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5.16.2011

juilliard.

do you all know molly yeh?

you should. she's marvelous. a marvelous foodie and percussionist (i imagine--i've not seen her, but, you know, word on the street...). and i'd very much like to know her in real life.

she started a student-run newspaper at juilliard (my alma mater) and asked if i'd contribute a retrospective piece. 

i hardly ever talk about school and i hardly ever talk about acting (mostly because both are tricky, unclear topics), but i thought i'd take the time to share what i wrote for the ragtimes...

juilliard (the spaceship)

when first asked to write this piece i was…hesitant. of the little i remember of my time at school, i regret much. my story is is certainly not one of juilliard's great successes. and yet, it is mine. and for all its faults and flaws that's worth sharing, no? 

the white, blank page before me disagrees. i've been unable to piece together...anything--about any of it. how does one sum up school or the subsequent three years in a nice and tidy plot of words? if the story is fragmented and messy how does one do it justice on the page? 

i lost myself at school. that's the long and the short of it. i came to new york at the tender age of eighteen and as others marveled at skyscrapers and central park, i acquainted myself with an unnamable, insurmountable sadness--a sadness that permeated those formidable four years. when graduation finally came, it did not feel like a marker of success but a desperate gasp for air. i felt as though i had failed. deeply. and as though i had lost that little kernel of faith in not only my ability to act, but myself. 

this is not to say the school failed me. it did not. i had remarkable teachers and even more remarkable opportunities. i was allowed to dive into some of the most enriching roles within the acting cannon. hard as it was, i am who i am because of those four years. the failings in my story are of me and therefore mine alone. 

following graduation and too many auditions walking into a room as a shadow of myself, i made the decision to pause. to step away from theatre.

and for a long time i struggled with the necessity of that action. because was it really a necessity or yet another misstep? 

well, here's what i'm learning: misstep or not, it doesn't really matter. there is value in missteps and failings. wrong turns reap great rewards. 

in the absence of acting i began to write.  i simply meant to document. to put pen to paper to help me remember or preserve a period of my life for the future. but those words became a solace that slowly unfurled me--revealed me to myself. the great roadmap of the journey inward. and i found that all that i had learned at school in terms of sounds and shapes of vowels and the discrepancy between what is thought and what is known leant itself beautifully towards writing. 

and writing, gave me back my life. does that sound terribly dramatic? well, it is. and it was.  

there are moments i wish i could go back and do it all over again--school, that is. do it as the person i am now. and in doing so, do justice to the teachers and the knowledge they so graciously and freely impart. perhaps this time i'd be ready? perhaps this time i'd get it right? perhaps, perhaps. but i have to remind myself that few stories are truly linear. we twist around, circle back on ourselves, and when we're lucky, move forward. and that's okay. my story is not done. i left acting, yes, but whether or not i will return is simply a part of the story i've yet to write. and that's the exciting bit.

what i mean to say is this: if things don't go as planned, so be it. 

 everyone says that, you say? okay. okay, how to tell you and make you understand?

how about this: failure is essential. fail as much and as gloriously as you can. fail in little, seemingly inconsequential ways when no one is looking. or fail on stage, under the lights, with thousands watching. it doesn't matter where or how so long as you allow yourself the chance. because, the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might reveal itself as something else. and when the failure fades or passes or wears another mask it gives way to a joy so profound, it lies beyond imagination (even that special brand of imagination that only a school like juilliard can encourage). 

and joy, more than anything else i've ever known,  is essential to art. 

there are times when i wonder how i'll look back on this period of my life--as a pause in the story? a precursor to the next, great plot twist? as a time in which i was tied to nothing--living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment way high north on the island of manhattan between train tracks and river?  whatever it is--whatever it turns out to be--however it works to drive the narrative this much i know: that i am a better person because of both my time at school and the time right now. and a better person makes for one damn, fine (better) actor. 

31 comments:

wildchild said...

you're a beuatiful writer.

Autumn said...

beautiful things can come home from failure


my first giveaway :)

Kate said...

I feel your writing has really evolved over the past few months, or you're at least showing more of your beautiful way with words.

"there are moments i wish i could go back and do it all over again--school, that is. do it as the person i am now. and in doing so, do justice to the teachers and the knowledge they so graciously and freely impart. perhaps this time i'd be ready? perhaps this time i'd get it right? perhaps, perhaps."

yes. i feel this way. perhaps.

becky said...

"how about this: failure is essential. fail as much and as gloriously as you can. fail in little, seemingly inconsequential ways when no one is looking. or fail on stage, under the lights, with thousands watching. it doesn't matter where or how so long as you allow yourself the chance. because, the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might reveal itself as something else. and when the failure fades or passes or wears another mask it gives way to a joy so profound, it lies beyond imagination (even that special brand of imagination that only a school like juilliard can encourage).

and joy, more than anything else i've ever known, is essential to art.

there are times when i wonder how i'll look back on this period of my life--as a pause in the story? a precursor to the next, great plot twist? as a time in which i was tied to nothing--living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment way high north on the island of manhattan between train tracks and river? whatever it is--whatever it turns out to be--however it works to drive the narrative this much i know: that i am a better person because of both my time at school and the time right now. and a better person makes for one damn, fine (better) actor."

