The Power of Perspective
Updated: Feb 7, 2019
So this blog post is a little blast from the past. I will discuss the first semester of my senior year of college which feels like many moons ago.
I feel that as we grow older, time moves way faster. (I am also convinced that time moves more quickly each morning from the hours of 4 to 7, or maybe I just move slower. Time always speeds up when we are running late, have to get somewhere, or have to do something by a certain time. I’ve been telling myself to plan accordingly because I firmly believe that there are only thirty minutes during the hour of six o’clock.) Anyways, my dad and I were talking about this phenomenon the other day: time moves fast; life moves quickly; the babies are somehow teenagers within the blink of an eye.
With that said, college feels like yesterday. It’s fresh. I’m still riding that collegiate wave. In fact, I feel like I’ve just graduated, and I guess I have, relatively speaking. However, let’s start at the very beginning (or at least where my lack of memory begins…what did I have for lunch today?): my first semester of senior year. Our new musical theatre professor Roy Lightner required us to keep a journal that would be reflected within a cumulative paper at the end of the semester. This post is inspired by that paper, and this concept of journaling and reflecting at the end of each semester of life is a discipline that I have continued and grown to love.
But before I get into the “meat” of it (and yes, I realize that this is “too much exposition”), I have to say it took me a long time to find this reflective paper. I just want to openly admit that there is so much clutter in my life both onscreen and off that I had to sift through several email accounts with different search inquiries to find an electronic copy. I also searched through my old binders, and you’ll never believe it, but I found this paper. What a pack rat, right?! (Maybe I need to subscribe to the Marie Kondo trend of decluttering!) But I’m actually so grateful that I kept the original copy because, to be honest, the things we learn in the different seasons of our lives should be treasured and remembered forever.
The original title is “Finding a Change in Perspective.” Boring! I like this new title better. How we act and react is all based upon perspective. Therefore, there is great power behind our perspectives, and with great power comes great responsibility. We must open our eyes, becoming aware of our perspectives and understand their danger. They become dangerous when we take things personally, which I do on the daily. They become dangerous when they encourage us to fight back with malicious intent. I have found that our perceptions need constant questioning. We must shift our perspective in order to find the more valid, truer sense of where we stand.
I began my paper talking about how writing a journal was scary for me because I don’t have a routine for myself. Obviously, I did not keep up with that journal like I should have, but I did identify progress. At the time, I would squeegee my shower and make my bed each morning: a good start, right? It’s funny, but I don’t do those things anymore. However, those habits have been exchanged with new, more affirming habits, so they were, in fact, a great start. I concluded this section by saying that I needed and wished to be more disciplined: “Tomorrow, maybe?” And of course, Roy wrote in the margins, “No day but today.” What a mantra! Thanks, Jonathan Larson.
I continued my dissertation on perspective by alluding to one of my favorite books: Andy Andrews's The Noticer: Sometimes All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective:
“In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective. For perspective brings calm. Calm leads to clear thinking. Clear thinking yields new ideas. And ideas produce the bloom...of an answer. Keep your head and heart clear. Perspective can just as easily be lost as it can be found.”
Such a guiding quote! I continued by saying that my journal was full of complaints, complaints that were unaware of the full perspective. I remember each night of that semester calling my friends to debrief on the “drama” of the day. Senior year’s a crazy time, right? However, as I was rereading my journal entries and writing this paper, I realized that when we trash talk in our journals we are not seeking to empathize or solve a problem. Rather, we become blinded by our own perspective (or as Jane Austen might say our pride and prejudice). It’s easy to retaliate when the anxiety and stress strike, but I have found that I need to take time to pause and shift my perspective; see the situation from a different window.
As my professor Karla Koskinen said on our first day of auditioning, “What’s the difference between a weed and a flower?” The answer? Perspective!
I had a huge epiphany a few nights before writing this reflection, and I remember it clearly. We had just held auditions for our last semester of mainstage productions, and before the auditions, we were reminded that being in a UAB mainstage was “fake Brodway” or “a pay to play.” These notions were all true, but there really is an unspoken (or maybe outspoken) value placed upon being in a mainstage production. If you are cast in a mainstage, somehow you are more deserving, more talented, and more valid. Being cast means that your family would probably visit you because you have a production that they can see. Your work is more valid because your work gets to be manifested. I’m pretty sure that college theatre students across the board would do anything to be cast in a mainstage production because, for some bizarre reason, we’ve come to the conclusion that being cast is the status symbol that shows your worth. It’s like winning immunity on Survivor or being HOH on Big Brother.
While I was auditioning for my last collegiate production, I agreed with the sentiment that this was “fake Broadway,” but I didn’t truly believe, appreciate, or embrace the concept. As a result, I was unhappy with my audition. I wanted a very specific part, and I was convinced that I lost it because I didn’t “own” the audition. I was feeling bad, mad, upset, and then, I had a revelation! I had approached my audition and the role I wanted to play for all of the wrong reasons. My audition and the role I was pining for was just my insecurity seeking to prove that I was good enough. I was not in the audition wanting to tackle the character’s story and reveal personal and universal truths. I wanted to demonstrate my skills and ability. I wanted validation from my professors casting, the colleagues I would be rehearsing with, and my family. In that moment, I realized that I am not here for my own validation. I am here to tell other people’s stories, to illuminate other perspectives, and to incite audiences to action and conversation. Honestly, this realization was liberating, and now, my mission when I enter an audition or rehearsal process. I am not here to show off or demonstrate ability. (“I don’t want to show off no more!”) I am here to illuminate and engage.
I say all of this because the change of perspective was necessary for my survival and growth in this industry. That being said, I have to continually remind myself why I’m here and why I do what I do. My work is not about status: how many followers I can get, how many Equity Membership Candidate points I can accrue, how many professional contracts I can sign, how many leads I can publish on my resume. What I do cannot be calculated or measured. I hope that what I do is in service of others.
As I reflect on the power of perception, I also think of Joseph, that biblical character who also has a vibey, Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical about him. His life was rough. He was hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit by people who should love him, enslaved by a powerful man, wrongfully convicted of a crime, locked in prison, and forgotten. However, Joseph never caved into the pain. He never thought of himself down with no way out, even when he was in a pit. Instead, he looked up. He sang “You know better than I,” right? He placed his trust above, and despite his situation, he knew that his dreams would be fulfilled, his life had purpose, and he would be used to save many people (including the family that scorned him) during a time of famine and scarcity. He said:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people.” Genesis 50:20
It’s all a matter perspective! It’s easy to complain about where you are and see the defeat, but when you are down in the bottom of the pit and at your worst, look up! Be aware of where you are and look forward to the opportunities to come!
Here’s to wading across the river to see the view from the other side!
Awaken and empower what’s within!
Be a Light,
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