This is why we can't have nice things...
By Kimberly Lew (Playwright/Blogger)
One of my best friends and I have an inside joke where we always lovingly warn one another, "Don't lose your phone," as a way of saying "Don't lose your mind" or "Don't stress out too much." It's based on a time when she was balancing apartment hunting with some boy troubles and having just moved to the city, and I realized that she was "losing it" when I tried to call her and ended up on the phone with a stranger who had found her cell at an improv festival. Since then, if one of us is stressing out or worried about the future, we just tell one another, "Don't lose your phone."
Well, last week I was prepping for a reading of my new play, The Memory Queen, and I was nervous and excited and stressed about all the things on my plate to get ready.
And then I lost my phone. Literally.
I don't own a lot of valuable things, and sadly, that phone cost more than probably anything else I own (let's just say the model rhymed with pie-phone shmive). But it was less about the phone itself and more about the feeling that losing it gave me. It's been a while since I've lost anything of "real" value, and the realization that something that I once had and depended on was now gone really filled me with a nasty feeling of self-doubt.
"This is why I can't have nice things," I joked to my friend, who was outraged, especially because she was convinced that our waiter had pocketed the phone. I wanted to lighten the mood, but a part of me also felt like it was a truism that was always staring me in the face.
The fact that I lost my phone around the same time as a much-anticipated reading (which had been delayed due to Sandy) seemed both incredibly inconvenient while strangely metaphoric. Here I was, about to share my work with a theater mostly full of friends who had never seen or heard my work before, and yet I couldn't even keep it together the night before to hold on to a device that had become a part of my daily routine.
"This is why I can't have nice things." I wondered if the same would be true of my reading.
The truth is that, in some ways, it's easier to stay scrappy. Because the more you care about something and the more value you ascribe to something, the greater chance you have of losing it, of being disappointed. While this reading was hardly a make-or-break moment in my career, it was the first reading of my work of this caliber, and self-doubt was not an emotion I needed creeping in right beforehand.
The reading went well, and I got a lot of helpful feedback and the actors, the space, and my director were great. But I don't think that the feeling of self-doubt ever really goes away. I think the hope is that you keep pushing, keep feeling a little scared, and keep making tiny bits of progress if you can weather the storm. As Neil Gaiman said, just when you start to feel like you're exposing yourself too much, like you're too much out on a limb, "That's the moment you may be starting to get it right."
The trick, I suppose, is being able to differentiate between what matters and what doesn't. It's a question of when you deserve to push forward and when you can save yourself some of the stress and pull back. When it comes to writing, I'm taking it one day at a time. When it comes to phones, I might just stick to my crappy flip version to save some heartache.
KIMBERLY LEW is a playwright with two published one-act plays for high schools, as well as full-length Searching for Candi (co-written with Gabriella Miyares), which debuted at Mt. Holyoke college. Her latest play, Other People's Children, was recently featured as a part of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective's new works reading series and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O'Neill Playwrights Conference and Ashland New Play Festival. She also created/manages the Emerging Musical Theatre blog. www.kimberlylew.com
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