In the last 9 years I had done a lot of growing into myself. Hell! Even in the last few months I’ve grown some. What keeps my growing is well….many things. However I would have to say my openness and wanting to learn definitely plays a major impact. I would describe it as a thirst. I get thirsty for knowledge, I’m thirsty to ‘better’ myself and it is this thirst that keeps me growing as an individual.
I find many times, when someone’s ego becomes bigger than a person they close off which in turn impedes their development. I never want to be like this. In fact there are definitely moments in my life that I can vividly recall where my ego completely blocked my way down the yellow brick road.
In dance school, I was well-skilled in everything I did. Tap, ballet, pointe, modern, hip hop, jazz all of it I was top in the class. Jack of all trades, master of none. Other dancers shined brighter and earned competition solos, and leads in the recitals. It took me all the way until my last dance recital ever to realize why I never got the roles I thought I deserved. It was simply because I didn’t deserve them.
As a young elementary dancer, I got leads in shows, solos in group dances, I substituted main dancers, I assisted the dance instructors and whathaveyou. I got this because not only did I work for it, but I wanted it so bad I was willing to do anything. I had a strong passion for dance and saw great things in my future. I wanted to be the Black Swan in Swan Lake, but before I could I knew I needed to earn my way to pointe class. I wanted to be Claire in The Nutcracker, but before I could be Claire I knew I needed to practice my arabesque.
At some point my development as a dancer stopped. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the passion. It was because my ego got to the point where I felt I earned my way up at such a young age, that everything should be handed to me. I felt I put my time in already, now reward me. But this little thought in my mind, impeded my learning and growth as a person. This little thought made me a coward, it made me green with envy when attention was handed to someone else. It wasn’t until freshman year, at my very last dance recital, that I realized I missed four crucial years of a dancer’s life, simply by not being thirsty anymore.
My very first year of university was a rude awakening. One however, much deserved. I took theatre courses my first year in hopes to become part of the Contemporary Arts program the following year.
I had two auditions to get into the program. My first audition, was not very good to say the least. I performed my monologue and each time the instructors would give scenarios or critiques and ask for me to perform it again. In my mind as they asked me to do these things I was frustrated. I felt that I had worked so hard on my monologue that who are they to tell how to perform it (especially since I wasn’t in the program yet). In some way I was offended, but I had no reason to be so. Needless to say I didn’t get into the program.
Shortly after my first audition, all the instructors send out advice to everyone that auditioned. They had two words for me: Too judgmental. It hurt seeing those words written down, but I couldn’t argue it. I was. I was judgmental because I had this notion of what I thought acting was. Because I had a certain idea in my head, I didn’t want to even open up to the possibility to what acting was.
For a whole summer, I worked on myself. I set goals. Not big goals, just day to day and weekly goals for myself. I did this so I could learn something new, expand my skills and just experience life. At the end of the summer I headed back out west to re-audition.
The monologue I chose was from George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan:
Yes, they told me you were fools and that I was not to listen to your fine words nor trust to your charity. You promised me my life but you lied. You think that life is nothing but not being stone dead. It is not the bread and water I fear: bread has no sorrow for me, and water no affliction. But to shut me from the light of the sky, and the sight of the fields and flowers, to chain my feet so that I can never again ride with the soldiers nor climb the hills; to make me breathe foul damp darkness, and keep me from everything that brings me back to the love of God when your wickedness and foolishness tempt me to hate Him. All this is worse than the furnace in the Bible that was heated seven times. I could do without my warhorse, I could drag about in a skirt. I could let the banners and the trumpets and the knights and soldiers pass me and leave me behind as they leave the other women, if only I could still hear the wind in the trees, the larks in the sunshine, the young lambs crying through the healthy frost, and the blessed blessed church bells that send my angel voices floating to me on the wind. But without these things I cannot live; and by your wanting to take them away from me, or from any human creature, I know that your counsel is of the devil, and that mine is of God.
This monologue resonated with so much, that ‘til this day, 9 years later I still know it word for word, moment to moment, breath for breath. That being said, every time I read or recite it I still learn something new, or see something a little differently.
After my first go at the monologue they give me a few critiques and asked me to do it again. This time, instead of not embracing their notes, I took them in. I breathed them in and breathed them out. After my monologue they also interviewed me and asked me what I learned in the time from my first audition to this one. I simply told them I’m learning to be open, and I’m learning to never judge a book by its cover.
I got into the program.
I am successful. This is not my ego talking, this is my experience talking. I’ve embraced wanting to learn more, see more, do more, I’ve embraced growth. And so I encourage you all to open up a little bit, learn a little bit, just a little bit.