Saturday, June 21, 2008

On To-morrow and To-morrow and To-morrow

This post is a little more personal and a little meditative and likely not particularly fascinating to anyone but me...or stalking me. I think, though, that it will be an interesting post for me to look back on post gap-year, post college, whenever, so here it is, time capsule style. You've been forewarned.

So, recently I've been bothered by that whole "future" thing. As our salutatorian said at graduation, we have to start making good on all that promise we've been told we have. It's a little scary. Ok, it's really a lot scary. I've never been too worried about the future because even the long run future always seemed planned out. There was always an obvious path for me to take. Preschool? Check. Elementary School? Check. Middle School? High School? Double Check. College? Oh. Wait. I've stepped off the path. Look at me! I'm over the line! Just a little, just for a minute, but I've stepped off. I'm going to get back on. I'm going to go to college, graduate from college, but now I know I can step off and live to tell the tale...But step off of what? What IS the obvious path after college?

Right now we're promising in so many ways. We can still become nearly anything we want to be, even if it doesn't always feel that way. Some days I feel really old. I wonder why I didn't take more dance lessons, why I stopped guitar, why I wasted so much time on X or Y or Z and mourn the fact that I'm now unable to do any of those things. Except I'm not even in college yet. A lot of people discover vocations and talents in collge. It might be too late to be an Olympic gymnast or figure skater, but a lot of writers, actors, politicians, scientists, historians, went into college with a totally different idea of what they would become. Or no idea at all. I mean, I still have time to learn to play the guitar. The end is not yet nigh.

Time. I have time. Except, now, unlike when I was twelve, I feel compelled to pick the things at the top of my list to spend time on, to have some coherent plan of what place all those things will have in the Rest Of My Life. Problem: my list is more of a mob and a lot of the things have little or nothing to do with one another. That never bothered me before. Model U.N. and acting? Sure. Why not? Languages and creative writing? Sounds good. Not to mention that I think crew, swing dancing and improv all sound fun. And I know that a lot of people have very disparate interests and a lot of people don't know where they're going or what they want to do. No one, in fact, really knows where they're going with the exception perhaps of Prince William who is likely going to the English throne one day soon. No one really knows.

I've always been in the habit of making Life Plans. I make them knowing that my life will never follow that path, knowing that it is near impossible that I will live a life in which nothing unforseen ever happens to knock me away from where I thought I was headed. But, I make Life Plans just the same. It used to be an amusing way of charting what I liked and was interested in. They were idealistic, nothing was impossible or even improbable. This was great when all I wanted to do in life was to become a veterinarian (because killing pets would be more forgivable than killing people if I made a mistake or if there was just nothing I could do). The idealism was taken to the peak when I wanted to be a movie star. It dropped down a notch when Ambassador was the desired title, then up one when I changed that to U.S. Rep to the U.N. It dropped down waaaaaaaaaaay low when I thought I'd like to work in a developing country with an NGO, up a notch when Peace Corps became a goal, stayed pretty stable when a top law school and then a career in litigation was where I wanted to go, up a little more when litigation became politics and politics became the Senate. Now? Well, that's really the problem. I haven't a clue.

