30 July 2019

The Birth of the Curse

I'l just get this out of the way: I hate my birthday.

Not because I'm another year older and closer to death. I hate my actual birth date -- 2 August.

In Canada, the first Monday is August is a statutory holiday. I don't know why they felt this was necessary -- the month of August literally is holiday unless you're one of the lucky few who have actually managed to land any kind of full-time job in this economy. Yours truly was literally born on that God-forsaken Monday. To be born on a holiday Monday -- especially in the summer, and especially the last one of the summer -- is a curse straight from the lips of Satan himself.

Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to plan any kind of birthday party when literally everyone goes camping in the mountains or goes to the lake on that weekend? There are 51 other weekends every year, but all the vacations magically converge on THAT weekend -- the weekend of my birthday.

These circumstances literally incited my lifelong battle with depression. My own birthday doomed me. I was sunk from my first breath.

I was nine, going on ten. My birthday was coming up and I had carefully made up invitations and sent them out WAY in advance -- having learned in the previous three or four years that people apparently make plans for my birthday weekend in April sometime. But it was now late July and the RSVP calls were rolling in -- 'Sorry, Lindsay can't make it, we're going to the lake that weekend,' 'Sorry, Katie's camping with her dad that weekend,' 'Sorry, Brittany can't come -- we're all going to Disneyland that weekend...'

I was with my dad in his workshop when my mother came out and relayed yet another message like this -- my best friend couldn't come. And it was kind of the last straw. I had invited probably about a dozen people, and now probably about ten of them had already backed out. I had long been reduced to inviting even my much-younger and significantly more annoying cousins just so I would be with someone on my birthday.

I excused myself and headed back to the house to process. How could my best friend be busy? She knew my birthday. It happened every year on the same day. How do you not start to remember 'oh yeah, my best friend's birthday is that day, don't book anything'? This was my best friend. I had never missed her birthday party. Why then did she and her family seem to think it was okay to miss mine?

I was walking up the steps to the back door of our house when a solution presented itself to my nine-year-old brain: nobody likes you. Nobody wants you around. And that's why they're making all these excuses. They didn't forget -- they just don't want to come.

And suddenly everything made sense.

The problem was not the date, the problem was me. I was annoying and stupid and nobody liked me.

The knowledge was enlightening. Suddenly my entire life made sense -- my mother's seemingly unprovoked rages at me, my dance teacher's constant needling comments at me about how I wasn't good enough, the fact that every social gathering I ever tried to plan flopped spectacularly, the fact that literally nobody ever talked to me unless forced to.

It was because nobody liked me. It was because there was something wrong with me.

That thought opened up a whole new world of explanation -- a Pandora's box that not only could I not shut, I didn't want to because I would rather know that I was worthless than live under a delusion. I would rather have known the truth -- the truth that nobody wanted me around and would do whatever it took to avoid me. That thought still pervades literally everything I do and everything I think. I know nothing else.

I still had one faint hope -- that when I was an adult and my friends were all more in control of their work schedules, they would know to keep that day (or at least that weekend) free. They would remember that that was my birthday and maybe my adult friends would somehow be able to love me enough to not want to back out of whatever I might plan.

But now I am an adult. I'm alone in a city with very few (and somewhat tenuous) connections. I can't go visit my family because I work two days in a row and can't make the trip. My best friend is on vacation -- her family plans the same stupid trip to the mountains ON MY BIRTHDAY every single stupid year, despite knowing that that's my birthday. I had made plans with another friend to spend the day together on my birthday -- nothing fancy, just literally being in each other's presence -- and that friend just found out today that there's a family event that he can't back out of... on that day.

My one birthday wish -- to spend my birthday with people who care about me. It's not about the event. It's not about the gifts. It's not about the party or the food or the beverages. It's about being with people I love. That's all I want. It's so simple, but it's the one thing I can apparently never have.

Nobody should have to be alone on their birthday. And yet that's my constant reality.

25 July 2019

The Voice in My Head

Around February I started letting my dance practice routine slip. At first it was busyness, then sickness, then both... then I moved away and couldn't access the studio anymore, and the practice pretty well ceased entirely. There have been a couple of one-off practices over the past few months, but there was no consistency. My motivation was completely gone -- depression and a general sense of purposelessness had eaten it all.

Today I hit the wood for the first time in a while. Nothing spectacular -- some warm-up and improv, some learning (trying to add a new piece into the rep), quite a lot of troubleshooting (where IS my weight after a turning cramp roll?).

Then the stretch session.

