Category: Cinereous Thoughts


Let me preface this by saying I am a performer. I’ve been acting since I was a kid and have made my way through all sorts of various arts of performing at some point or another over the years. I love it, I study it, I live it. But the other night, as I was step touching my way through a choir show I was struck with a question: Why?

I have to admit, that despite how much I love the performing arts, I have this thought at some point during every show I perform in, every show I tech for, every show I see. It strikes me hardest when I am actually doing the performing though. It usually comes in the middle of a show when I look out at the audience and see the ocean of faces staring back at me and I am overwhelmed with doubt and wonder. Why do we do this? What is the point of standing up there on that stage? What is the point of sitting in an audience watching other people up on that stage? What on earth would possess anyone to put themselves through all the inevitably hellish aspects of creating a performance? Why don’t we just stay home?

I guess a lot of these questions come from the age of technology that I grew up in but sometimes it all just seems so futile and so pointless. There are a lot of logical reasons why we continue to support the live performance industry: entertainment, public platform, education, the ever abstract “art.” And yet, none of these reasons seem to satisfactorily explain my inner conflict. And then today, I was having a conversation with a voice teacher and she brought up something that finally resonated with me. It’s the group consciousness. It’s the same reason that people join sports teams or activist movements. And while I can’t exactly speak to the experience of those things I can say absolutely that there is something about performing, and even watching live performance, that takes you outside of yourself. You are part of a something bigger and sharing that consciousness with your fellow performers, and the complete strangers in the audience, is an out-of-body experience like no other. It allows you to be expressive in away that society would frown upon in any other context. It allows you to literally step inside someone else. Even if you aren’t playing a specific character, for instance like the choir show that inspired this rumination, the act of being onstage allows you to take on any characteristics that you want to. Of course there are other pretty sound reasons that performing and watching performance is pretty cool. Like getting to explore the human psyche in imaginary situations and getting to bring all sorts of art forms (costume, light, set design etc) together in one, living, breathing space. And let’s be honest, commanding that kind of attention is a bit of a rush too but ultimately, for me, it comes down to the freedom that being part of an ensemble gives me to be expressive and to experience some kind of higher, group mentality.

It’s a hard question to ponder and it always brings up some existential crisis within me, but inevitably when the show is over, the set is struck and the lights are turned off I am filled with a great sadness that it is over and a burning desire to start it all over again. I’m sure that as the months and years pass by I’ll get to discover even more of the never ending reasons that it’s all worth it in the end but for now, the next time I’m staring at the crowd and wondering what I’m doing, I’m going to make sure to take a moment to appreciate the people up there with because the bond of an ensemble is something to be truly cherished.

So here’s the thing. I am a completely average human being. I come from a middle class, white family. I’m Canadian to the nth degree. I’ve always dabbled in extra curricular activities and my grades are decent. But nothing more. I’m not a super genius, I’m not an ingénue, I’m not excessively out-going and charismatic. I’m not under privileged; I’m not over privileged and I don’t come from any sort of minority group. I’m not gorgeous, or thin or ugly or overweight. I’m just about as average as average gets. And while I’m not particularly unsatisfied with who I am sometimes being average really gets me down.

You see, I have as much ambition as anyone else. I want to finish my university education, I want to be successful in a, as yet underdetermined, career; all the usual stuff. But I sometimes feel that my average-ness means that I have to work extra hard for all of this. When it comes time to apply for scholarships, I don’t have a whole lot of options. I don’t play sports, so that’s out. I’m not brilliant, so that’s out. I do have a fairly extensive and well-rounded extra curricular resume but it’s by no means outstanding. I don’t qualify for financial aid because my parents make too much money, I’m not an immigrant or descended from a member of a First Nations group, so all those are out too. And my parents definitely don’t make enough money to allow me to live expense free during my university years. What does that leave me with? Well, there are the randomized contests but I certainly didn’t inherit the luck of the Irish and there are the essay scholarships but, while my writing skills would probably be considered above average, they aren’t quite cut out for nationwide writing competitions. And those ones where you have to get people to vote for you? Forget it! Along with all my other average qualities, I’m not excessively popular either.

And then of course there are all the various internships and exchanges and enrichment programs that have quotas and diversity requirements. I definitely don’t fulfil any sort of diversity requirement. (Although occasionally being female can be a little bit helpful with those, one point to me!) And as for quotas, well, I tend to find that middle class, Caucasian females are a dime a dozen. Lucky me.

