Sunday, February 19, 2017


I've been thinking about courage a lot lately, because I know a lot of people who have been talking about it - doing courageous things, sharing times when they were courageous, honoring others who have been courageous, thanking those who gave them courage. And the thought that keeps going through my head in response to all of this is that it takes an incredible amount of courage to be me.

Now, before anybody jumps down my throat, I think it takes a lot of courage to be a lot of people, especially in today's political climate. I'm not just talking about the protestors, either, the people out in the streets standing up for what they believe is right. I think it must take an extraordinary amount of courage for Betsy DaVos to get out of bed in the morning and go in to do a job an entire country knows she is not qualified to do. I'm not saying she gets bonus points for doing it, as I am part of that country full of people who knows she is not qualified for the position she was given; I'm saying it takes courage for her to show up and try and fail so consistently. So I'm not trying to toot my own horn by saying I'm courageous. I know a lot of other people are, too, and probably in bigger ways than I am. But it still takes a lot of courage to be me.

I was listening to some people talk about courageous moments in their life not too long ago, so of course I started thinking about courageous moments in mine. One woman talked about growing up with a name that everyone made fun of. I can absolutely relate to that. As she was talking, I started to think about what I would talk about had I been asked to talk about courage, and I found myself stuck with too many options.
  • My first date, I asked him out.
  • I asked out my date to prom.
  • The first time I went to a movie by myself was on homecoming night of my senior year of high school.
  • I stepped into the ring at a capea and got run over by the bull.
  • I asked my mom to teach me how to play the guitar because singing in front of people terrifies me.
  • I have said "I love you" to two men who did not say it back.
  • I traveled Europe on my own.
  • I traveled Australia on my own.
  • I moved 800 miles away from my friends and family to pursue the impossible dream.
  • I wake up every morning knowing that my pursuit of that dream has made me a failure and a disappointment in the eyes of some of my family members.
  • I am an actor who has been turned down by so many productions, I can't even count them anymore.
  • I took myself to the emergency room after I fainted (a couple of days later, but still) to get myself checked out.
  • I learned how to roller skate in my mid-thirties to be in a play, and ultimately broke my ankle on stage during said play, but finished the performances anyway, as best I could.
  • I opened King Lear on the night my uncle died, grieving him on stage because that was the only place I could grieve him.
  • I fought to play King Lear. I fought to play Hamlet. I continue to fight to play the roles I am meant to play, regardless of the gender for which they were written.
  • I shaved my head for a storefront theatre production that got the worst review of any show I have ever been in.
  • I entered into one of the most fulfilling friendships of my life with a woman I had never met in person, but talked to on fan message boards for a musician we both like.
  • I played the entire middle section of a choral piece on the violin from memory because my pages were out of order.
  • I bought a car by myself.
  • I wake up most mornings feeling physically repulsive and like most people would prefer that I wasn't there.
I don't get bonus points for any of this, and I don't deserve bonus points for any of it. I know a lot of people have been through much, much worse. But I can tell you that all of these little, daily acts of courage (like me going to the park today to play music outside) are exhausting. And I'm tired.

At the moment, on top of everything else, I am experiencing the death of a dream. A dream that should be so simple, a dream that so many people have and so many people achieve. A dream that everyone in my family has achieved, but I know I never will. In saying that, I know the response is that I am still young, that there is still time, that I could still achieve it. But I know, in my heart of hearts that I won't. I have tried. I have pursued it since I was about four years old from every angle I could think of. It fueled so much of my youth, so many conversations, so much drama, so many friendships. I know now, though, that it wasn't the right dream for me. Logically, I know that. But it hurts when a dream dies. No matter how much you know you need to let it go, it hurts when a dream dies.

So at the moment, it is taking even more courage than usual to be me. And it is making me very tired. I am trying to distract myself with the things that I love - theatre, music, my cat, Doctor Who, baseball. But at the end of the day, I'm in mourning, and probably will be for a little while longer.

So here is one more act of courage. My brilliant and talented friend took some amazing photos of me about a month ago. We spent an afternoon shuffling through jewelry and lighting and make up and accessories, and the work she did is truly gorgeous. She took a few pictures of my newest tattoo (one that I got with a friend waiting in the wings, but no hand to squeeze). They are gorgeous, but I know that this one in particular might be a bit shocking for some people to see because they've not seen that much of me before. I think it is important to share it, in part to share her beautiful work. But also to show that beauty does not have to be an 18-year-old who is a size two. And also to remind myself that my existence is still valid, knowing that this dream will not come true. I'm still worth something, because I can help create art. I can spread a body-positive message. I can be the voice that someone else needs to hear.

It takes a lot of courage to be me, to live every day in my skin. But you know what? I'm not dead yet.