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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. for all its faults and flaws and 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 pile 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 while others marveled at skyscrapers and central park i acquainted myself with an unnamable sadness. in fact, sadness became my sole companion. perhaps i was too young. perhaps i should have attended a basic liberal arts college. perhaps, perhaps....truth be told it's remarkable i survived at all. but when graduation day finally came it was not a marker of success but a desperate gasp for air. i had failed. deeply, i had failed. and i had lost that little kernel of faith in my ability to act, and as it turns out, myself. 

so i stopped. acting, that is. four years studying the thing and i couldn't stomach it. i know, i know, just what anyone wants to hear as they prepare to leave school or continue on in their education.

but here's the thing failure, as it turns out, proves fertile ground. and 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, as it turns out, 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 school all over again. as the person i am now. 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 but whether or not i will return  is a part of the story i've yet to write. 

what i mean to say is this. if things don't go as planned, that's okay. (i know, i know, everyone says that.) how to tell you--to 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 a stage under the lights. the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might actually reveal itself as something else. because 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 juilliard encourages.

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

sometimes i wonder how i'll look back on this period in my life--as a pause in the story? as a precursor to the next great plot twist? a time when i was tied to nothing, living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment, way high north on the island of manhattan next to the train tracks and nestled against the river--and i think i'll be a better actor because of these days, a better person, if nothing else. 


Sonja said...

What just happened! So many beautiful posts at once! Ah suddenly, I love tonight .

Alexandria said...

You words inspire me. Always.

Jo said...

i love this...this failure. it's so very brave.

Sarah Ann said...

I think about this a lot.

What if I had known the hold that words would have over me later in life? What if I had paid attention to my high school English teacher when she told me to focus on writing? What if I had listened to those college professors who were trying to encourage me into a creative writing program? What if I'd skipped the public relations as an easy route into journalism and really just dove into words?

What would life be like now if I'd known all that then?

Sometimes it consumes me, the opportunities I may have passed up.

But. Still.

So much of what I write is my own story. And what if I had pursued writing and missed out on the story? Then what would I write about?

Round about journeys to our final destination prove to be more important than we're willing to readily admit I suppose.

But your story is so beautiful. And I read it every day, comment or not. Today though, I just had to tell you.


Nicole said...

I can relate, heart and soul, to this more than anything else I have read in a long long time.

Failure has defined me for the past 2/3 years- and honestly, I wouldn't change a bit of it.


Rony said...

I LOVE this post- so beautiful and so well-said. As a recent-ish graduate who isn't doing anything related to what I studied I can definitely relate to this on some level. I completely and totally agree with you about failure and I (literally) could not have said it better myself. I love reading your blog. I find it truly inspiring and quite beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Funny that you wrote this today. Today when I was thinking this very thing. I am in my fourth and final year of undergrad. A theatre major. Theatre and acting...things I have come to hate. The pressure. The work. The inability to please myself or anyone else. The eating disorder that keeps me so sick, I can't really live. I just exist...day in and day out. And I broke down today. I cried. Hard. I said I wanted it to be over. I just wanted to graduate and be done. I wanted a break from it all. From acting and theatre and bulimia. My other major, sociology, gives me so much joy and I rarely see failure. Even when I do, I feel I can learn and bare it. Luckily, that's the path I have fallen into that I enjoy. But every time I have to walk into theatre or see my professors, I just feel this draining sadness. I feel suffocated and great anguish. I wish I could make everyone understand that whatever criticism they have for me, I have already given myself. I don't need it. I've got the beating myself up thing covered, so their help is really unnecessary. I'm gasping for that fresh air. There is 5 months left. I'm wondering if I'm going to make it. Undergrad was hard. Not the school work. The eating disorder. Bulimia makes everything harder. I just really wish I had the smallest bit of encouragement because all I want to do now is curl up under the covers and never come out.

katilda said...

i recently started writing again for a living after a long break. it feels like breathing. this speaks to me: "and writing, as it turns out, gave me back my life."

Sarah McCabe said...

I've never seen you act, but I have been following your blog for the past year. You should know, I consider you one of the most gifted writers whose work I've ever had the pleasure to read. And more than that, writing seems to be somthing you deeply love. Perhaps you were never meant to act. Perhaps everything you went through was just so that you could find your true gift in writing. I'm not sure what you do for a living, but if I were you, I would look into finding a job where you can write, because what better than to do what you love and make money doing it?

Erin said...

Beautiful thoughts, Meg. I wish I could go back and do school all over again, too, as the person I am now. I would do it much differently. But I'm glad things have turned out the way they have.

courtneykearns said...

you are fantastically brilliant.

Chloe said...

So many beautifully written posts all at once, tonight has been lovely!

I absolutely love this. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time, I've been so stressed about school and exams lately, this post really helped lift the pressure and my revision actually feels like it's working since I read it.

As always, your blog is hugely helpful/inspiring. Thank you!! :)