You're So Brave
by Kara von Aschwege
I'm in my hometown, sitting at the kitchen table of my oldest and dearest friends while her baseball-loving toddler and I played catch, my friend said to me, "So... how's the tour? Are you going back to New York again when it's over?"
The million dollar question.
"The tour is really great. I have a bunch of really great people on the road, but it's also hard. And, I've realized that, while I love elements of New York, it's never felt like "home". I'm tired of feeling like I'm on the outside looking in when it comes to my career, and I miss having a place to decorate! Soo... I'm going to move to Costa Mesa, California in August, and pursue the regional theatre there... the fact that my happy place, my boyfriend, and career opportunities are all in one area is going to be really great, I think."
"Wow, you're so brave. I couldn't do it."
...there's a word I don't use to describe myself. BRAVE. It’s a word used more and more often in my conversations with friends in the past few years, as they watched me dust myself off and douse the rubble of a decade-long relationship in whiskey and inspirational Instagram posts. Searching for any sense of normalcy, I began rebuilding a life I wanted for myself - a life I was happy and proud to be living.
Many breakups are bad, but this one was like living inside a bad movie that I couldn't shut off, and it just kept getting more and more unbelievable. I was a total mess for a couple months, and a quasi-mess for another year, as I began allowing myself to heal from the hurricane. I think it's so interesting how tragic/traumatic events can be so life-altering, don't you? For me, it was almost as if a switch had flipped in my brain one day, and I started taking all those inspirational quotes and poetry I found on Instagram to heart.
Two years ago, I was broken-hearted. My boyfriend had been cheating on me with multiple women (for years, I would come to know later). I had been living with him while we worked on a Broadway tour, and suddenly found myself sleeping on my girlfriends' living room couch in Burbank, wondering how exactly I had gotten there. Thank God for my girlfriends - they made sure I was fed and had things to laugh at, whiskey to drink at night, and plenty of Kleenex when I needed it. We went on adventures and explored the way my ex never wanted to do with me, and started thinking about how much happier I found myself in California than in New York. When my time on tour finally came to an end, my only option was to go back to my NYC apartment.
Cue: my anxiety; I was back to living in a room that now served as a time capsule to a life I longed to forget - all the pieces and mementos of a life I had spent 10 years building with someone who simply didn't value me, and in turn, made me feel immensely small. This was my worst fear- realized. Suddenly, I was alone in an already isolating city, never having had to function as a single adult.
I threw myself back into working and auditioning; I separated my belongings from my ex's, moved into a less expensive room in my apartment that I could afford, and began trying to accept the fact that I would never understand what I had done to deserve this/why my ex had behaved so abhorrently.
Slowly but surely, I stopped feeling sorry for myself (most days...I'm still a person who largely lives in a glass case of emotion, let's be honest), and I started looking at this awful moment in my life as a springboard and an incredible opportunity to create what I wanted. LA was still on my heart- NYC, while filled with some of my best friends, just didn't feel right to me. In the summer of 2015, what I wanted and NEEDED more than anything else was the ability to travel. I prayed about it; I distinctly remember even saying, "God, I have some shit to figure out, and I need to do it independent of a location. Let's book me a gig - I don't even care if I'm not on stage. I just need to travel." Two weeks later, I was accepting a position on my next touring gig (as the merchandise manager on The Sound of Music), and two YEARS later, here we are.
These last two years have allowed me to find my light again. I've made incredible new memories in cities and theatres both familiar and not. I have regained my sense of self-worth and value with a ferocity I haven't seen in myself in years. But most importantly? I have begun to embrace the unknown - my "delicious ambiguity" (Thanks for that phrase, Gilda. It now lives forever in ink on my ribs). I met and fell madly in love with a man who is loving and wonderful and supportive in ways he effortlessly shows me daily. I never knew it could be so easy. All my paths are converging. How lovely is that?! Thanks, God.
So, yes. Moving is an obvious next step, but is it easy to take a giant leap? Hell no! Is that bravery? Knowing what you have to do, anxiety be damned? Maybe it is. I wish you could see the roller coaster of emotions I've been on this summer. It's insane. One day, I'm crying about cross-country U-Haul trailers, and the next day, I'm laughing at yesterday's version of myself, because I know it'll all be fine. And that is the long and short of it, I think: it'll all be fine. It will probably be much better than fine.
Here's what the last two years have taught me: trust your gut. That little voice inside of you that often sounds like a whisper? It knows all the things. If your gut is telling you to take a big leap, you probably should. I had stopped listening to mine...for ,years, I thought it was wrong, or that I couldn't do what it was telling me to do. I had been made to ignore it, excuse it, and feel small. Please, please, PLEASE, don't let anyone ever do that to you - that sucks, and frankly, it's bullshit! There's no sense in staying frozen in fear - whether that's in a city you don't like, a thankless job, or a toxic relationship...you've just got to take the leap, friends.
I get it. Leaping is scary. Let me remind you that, at the start of your jump, you're going to free-fall a bit off of the cliff. You may get a little scraped up and bruised on your way down, but your parachute will open, and before you know it, you're soaring above it all. It's scary, absolutely, but I promise you, it's so, so worth it. Take the leap.
Huh. That does sound brave. Doesn't it?