Good news, nerds! runDisney just published the Digital Event Guide for the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend. SOMETHING NEW TO MEMORIZE YAY. The fact that’s the most deeply burned into my brain regarding logistics for the Sunday morning half marathon? The fact that runners are encouraged to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and all-aboard official event transportation no later than 3:30 AM.
Three. Thirty. IN THE MORNING.
Which brings me back to the question that’s been fueling me for the past however many months: WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS? Why am I doing this?
My “why” keeps evolving. I had the simple little epiphany yesterday, “Running makes me feel good about myself.” I’m a professional actor, and so far, I have zero onstage work lined up for 2019. I know that there are (potentially!) a million logical and non-personal reasons for my current work-drought, but man, I do NOT feel great about myself. I feel as though I pulled some grand con on my co-workers the past three years, and they’ve just now gotten wise to the fact that I’m a fraud. And, if that’s true, then do any of the amazing moments I’ve experienced onstage even count? What if I was never really any good? These are the thoughts that get in the way while I’m trying really hard to be grateful-mindful-content-peaceful-whichever pleases you.
When I was in high school, it felt like sports were always getting in the way of my theatre dreams. From age seven or eight through junior year, I played basketball. It was just my tall kid destiny. I was born to two athletes, or: I come from “jock stock,” if you will. All this to say: my parents thought it was very important that my brother and I participated in sports. That’s where we were going to learn about teamwork and make friends and all that jazz. They supported my weirdo drama kid tendencies, but they didn’t get it. So, basketball and, later, track & field were always my extracurricular priorities.
I hated running more than ANYTHING. In basketball, we were punished with “suicides,” that unfortunately named drill that involves sprinting up and down the court. In track & field, all I really wanted to do was jump the high jump, but I had to also run the 4×400-meter relay. I’d spend the school day leading up to a meet anxious to the point of nausea. They tried to get me to do the hurdles– another potential tall kid Chosen One narrative– but I was too scared.
I hated running. I hated sports. I hated anything that wasn’t theatre. Theatre was MY LIFE. From the minute I discovered performing back in little productions in the elementary school cafeteria, I’ve made all of my choices with the pursuit of the stage in mind. As an adult, if I was doing something athletic, like yoga, it was still a means of making myself a better performer.
And, for a while there, I felt like everything was paying off. That all my dues had been paid, and I’d settled comfortably into Shakespearean Leading Lady Land. Sometimes I even felt good about myself. Proud of myself and the work that I’d done to get me there.
But Shakespeare is more like a team sport than I’d anticipated, and just like back in my high school days, there are periods of time where the way I can best serve my team is by cheering them on from the bench. So, I’m learning to stage manage. I’m learning to direct. I’m teaching and I’m making front-of-house schedules and I’m doing what I can to support my team.
And I’m running. It’s a rare choice I made that has nothing to do with theatre. I’m still not sure what the first, baby inkling of a reason “why?” even was. I know why I keep running, but, beyond curiosity, I’m not sure what got me started.
I mean, okay, yeah, I really, really, really want to go to Disney World.
But also! I think I’d be really struggling right now if I didn’t have this. Honestly, I’m a little nervous about going back to life that doesn’t involve obsessing over this race. It’s been a nice thing to worry about instead of “Will I ever be in a play again?” Panicking over the looming 2:30am wake-up call is an anxiety I much prefer to the immense existential dread created by my lack of acting work.
Honestly-honestly, I’m very nervous about going back to life that doesn’t involve obsessing over this race. The half marathon has started to feel like what I picked out as the last goofy “hurrah” of my twenties, and that I need to really figure out my life when I get back home. I’ve wondered if it isn’t just about time to break up with my acting dreams, at least for a little while.
I feel like such a boring person sometimes, what with my intense craving for schedules and plans and itineraries. The path to acting was never really going to have one. I’ve gotten as far as I think I’m going to go with the plan I laid out for myself in middle and high school. I ticked off all those boxes a while ago, and I am where I am, and I want to figure out if there’s a reality where I can be happy here, even when I’m cheering from the bench, or if I need to develop a new timeline. That’s part of what’s been so soothing about training for the half marathon: I have a printed out training schedule that I can check off as I go. I love it. It makes me feel so accomplished.
I don’t know that I have much of a point today, friends. Between the near-immediate future of waking up before the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles and the seemingly endless and sometimes hopeless future of theatrical uncertainty, I feel about as nervous as I’ve ever felt in my entire life. And I want to write about it, because it means a lot to me when I have the opportunity to read about it. These three weeks of work before my race are going to be hectic and long and I have a lot of responsibilities, and my stomach hurts all the time, and I want to go back to bed.
I chose theatre, and I chose running, and I get to do at least one every day for the next three weeks. That’s pretty cool, right? I’m growing as a theatre artist, whether I like it or not, and I’m growing as a runner, too. 4 miles this past Saturday felt almost easy. Stage managing doesn’t feel easy yet, but maybe it will some day. Directing feels like the scariest thing I’ve ever considered doing, but dammit, I’m going to do it. And maybe that’s ultimately why I picked out the half-marathon instead of the 5K or the 10K. I’m so used to feeling like a soft, scared, weepy piece of fluff, and I can get so ashamed of myself. I want to feel strong, just for 13.1 miles. Because maybe that will make me feel strong backstage and up in the light booth and for however long I’m off the stage. It means a lot to me to become a soft, scared, weepy piece of fluff who is willing to challenge herself. I’m just so tired of being ashamed.
You’re awesome, and I hope that you have a great day, and I hope that you have access to a really good snack. I’m off to read the Star Wars Half event guide for the thousandth time. If, by any chance, you’re out there and you’re also going to be at the race in a few weeks, come say “hi!” If you see a tall, crying R2-D2, you’ve probably found me.