Ok, actually, I have some clue. But it's a ridiculous clue. The idealism level of my hopes for the future have skyrocketed past movie star. I have a problem. I like a few things too many. I want to do a few things too many. I'm young and idealistic and I have three things I really want to do in life and they're cheesier than Disney would dare to write into a Disney Channel Original Movie. Or maybe they're exactly what Disney would write in. And I hate being stereotypical and predictable.
My three are these, in no order, really:
1) I want to make a difference in the world. I want to change something for the better. Preferably one fairly important thing. Important, however, is up for interpretation.
2) I want to be on the stage as a working actress. Preferably (very, very, VERY preferably) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This seems reasonable. It's a regional repertory company, not Broadway, not Hollywood, but on the scale of likliness we're heading a little closer to "Never Gonna Happen" than I like my goals to get.
3) I want to get married. Happily. For some reason this feels closer to "Never Gonna Happen" than number 2. I can deal with that, I guess.
Sometimes I lose sight of one or another of these and everything seems easier. Then I find that passion I'd stored aways and oops, there goes any chance of seeing where I'm going. Last summer my Life Plan consisted of college --> ensemble roles at OSF, gaining equity card --> MFA from prestigious drama school --> career in the theatre. That was the Idealistic Life Plan. I wasn't quite concerned yet with a Realistic Life Plan. It was enough to know that I probably needed one. Over the course of the year, as I felt more and more burned by theatre and became more and more enthralled by the presidential primary process, the Life Plan switched to college --> work in D.C. --> law school --> judicial clerk --> work in D.C and eventually run for office from somewhere or other. It sounded reasonable. It sounded stable. It was incredibly comforting to know where I wanted to go. Except...not so much. Every time I come up to the OSF my absolute love for theatre is renewed. It's an aching love. This is exactly where I want to be. It's a pretty stable job, when you have one. Incredibly stable as far as theatre goes, and the instablility of a life in theatre is one thing I really dislike about it. Here, you work with a company. There is a collaborative comraderie, an outlet for all sorts of outreach and recreational creativity. You live in one place. You can have a life, a family. It's gorgeous up here, too. It appeals to my outdoorsy side. (I have one, I swear). And fame and stardom were never my reasons for wanting to be an actress so the lack of them is more of a plus than a minus. Festival members return year after year and they are the fan base. It's pretty cool. But how on earth do I get here? I probably want to get an MFA. Except where? How? I'm not ever going to be admitted to any program I want to attend. Julliard? Yale? Yeah right. I'm much more confident in being admitted to anything requiring a test and an essay than an audition. Plus, networking is not my forte. In politics I think I'd be fine with it, but for some reason, in theatre it seems harder and, well, a little wronger. Does that mean that theatre is a bad choice? I certainly haven't had any success in it up until now. Maybe I'm just not cut out for it. Maybe it's really obvious to everyone but me. Maybe all that stuff about persevering and believing in yourself doesn't apply forever. Maybe after a point you cut your losses and give up. Or not. Plus, even if that's true, have I really gotten to that point? No. Definitely not yet.

This means my life plan switched back. Or, not entirely back. Law school is still on the radar. Maybe law school if acting doesn't work out? So cliche...Meanwhile, if all this sounds idealistice, infantile, stupid, just wait until the other thing bugging me in the back of my mind comes to light. Tarot cards. Not kidding. We had tarot card readers at grad night and as much as I've always wanted to not put any stock in things like tarot cards, palm readers, horoscopes, I've never been able to fully discount them. They have a way of being eerily accurate in my life. When I was 8, I had my palm read at a company Christmas party. I didn't want to, but my dad made me. The guy told me I would play tennis and piano. I hated both and had, in fact, quit both. Then at twelve I looked back and realized that I had, in fact, spent several more years on both tennis and piano, was still playing tennis. Neither of these things is really out of the ordinary for young girls of a certain socio-economic background, but I got really freaked out and refused ever to have my fortune told again. Horoscopes, I figured, would be ok. So I have one of my home page. I'd say it's reasonably on the money about 70% of the time. Well over 50% at least. Of course, sometimes it's really general and I'm probably just seeing what I want in it based on how I'm feeling but...still. So, this brings me back to tarot cards. I did it for a laugh. I had her talk about my love life first. The life she painted for me sounded great. Sometimes she said things that were specific to me and eerily insightful, sometimes the things she said were obviously generic. Plus, she'd turn over a card with a picture and foreign script, make a pronouncement and point to the card as evidence. I mean, I wouldn't know one card from another and she knew that. Also, I broke my rule about not giving anything away. I mentioned both theatre and politics when she asked what I'm interested in. So, in order to please the customer (not that I was paying, as it was all prepaid...) she ended up talking about the odd dichotomy that my life seemed to hold. I would have two distinct careers. One in something creative, one in a leadership position. Oh look, theatre and politics. Like Arnold, our esteemed Governator. (Ah, so it IS possible! And Nancy Pelosi started in politics late in life too...hmmm) Even if she just read me like an open book (and I've been told that isn't too difficult) what she said has been on my mind because the life she painted for me was the vague outline of the life I want for myself (more evidence that she read me like a book, but again, that's not so much the point). That life seems virtually impossible.

