the more important.

What I'm struggling with on some level is where I am, where I'm going, and how I got here. In my head, I'm still that kid who grew up in the suburbs and is trying to get a grasp on what I'm doing with my life while in actuality I'm pretty urbanized by now, know what I want to do, and am more or less doing it. It just keeps boggling my mind, as one of my good friends from high school who did theater for all four of our years there and studied and performed in Chicago and New York is now a flight attendant for Delta, while I've pulled a 180 and jumped into the theater community through an open window. We're both happy but it just goes to show that, as John Lennon so eloquently put it, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."

Why am I saying all of this? Because I've changed - and this blog is changing along with me. Never fear, I still plan on being the same nerdy, fandom-focused person I've always been. But there's going to be a lot more theater posting, I figure. I'm trying to get a grasp on how I want to discuss theater beyond my work and this is likely the testing grounds for it all. So bear with me - this, as it always has been, is a work in process.

Let's go.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


And now for something completely different... (sort of).

A thought struck me today while watching Doctor Who, as tends to happen when watching that show. It was "The Snowmen" episode when Clara is introduced (re-introduced, I suppose, but not as a Dalek but a Victorian barmaid/governess). When asked by Madame Vastra to describe in one word why she followed the Doctor, Clara replied, "Curiosity." And I don't know why but at that moment I had a grand epiphany.

Just recently, in one of the many job interviews I had, I described myself as having a lot of curiosity. It's true. Being an only child, I had find ways to entertain myself and developing a broad sense of curiosity was necessary. It's led me to pursue writing, dramaturgy, and personal hobbies, as well as collecting a lot of information that will never be useful but sure is fun to know.

My epiphany, of sorts, was this: curiosity, while a great driving force in my personality and artistic work, also has a dark side. For as much as it leads me to discover and do great things, it also leads me to ill.

I'm fascinated by people. I always want to know more about them, to know what they think and how they see the world. It's largely why writing is so compelling to me - I love nothing more than creating and interacting with characters. However, there's a line at which too much curiosity turns into worry - and anxiety. I began to yearn for knowledge I don't have - but worry about what would happen if I did know it. I want to go out and explore more of the world - but I fear what it will reveal to me. I begin to fill in the gaps of what I don't know - about people (especially people I care about deeply), about places, about the world - with stories and hypothesis and ideas. Sometimes they're proven right. Sometimes they're proven wrong. Sometimes they begin to blur and I can't quite tell where the fact and the fiction begins. And it's a little bit scary. And so the anxiety begins to roll in. 

This isn't Anxiety with a big A like I've talked about previously (though there's a link, I'm sure) but human anxiety, things we all fear. We're alarmed about the fact that we can never completely know a person, even those we love. We're all worried about learning something about a person that shatters our view of them. We're scared that our world view will fall apart when we see something we don't like or didn't expect. We don't like it when our own interest and passion in things leads us to something we don't like to know or that challenges what we do know.

The thing is, this happens. And it will happen again. And again. Our perceptions of the world will be tested, broken, reformed, and blended. And while it can be scary, it can also be grand and brilliant and beautiful. I've been going through some of my old writing, trying to see if anything can be salvaged from it to be rewritten or made into something new, and seeing how much my view of the world has changed in just a few years is incredible. I always strove to be a deep, understanding, insightful person in high school, but I think this sort of backfired and made me melancholy and a bit pretentious. But when I stopped focusing on becoming this way and reached out to people and let them reach out to me, sought out new experiences and let impulsive actions sweep me away from time to time, I became a lot more understanding and knowledgeable than when I was trying so hard to be.

The tricky thing is learning to accept all the beautiful and difficult and ugly and mind-blowing things curiosity reveals to us. There are things I wish I didn't know about people and things I wish to know that I will never learn, just as I have revealed to much of myself to others and not enough to some. Or have revealed the wrong parts and hidden away the right. Simply put, being human is hard, and because we aren't as lucky as all of those telepathic Doctor Who races who can express exactly what they're thinking and feeling through thoughts, communicating is often difficult.
Thankfully, we have art and science. I completely believe that art helps us say what we could not otherwise and science helps us discover and understand concepts that we would otherwise wonder about for eternity. Both of these areas are spurred by curiosity and, in curiosity, there is hope. I grew up hearing the idea that "curiosity killed the cat," as a warning about being misled by our own passion and interest. Which is fair - curiosity can be dangerous. But it can also be the one thing that keeps us going and keeps us trying new things. Too often we forget the whole saying: "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back." Because even when curiosity can lead us into danger, it can give us new insight, new knowledge, new understanding. While it can also scare us and worry us, it can also heal and inspire us.