Back in January, I had finally gotten my (left front) splits down. This was the culmination of literally YEARS of work and pushing and stretching, often multiple stretch sessions a day. I have footage from May of me in the splits, and that was probably honestly the last time I did them. I knew I had probably lost them, but I also now knew that they were attainable. I did my usual stretches that I had been doing at the beginning of the year, mentally pre-accepting the likelihood that I would not have the splits today.

And it's funny -- the entire time I was stretching, it took me back to that time. And I heard the voice of my program director, telling me I wasn't good enough, nagging me to 'just be more flexible' -- as if that was up to my willpower rather than my horribly short muscles -- all of it, the things I had almost managed to forget, racing back in around me as I stretched, ringing and echoing in my ears as if he had just said it this morning. I had already accepted that I wouldn't have the splits today, but still his voice prattled through my head, all about how I would never be good enough. Not because I lacked grace, or skill, or discipline, or artistry, or ballon, or experience, because I have all of those things (at least on some level), but purely and only because I didn't have a 180 extension. And that was all he could see and all he could talk about, and by extension that became all I could see and all I could think about.

And even now, trying to stretch in order to better myself, because I want to stretch, it just took me back to that time where his voice screamed through my brain about how I wasn't good enough and I never would be and it exhausted me all over again, even though I've graduated, even though I don't have to answer to him anymore, even though I'm not even in the same province anymore. I still carry his voice with me, embedded in my head. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't -- practice, that is. If I practice, I'm not trying hard enough and I'm not good enough. If I don't practice -- well, then I'm lazy and am still not trying hard enough.

I'm too tired to even be angry anymore. I spent so much energy trying to please him, trying to find the magic bullet to instant flexibility, trying to be good enough to at least get him off my case. It used up my last reserves of energy and willpower and motivation. There's nothing left. I gave it all to this formidable man who could not, would not be pleased with my absolute best efforts. It's all burned away, a flash in the pan. And here I am sitting on the couch, having eaten only three meals in the past week because not only do I not have motivation to dance, I don't have motivation for anything. It's all been used up.

I know it's possible to retrain my brain to think on a different line, to hear a different voice when I'm stretching besides his saccharine sweet, syrupy voice telling me very nicely that I would never be any good at anything if I couldn't do the splits, but that will take a Herculean amount of effort and I don't even have the energy to pour myself a bowl of cereal half the time, let alone retrain an entire thought pattern during an already physically demanding activity.

Nobody here in Alberta knows him. He has little, if any, influence with anyone here. Nobody here knows he thought I was the worst performer he'd ever had in his department, and honestly nobody would care that he thought that because what he thought doesn't matter to them. I have the chance to prove myself here on my own merits, with or without his f*cking approval.

But his voice is in my head, and it's sabotaging my own merits.

And no, I didn't have the splits today.

17 July 2019

Update... The Big Pond

Update on living in Alberta again...

It's beautiful. But it's also probably been the darkest, most difficult time of my life so far.

It's MUCH harder even to get an audition here. I've responded to quite a few audition calls and not even been invited to the auditions. I've landed more job interviews than auditions (and given how the job hunt has been going, that's saying something).

The original plan, back in April, was to stay in Saskatchewan (probably Regina) for a year or two, for more experience (which would hopefully eventually translate into actual ability...). It's a relatively small theatrical pond, sure, but I'm also a pretty small fish. It would have been a good place to learn and grow and get a chance to hone my skills -- at least in Regina, some theatres did like my work enough to at least stick me in ensemble. In the past year especially I did a huge amount of hustling in Regina because that was where I expected to stay, so that was where I made my connections.

Instead, I've now ended up in Calgary, which is a significantly bigger (and therefore more competitive) pond, and I have absolutely zero connections here. In Regina I at least knew a bunch of theatre people -- I had a network. Here I have literally nothing. Most of the people in my current show here, while very nice and generally good at what they do, aren't in the theatre scene at all outside of that one show once a year, so they can't really help me.

I'm trying to look at it as a 'sink or swim' situation. I have to get my skills up to par -- there is no other option if I want to survive. I can't grow slowly and steadily now, I have to grow in leaps and bounds. I have to level up. I'm not quite sure how without practice (you know... actually doing shows), but I'm going to have to figure out a way. Preferably an inexpensive way -- as I hinted above, the job-hunt/financial situation is nothing less than terrifying, on a visceral level. I'm in a heightened state of stress and tension 24/7 because I am literally one month away from living on the street. I haven't truly relaxed, even physically, in... I don't even know how long. (Probably about a year -- last summer, before school kicked in again.) The only silver lining about being under this level of stress for so long is that I have no appetite so at least I'm saving money on food.