It can be terrifying to put yourself out there. I know: I’ve made a living at it, and it’s still hard.
Acting. Writing. Just showing up to a networking event, or posting a profile to an online dating site, much less walking up to your hero/dreamboat, sticking out your hand and introducing yourself.
And what I’m gathering, as I slither on up the mountainside, is that no matter how good you get at whatever, that “whatever” just gets scary in new and significant ways. In other words, the Thing We Must Do is always mildly terrifying for some of us: it just becomes terrifying more in the good way, like how skydivers must look at things like hurling themselves from aircraft 10,000 feet up, or Olympic gymnasts must look at hurling themselves over whatever in front of ever-more judgmental people (they’re judges, for crying out loud) for ever-greater record-breaking stakes, or other aficionados who manage to get really, really good at what they do, throwing off the feeling of “easy” when really it’s more like “habituated.”
This is my truth: every new hand I reach out to shake mildly terrifies me. Every room I walk into, every stage I step onto, every camera I step in front of sends a wisp of a thread of fear through me. Pray for me when it doesn’t, while we’re at it; the worst you can hope for as a performer is that you sleepwalk through a performance, that the thrill doesn’t scoop you up in its palm and rattle your insides a wee bit.
Here’s a short list of what scares me right now:
- Succeeding again, then failing.
- Losing my friends.
- Losing my limbs.
- Losing my glasses and having no pair handy and having to drive somewhere blind.
- Auditioning for something I really, really want and not getting it.
- Or getting it.
- Meeting Barack Obama and having to explain why I gave money instead of campaigning for him.
- Meeting Michelle Obama and having to explain why I gave money instead of campaigning for her husband.
- Meeting my Maker (I’m really, really hoping the atheists are right on this one) and having to explain everything.
- Losing my rent-control apartment here in a tony section of Los Angeles.
- Never leaving my rent-control apartment here in a tony section of Los Angeles.
- Letting people down.
- Dying with the music in me.
- Being poor.
- Being rich.
With the possible exception of the apartment and Barack Obama (okay, and “being rich”) this is a list I could just as easily have scribbled into my freshman-year journal (I couldn’t have predicted such a long-term stay in Los Angeles nor a black President). In other words, nothing really changes, as my first shrink-slash-astrologer said a long, long time ago, you just get better at doing an end run around yourself.
I did three terrifying things between yesterday and today. When I think about it, that’s kind of my prescriptive for getting out of most dumbass, self-induced jams. Terrify yourself, mildly to wildly, situation-dependent.
Extend yourself, emotionally or financially (this, assuming you generally have your head so firmly affixed you run for the hills rather than do either as a matter of course).
Or extend yourself physically. Or hey, pull way the hell back, if your default mode is extension.
You know. You know better than I ever could.
It will keep you alive. It will keep you raw, and on your toes, and in the joyous, explosive, terrifying, exhilarating game of life.
Extend. Withdraw. Switch it up.
Plug into the juice. And go, baby, go…