This week’s very small existential crisisMay 7, 2012
It ‘s a cold, rainy, gloomy day, as it has been five of the last six days, so what I’d really like to be drinking right now is a large mug of smoky Russian Caravan tea, crowned with a little steamed milk. But this is not possible, because most of my tea stash – as well as my beloved green Beehouse teapot – is still in Massachusetts. I’m not about to buy another teapot (I do at least have an infuser spoon) and I really can’t justify buying more tea when I already have so much back home. And therein lies the central dilemma of my life at present: I Can’t Possibly Live Another Day Without [insert kitchen implement or food item here], Yet I Already Own It And Refuse to Buy It Again. I have already succumbed to buying a few such things in the last week, since moving to a new sublet that lacked a vegetable peeler and a pot big enough to make soup or cook long pasta. And I already have a replacement bottle of Sriracha, because really, people, I’m only human. But I’m trying to travel fairly light for now, so I’m making do without a lot of seemingly-crucial things.
At root, though, the dilemma is not what to buy or not buy on a daily basis. It’s how long I can wait before “real life” starts – the kind of life where I know where I’m living more than a couple of months in advance, where I feel settled enough to import things like my piano and my cat and my blue cast-iron pot. Right now I feel like I’m only pretending to live in New York, and as much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, it seems what it will take to make this city feel like home is Stuff. And routine. And, you know, a job that takes up more than a few hours a week and is both artistically and financially rewarding. Or at very least, the discipline to structure my independent work (practicing, writing, etc.) so it feels more like a job.
I guess I’m saying I want to have already arrived here, to have my life established and settled, to have paid my dues in the business and found myself a niche. Except that’s also not what I want at all. Because I love knowing that I could, theoretically, take a touring gig tomorrow. I could, theoretically, drop everything and go visit a friend on a whim. And as exhausting as it sometimes feels to have to learn a new neighborhood and a new set of transportation parameters every couple of months, I also really enjoy the discovering. I just came back from a brief reconnaissance walk (goal: try a new coffee place and find some vegetables for dinner, taking note of interesting-looking restaurants along the way), and while I should probably not take too many of those on rainy days, lest the weather cloud my view (ha!), I did have the pleasure of being asked by the man who made my latte if I was a dancer. I always enjoy this question, though I normally only get it when I’ve just started working with a new theater company who doesn’t know me yet, and therefore doesn’t know how emphatically I am not a dancer. I just stand like one sometimes.
There’s a certain pleasure in not being known yet, not being defined or limited by anyone’s expectations. This is something I love about working in theater: you meet new people all the time, people who don’t yet know who you are and what you can or can’t do. Every show is a chance to impress someone, to exceed their expectations, to try on new skills and stretch the boundaries of the ones you already have. That’s true even with a company you already know, but it’s so much easier to just keep fitting into the concept of you that you think they have.
So I do like a certain amount of uncertainty – not just trial by fire, but a different fire every so often. What I’m working on now is finding a balance between the uncertainty and the things that make me feel rooted, even a little bit. Those things currently include: leaving my closet door open because the clothes inside are about the only things in this room that are actually mine. Taking pride in the fact that the one solely decorative item here is a prop from a show I was also involved with (I’m subletting from a Weathervane actor from two seasons ago). Improvising ways to make my favorite foods even without the exact right perfect pan or knife. And allowing myself to be loved by the two intensely snuggly cats that live here, even though they are not my cat.
And while I may occasionally lament the absence of a certain beverage, I’m expanding those horizons, too. Because I’m pretty sure that my dinner (pasta with the brussels sprouts I just bought at one of the ubiquitous fruit-and-vegetable markets around here) will be accompanied by a bottle of the extremely delicious Wolaver’s coffee porter I purchased from the New Happy Deli & Grocery across the street. And while Massachusetts may have many things to boast about, it does not have New Happy Deli or its many convenience-store brethren, where you can run out and buy either a six-pack of really interesting beer, or a bottle of OJ to chase your morning omelet. Or a roll of electrical tape or a lottery ticket or a pint of overpriced Haagen-Dazs. It’s still a little startling to walk through a grocery store and find an entire aisle of alcohol right between the Triscuits and the cat food, but I’m starting to get used to it.
I guess I’m starting to get used to a lot of things, including the fact that I can’t ever really get used to anything for long. And that’s exciting, in a way, even though it’s also pretty unsettling. As eager as I am to eventually “make it,” I’d also be extremely reluctant to skip this phase, and I hope I never become too goal-oriented to enjoy at least something about where I am at any given moment.