Of course this whole average thing applies to most areas of life, not just scholarships and acceptance letters. My award shelf isn’t overflowing because nine times out of ten there was someone just a bit better than me at everything. I work my butt off organizing events and coordinating fundraisers but I’m not the charismatic spokesperson so due credit is hard come by for me. I don’t walk into a room and command attention via my lukewarm personality or my exceptionally average looks so I tend to blend in social situations

That being said, I know I’m lucky to come from where I do and to have grown up as comfortably as I did. But sometimes, a little tiny part of me wishes my mom had gotten together with an African guy or that I was absolutely brilliant with perfect test scores just so I could feel like I had a leg up in the world. Most days, I’m okay with being me but every once in a while being 100% pure-bred average is exhausting!

New Year’s Resolutions and I have a strained history and I think that most people out there can relate. You start the new year with all these visions of how this is the year you overhaul your life. Change everything, do everything, see everything. But the end of January rolls around and chances are you’ve faltered more than a few times if you’re even still going. Not everyone experiences this, of course, but for the ast majority the 100% motivation of January 1st is depleted pretty quickly. For me, New Year’s Resolutions are a pretty new struggle. Growing up, my family didn’t do them and if my friends did, I didn’t know about it. Then I got to be a teenager and started doing things that I had “discovered” on my own. New Year’s Resolutions were one of those things. I’ve made plenty of resolutions over the years but I’m pretty bad at self-motivation and completing (non school related) projects so I was never able to keep them going for more than a couple weeks. Until last year.

2012 was the year that I realized my biggest New Year’s Resolution problem: I was too ambitious, I made too many and they were too complicated to tackle all at once. I wanted to change every single thing I didn’t like about myself (and let’s face it, in the teenage years that’s a pretty long list) in one fell swoop. But last year I realized that changing is a process. It does no good to bite off more than you can chew because, chances are, you’re going to get discouraged pretty quickly and give up all together. At least, that’s how it is for me. Maybe it’s a product of being in this generation but I’m pretty big on instant gratification. I need to see progress to keep going. There’s no point in trying to continue a futile effort, right? So last year I decided to commit to the process of change and instead of having a list of resolutions a mile long, I thought long and hard and I picked just one that I thought would be challenging but achievable.

Carpe Diem. That was my New Year’s Resolution for 2012. Short, sweet and simple but it really did make me push myself all year. And for the first time in my life I feel like I can honestly say I achieved my goal for the year. Yes, I had some setbacks, I faltered a bit under various circumstances but when I look back at 2012 I’m really happy with everything I accomplished. I tried all sorts of new things, I lived in new places, I made the most amazing new friends I could imagine and I absolutely attribute it to my constant commitment to the “carpe diem” mantra. And, I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself. Not only for all the things I accomplished in 2012 but also for sticking with it and continually fulfilling my New Year’s Resolution all year long. It’s given me the confidence that, if I think hard enough and pick the right one, New Year’s Resolutions can actually be a useful tool to help me become the best version of myself. That’s why, even though I’m late to the party and most folks have given up on their 2013 resolutions, I’m just finally picking mine now.

It’s not like I’ve just written January off completely in the “self-bettering” department, I’ve been working on my resolution all month but I have avoided actually settling on one until now because I’ve been weighting my options and fielding the raging debate inside my head as to what 2013 should be about. On the spurs of my previous personal victory I’ve been tempted to make more than one resolution. But quality is always better than quantity so, even though my list of things I want to improve is still a mile long, I’ve forced myself to just pick one. I’ve got lots of years left for other resolutions but for now I need to stick to one thing at a time. So 2013 for me is all about fitness. It’s absolutely cliche and probably one of the most broken resolutions of all time but it’s very important to me. And I’ll be clear, this isn’t about weight loss. Okay, it’s a bit about weight loss but my resolution is not to lose x amount of weight, my resolution is to be more fit. That’s it. I’m not looking to run a marathon, I’m not looking for a perfect beach bod; those are goals for another time. The goal here is to improve my level of fitness from where it is now. The goal is to be more active and to exercise regularly and if weight loss happens along the way, then that’s just a bonus.

So here’s to a successful 2013 and to getting up off the couch once in a while!