And so, I'm a creature of curiosity, meaning I'll go wherever the winds take me and create a thousand endings and beginnings. I'll always be looking for something knew to learn - about the world, about myself, and about everyone in it. I may not always like what I learn, but I'll take it all in, knowing there's always something new around the corner. And, to put it all in one word: Geronimo.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Monster Under the Bed

I've decided to write a follow-up to my last blog post, not because I want to really, but because I need to, as I keep coming in and out of one of the worst mental health spells that I've had.. well, probably ever. There's a reason for this. I just lost my job (for complicated reasons I won't discuss here). I found out my best friend has been in the hospital since June 9th with a very rare health condition and she can't have visitors. I was supposed to be adopting a cat but things seem to have fallen through. I have a lot of spare time to think about what's happened in the last few months and frame it terms of only messing up, and I have even more time to convince myself that I've come nowhere in the last year. I have a lot of issues from years past I've shoved aside but haven't yet worked through and it's all put me into a deep, dark well of depression. With my anxiety accompanying it, it's like having a pair of nasty, revolting monsters sulking through my mind.

Of course, many of my feelings about myself are an outright lie. Anxiety and depression love to lie to you. They like to make untruths and impossibilities seem like perfectly reasonable things and all the while convince you that this is the way things are, that you're just awful and wrong and messed up. It's been described elsewhere as constantly fighting a battle against a foe who's entire strategy is to convince you that there is no war going on at all. It's a battle I've unknowingly been fighting my entire life and I'm only now beginning to see. It does, however, help to explain my great fascination for stories that describe fighting some great dark force, be it magical or entirely too human, that have great psychological effects (Harry Potter, LOTR, Wheel of Time, The Hunger Games, etc), as well as stories that contain a lot of internal conflict in their characters (Jane Eyre is the first to come to mind and finally I can begin to better understand my mad obsession with that novel).

I'm struggling now to keep moving forward. In the last few weeks, I've managed to find plenty of things to keep my busy - job searching and interviews, watching movies, reading, writing, and attending the Minnesota Fringe Festival as well as other theater grousp and seeing as many theater shows as possible. But Fringe ended over and things slowed down down. And I felt that darkness roll back in like the tide. Not that it ever was gone - I just managed to keep it at bay, at least until the last day of Fringe when I missed most of the day because I was feeling so down. I spent large parts of the day crying for reasons mostly unknown. Little things would set me off - seeing a post online about Chris Evans and his anxiety, seeing a friend comment on something on Facebook and wonder why they so rarely comment on my posts, interpreting things (from people's comments to social media interactions) in such negative ways I had no clear idea of what was actually going on, hearing a song and bursting into tears because it's so hopeful and I feeling like I've got nothing. Even when I did have better days, I could feel the sadness floating underneath, coming and going in waves, waiting for the tide to overtake me.

Overall, I'm exhausted - and largely because I've been trying to pretend things are okay and getting better. Right after I'd lost my job, the bulk of my anxiety disappeared and I thought, "Well, maybe it was largely work related." Wrong. It's just changed and made itself more subtle, like it was before. Just today I told my parents things were fine until I had a meltdown over dinner. Anxiety has now teamed up with its dark twin depression and reared its ugly head in a way I don't have much experience with.

I've struggled with depression since I was young and I knew it was issue but never thought it was something I'd have to actually clinically face. Even more than my anxiety I brushed it off, telling my therapist I just have "blue spells." I was wrong. It is as much an issue as anxiety, perhaps more so, because I don't know how to deal with it at all. Anxiety, in my experiences, talks to you and vocalizes in metal processes how awful you are. But depression is silent. It creeps up on you and is all the sudden there when you wake up in the morning or read something or drop something while making dinner. It's like a poison and you have no idea what antidote you need to neutralize it. Even when you think you're doing better it comes back and you relapse like someone trying to get over the flu. If anxiety is the elephant in the room, depression is the monster under the bed.

