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In an effort to re-start my personal blog, and to focus my mind for the coming year, I’ve joined the #Reverb10 project, in which bloggers write on a prompt for every day of December. I’m posting right before I go to bed at the end of my December 1, even though it’s past midnight and the calendar says December 2. I plan to write every night this month before bed—maybe earlier sometimes, but #Reverb10 is likely to be my bedtime musing most nights.

December first’s #Reverb 10 prompt is: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

2010: Testing

This was a year of trying things out. In 2010, I’d come to see that my plan of living from house sit to house sit, rent-free, living on very low income, had become more a form of hiding than a way of exploring what life had to offer. The fully nomadic, low-money-usage life may have had things to teach me, but it had outlived its purpose. It was time to try something new.

On the other hand, I knew I still didn’t want a conventional life. Near the end of 2009, I turned down a full-time ad-agency proofreading job (at the height of the recession!) because it didn’t offer to teach me anything I needed to learn—but also because, I realized, I really couldn’t imagine working a standard, 9 to 5, office job ever again. I wanted to expand my career(s) and be part of the economy, rather than avoiding needing or using money.

To that end, I spent 2010 trying things out. I found wonderful mentors in two of my major writing clients, and now I’ve learned corporate ghost blogging, taking my freelance writing career in an entirely new, constantly educational, far more lucrative direction.

I tried living in one place, sharing a cabin in Evergreen (a gorgeous small town in Colorado’s foothills) with the boyfriend I met in the second half of 2009. From that, I learned that Evergreen was too far from the hustle and bustle of Denver city life for my taste, and my romantic relationship worked better when we lived in separate homes.

I slowly tested my acting skills in new directions, too. The start of 2010 found me in Chicago auditioning for MFA acting programs . . . to no avail. I learned that my lack of formal theater education, and probably my age, make it extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be accepted into such a program. I’ll have to find other ways to take my acting to a higher level. Back home in Denver, I experimented: I acted in my first scripted stage show in three years. I became a regular in children’s murder mystery shows. (Yes, there are such things. Don’t worry—we murder fictional adults and let the kids solve the cases. No children are murdered.) Most amazingly, I learned how to help train police officers by playing realistic characters in crisis—mentally ill people, the developmentally disabled, and people who were very angry or severely traumatized.

I spent the 2010 trying new things in all kinds of directions, still not sure what was the right path to focus on.

2011 Direction

On New Year’s Day, 2011, I’ll already be at Shakespeare & Company, a Shakespeare festival theater company in the Berkshires, working my ass of in their month-long intensive training program for professional actors. I’ve known for three years now that this is what I most want to do with my acting career: perform live, on stage, in the classical and other brilliant plays done by Shakespeare festivals. Giving up on MFAs, I’ve chosen the most direct route I can find: the highly-respected, Shakespeare-specific training of Shakespeare & Company’s 40-year-old Month-Long Intensive program. I still don’t know exactly where my acting will go when I finish this “acting boot camp” and return to my regular life, but I’m confident that what I learn in the Berkshires will help me map my course.

Corporate blogging will continue to be my bread and butter from February on. I’ve already arranged with my best client to pre-write the blogs that will go live while I’m at business further as soon as I’m back home. I also plan to start writing fiction again—once my favorite art form, but one I’ve neglected since college. I haven’t felt I had the concentration to write my own stories these past . . . too many years. It’s time to find my focus again.

As for my home, when I finish my actor training, I will still have a home to come back to. I’ve been renting a room in the house of an old friend from high school, and I love it here. I’ve actually unpacked and set up furniture. I have a home base to help me focus on my next direction . . . or directions.

 

And my love life? That’s the one area of my life I don’t think I have the power, or good reason, to try to direct.

2009Happy new year!

I’m not always a fan of New Year’s resolutions. We all tend to make cliche ones (“I’ll lose weight” or “I’ll be a nicer person”) and then immediately ignore them. Lately, though, I’ve been setting down some lofty, but exciting goals for myself, and now looks like the perfect time to share them with … well, whoever, if anyone, is reading this blog. Keep me honest, folks. Knowing that someone is out there watching me, ready to be disappointed in me if I should fail to meet my goals, will spur me on. If you’d like to share your goals with me in the comments here, I promise to cheer you on, too. Let’s make this the best year of our lives! All righty. Here’s what I have in mind for 2009:

