Living the Dream: How do you collaborate with the future?

Like stepping into a dream, my life changed this week.  I know that one day merely walking on campus won’t make me cry, but that day was not today.  My sense of good fortune is visceral and commanding.  People say my choice inspires them, that returning to school at my age is courageous, and that they are glad it’s me doing it and not them.

Each morning I am greeted by this paddling of ducks, eager to get close, optimistic for what I imagine is food, willing to swim upstream, navigating the small, but strong waterfall in distinct ways, the A-types flying over it in that aeronautically challenged way ducks fly, all flapping and careening with webbed feet dangling, and the creative types using the eddy of the waterfall to propel them sideways with the proper amount of force, gracefully launching them onto the rock they easily walk across to access the upper pool.  I have nothing for them but do enjoy the show. Among these ducks there are more creatives than A-types, a fact that comforts me as I finish my first week of college.

Improv: What happens when time shifts?

My first day was alternately exciting and terrifying, and utterly exhausting, climbing a dozen flights of stairs and walking miles with a heavy backpack, digesting stacks of reading material, working out strategies for remembering assignments, and playing the repeating icebreaker games, remembering names, conjuring that single word that describes me or the animal I resemble most.  By the third class, the only word I could think of to describe myself was “crazy”, crazy to have thought college in my fifth decade was a good idea, crazy to have imagined I have the juice for such an ambitious endeavor.  My colleagues agreed that the more correct word was “adventurous” in that way good collaborators do when they sense you are down, but not yet out.

Most surprising were my classmates, an awakened group of young people who seem20180831_1436341.jpg enthusiastic and thoughtful, unexpectedly willing to work with someone who may remind them of their grandmothers, and resolutely unwilling to be identified by gender, race, or preferences.  To the extent they have freed themselves of the shackles of limiting pronouns, they seem to have acquired boundless energy reserves to be who they are.  I remember wanting to be so authentic, and also wanting to fit in, and ultimately exhausting myself seeking approval.  Times have changed and the future looks bright, and it is deeply inspiring to move among these change makers in this dreamscape.20180831_085755.jpg

All About Me: How do you collaborate with yourself?

I’m not the perfect parent. I once dropped my son off at school in his Mario costume on Halloween parade day.  He was so excited; he loved Mario.  Except, it was a week early for the parade and because I was late for work he was the lone cartoon character at school that day. Mistakes were made while I hyperventilated my way through working and raising kids; late arrivals, scheduling snafus, half-assed work and home tasks, and confusion hijacking my otherwise order-seeking personality.  Wonderland Playhouse is the only job I’ve had that ignited my passion.  Mostly, I have worked as an assistant to men of varying degrees of power. I wrote and spoke with their voice. I even gave up pursuing my passion after work as it left little time for family.


I dreamed about college since I can remember, but attempts made fell short and circumstances got in the way.  I graduated early from high school the year my parents divorced and neither could help me apply.  Accepted to UCLA when my daughter was four, I couldn’t agree to the sacrifices moving to Westwood would mean for her.  Twelve years later I was delighted to attend Long Beach State where I kicked ass in its demanding theater program that kept me on campus from nine o’clock in the morning until after the final curtain fell on most nights.  At the end of the semester and with a need to care for my kids I reluctantly returned to work.

Improv:  How do you get out of a rut?

In a dialogic response to the statement that one’s heart is filled with pain and suffering, the poet Rumi writes, Stay with it.  The wound is where the Light enters you.  My wound was this deep, unfulfilled desire that no amount of busyness, meditation, or yoga could heal.  It stayed with me, scrambling up with my unworthiness and insufficiency, ensuring I would work a series of good jobs I am grateful for that brought no professional satisfaction, surfacing from time to time to remind me I didn’t know why I felt bad about it, and guaranteeing my inability to heal it would be a personal failure.

imageEarlier this year my daughter graduated with a master’s degree and my wound split wide open. I found it hard to breathe. Friends didn’t understand my suffering and I couldn’t explain it. The list of reasons to let it go was long, but that didn’t change how I felt. Tortured and exhausted, asking for help and willing to do anything, I was guided to apply to a small liberal arts college near my home.  At once terrified I would certainly endure another failure, and unable to remain wounded any longer, I hoped my action would end this one way or another.

On an early June evening, surrounded by cakes at a dessert auction I coordinated, drunk on the smell of sugar, I received the email. The college’s letter said they were impressed by my commitment to my family and my community, stated I was precisely the person they were looking for, and offered me a near-full ride scholarship to complete my degree.  I came full stop.

Some wounds are a paradox. They don’t go away because they’re not supposed to.  Light illuminates one’s suffering while simultaneously spotlighting the path to healing.  Improv can help.  Stay with it– collaborate with it.  Say, Yes! And . . .. Don’t ever give up.