This comic from Hyperbole and a Half is one I've related to for years but here recently have related to even more so. Her depiction of depression and its affects are spot-on for me, especially in terms of talking about it. There's no easy way to tell someone you've had thoughts of self-harm - and this is a terrible time and place to admit it. But I have no idea how else to address it. I've never acted on them - I'm too scared, which is a mercy. When these thoughts appear, I get nauseous and terrified and I know immediately I need to do something to get out of these thoughts rather than let them overwhelm me. I don't know why or how it works - it just does. But the thoughts are still there and are no less disturbing.

I'm afraid of being a burden to people. I don't want to be that person who shows up and mopes around. I've gotten lucky - the last few times I've seen friends, it's been on good days. Yet I know I'm not always going to get that lucky. I'm worried that I'm beginning this trend of "oh, she's feeling down because she lost her job," which isn't it at all. Yes, losing my job sucked and yes, I've complained about it quite a bit. But it was just part of the trigger for a larger problem that's much more difficult to finagle. Even after having two successful interviews, the whole vicious cycle continued as I wait to hear the results.  I also struggle with the fact that most of the time I do pretend I'm fine. I can usually put on a smile even if I feel like I'm falling apart inside. In short, I internalize anything and most people are never the wiser.

I want to be more honest about how I feel, but we don't exactly live in a society that prizes honesty in our feelings. I'm trying to be more direct when people ask me how I'm doing rather than just saying "fine" or "good." But I worry this will cause people to avoid me because they think I'm doing poorly or need space or, my biggest fear, that they think they're responsible in some way. I want to be social but I'm worried that no one wants to hang out with me because of what I'm dealing with. I'm not even sure I'm any fun to be around right now. Even though I have a good handful of friends, I feel like it's often up to me to contact and make plans and, while I never used to mind, it's hard for me to feel empowered to do this right now. So I sit in my apartment mull over all the junk I mentioned previously. I need help but I don't know how to ask and I don't know what I need.

So I'm writing this damn post instead. The good news is that I think I'm through the worst of it and I never want to let myself get this bad again. However, I can also feel it lurking in the back of my mind, waiting for me to weaken again. The end of July was like my immune system getting weak and all of this finding an opportunity to break in. Realizing that I haven't been the same semi-confident person that I was last winter hurt even more and made things worse. But I remember how I was and how I felt and I want that back. These problems are all my own and I'm not going to stop fighting.
And I've found support in a place I wasn't expecting - a horror movie. I watched The Babadook a few weeks ago just when things were starting to get bad. I was impressed at the creepy, suspenseful elements and good plot. But most of all I found the allegory of the Babadook interesting. In the film, he's represented as character in a horrifying children's picture book come to life to torment a grieving woman and her son. However, in the end, it's less important that the Babadook is a physical monster and more that it represents grief, sorrow, and depression in life - and how trying to ignore these issues or letting them take over can have terrible consequences. "If it's in a word or in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook," is a line that from the scary book that is repeated and becomes integral to the story. You can't get rid of depression once you see it, you can only learn to live with it. It's the real monster that waits in the dark and the only thing you can do is face it and fight it and learn to understand it.

Knowing the monsters I've always feared are real - at least mentally - is kind of a relief. Now it's just learning how to deal with them - and how to fight.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Elephant in the Room

So it's after 1am in my part of the world, I can't sleep, and I'm very much grappling with something I've been trying to avoid dealing with a better part of my life. Though I've already taken steps to recognize and work through it, tonight I'm really beginning to sense how much this - well, sort of thing - has a grip over my life.
I'm not the only person in the world to have anxiety, but anxiety sure as hell doesn't let you easily recognize that. Throughout high school, when many people (including some of my friends at the time) began to realize they had it, I saw my own struggles and continually compared mine to theirs (which, of course, you really cannot do - pain and struggles are relative, not equatable - but of course I didn't know that) and decided that, no, I was just shy and awkward, I wasn't suffering from anything more than slight social anxiety that I would grow out of.

