Friday, March 6, 2009

Victory and Validation

I don’t even know how to begin. So I’ll just tell the story, I suppose.

I came home tonight a bit earlier than typical, mayhap by an hour. I finally started reading Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and it’s been my train companion for the last day or so. I find myself struggling to keep up, remembering my chemistry and physics classes of high school and college daze, not merely to remember the science, but also to remember how I learned in those days. I could be great at those subjects when I really applied myself. I developed a stronger love of theatre when I discovered I could be good at it without trying nearly as hard. So sue me.

I checked the mail when I got home, eagerly looking for word from the IRS about reducing the amount of my garnishment. What I got instead was a letter from DePaul, one of the schools for which I’d auditioned. My heart sank.

When I got a letter from The New School on Monday, all I could think about was my friend who goes there now. Logical thought warred with emotional response. “She got a phone call,” I mumbled to myself, “but I got a letter. I got a letter. But she got a phone call. But I got a letter.” Absently, I noticed the envelope was awfully thin.

I went inside my apartment and curbed the emotions that toiled back and forth. Who would I call first? My father, who would help book the ticket to NY? My friend, telling her I’d soon need a place to stay for a weekend? No, stop it. What if it’s bad news. What if it’s a rejection. Are you prepared for that? A deep-seeded cynicism took over as I forced myself to slow down. Take off your bag. Take off your coat, hat, and boots. Now sit down. Now open the envelope.

“Hello, Mark –,” it read. Awfully polite & personal, thought I. “I want to thank you for taking part in our admission process this year.” I was able to make the connection that a letter of acceptance wouldn’t have started that way. “However,” it continued, “it is with deep regret that I inform you. . .” No wonder it was polite. Crap.

The New School holds three rounds of auditions, but I hadn’t even passed the first one. Rejection would have been easier to take if I had made it further down the road, if I had known that I had beaten at least one candidate. Instead, what I had earned had taken no talent, no skill – only the ability to pay the application fee held me in distinction from any other face on the street. I was no closer to one of the coveted Three Things I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to get.

A few days and many anguished moments later I held the DePaul envelope. Once more hope and fear shook me like competing ocean currents, threatening to capsize my ego. I talked myself into relaxing, and went into my apartment. I took off my bag, coat, hat, and boots. I sat down. Absently, I noticed the envelope was reasonably thick as I tore off the short edge.

“Dear Mark,” it read. Kinda formal, thought I. “Congratulations!” Jigga-wha? “Based on the recommendation of the performance faculty of The Theatre School at DePaul University, I am honored to notify you of your acceptance . . .”

There was no need to continue. If it weren’t for bold type, I wouldn’t have seen the next compliment. “In further recognition of the value The Theatre School sees in you as a candidate, I am delighted to offer you a Graduate Talent Scholarship of . . .” about ½ annual tuition, renewable each year.

I don’t have the words to express what I feel. So many times have I felt defeat, I can describe it in every detail. The rise of hope and the plummet of disappointment have been rather well cataloged in recent years. Of the three things I most desire in this world, I had thought that a single victory would leave me cynical, but not so terribly that I wouldn’t be able to continue to try. But if my one victory were this victory, I could eventually overcome and ultimately heal and one day be able to rejoice in all that I’d gained, and still go for the other two.

But this feels so much better than I ever imagined it would.

This news is a cool salve on a fresh burn. It numbs the pain and reminds me that I’m not only going to heal, but I’ll do so without a scar. And one day I won’t even remember the pain. Tonight, I shall sleep the sleep of the victorious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Will Not Yield

I want to say something, but I can think of hardly anything that isn’t a complaint.

This week:

I came home from work last Monday ready for exercise. What I got was a crashed computer that took me all week to fix. I even bought $50 worth of cables to get my external drive up and running so I could back up my info. Two days after I fixed my hard drive (on my own, due to my expansive technical expertise and advice from my father, thank you very much), my external drive crashed. There’s no going back, it’s deader than dead. I could have put the $50 toward a new external drive that comes with cables.

Tuesday I got in the mail a notice that on my financial aid application the name I gave doesn’t match my Social Security Number, and needed to be corrected before It could be processed. Both pieces of information were already correct.

Last month I got a $250 credit from my new leasing company. Thursday I got a notice in the mail that they weren’t supposed to give that to me, so this month I have to give it back.

This weekend was good – I made some real headway trying to impress a woman who’s letting me try to impress her. After several weeks, I’m finally to a point where I can be near her and not exude desperation the way the sun emits light. I’m finally in a place where I can show her the side of myself that, if she had seen while we were still together, I’m confident we would still be together. It earned me two kisses that I didn’t even have to ask for.

Today I got in the mail a rejection letter from The New School. I guess New York isn’t going to be my home after all. It’s one thing to be rejected, but they still have two more rounds of auditions before they make their final decisions. It stings being told I’m not as good as all the people who are getting two more chances to prove themselves before being denied.

My conclusion for the week is that I should stop checking the fucking mailbox.

I need a victory. I need an honest-to-god, dyed in the wool victory. Cold-blooded, clean, methodical and thorough. I’m doing okay at overcoming new problems, but every one of those I solve elevates me back to staring up at the old problems again, those overbearing giants who threaten to grind my bones to make ye bread (fee fi fo fum). Some problems must be whittled, eroding flaws as time erodes a stone. Sure, fine, great, thanks Buddha. Fuck all that, now. I need a victory akin to firing a shoulder mounted rocket launcher at a gopher. I need to defeat a challenge like Muhammad Ali beating up a scarecrow. I need to earn something substantial that won’t dissolve with the next strong wind. Something that I can’t lose more easily than I gained.

Maybe I’m fighting the wrong fights. Maybe I’m reaching for that which I have no right to grasp. And maybe getting smacked around is just to toughen me up for the bigger disappointments I’ve not yet been strong enough to face.

"There were only two things I could have done. And one of them would have been to just lie down and never get up again. It's like how many times can life hit you? When do the blows start to hurt? When do you just . . . stop?" —Lyta Hall