The burden of having it all cont’d
photo: pile of shoe boxes

One of many candy store’s I enter into as an adult: Stacked more than 5 ft high when my mom removed them from my closet so we could pack them more easily, this tower of shoes is what I choose from daily. And these are just the shoes in boxes!

Notice in my last post I said I’m not the only one who feels this way, not felt. I should be over this at going-on-31 (even though people keep telling me that’s young), but indecisiveness is a very present state of mind because there are still so many choices.

For example, I have a business idea that, if executed correctly–and timing has just as much to do with correctness in entrepreneurship as it does in comedy–could be very lucrative. I also have an offer of admission into a graduate writing program. Knowing that, when things are done well, it normally takes 2 to 3 years for a new business to secure its footing and start making a profit, I have accepted that the business and the MFA program cannot coexist. But I can’t say whether I’m a creative writer who also wants to be in business at some point or a business woman who is confident a master of fine arts will create measurable added value for her services.

Six different organizations or institutions have said, via public ceremonies and/or monetary awards, that I’m a talented writer.  I’m grateful for the recognition, but I also think about something I lack: I’m saddened that I won’t be in Blues for an Alabama Sky at University of Louisville in early 2012.  The show will take place when I’m living outside the city limits, so there’s no reason to audition for it, despite the fact it contains a role I’ve wanted to play for 7 or 8 years.  See, I’m an actress. An actress who is probably not going to be on a stage for at least another two years.

Which means my acting could go the way of my singing.  And my painting.  I no longer do either.  I could see picking up a paint brush again.  In fact, I think it would help me write. But I can’t see myself having any skill in it anymore.  I don’t really sing congregational hymns at church anymore, and not just because our opening “hymn” is usually a contemporary gospel song I neither like nor know.  I don’t sing in the shower either.

Then there’s dance.  I took my first lessons in tap, ballet and jazz when I was 3, and I’m a happier performer if the role requires choreography.  I attend dance-based aerobics classes, and I can’t express how much it both humbled me and lifted my spirit when an older woman said to me after BodyJam the other day, “You are a wonderful dancer and a joy to watch!” But let’s be real; it’s BodyJam—or Zumba, or Dance Fitness or my living room, and it’s occasionally ballroom dance class.  But it’s not a Broadway musical or “So you think you can dance?”  I can’t do the things those peopole are able to do.

Talents I didn’t develop have been lost, and due to the limitations of the human body as it ages, I will never get some of them back.  The sad thing is, I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision to abandon any one opportunity in favor of devoting concentrated study to another.


Some of the shoes NOT in individual boxes. Shame I can’t wear all of these at the same time.

See, I think it’s okay, perhaps even necessary, to quit.  As Seth Godin explains in his book, “The Dip,” getting to the top of your game, whatever it is, is not easy.  Most people don’t reach the pinnacle not because they’re not good enough, but because at some point, they see how hard the road to get there is.  At that point, they make a decision: “I this love so much or want this so badly that I’ll devote myself to it.” Or, “I feel that way about something else.” Or, “Nothing is really worth all that.”

The last option is the easiest, but I don’t want to be a slacker. I want to be in Blues.  I want to be a better writer.  I want to finish my unfinished essays and publish a book.  I want to write new plays, have them produced and win more playwriting awards.  I want to be worthy of a role on a regional theater (or larger) stage.  Whether I get another award from the Society of Professional Journalists or not, I want to keep all the readers I’ve lost since Gannett shut down the weekly that published my column for the past two years.  I want my vision for bringing the arts and individual artists into business to come to pass.  I want to give my cultural commentary on syndicated radio shows.  I want to live abroad for several months.  I want to be an excellent mom and wife.  I want to be able to do the splits again.

In this age of extended life expectancy, most of that is possible.  I guess I could divide everything into seven-year stints, and just tell myself to get as good as I can get in that block of time, then move on to something else.  But I know God laughs at such plans.  Besides, 7 is the number of completion, but think of how different the world would be if Toni Morrison had given only 7 years to her writing or if Oprah had stopped after 7 years in television or if Michael Jackson had moved on to just movies after 7 years in music.

No, greatness takes desire and time.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take infinity.  I just have to be committed.  And make hard choices.


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