Fast forward to college, where answering questions in class in a lecture of over one hundred people terrified me, but I did it because I cared so much about what I was learning and I was finally beginning to believe that I had something interesting to say because people actually listened to me, which I found amazing for someone that had mostly been talked over previously. I chose to believe I was leaving my anxiety behind me, ignoring the days I dreaded presentations so much my stomach hurt, as well as the days I beat myself over mistakes I made with friends and people I cared about so much that I would cry for hours and spiral myself into a deluge of depression and apathy. My roommate at the time discovered she had anxiety as well and I figured I couldn't have it because I wasn't having panic attacks like hers. I skipped more lectures in my abnormal psychology class than any other class I took in college because I "already knew the material" - somewhat true but my excuse to avoid feeling what I thought was psychology student syndrome, but was likely the first stages of self-diagnosis.

Fast-forward to now. I have a job that has challenged and changed me. I am surrounded by people I love. And because of many things that have happened in the last few weeks and months, I have finally acknowledged I have anxiety. Sometimes I have panic attacks that cause me to lose my sense of rationality and cry and be unable to breath. Sometimes I make mistakes and beat myself up about it - the larger the mistake, the more I beat myself up about it. I jump to conclusions about what people think about me and the way they treat me - usually negative. I read into things people and often assume that they are thinking poorly of me/did something because of something I did/am generally a terrible friend and person. I worry about being self-pitying and yet refuse to acknowledge the real struggles I am having. I lose or gain appetite erratically, I have sleeping issues (like right now), I let my sensitive nature take over until I am nothing but a giant, sensitive ball of emotion that can be pushed too far by the slightest prod. I worry perpetually - about everything, everyone I care about. I fall into blue periods of depression where I can't actually believe that I have much value as a person. These moments are the most troubling, and they've become more common in the last few months. But this is where the good news comes in.

Luckily for myself and for everyone I know, I've started seeing a therapist. I realized what was going on and ultimately knew I couldn't continue like this. Life is too short to let fear and worry take over. But of course that's bringing in new concerns - will I be able to afford this in the long run, what if this doesn't work, my therapist is pregnant - what happens when she leaves and I have to switch to a new person, what if she doesn't actually listen to the details of what I'm saying and this isn't going to help? But it is helping - already she's given me great advice and I can feel a change, though it's small and slow in coming. It doesn't help that a great deal of my life in in continual upheaval and I am a class-A pro at making stupid mistakes. And also the struggle is that once I recognized I had anxiety, it gained a certain kind of power once I began to see just how clearly it's consumed my life.

I'm certain that every person who struggles with anxiety struggles with it in a different way, to a different degree. I know that mine is relatively minor. I can usually do social things without much trouble. I love being around people and they make me feel better about things (most of the time). I don't have long bouts of depression and there are some things I don't worry about. But my anxiety shifts and changes. Sometimes it's like a gnat, buzzing around your head, always there, but not always noticed. And sometimes - like tonight - it's the elephant in the room, a giant hulking beast waiting for you to make a wrong move so it can come in and trample you. And sometimes it's something much worse, something I don't know how to describe - something utterly monstrous that only wants to devour and destroy you. I don't like not being in control and the scariest parts of anxiety for me are those moments when I so clearly feel the lack of control I have over my own mind.

I know that I can't always have control in every situation - such is life - but I should be able to feel like I have a grasp on my own mind. Which is why I'm writing this post tonight. I told my therapist that I didn't feel the need to share my problems with the world, on Facebook or any other capacity, because I could just tell the people who needed to know and deal with it as I went along. But I've realized I'm wrong. I do want to tell people because I don't have anything to hide and because if one person reads this post and realizes something about themselves, then that's more than I could ever hope for. Self-diagnosis is tricky - sometimes it can be worrying over small concerns. But sometimes it can be healthy and incredibly important. If I hadn't spent a night rereading about anxiety and looking up discussions about it on the internet, I never would have convinced myself to set up an appointment with a therapist and learn to work through all of this.

But I also want to share this post for another reason. I've always posted all of my blog writings to Facebook, inviting any of my friends to read it because - well, why not? I like people to read my writing and sometimes it can spur discussion. Here recently, I've been using Facebook a lot more than I have in recent years and I finally realized why. When I was in college or even shortly after college, I used Facebook to share what I was doing with friends - usually my roommate - because it was fun to show off what I was doing. Now I feel like I'm showing off more on Facebook, but really I'm sharing the experiences or things I'd want to share with my friends but don't because I'm often on my own. I live on my own now and I'm beginning to see how many things I would have shared with my roommate instead of the internet. I haven't spoken to her for a while - she has her own struggles and I'm worried to burden her with mine - and so I guess I'm writing because I can't really tell her right now. In many ways, Facebook has also become some sort of device to share with people things I'd like to tell them but whom I don't often see or I'd feel weird messaging all the time. It's a sort of surrogate, passive communication where I put out stuff and hope people will respond to it instead of just telling them. I don't know if it's good or bad - but I do know that social media has played a fairly significant role in my anxiety issues, especially with blogging.

