Put on a Happy Face. (aka we're all faking it)
[Note: HI! Thank you for getting this far… you know… seeing online that I wanted to say something, and deciding to see what that is. Whether or not you leave now, skim through, or read every word, I want to say thanks, because this post means a lot to me. This post breaks a writing hiatus of 2 years… something I can’t believe I’ve allowed, especially when I know just how much I love to write… and also how much I have to say- thoughts and feelings that have been waiting to be downloaded. So thanks for letting them download into your life.]
PUT ON A HAPPY FACE. (aka we’re all faking it.)
“Grey skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face”
Today, 11:30am: I dragged myself out of bed, (this alone took a LOT of self-coaxing) decided with a pathetic amount of ease to not go to the audition I had planned to attend, (this took virtually no coaxing) walked into the kitchen, grabbed a banana in one hand and jar of almond butter in the other and sat down across from my beautiful roommate at the kitchen table and said...
“I feel sad.”
She exhaled, paused, and then said,
And that was it. Simple. Honest. We sat for a minute in silence, because our sadness didn’t need an explanation; we mutually understand this feeling of dissatisfaction that seems to be plaguing our nation, and our generation. And we mutually understand the hardships of the decision to be a performer.
Already, as I’m typing, I feel hesitant to write these words. Partly, I’m scared of what people will think- because we are all at least a little scared of that. But mainly, I don’t want to deal with the backlash of concern. Right now, I could name the list of people who don’t want to read that I’m sad. They don’t want to read that there are days (more days than most) where I feel like quitting my career, etc… and in their discomfort with my sadness, they tend to react with comments like “You’ve got it!” or “Keep Going” or “Grey skies are gonna clear up!” And though it’s well intended, those comments often exacerbate the problem.
On another day, I’ll write a blog (or maybe a book) called “How to Talk to Your Loved One Who Does Musical Theatre: What to Say and What Not to Say” and it will be a New York Times Bestseller since so many people deal with this very specific issue. Ok… so maybe not, but the point is, myself and all my fellow artists just want to be able to say, “No Grandma, [or uncle Joe, or mom,] I’m not ok. This career is really f***ing hard, and a lot of times, I feel sad.” But rather than deal with the concern of others, or have to face the reality ourselves, we run around like psychopaths shouting (or posting on social media) I’M FINE! I’M FINE! I’M NOT SAD! SEE! I’LL PROVE MY HAPPINESS WITH THIS PICTURE OF MY ACAI BOWL OR MY PRETTY HEADSHOT. I’M FINE!
When really, I think a lot of us are not fine. This is based on many conversations I’ve had with all sorts of people, who are sitting on all different rungs of the success ladder, in which I’ve come to conclude that nearly everyone feels a little sad.
With this, I want to say: I don’t need anyone to be concerned over my sadness, because it’s not concerning.
It’s not ideal, sure. It’s hard. But life is hard.. and the career I chose is hard.
***IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW I LOVE A GOOD ANALOGY*** So here. you. go:
The career I chose is like riding a mechanical bull. At one time, I looked at the bull, and all the other people in the bar riding the bull and thought to myself... I can do that. Other people keep falling off, but I bet I can stay on…In fact I’ve been told my whole life that I have what it takes to stay on that bull- that I have natural bull-riding talent. These other people thought the same thing, but I’m different, and special.. and hey! The worst thing that can happen, is I fall. So I have nothing to lose. I’ll never regret trying, and if I fall off, no harm no foul, I’ll get up and move on to something else. So like a drunk girl at a bachelorette party, I mounted the musical theatre bull with full confidence, only to find that despite a lot of time spent preparing to get on the bull, within a very short time of actually being on it, the whips and throws and turns have me feeling like I could fall really soon. A lot sooner than I ever expected. And by the way…looking down at the ground from up here? The fall doesn’t seem as casual as it did before. I spent years prepping for the bull, I spent a lot money on the ticket to do it, and now the whole room is watching… they have front row tickets to see if I’m going to fall off or not.
So sometimes, the well intended cheers of “you got this” or “Broadway’s coming” or “you’re going to make it” from family and outsiders just ends up feeling like a huge expectation that the girl in the flannel pajamas with a banana and almond butter in her hand just can’t quite meet... even if she wishes for it more than they do.
And that, my dear friends, and loved ones, is what leads Suzanna Champion to look at her best friend and say... (for maybe the 15th time this month)
“I feel sad.”
And it’s why her friend feels sad, and maybe why you do too. The feeling of missing the mark, of failed expectations, of not finding your niche, the feeling of this thing you dreamed of for so many years not being what you expected it to be, feels sad sometimes.
What I think is most important for me to say is this: It’s ok to be sad, because sadness is a feeling and feelings change. And because they change, then we don't have to be afraid of sitting with that emotion and being honest about it. So that is precisely why I wrote this, to be honest and vulnerable about my feelings.
**One thing that no one has ever accused me of, is not being vulnerable. I spill out my emotions to anyone who will hear them with the same ease as I clumsily knock.. no fling, rather… full glasses of red wine all over my friend’s white living room on Thanksgiving (true story). I often tease my roommates, that when they are old and reflect on their time living with Suzanna Champion, they will say “Oh that was the year that I got really good at listening.” So yes.. if you have ever had the honor of being my close friend, my trusted mentor/teacher, my boyfriend, or my mom, then you know just how much time I spend in emotional turmoil, and you probably didn’t even need to read this post, because we probably talked about all of these things last Wednesday**
But if you weren't aware of me feeling this way… then I’m really glad you’re reading this.. for two reasons:
I believe that life without sadness is NOT A THING. A day without sadness is NOT A THING. However, we get told that we are supposed to be happy and fulfilled all the time. ***We are allowed to feel sadness when someone has died, or when you’ve been broken up with or if you get your feelings hurt… but it’s not really acceptable to feel sad just because it’s just how you feel in that moment.*** But I think sadness is normal. Realizing that, and getting comfortable with feeling melancholy (especially as an artist) is really important.
If you feel sad today, I'm glad you read this so that you don’t look at instagram and think that you’re the only one. And more importantly… so that you never look at me through the lens of social media and think that I’m living anything else than this: a normal human life. One FILLED with joy and laughter and friends, but also one full of insecurities, loneliness, dissatisfaction, and yes.. sadness.
So friends, I want to say thank you for sharing in my sadness with me. I feel sad today, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a wonderful life. One that brings me great joy, and one that I’m very thankful for. So… no need for concern, ok Uncle Joe?
I just wanted to take a moment to be vulnerable, in the hopes that it gives someone else the courage to be vulnerable too. So if even one person reads this and says, “Oh thank God. I’m not crazy, other people feel the same way,” then THAT, my friends, makes me HAPPY! (And if more than one person reads this and says, “this girl needs a thesaurus.. I’ve never seen the word “sad” more times in my life,” then.. I don’t blame you.)
Thank you for reading- getting back to writing feels like connecting with a long lost friend- really good, but also like… “girl, how did we let so much time pass?!? I’ve missed you!”
Oh and lastly.. if you ever need anything, I’m here to listen- I’m almost as good at listening as I am at being sad. :)