Thursday, May 12, 2011

I could have been something.

I could have been something more. Maybe. You never know. I had talent. I busted out of my small town with my star brightly shining. I was the girl who was leaving Texas, heading to New York City. I could sing, act, and had a lot of dance lessons under my belt (though I've never been a great dancer) and I had supportive family. I actually did pretty well. By the time I was 22 I had a BFA in musical theatre, my equity card and my first important 9 month, eight show-a-week gig. I had a great brownstone apartment on the upper west side and I was head over heels in love with New York City.
But the honest truth here is, that I never loved musical theatre more than anything else. And you have to, I think. You have to love it more than anything in order to take the constant rejection, the long hours and small pay. There was something in life I wanted more. I wanted to be a wife and a mom. I wanted to be like my mama. So I didn't keep my eye on the prize. I followed my heart down a different path and ended up right where I think I should be.
I'm so happy. I'm so happy with my life that it scares me sometimes because I feel like the other shoe is about to drop. I love my life with Michael and the kids here in my small hometown. I wouldn't change it. Ever. Not for anything.
But it's odd. I don't think about my old musical theatre life much, but at times I'm reminded and I feel - odd. Sometimes it just plain hurts. Like when I go see a touring broadway show and I hear a diva singing some awesome song and I just want to get up there and do it too and I know I can't. Or when I watch the Tony's. And I know that I've missed the boat. That path is forever closed to me.
And sometimes I feel diminished. Like when I sing karaoke and know that people would much prefer to hear a fun rock song than the musical theatre ballad I'm singing my heart out on. Or when I run into people here in my small town that I haven't seen since high school and they want to know if I did it. If I made it. And then they wonder why I'm back here in our small town and why I don't perform anymore. Do they think I wasn't good enough? Do they pity me for living my stay-at-home mom life? Suddenly I see myself through their eyes and I think maybe I'm not exciting, or glamorous anymore. I'm just a frumpy housewife with a too high voice.
Ugh. I don't believe that you have to be somebody with money or stardom to be important and I think people who do believe that are pitiful, so why do I care?
My mom says that when I was little I told her that when I grew up I wanted to be an actress, a stay-at-home mom, and to live with her. Well, shoot. I did that. (almost. Does living on the ranch count as living with her?) I realized my childhood dream.
I just wish there wasn't such a stigma attached still to a woman giving up her career to be a wife and mama. And I wish I could still perform in a top quality musical occasionally. Here in San Marcos, in the afternoon so I can get to bed early. With rehearsals in the mornings while the kids are in school. ;)
I know I can't have it all. And the hurt is almost gone these days. I'm glad I didn't take that path. I'm glad I followed my heart. Things are so good here. I love musical theatre and I really love performing. I love taking on the character and singing and being in the spotlight. But I really love being who I am right now MORE. I love being a mom, a wife, a friend, a caregiver, a cook. My life is full and there is not a whole lot more room in it for my old love affair with performing. I do have a little room though. I think it's time for me to go plug in the karaoke machine and sing a few musical theatre ballads. I've got time for a few before I pick the kids up from school. XO, me


Rob L. said...

It's natural to wonder about alternate courses our lives could have taken, but be careful not to equate the notion of being something "else" too closely with being something "more." Just because one course of action might result in more money, travel, or public adulation does not make that course "better" than the alternatives. After all, lots and lots of performers are depressed, miserable people in spite of success.

And about this: "Like when I sing karaoke and know that people would much prefer to hear a fun rock song than the musical theatre ballad I'm singing my heart out on." I think that maybe you're starting from some faulty assumptions there. I think that most people -- especially the people that you'd assemble for a karaoke gathering -- would "much prefer" to hear each person doing whatever it is they most want to do up there.

Hope it doesn't sound like I'm scolding you in the process of trying to be supportive, though -- I do get it that you're the type of person who's able to do this sort of self-reflection out in the open and this post might not really be as negative as it felt to me at first reading.

Amber said...

I don't think I felt negative when I wrote it. Definitely more reflective. I was honest when I said that I don't think about this stuff often, but I wanted to put it out here because I do think about it sometimes and I wanted to note those feelings too.
The karaoke comment was more about the contests I've done, not about my my close friends don't worry. Though I appreciate the reassurance.
I also appreciate your comments. It does feel odd sometimes to put up something so personal and not hear anything back. You are absolutely right about the "else" and the "more". And it's also exactly what I think I needed to hear. I love my friends!

cheris said...

First of all, you look like a teenage Judy Garland in that photo. (And now you look like a 29 year old Judy Garland if she hadn't taken so many drugs)
Second, I totally relate to this post. I never even thought about being at home with the kids until I was pregnant. I thought I would be a National Geographic photo journalist, traveling the world and having adventures. And it still grates that, when people ask what I do, I'm quick to jump in with a qualifying statement like "And I also teach/edit sometimes!" Our generation has gone a bit overboard with the women's lib in that way. But, like you, I realize how lucky and happy I am with these kids and amazing husband... I don't even want to say it out loud for fear of jinxing it.
I think, though, that there is time for us to do all those creative things. You're going to travel and be involved in theater and I'm going to travel and write and take photos. The future is going to be very exciting.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you thanks for posting this.

Mama Deb said...

Oh, Amber, the things you and I have in common! I hear you...all the way down to the musical theater in a karaoke bar! I think that's why I adore the gay karaoke bar I have gone to a few times in S.F. I can belt out 'Don't Rain On My Parade' or 'I Don't Know How To Love Him' and the crowd goes wild! I think you need to visit so we can go together :)

Mama Deb said...

P.S. I can't even tell you how many times I have said 'I want to be in a band when I grow up.' Somewhere down the line, you'll have a chance to have a taste of that glory again. Let's pinky swear we both do that, okay?

rebecca said...

I've been meaning to comment on this post too. It took me a long time to discover that in order to say "yes" to something. And by "yes" I mean to truly pursue excellence in something (parenting, musical theater, writing...) you have to say "no" to A LOT of other things. In fact you have to say "no" to almost everything else. In other words, you have to choose.

I, for one was raised with the idea that the possibilities were limitless, that I could do or be anything. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but its just as important to understand that you can't do or be everything! I'm happy to be in a place now where I believe in my choices (family, writing, chickens...), I'm glad you are too!