Regardless of all of this, I am also writing this because I do want other people to know - and yet, I'm not actually telling them, I'm writing this post that I can't guarantee anyone will see. And yet, I want to share what's going on and I want to talk about it, but I don't want to totally interrupt people's lives to do so - but if any of you reading this are some of my Facebook friends, please know I will certainly talk about this with you. I want people to know because anxiety is so prevalent but so easily misunderstood. Just writing this post has been a struggle - honestly, I thought about writing about my early recognitions of this at least a year or two ago. It's hard because as someone who is always trying to put other people first, I need to learn that sometimes I need to do what is best for me. It isn't selfish and I'm not trying to gain attention. I just need to talk about it - and right now, this is the medium that suites me best.

TL;DR: I have anxiety. It sucks, but I'm working through it. I've avoided dealing with it because - well, anxiety - but I'm not going to pretend it isn't there any more. I'm stronger than I think. As a nice quote I came across says: "So far you've survived 100% of your worst days. You're doing great."
Often I need to remember this.

In closing, a note: I keep a printed out image on my nightstand that I found online sometime in the last year or two. It reads: "Sometimes I feel like giving up, then I remember I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong." Anxiety is one of those motherfuckers. And I am not going to stop proving each and every day that it is wrong.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sensitivity (and a Real Neat Blog Award)

It occurs to me as I grow older that I am, in fact, a rather sensitive person. This isn't really all that much of a surprise. I cried a lot as a kid. I don't usually like violence in film or television (with the rather strong exceptions of Quentin Tarantino films, Shakespeare, murder mysteries, and anything involving superheroes). I took a sensitivity quiz and, on a scoring that 14 means you are very sensitive, I scored 21. My coworker recently joked when I injured myself at work that it's a marvel that natural selection hasn't weeded me out. This has taken on a different meaning in my head upon realizing due to some strong emotional reactions I've had in the last week that it's lucky that I've emotionally made it this far.

I haven't stayed consistently sensitive. I was a bit of a harder, cooler person in high school and held onto some of that through college. But here recently I've really let that slip away. Maybe it's the relief that I don't have to work retail anymore. Maybe it's feeling really, really comfortable with who I am and what I'm doing and where I'm doing it all. However, I'm worried that I might be slipping too far and getting too soft, too sugary, letting my inner Hufflepuff run rampant and not remembering that if I am not at least a little Slytherin and Ravenclaw that I will utterly be taken advantage of. Or I'll be too emotionally exhausted to do much of anything.
It's a hard balance to achieve. I like being sensitive. I like being able to gauge the emotional quality of a room just by feeling it (which in theatre is kind of nifty when it comes to sensing how an audience is reacting). I like being a little different, that people see me as kindly and good-natured and maybe a little to nice to be totally sane. I don't like that it makes it easy for people to get a rise out of me or manipulate me or make me look foolish. I've become somewhat like the walking embodiment of Bubbles from The Powderpuff Girls. I don't know how this happened but it's simultaneously great and terrible.

That's not to say I'm always nice or sweet, innocent soul. I hold grudges. I have a sharp tongue and a strong sense of sarcasm. I'm impulsive and a bit cynical and don't always think things through before jumping in and doing them. There's a bit of a know-it-all and a notorious schemer on some level. Some days, I think I'm just a complex human individual. Other days, I just feel like a mess.

Things have been a bit messy mentally the last few days but admitting that helps. Being human is messy. We're complex and our traits our not as easily elucidated as the Sorting Hat makes them. I embrace my sensitivity, but I can't let it limit me or overpower me. I'm far more than that.

