“Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born.”
~ Master Aemon, A Dance With Dragons (Book 5 of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’)
When we’re kids, we think we can do anything. It’s only when we grow up that we realize we can’t; that reality means making choices, sometimes difficult ones. That sometimes, in order to shape a grown-up future, we have to give up those childhood dreams we hung our hats on, the giant stars we hoped to hitch our wagons to.
Today, I realized I had to make that choice.
There comes a time in every twenty (or twenty-something) year old’s life when they stop and think, “Where in the world am I going?” For me, that time happened today, in my Management Research Seminar 1 class. My professor, Ms. Ting, had just finished briefing us on our class requirements–thesis topic in two weeks, formal proposal and defense by the end of the semester, final thesis and defense by the end of the year–and was by that time explaining how the “capstone requirements” of fifth year would go: thesis, thesis defense, electives, and eight months of junior consultancy in a Business Academic Partnership (final paper and defense required). The more she explained, the more visible the end of my student life became, to be followed by…what, exactly? I had a vague idea, right?
Apparently not, and the more Ms. Ting elaborated on the requirements I’d have to turn in, the more I realized I’d have to figure things out soon because like it or not, after this year (or even during it) I would be forcibly ejected into the real world to make real choices.
After twenty years of effective childhood, I would have to grow up.
Call me a chronic sufferer of the Peter Pan Syndrome, but that prospect terrifies me. I’ve been a “free spirit,” an “artist,” for two decades, dreaming of a bourgeois bohemian lifestyle of the stage–my dream, as I’ve recounted time and time again, is to essay the part of that patron saint of unrequited love, Éponine Thenardier–and believing wholeheartedly that somehow I would be able to pursue it. My friends and I talk casually of moving to New York (Broadway) or London (West End), all while sipping Starbucks frappucinos purchased with our student allowances. It’s been a lovely, golden world, a little bubble of unlimited possibility.
Only the possibilities aren’t quite so unlimited after all.
This afternoon, after hearing the cold hard facts of how my time as a student was supposed to end (God willing), I realized that having indulged for so long in “what ifs,” I was now being called upon to answer “What’s next?” in something other than the hypothetical. My time in Brazil, while amazing, stacked up as little more than a working vacation compared to the corporate summers of my peers. I was starting at a probable disadvantage, so I had to come up with plan, and quickly. This meant taking a good, hard look at the “vague idea” I’d nurtured as my goal for the future, viewed with an ice cold eye. My ability to launch a theater career straight out of university, with my credentials? Nonexistent. My lofty hopes of revolutionizing the perception of culture and arts management in the Philippines, founded on goals of self-sufficiency and sustainability? A vague motherhood statement full of high-flown jargon ripped from my management books.
What did I want to do, really?
Or, more importantly, what did I need to do?
In a fit of panic, I bolted from my classroom (this was well after dismissal though, so I wasn’t causing a scene) and ran straight for my in-school refuge from the freshman hordes: the ACB Fourth Floor Sulk Corner. Once there, I did what my mother (who I’d phoned in the middle of my nervous episode) suggested I do: read my Ignite 2013 Post-Conference Devotional and pray. Restless, I began to scribble in my diary, hoping that somehow, if I could just get some words down, I could at least sort out the fear that felt like a frantic bird beating against the walls of my chest.
Once upon a time, I’d been a girl with all the answers. A girl who’d always known, or at least had an idea, where she was headed, whether it was Journalism at UP or the diplomatic corps via PolEco at UA&P or high school teacher back at MGCNL (my alma mater) or, finally, what I felt sounded “right” at the moment: arts manager-slash-actress-slash-all around theater practitioner. Hands shaking, hunched uncomfortably over my Venzi, I narrated the transition from that little girl to the confused, scared, technical-adult that I’d become, trying to put the puzzle pieces together as I went. It didn’t make sense. I’d done what everyone said I should do–figured it out by following my bliss, going after my dreams, doing as my heart bid.
Then I realized that therein lay the fatal flaw.
I was told to follow my heart, follow my dreams…without considering the possibility that maybe I didn’t have the resources–the time, the money, the talent, the capacity–to pursue them as single-mindedly as I wanted to. That somewhere along the road, I’d gotten so caught up in my fantasy of where I wanted to be that the castle in the air turned to one of cement, weighing me down, keeping me from exploring my options while petrifying me with the fear that if what I wanted didn’t happen, if my dreams never materialized, that my life would suddenly lose all meaning.
If I was honest with myself, I didn’t know how in the world I was supposed to make my multi-hyphenated “career path” work, or even if I’d like it once I was there. I’d only had the vague idea that I was (am) a theater person, and therefore had to somehow be in theater–how, I didn’t know. My best plans somehow had me quantum leaping from auditioning for local productions to somehow getting on West End as my beloved Ép (never mind that I’d failed an audition for a Cameron Mackintosh musical before). I’d been holding my half-baked ideas in front of my face for too long that I couldn’t see ahead anymore; so obsessed with my way that before I knew it I’d lost the highway. I thought all along I knew what was best for me, but now, faced with the fact of an imminent reality check, I found out…I didn’t.
They say that disillusionment hurts, but strangely enough, this one came almost as a relief. When I finally admitted to myself that I had no idea where I was going, and that to find out I was going to have to let my crazy dreams go, for now if not forever, I felt a sense of peace. Not settling, but peace. Like I was finally on the road to something, instead of just the idea of something.
Letting go isn’t giving up. It’s just accepting that there is a possibility that maybe things won’t happen the way I want them to. That maybe the things I want don’t want me back, and that’s okay–I’m not meant to be where I want to be anyway, but where I need to be.
And this is where God comes in.
Eventually my diary entry morphed into a prayer of acceptance and surrender, of recognizing that I’d been living my life as if I’d been in control when in truth I wasn’t, and could never be. If I ran my life, I’d run it into the ground, so full of hang-ups and insecurities and a grossly overinflated ego (which is largely responsible for my rabid overachieving; to put not too fine a point on it, the more I do, the more applause I get) that I’d eventually be blinded by myself and run straight on into a dead end. So instead, I made a choice to (*ulp*) hand the reins, and my big dreams, over, and trust that in the end, nothing will be wasted. That even if I never end up actually on stage, the potential I bear as a “theater person,” among other things, will not go to waste. That every single skill, interest, hobby, inkling, and dream on that jack of all trades list will finally find fulfillment, not by my own definition of it, but by the definition of Someone who knows better. That God, in his infinite wisdom, will use and use up everything, and I will die spent.
So do I know where I’m going yet? No. But I do know what I need to do to get there, and that is to kill the girl–that stupid, silly, egotistical, naïve, spoiled little girl–and let the woman be born: a woman who understands that her life isn’t her own, and never was.
The fact that it isn’t actually all about me, and I’m incredibly relieved by it. Why? Because the thing about purpose–the answer to that whole “What do I need to do with my life?” question–is that it comes when you have passion: when you live for something outside of yourself. If our selves were the be all and end all, then passion would impossible–we need to burn for something bigger.
And what’s bigger than God, really?
So this is what I know. I am a theater person. I always will be. But I am also a marketer, a budding “new media” geek, a trained manager (or so my future degree declares me), a design nut, a musician (-ish…), a wonder junkie, a travel nut, and a storyteller. I am a person of disparate elements, with many different permutations of using them. I’m not stuck on, and trapped by, one pattern anymore. Instead, I’m trusting God, knowing he’ll put my all of kooky mix to the right use. And, whether that “use” will come in the form I’d hoped it will, or not, in the end, everything will work out.
Who knows? Maybe, one day, that little girl will get to rise again.