I put myself through the wringer last week. It was totally my choice; I’m not complaining. But, man oh man, it was intense — swinging from confidence to self-doubt, from elation to misery, from calm rationality to harrowing despair, back and forth and back again…
I auditioned for a community musical theater production.
It had been a while, and I’d forgotten what this trip could be like. I’d forgotten how excruciating it was, a process that requires participants to be whole-heartedly committed, deeply invested, and yet also prepared for utter rejection. I hoped to find that I’d grown out of the mind-fuckery of it. Now older and wiser, maybe I’d be able to just have fun throughout. Nope! It’s still awful. And then maniacally gleeful. And then wretched again, and so on.
It wasn’t even about dealing with an actual outcome. The psycho-emotional rollercoaster of agonizing doubt and hope began before the first open audition. That step went well for me, so I felt proud (for about a minute) before recommencing my freakout through vocal callbacks and dance auditions and cold readings from the script. All week long, second-guessing my talent and my worth, torturing myself with anticipation of both grief and triumph. All the while attempting to present a command of the stage without appearing cocky. Self-assured but unassuming, poised yet humble. Trying not to compare myself to the others auditioning — friends? competitors! — when it’s just about impossible not to compare.
The experience took me right back to junior high, when I didn’t get a part in The Sound of Music, and was told afterwards that it was because I couldn’t sing. And also back to every time I was the last one picked for the kickball team in gym class. Every time I felt left out. Every job I didn’t get. Every crush I had on someone who didn’t like me back.
Deep yearnings to belong and the equally deep fears that we don’t. I think those are universal feelings, not just for theater nerds. I believe most of us are dealing with some version of this turmoil a lot of the time…
It’s got me thinking about the constant challenge of creating an empowering context for ourselves in our lives when the outcomes are unclear. Because most of the time, we can’t know how things are going to turn out. We can make educated guesses about some pieces, but there are always a gazillion variables of which we don’t even have an inkling. So, truly, none of us can be anything like sure about the future.
There were a few shimmering moments during last week’s process in which I was able to say, honestly: “I did my best and I am pleased with myself, however it goes.” But, really, those were so, so fleeting. Like quick gasps of fresh air before I got pulled under again by waves of hope, fear, and attachment.
Friends encouraged me to be positive, to banish all doubts, to hold a vision of myself in the show. And I was definitely working that angle — prayers and intentions. But I also knew that even if I prayed and visualized my ass off, still I might not get a part. And that wasn’t even my self-sabotage talking — it was just knowing that casting a show is complicated and that there are factors completely beyond an actor’s control. Too, I knew that it couldn’t be just about me getting what I wanted. Everyone involved in the process was praying and/or intending, and some of our prayers and intentions contradicted each other. Ultimately, this had to be about the best and highest good for the entire production, how it was all going to fit together. And that wasn’t my decision to make — I couldn’t see it, I didn’t have all the information.
Maybe the whole experience was just a useful reminder that a healthy approach to life can’t be so much about outcomes. Not if we want to enjoy ourselves in it right now. Certainly, we’ve all got goals and aims and lots of things we’d like to actualize for ourselves and the world. But if our satisfaction is dependent on an outcome, then we’re always projecting happiness and fulfillment into the future as a conditional “maybe.” It’s never now. It’s never sure. And we’re never in it.
Turns out, I did end up with the outcome I’d hoped for. I will be portraying the nasty and villainous Judge Turpin in an upcoming production of Sweeney Todd at Musical Theater Southwest, here in Albuquerque. I AM SO EXCITED THAT I CAN BARELY STAND IT.
But even this happy outcome didn’t quiet for very long my relentless, maddening projections into the uncertain future. I’ve just got new things to worry about now. New possibilities to hope and fear. As ever, there are things beyond my control, and unknown big-picture factors in play. And as ever, the challenge is to be present.
We’re in the lives we’re in. These circumstances and conditions are exactly what and how they are; they can’t be otherwise right now. The future is wide-open and empty, and also full of every imaginable eventuality.
The Science of Mind offers that we can create anything to which we set our hearts and minds. The catch is that we can only do it now. Not in the future, but now. Not as an outcome, but as this, in this.
Congratulations, and well done. Here you are. You’re in!
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, April 2, 10:00 am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew
©2023 Drew Groves