Aside from that bit of pensive self-thinking, I have recently been nominated for a Real Neat Blog Award by the wonderful Anna over at Just Rise Above It. I'm supposed to nominate other blogs but sadly I don't read many other blogs these days because I am busy but mostly incredibly lame. However, I will repost the "rules" upon getting the nomination and answer the questions asked of me.

Hey, look, awards logo.
  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)
And here are my answers to Anna's questions:

1) Where do most visits to your blog come from?
Mostly the United States. However, here recently, they've all been from Russia.

2) What are your creative pursuits, besides blogging?
Writing, researching as a dramaturg, watching theater, endeavoring to be a playwright, resurrecting my flute playing and then injuring my finger, getting stitches, and being unable to play flute for at least ten days. And reading. I think reading counts as creativity - you visualize all these different places and people in your head, after all.

3) What is your favourite quote?
One I've got the shortened version of tattooed to my arm: "It's a most distressing affliction to have a sentimental heart and a skeptical mind" from the novel Sugar Street. Though I also love this one from Oscar Wilde: "It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still love it." And this one from F Scott Fitzgerald: "Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person."

4) How do attempt to stay healthy, in whatever form you take ‘healthy’ to mean?

 As much sleep as possible, lots of water, eating various forms of edible things that people generally claim are nutritious. I like running and doing yoga, but if I'm off mentally, I won't feel physically well either. So I try not to worry about weight and diet too strictly. I don't like being too strict with myself food-wise as I did that for two years in college and was terribly miserable. Healthy for me focuses a lot on personal relationships as well and if I'm not feeling right with friends or family, then I'm not feeling healthy either.

5) What do people not expect about you?
My tattoos. People are always surprised that I have any at all, let alone four. Having tattoos then causes a lot of assumptions (which segues nicely to the discussion I had above about being sensitive and yet not) which I think is interesting and yet troubling. But yeah, the tattoos.

6) Anything you wished you had learnt sooner?
Hey, eighteen year old me - remember when you were totally terrified you were going to never ever be kissed or be found attractive by a human male? Yeah, shut the hell up, relax, and live a little. You're going to be fine. 

7) Share one of your current favourite recipes with us!
I made a variation on this herbed gnocchi recipe last Thanksgiving and loved it. I swapped out the thyme for sage and added prosciutto and it was amazing. 10/10, would recommend.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oliver Sacks
One day I will have to live in a world without Oliver Sacks in it. That day is a lot closer than I thought, from the op-ed post he wrote for the New York Times. It saddens me as he was one of the first psychologists whose work I read, long before I majored in psychology. I read Musicophilia somewhere around my senior year of high school when I was taking AP psych but planning on being a music educator. I read and watched Awakenings and sobbed. I still have The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat waiting to be read and wanted to buy his newer release The Mind's Eye for a while now. The time to do these things is soon.

I love the humanity of Sacks, the way he talks and thinks about people. It's really poetic and beautiful. The way in which he speaks about his own death in such terms is no less beautiful but certainly very heartbreaking.

This is another sign to me how fast the world is spinning. Already I've been at my new job a month. It has been nearly two years since I graduated from college. I am a far different person than I was just a year ago. The world around me feels like a different place and I'm seeing in it with different eyes, experiencing it with brilliant wonderful people, some I knew before, some new and very welcome to my life. I have advanced romantically further than I ever expected already this year, with great happiness and bittersweetness. I have lost someone again, a Facebook friend I didn't know well but a musician I had played with back in high school. Her death is a shock to me because she is younger than my parents and someone whose death I never thought I'd see in memorials across my Facebook page. I feel old and young, knowledgeable and naive, experienced and oh so unprepared. This, I think, is the average state of living - a continual paradox of getting it and not having a clue.

I don't look forward to living in a world without Oliver Sacks. But a world without loss, without change, is not one I am in nor can understand. Loss is a large part of life. But so too is living it. The most one can do is learn to live with a sort of flexibility and grace, learning to accept defeat with a certain poise, to keep confidence in fighting when the battle isn't over, and to keep on thinking and breathing and believing when that static ennui of being rolls over. Oliver Sacks somehow manages to achieve all of these in his reflection on his own mortality, an amazing feat that should be lauded, because it certainly isn't easy. While all things end, his words continue on and keep people thinking and trying and hoping. And that's amazing.

[Apparently I'm feeling really metaphysical today. It's nice to have my brain running like this again - I missed it.]