My God am I glad you found writing. You do everything justice in your words---more than anything, you do yourself justice. Such a gem.

-Maria- said...

you nailed it in this one simple line

"and joy, more than anything else i've ever known, is essential to art."

Alex said...

You have such an incredible talent, Meg. This is probably my favorite of your writings.

Malin said...

Your writing is beautiful my dear. It really is, beautiful and inspiring.
Thank you for this!

*S said...

So very beautifully written.

christine said...

Wow!

So many people see failure as failure and negative. In refusing to let the light day shine on it and change it into something better and more a part of them, they are doing a great disservice to their life. I know I did.

Like you, I am examining my life. Even after almost 10 years, it's still hard and a bit puzzling when I look back at that moment of spectacular failure at the very thing I had long dreamed of doing. Time has eased it into feeling like not so much a failure but as a shift in the direction I needed to go. Without it I would not be here now, where I am discovering happiness and that my failures are indeed triumphs.

So, brava! Thank you for sharing. You're so very brave and one heck of a writer.

Keiko said...

perhaps...no, there's only now. this....this.




thank you Meg Fee. thank you.

LV said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing. I really enjoyed this post and I can tell that your heart was in every word.

http://foodfashionandflow.blogspot.com/

s a m said...

Meg, these word were not the sugary ones of a motivational speaker - but the ones that encourage and inspire because they're true. What you wrote about failure reminds me of a favorite quote from Liz Gilbert "This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. "

Days Careen said...

Honestly, I hope one day somebody in the 'writing business' stumbles across this blog and offers you a job right there and then in writing, because your beautiful words should be seen by as many people as possible.

I always look to your blog first to see if you have added any new posts because your writing is just so interesting and thought provoking.

You may not be acting at the moment but the writing world has gained so much in the interim.

I have never visited New York but your writing about it makes me feel like I have and know what the essence of it is. Thank you for your shared ideas.

Megan said...

"there are moments i wish i could go back and do it all over again--school, that is. do it as the person i am now."

I used to be very shy and insecure....I always wonder what it would be like to go back in time and do the things I've done (travelling, moving, school,etc) as ME. The real me...the "now" me, the happy and secure and fulfilled me. I really resonated with that part of your writing. Beautiful =)

Anonymous said...

So, so beautiful Meg.

But I don't think of your time at Julliard as a failure. I think of eating disorders as diseases--things that are triggered perhaps by events, but that are not a sign of weakness in the body that they consume.

Just my two cents.

Do you think ned would have shown up eventually, even if you hadn't gone to Julliard? Do you think the pressure was too much? I know that seems like picking hairs perhaps--our lives are our lives, and we can't change what has already happened.

Much, much love. Your blog is magic.

Anna said...

this is beautiful. today I completed my 9th (i started my senior year of hs...) semester of college. but with no cap & gown like my friends. i switched my major 4 times. only to wind up back at the beginning. oy.

but you are so right. "there is value in missteps and failings. wrong turns reap great rewards."

tomorrow I move across the world. tomorrow I begin the job I've dreamt of all along. & it's crazy. mostly because I arrived there-- college degree or not... ; )

you are beautiful. inside & out m'dear.

xoxo

chrissy said...

you have an ineffable ability to capture my emotions to a T. your writing is absolutely stunning. love, one of your biggest fans

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The Many Colours of Happiness said...

What an amazing piece. I, for once, have no words.
Thank you for sharing this.

xoxo

Rach said...

I adore this. I adore you.
This is so inspiring and encouraging, and you have summed up how I have grown to feel about failure in words I could not find.
Thank you :)

MandyJean said...

Thank you so much for this. This couldn't be more timely for me. Beautiful, beautiful writing, Meg.

Erin said...

i love this, meg, because i've recently been teaching myself that "failing" is not necessarily failing. it is simply a sign that i tried something new, and maybe that something is just not meant for me after all. it makes life more interesting and i certainly learn a lot about myself through "failure."

Kate said...

That is so well written. What you said about failure is encouraging and helpful. I'm always afraid to fail, but it's not always a bad thing in the end. Thank you.

Maria said...

Very beautiful and well written.

look a little closer said...

beautiful and honestly, just what i needed. there is something positive about failing - even though at the time it seems hard.

you're such a brilliant writer. :)

love. your. words.

xo

Hannah said...

I love this piece. Love.

When I worry about failing too much, when I stress myself with I-should-have-done-better's , then I will take out this piece and remind myself that everything works out, and that life is gloriously not-linear.

Thank you.

Joyous said...

what a wonderful piece...
thank you for being amazing, brave and inspirational. xx

Yelena said...

I run my school paper and some of our alums have contributed as well. Loved this post! :)

Jennifer M. said...

"what i mean to say is this: if things don't go as planned, so be it."

I love this. It's a very good reminder. After all, if we're afraid to fail, we probably won't accomplish anything.

hklover86 said...

what a great article! you are a great writer and I'm bookmarking your blog!

Anonymous said...

This post was truly beautiful and i am so glad i stumbled upon it at just the moment when i needed some motivation...I am at school currently and though I am studying to become an engineer...I too am currently going through a difficult phase with failures galore and as you said writing has in fact helped me and given me my life back!
Thank you for such an inspiring post!