For this post to make sense you have to understand that I'm basically an egomaniac with low self-esteem. That wouldn't be a bad thing if these two contradictory sides of my personality cancelled each other out, or nestled together peacefully yin/yang style, but unfortunately for me they're in a constant battle for complete control. One is always erupting without warning only to be slapped down immediately by the other. This leads to weird little self-defeating situations like when I crave attention desperately but run away as soon as I get any, or when I shut myself away from the world but then get depressed when people leave me alone. Heck, this very introduction is the perfect example of what I mean: "ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME" followed by "don't look at me, I'm hideous."

Soon after the rehearsals for Woy/Ubu began, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the quality of my performance, especially since I was trying hard to improve and especially because everyone else in the show was doing amazing work. I didn't like facing the fact that mediocre is simply as good as I'm capable of being. And here's where that dual-nature thing comes in... I wanted to blend in with the background so nobody noticed me, but at the same time I wanted people to say "wow, John was really good!" I took every opportunity to remind people "I'm not an actor!" so they knew I had no illusions, but I also secretly wanted them to disagree, which made it feel like fishing for compliments, which, let's face it, is kind of pathetic. This constant mental tug-of-war on top of all the other stress of the show and my job and my life took a toll. By the end of the run I was exhausted (I still haven't quite recovered) and humiliated and ready to quit the Cabaret entirely, but I was simultanously afraid that the other members would beg me not to quit and that they wouldn't.

So that brings us up to Thursday. I was at a writers' meeting, and another member complimented me on some humorous posts I'd made on Facebook. We talked about humor, about how if people aren't on the same wavelength they just won't appreciate something we may find hysterically funny. The conversation planted a seed in my head without me even realizing it; a seed that sprouted tonight at La Tee Da. I was talking to someone who had seen the show, and she was sharing her feedback, her impressions, and describing how the experience affected her. Then she said she'd been waiting to tell me how much she enjoyed my part in the show. I was surprised - though undeniably pleased - because... well, you already know why. But she insisted. She said I had a "thing" going on, a thing that was hard to define but undeniably me and undeniably sincere and good. I didn't understand what she meant, and part of me wanted her to explain it in great detail until I did understand. But then I thought maybe it's better that I don't understand, rather than letting my self awareness of something so ephemeral smother it. But the sprouting seed is this: we all have something to contribute, and whatever it is may not appeal to everyone but it will appeal to someone. The trick is finding that someone. No, wait, the real trick is trusting that what you're giving has value, even when you don't understand what it is or how it all works or even know for sure that anyone is paying attention. Just put it out there and see what happens. For some of us, that's a tough thing to do, but it's not impossible for anyone. I'll never be an actor. I won't carry a show or get singled out for praise in a review or win an award. But now, finally, I understand and truly believe that this is ok because there might be one person out there in that crowd of 40 who thinks I'm doing just fine. And sometimes, a few weeks later, they'll tell me over dinner.

Note: I know this post reads as a self-indulgent plea for praise but that's not how I mean it. I really changed the way I think about it all tonight, and it feels good. And if I can do it, so can anyone. P.S. spicy sausage over penne at La Tee Da? Heaven.

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