So I've found myself reading all the bios of the actors here at the Shakespeare Festival, making note of how many began their educations with a B.A. in History from Cal State Fullerton vs. a B.F.A. from a well-respected conservatory like Carnegie-Mellon, how many have M.F.A.s, where people have worked besides OSF. I'm pouring over the program like I can find some answer to my overarching question of how the hell I can get where I want to go. And I find nothing. There is no pattern. None. Likely none of these people, at the age of 17, knew they wanted to end up in Ashland. Some of them didn't know they wanted to be actors. One of my favorites was the subject of a google search (because he's amazing, because he's relatively young, because he's cute, what have you) and lo and behold! He wanted to play soccer, was injured, and a friend told him an acting class was a great place to meet girls so he signed up for one. At Pacific Lutheran. There is no path to what I want to do, to any of the things I want to do.

It's times like these I really wish I wanted to be a doctor. It's hard work, sure, but most things are. At least with that you know how to get where you want to go.

It looks like most of the rest of my life is going to be outside of the lines. That, to me, is terrifying, having lived within them for the past seventeen years. But, I have a feeling that it's a good kind of terrifying. Hold-my-hand-and-jump terrifying. Gap year terrifying. (Ohhh. Way to tie it in. :-P )

Anyway, good luck to anyone and everyone with your own respective futures. If you need someone to listen or to hold your hand, call me up. It certainly looks like I'll be needing you to return the favor.

Then again, as ITT Tech reminds me daily, I can always be a dental assistant or X-ray technician.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

On Pomp and Circumstance

Graduation was wonderful.

I can be cynical and I expected that I would be, that I’d think all the pomp and circumstance was dumb, that I’d just keep saying that it wasn’t a big surprise that I am or that anyone else at HW is graduating so why are we celebrating so much? I was annoyed by the last ditch attempt at senior bonding. If we haven’t bonded over the last six years, that may be our loss, but I don’t want to get attached to people I’m never really going to get to know and that I most likely won’t keep in touch with except for the occasional Facebook stalk. Too little, too late which is, really, too bad.

But then, I actually graduated. I went to the Senior/Faculty breakfast and I took pictures with most of the teachers I loved most and I looked around at our whole senior class and realized that I know something, some little thing, about almost everyone. I know how we function and fit together. I may not like it, the cliques and the gossip and the people that do this or that and the people that don’t, but I know where we stand and even that, the moving pieces, makes us a group. A group that won’t ever, EVER be together all in the same place at the same time again. Not everyone will show up to reunions, not everyone will show up to alumni gatherings in X city or Y, not everyone will keep wired via Facebook. There will be the people we can’t help but keep track of, the people running for office, the people on TV, making movies, writing books, winning those ridiculously prestigious awards, and then there will be the people we can’t keep track of even if we try. People will move out of the country, change their last names, marry one, two, three, eight times, become hermits, go into the witness protection program and we will never hear from them again. We may have talked to them twice throughout all of high school and we won’t miss them every day or even every year, but we will remember them sometimes and we will have known them and known people that knew them. We will have shared this common experience. They were there and we were there. We may collectively remember or not remember each other, have liked or hated each other, have talked in the back of a math class or been in that one scene that one time in 10th grade acting but we were there. We were, for better or for worse, the Harvard-Westlake class of 2008.

Anyway, then we gave awards to teachers, which is nice. Teachers deserve awards, even though I didn’t really know 2/3 of the awardees. Most of the ones I loved most were ineligible because classes before us had gotten there first. Classes behind us will get there again.

