This post was inspired by a long series of nights spent dreaming I was in Israel and waking up to find that's not the case. It's tough to spend a long and beautiful time in one place and wake up to a different reality.
Artists are storytellers, we are dreamers. By nature we see things for more than they are, deeper than their surface value. We spend time thinking, wondering, pondering, creating alternate realities. By vocation we live alternate realities all the time. I mean that in the sense of imagining ways things could be, but also nobody read me a story as a kid (nor did I read one as a teenager or young adult) about a person who grew up, went to school, and then spent years working multiple jobs at once to be able to spend a little time on the side pursuing her dream. This life I lead, while not unheard of, is far from common or traditional. But the unpredictability, the flexibility, the constant variables that make up the schedule of a freelancer, paints the world with a different brush. The brush of a dreamer.
Dreamers see possibilities where others don't. They imagine things never created before and, if they're a magic combination of hardworking and lucky, they make those imaginings a reality. Right now, as American politics faces options it never believed possible before, dreamers all over the country are forging new realities for our nation. That's happening through a lot of hard work, and a lot of determination in the face of being told our ideals are impossible.
Some may equate dreamers with optimists, but that's not me. I think of myself as a realist in many ways, making the practical decisions that must be made to make impractical decisions possible. When I was in high school, I made the extremely impractical decision of applying to only one college, a college that happened to be the number one "dream school" in the country. I had no backups. I had a fake list of four other schools I could list off when people asked me where I was applying, so that they wouldn't look at me like I was crazy, but to this day I couldn't really tell you anything about the drama programs at Brown, Carnegie-Mellon, Columba, and Northwestern that you don't already know. I did zero research. I focused 100% on making my NYU dream a reality. I did all the practical work, got all the good grades, did all the extra-curriculars and volunteer work needed to make my impractical decision a practical result.
As graduation loomed ever closer, I realized a dream was coming to an end. Don't get me wrong, theatre school was hard, it is still the hardest thing I have ever done, and I was grateful in many ways to have survived it and to see the light at the end of the windowless theatre tunnel. But the end of that tunnel was also the end of my known future. From age fourteen I had seen myself going to NYU and living in New York, and that's what I did. Yet with that cap and gown staring me in the face, I was completely unsure what to do next. I had been very good at achieving my dreams to that point. But I didn't know what the next dream was.
Most days I still don't know what the new dream is, and I graduated almost four years ago now. I dream of creating new theatre, and telling stories, and changing the world through art. I dream of creating political pieces that start a movement. But I also dream of moving to Berlin, or to Tel Aviv, of becoming a citizen of the world, a nomad whose home is nowhere and everywhere.
The danger of being a dreamer is that there is a great risk of disappointment. Far too often, reality does not line up with the possibilities we see. Every audition that doesn't yield a role or each play submission that is rejected is a small (or not-so-small) heartbreak. Being a dreamer is full of extreme highs and consequently extreme lows. Dreamers can imagine incredible successes, bright, perfect outcomes - and when life falls short of what our minds create, it can be a devastating letdown. Some days, it can be easy to shake off a loss, but other days, the death of what could have been roots itself in our hearts and makes everything a bit darker.
I was hoping as I wrote this piece it would come to some sort of inspiring conclusion. But the fact of the matter is I'm at a loss. Sometimes things are just hard. They warn you, when you're a kid, that theatre is a hard business, not for the faint of heart. That if you can think of anything else you'd like to do, do that, because it will surely be easier. And by easier what they mean is that it won't break your heart so much when it's hard. Unfortunately, I have yet to find anything practical that I love as much as theatre or rock music. I'm doomed to be a dreamer forever. And I guess that means a lot more heartbreaks along the way. Good thing my phoenix heart is strong. (There it is. There's the inspiring ending I was trying to find.)