Josh and the City: How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

Broadway

Well, folks, it’s been a year. Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six-hundred minutes. Three hundred and sixty five days since I graduated from college.

The feeling is simultaneously thrilling, startling, sentimental and overwhelming. To think that an entire year has passed since I left the university I trained at as an undergraduate is nothing short of mind-blowing. My automatic response is to retrace my steps and consider everything I’ve experienced during that time: where I’ve gone, what I’ve done and what I still hope to do that I haven’t yet accomplished. Perhaps by the end of this column I’ll be able to find a word that encapsulates the events of this year.

For all you soon-to-be grads out there, this one’s for you.

When I collected my much-anticipated diploma and bid my beloved university adieu, I headed home to spend the summer making as much money as I could to save up for my eventual move to New York (whenever that might be). After finishing my final summer as a camp counselor, I took a risk and dove headfirst into a venture I hadn’t previously anticipated or even considered: a traveling children’s theatre show. Let me begin by saying that in no way had I ever desired to hop in a car with two complete strangers and travel around the country performing the same show three times a day to children who were probably too young to ascertain what it was we were presenting. Also, I would have preferred to do something a little “higher caliber” than a “throw-props-and-set-pieces-into-a-car-as-well-as-suitcases-and-personal-belongings-and-travel-around-the-country-like-contemporary-gypsies” kind of gig (notice my “big dreams” naiveté here). But it sounded like it could be fun, so I took a leap of faith and decided to try it out.

How do I put this? It was the biggest. Mistake. Of my (performing) life.

Not only was the entire trip miserable, but my cast mates and I had to deal with some rather unfortunate situations involving cars filled with diesel instead of gas, disgusting hotels with roofs caving in and endless amounts of boisterous, overzealous children who were loud enough to make performing in gymnasiums and cafeterias a near impossibility. All I will say about the experience is this: if you are going to partake in a traveling tour, do your research on all aspects of the tour itself far in advance, get a copy of your contract immediately and, most importantly, get everything in writing. Everything.

When I finished the tour (whilst some of my friends were off performing with Broadway talent and filming bit parts in television pilots), I returned home and took a part-time retail job in a clothing store to save up last-minute money before my move to New York. My main resolution for 2013 was to get to New York; the other was to publish my novel. We all know that one of those resolutions has reached fruition (so far!). Come January, I was boldly venturing into the unknown armed with four years of college experiences and a lifetime of anticipation. I felt like I was completely starting over; I had to figure out how to navigate new terrain, meet some of the thousands of actors with my same dreams, learn the ins and outs of the industry, find a job and fulfill myself artistically. I knew that none of this would be easy, but I also knew that someday I would look back and be proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and, at the very least, risking everything to pursue my dreams.

I know it sounds like a lot of “big” things happened to me this year, but now that I am taking the time to look back on it, I’m realizing just how small so many of the important moments were. In June, I began The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a book that truly and deeply helped me make the transition from collegiate life to the taboo realm of adulthood and reality. I walked my dog almost every day that summer after not seeing her on a consistent basis for nearly nine months. I edited and proofread and continued my vigilant work on my book, started new projects and began working for the site you’re on right now. I panicked about finding one part-time job in the New York City only to nab another just weeks later (it can happen, people!). I performed in a traveling children’s theatre production that, while horrible, enabled me to spread joy to some very special kids who just might become the future thespians of tomorrow. And then there’s the whole bumping-into-Bernadette-Peters-while-she’s-on-her-way-to-the-tinkle-tinkle-ha-ha-room thing. No biggie.

I usually look at life in a very “large” way, but this year, I’ve learned to breathe again and appreciate the smaller, more meaningful moments. There are so many things that parents and professors don’t warn you about while you’re in school, like that melancholy period when college is over and don’t know what to do next, even if you have booked some kind of performing or survival job. Diploma or no diploma, you are forced to take a good hard look at yourself and determine whether or not you like what you see. Sometimes you have to familiarize yourself with your own family again (at least until you leave the nest for good). Adjusting to a life that no one can prepare you for is no walk in Central Park, I’ll tell you that. Like the roller coaster of life, it has its ups and downs, but crossing through the doorway to the real world forces you to live in the moment, much like Jonathan Larson wished to teach us in his most remarkable artistic achievement, Rent. (Coincidentally, the lyrics to “Seasons of Love” have been in my head all week as I approached the one-year anniversary of my graduation). As I leave you with the lyrics of what has become one of the most classic songs in the music theatre canon, I contemplate the best word I can use to describe my first year as an arguably functional member of society.

[We pause for a moment of dramatic contemplation.]

I used to wonder if I would keep in touch with anyone from college after I graduated. I used to worry that all of my friends would succeed instantaneously, making it to Broadway while I cheered them on from the sidelines. And I definitely used to question whether or not I was ready for the daunting and intimidating world of New York theatre. Remembering each of these introspections, I realize how humbling this year has been. I have kept in touch with all of my friends from school and have never once feared that we would fall out of contact; I have cheered on the ones who have made it to Broadway, as well as those who have appeared in hit television shows that we all know and watch (all the while biding my time and knowing that my time will come), and I still question whether or not I have what it takes to succeed here, but I know that I am here because I love what I do and I love everyone that has supported me and encouraged me up to this point. And just like that, I have my word: love. Corny, right? I don’t care. It hasn’t been a perfect year, but if facing your fears does nothing else, it shows you what you hold dear in your life. What you love.

And now, I ask you:

How do you measure a year in the life?

 

“In daylights, in sunsets?

In midnights, in cups of coffee?

In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?

How about love?

How about love?

Measure in love.

Seasons of love.”

Rent stage

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