I wouldn’t say I was necessarily goal-oriented but when I see a thing I want, I work single-mindedly to get it. Whether that thing is a certain kind of life, a house, a job, a project, I will do my best to make it happen. I research and I plan. For the most part, this has worked out well for me. I’ve usually gotten the jobs I really wanted, the children I love, the space I need to live in, the novels (despite their numerous flaws) written, etc. I don’t always get my way, and the outcome isn’t always perfect, but I’ve managed to create the life I’ve wanted. Mostly. The important parts, at least. I’ve also discovered is that the things you don’t get are probably things you really don’t want or need. You just don’t realize it at the time. And I’m not talking about basic, bottom of the Maslow pyramid things. I’m talking a few rungs higher.
For a number of years as a child, I went to summer arts camp at a local private girls school. The camp was open to anyone and I think I went on scholarship, after my parents’ divorce, with the help of our church’s rector. I did a number of things there but mainly I took theatre classes. We put on plays – Oliver! one year; and a selection of scenes from Man in the Moon Marigolds, The Importance of Being Earnest, etc, in another. It was fun. I knew I wasn’t the best actor and was never chosen for big roles (though I was Gwendolen in the Earnest scene) but I enjoyed it. I had no plans (except in my wildest daydreams) to become an actor or a singer or a dancer. I was doing it because I liked it, I was part of something larger than myself (a novelty in itself) and I “belonged” to something, if only for a few weeks. It wasn’t really about being good or following a possible career path. It was summer camp; it was supposed to be fun.
Then one year, the director’s ego took over his body like a parasite and he decided to hold auditions. Those chosen would be in HIS play. The rest of the hoi polloi would…..well, he really didn’t care. That wasn’t his problem. Never mind that this was summer camp that parents were paying for. For my working mother, this doubled as childcare and we fretted about what would happen if I didn’t get in the play.
I was determined to get in. This was what I wanted! I could do this! So I chose to sing “Let It Be”. A cappella. I practiced and practiced and practiced, alone in my room. Just me and my slightly-very-not-perfect nasally voice. As an introvert, the idea of standing in front of judges, singing without accompaniment, was a frightening thought but I needed to do this. I needed to be chosen. I needed to be somewhere that summer so my mother could go to work.
There was a very long line of auditioners that wound out of the chapel and down the covered outdoor walk way. I recognized a number of kids from previous years. It wasn’t hard to figure out who’d get chosen and who wouldn’t even before they auditioned. Who was I fooling? This was about popularity as much as anything. Eventually, hot and nervous, I entered and sang. I believe I saw the director cringe at least once but I couldn’t make eye contact after that so I might have missed his other expressions of disgust. Or perhaps he had a poker face and I was projecting. Either way, I most decidedly did NOT get chosen. The cream of the crop were picked and they put on whatever show they did. I have no idea what it was.
The rest of us? Who’d paid the camp fee but were rejected by The Maestro? Were enrolled in Dummy Theatre, the leftover kids (including one of my best friends at the time), some of which (like the girl who insisted we call her Muffin because that was her mother’s pet name for her; something tells me she was made fun of long after camp ended) were annoying and others funny and decent actors. We did a musical called Aesop’s Falables (A Rock Musical), slapstick fables set to 50’s rock and roll songs. I played a sheep in one act. A girl named Stephanie was a grasshopper. That’s about all I remember. It was fun, but I felt like a failure for not being good enough for the “real” production occurring in the school’s actual theatre on the actual stage instead of the chapel room where our production took place. The audience over there sat in theatre seats. The audience for our production crammed into rows of pews. It just wasn’t the same.
Over time, I realized that Sir Director had done me a favor. I didn’t want to be an actor for real. I didn’t really need the experience of being driven by an egomanic whose show was more about him than the actors or the play. I probably had a better, more relaxed, summer experience being in the Also Rans Club. Which means I may have finally forgiven him for rejecting me. Perhaps part of truly becoming a mature adult is accepting your limitations and forgiving those who have slighted you (and worse). So, Mr. Osbourne, I forgive you.
Recently, I went after something (a job at a college I’d worked for years ago) I thought I really wanted. I prepared for the interview that finally came. I practiced and practiced and….things seemed to go well. You just never know, though, what the person doing the hiring is really looking for (often they want someone who won’t outshine them). I did not get the job. I was feeling washed up, old, and thinking perhaps I’d reached the top of my career ladder and there was no where else to go but down.
But then I got an email from my old boss (who still works there) who was astounded I hadn’t been hired. And from what I’ve learned, the choice said much more about the hiring boss than me or my skills and experience. And it might actually be a good thing that I didn’t get it and then find myself entangled in a political mess. Luckily, I have a job already and though I am really ready for a change, it could be worse. Much worse. It’s the devil I know and I can work around the worst of it and shut the door behind me at the end of the day and not give it another thought until I arrive the next morning. There’s something to be said for that.
So, I forgive her for rejecting me and in fact perhaps should thank her. I’ll continue to do what I do: go after the things I think I want. But it’s good to remember that the things we think we want aren’t always the things we should have. Or the timing’s not right. Sometimes not getting something is the best thing you can get.