In my last post, I lamented on the effect of dance recitals on introverts. Truly, whether you’re packed backstage helping, or crammed in for three-plus hours of watching other people’s children (don’t get me wrong; they’re all great – just not three-plus hours great. Even the Joffrey Ballet Company is not three-plus hours great), introverts barely make it out with sanity intact.
Still, there’s something about being immersed in a sea of aspiring dancers. I’ll admit, I had a moment.
As I navigated my way through the labyrinthine theater, daughter in tow, we breezed past the side stage. I paused without warning, and daughter crashed into the giant red tutu I lugged over my shoulder. “Fight Song” filled the space and rose to its crescendo as, onstage, a dozen lithe dancers in pale pink leaped and rolled and pirouetted in a lyrical salute to cancer survivors. For a moment, just for a breath, I wanted rush out and join them.
I didn’t, of course. That would be weird. But for that moment, all my introverted, highly-sensitive-person issues vanished.
How is that possible? Allow me to tell you a story.
When I worked full-time, my boss was the VP of investor and public relations. Strangely, he was a hard-core introvert, had a super-dry sense of humor (the slightly uncomfortable kind that leaves you wondering if you’ve missed something) and in general preferred solitude. One of his roles was to travel with the C-Suite guys and conduct investor presentations. Considering his demeanor and the subject matter, I assumed watching a tomato sun-dry would be more interesting; however, when I finally saw him present at an all-employee meeting, my boss took the stage and transformed.
He lit up, cracking jokes and even roasting the CEO. To my surprise, he worked the stage like a suited-up Sebastian Bach, and as I glanced around I realized that in about 180 seconds he’d captivated the 200+ corporate staff. His work rivaled that of Jerry Seinfeld. Afterward, he made a sandwich, hurried back to his office and slammed the door.
How did this man, one of the introvertiest introverts I’ve ever met, suddenly become Howie Mandel? He’s a born performer. Even better, he somehow managed to craft a life that fostered both his introvert (investor relations) and his inner showman (public relations). Not for the first time, I was humbled by my dead-wrong preconceived notions. People are so complex and, really, how many of us can say we get paid to do what we love?
When I was young, I dreamed of dancing and singing. I spent endless hours in the upstairs den of our centennial farmhouse rocking out to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper. I still have no idea what my Silent-Generation parents thought of this behavior, but they never stopped me. Those hours, alone and doing what I loved most, are still dear to me. For years, I saw my own name in lights.
But, alas, life goes on. So instead I pause side-stage and, at 42, imagine myself sailing and spinning in a small city theater, and then I smile and walk on.
Do I regret not “following my bliss”? There was a time when I did. But since then I’ve learned that it’s about the process, not the product. Cliche? Not really. If I’m honest with myself, belting out Adele brings me joy even when I’m chopping carrots for potato-corn chowder.
I’m rereading a brilliant book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. It’s sort of a 12-step program for “blocked creatives.” Cameron believes that everyone possesses a creative gift, but that many of us, for one reason or another, locked that gift away. Whether our passions were squashed by non-believers, or we just thought “real life” held no room for our “frivolous” loves, we turned away from the thing that brought us joy.
But that thing, that gift, never goes away. On some level, we’re always aware of its presence. In her book, Cameron gently helps us coax it out of our subconscious, dust it off and incorporate it into everyday life. She assists us in comprehending that, while we may not be the next Emily Dickinson, we can sign up for the next open mic session. She convinces us that critical acclaim is a by-product, and that success, while potentially pleasant, is totally unnecessary. It’s the process, doing the thing, that brings joy. Not doing the thing is what brings sadness.
I’ve learned that there’s always a way to live your dreams, even if it’s not in the way you expect. My old boss figured it out. Me? I still sing and dance, just not for millions. More in the form of living room dance parties with my kids, or with that strange Wii dance game. Or, if I’m feeling particularly sassy, at karaoke night in the local bowling alley. #smalltownlife
Oh, and I have one more passion, one dream that continues to beckon no matter what season of life I’m in. Can you guess what it is? 🙂
So. What’s your dream? It’s never too late.