Then we graduated. My feet hurt.We complained about the heat (although really, we were lucky, as it was the valley in June and probably only 83ish). We compared robes and debated the merits of the medieval oxfordian tradition of mortarboards. (I love them, personally. I love that we wore something we will never wear on any other occasion but a graduation. It’s like a wedding dress. It’s like getting into character from the outside in. Tradition, good call.) We hid puzzle pieces in our hands and walked down the aisle after all the teachers in their really cool robes that we agreed made us all want to be teachers just a little bit or just a little bit more. We squished in on the risers and listened to Mr. Hudnut, then Justin, then Danielle, then Ms. Hueybrechts as she called all of our names. Some of us (or, rather, some of the boy’s water polo team) de-robed down to shoes, socks and a speedo. (I have mixed opinions about this. On the one hand, my grandmother was at graduation. On the other, a little irreverence never hurt anyone and it was all in good fun. On the third, something to look at. Kidding. Maybe.) We signed the alumni book and sat back down. We threw up our ancient caps, grabbed someone else’s off the ground and went to take pictures we knew we’d look at again some day, or maybe see in a newspaper or magazine, as graduation pictures, like prom pictures, tend not to get buried in the debris of the past. I loved it. I thought it was perfection, really.

A word on speeches…and lack thereof. Justin’s speech was amazing. I generally really like his writing, his dark humor and the twisting texts that go from bizarrely funny to bizarrely tragic without anyone really noticing. But: a graduation speech is probably one of the hardest things to do well. Several are given at each of millions of graduations each year. There are really two possible tacks to take: advise or summarize. Advice can get preachy; it's a very fine line. Summaries are pretty useless because they don’t really explain anything of import to people in the audience that weren’t with us at HW and they can’t really condense the six (or however many) years for the people that were a part of that time. My summary is going to be wholly different from yours or his or hers. Any speech will come out of only one person’s experience and that person must extrapolate and tune in to that collective experience which, at Harvard-Westlake, I might have said we hardly had. Justin’s speech proved me wrong. I would have said Justin and I had nearly opposite experiences, but for me and, I think, after talking with classmates and parents, for many people, he expressed things I couldn’t say politely to a large audience and impressed upon me the responsibility that comes with the gift of a great education, of being “promising” in his words, that I hadn’t thought about in a while because I was steeped in resentment for a bunch of crappy things that seemingly overridingly defined my latter-day HW experience. I can’t paraphrase his speech. Sorry. It’ll probably end up on YouTube, as nearly everything does, and I highly recommend looking it up. I’ll link to it if I ever find it.

So, we had the valedictory address then, and went right to the names. We don’t have a famous, high-powered speaker. Mr. Hudnut said we bypass that tradition to put the focus on the students. I don’t generally like Mr. Hudnut’s approach to schooling. I don’t like his focus on AP’s, on being so good at so many things that we never sleep and have no time for friends. My mother did actually walk out of one of his speeches once. I think he must be sincere in this belief, however, because Harvard-Westlake doesn’t often waste an opportunity to spend money and get big name people to attach themselves to our community. I’m glad we passed up this one. I think it’s really classy that we don’t have a major player give a speech. He or she doesn’t know us and, although my dad says it’s supposed to be inspirational, I think we can inspire ourselves and I think we should and, with Justin’s speech as my evidence, I think we did. At a school with 281 graduating seniors, I think it’s impersonal to get “a speaker.” At a college graduation, sure, but for us, no. Classy note to end on, HW. Good job. I may even remember you fondly. The very end, anyway.

To the Class of 2008: I didn’t get to know a lot of you too well. I blame the lack of a lunch period, the fact that we never had a class together, the fact that I’m shy (working on it), the fact that our class of 280 is a little too big to really bond as one gigantic unit. Anyway, we all probably wouldn’t have gotten along, and some of us may have hated each other in 7th grade and loved each other in 12th (or vice versa). Some of us probably would have liked each other very much. There are a lot of people I liked or admired that had no idea, so thanks for being generally pretty awesome. Go on to do great things and I’ll keep track of you via Facebook, alumni magazines, reunions, and, hopefully, Entertainment Tonight, MSNBC, and the New York Times.

More likely later.

p.s. Grad night was awesome. I think I fell asleep on the bus after venue number three at 6am for about 15 minutes (and woke up on Katie's shoulder...thanks bus buddy!) but other than that, I got home and crashed at about 8. I won't try to summarize or describe it. Just wanted to say thanks to anyone who had a hand in organizing it (not that a single one of them will likely ever read this) and thanks to anyone I saw or talked to (even if I hadn't talked to you since 7th grade...which happened) who made it fabulous. Maybe senior bonding really does exist. Maybe.