  • Get my own home. This is part of the plan that I came back from Oregon with, and I still haven’t completed it. I’m tired of jumping from house sit to house sit, having nowhere to sit still, to organize my mind and my stuff. Still, I’ve been stalling because it’s hard to go from paying no rent to coming up with a check every month, and to go from total freedom of travel to, possibly, living with a lease. It’s time, though. What I’m doing now: Today I turned in applications for two possible rental homes—both rooms in houses with roommates. My recent employment and rental history (or more to the point, lack thereof) make me an unlikely choice, but I’m hopeful that one of the two landlords will be willing to take a chance on me. This should make a big impact on my effectiveness, my peace of mind, and the next resolution, which is:
  • Get rid of all of my extraneous material stuff. The room in my mother’s house that she kindly lets me use for storage is full of some pretty strange junk. There’s the usual knitting fanatic’s stash of yarns and needles just waiting to be made into something wonderful (and half-done somethings wonderful waiting to be finished), and there’s the layer upon layer of boxed-up life necessities that I haven’t needed in my nomadic days (dishes, bedsheets, and such) or haven’t used because I haven’t been able to find them in years. There’s clothing so out of date that even I would be ashamed to wear it. Weirdest of all: When I was a teenager, my mother dealt with the junk mail and miscellaneous papers that piled up on the kitchen table by shoveling it all into a grocery bag once a week or so, then dumping the grocery bags in my room. There’s a sea of them still in there: college application packets, homework that my brother or I had to do again because we couldn’t find it, catalogs from 1991. That room is an overwhelming place, altogether, but it’s time I cleared it out. I want to own very little, and to know where everything I own is, and why I own it. What I’m doing now: See above. My main excuse for not sorting through this stuff already is that I don’t have a space of my own to spread it out in, or to organize it back into. Once I have my own home, I’ll have no more excuse. I can use the process of unpacking and moving in to unpack everything, then get rid of all of the stuff I don’t want.
  • Become a much better guitarist. When I first took up guitar four years ago (!), I learned fast, practiced nearly every day, and had some great teachers. Now I haven’t taken lessons for nearly two years, and I’m thoroughly stuck in an embarrassing beginnerish state. I barely know how to play, and I haven’t gotten any better for a long, long time. I’ve started practicing more regularly, but I don’t even know what to practice anymore. This is made more painful by the fact that several of my friends are really amazing musicians. I want to be able to jam with them, to play out with pride, and to see myself growing again. What I’m doing now: So I just need to find a good teacher and take more lessons. I have a place in mind, Denver’s Swallow Hill Folk Music Association, and I promise to call them tomorrow.
  • Become a much better fiction writer. This doesn’t say much, as I haven’t written a fictional story in years. In high school and college, I always seemed to have a natural aptitude for fiction, just waiting to be honed with a lot of practice. It is just a matter of practice. I need to make a point of writing often, make fiction part of my life again. What I’m doing now: I’ve dug up my favorite books of writing exercises. Starting tomorrow, I’ll practice writing for at least a few minutes a day … most days … barring emergencies … okay. I promise I’ll write something today, before I go to bed.
  • Attend advanced professional actor training. This is an extension of the acting portion of my post-Oregon plan. I auditioned for lots of plays, and plan to continue auditioning, even though I haven’t been cast in a play yet (unless one counts the many murder mystery shows I did this holiday season, which, I suppose, I should). I took one acting class, which was okay, but I want more immersion and more challenge. My goal now is to get into and attend one of the many professional-level summer intensive actor trainings I know of around the country. There was one in Denver, but word is that it’s not happening this year. Now I’m looking at programs in San Francisco (my top choice so far), Chicago, and New York. What I’m doing now: A local teacher who I’ve worked with and grown to respect offers coaching in such things. I’m going to email her tomorrow and find out if she can advise me.
  • Pay better attention to friendships and potential friendships. In my little brainstorming notebook, where I first came up with these resolutions, this was a very specific  resolution regarding my treatment of one particular friend, but that’s too private a detail to post on a blog. Besides, I think the more general point is the best one to keep in mind. Here’s the crux of the story: Over the holidays, an acquaintance that I don’t see often (because he lives halfway across the country) blew into town for a few whirlwind days with all of his Colorado friends. When I saw him again in person, he acted like he was one of my best buddies in the world, and to my surprise, I realized that he was absolutely right. It turns out that the boy is a total nerd (a wonderful thing, in my book), much smarter than I ever gave him credit for (and I’d always thought he was pretty darned bright), and fun in the quirky, goofy way that I click with most. This just blew me away. I had a wonderful time, and even as he flew away to visit other folks in other places, I was excited to have discovered such a compatible, fun, brilliant friend—but why hadn’t I discovered him before? I’d hung out with this guy off and on for years. He’s a high-school buddy of one of my best friends on the planet. Why hadn’t I noticed the possibilities before? Who knows how much fun, brilliance, support, and inspiration I’m missing out on with everyone in my life? I promise to pay more attention to people this year, to appreciate them more. What I’m doing now: I’ll call my far-away friend in a day or two, when I’m sure he’s back home and settled in, (I can’t remember for sure how long his trip was. I’m not good at paying attention yet.) to remind him that I’m glad he’s my friend and ask how 2009 is treating him. I’ll also remind myself daily to pay more attention to all of the people in my life.
  • Complete the Body-for-LIFE Challenge. Really. This is a scary thing to say in a public place like cyberspace, because it’s a big commitment, but I really do want to do this. For those of you who haven’t seen the bestselling books or heard the hype, Body-for-LIFE (BFL) is a 12-week fitness program used, largely, to advertise EAS Myoplex brand nutritional supplements. I first heard about it six or seven years ago, when the boyfriend I was living with tried to get me to do the challenge with him. Our efforts fizzled, mostly because the relationship wasn’t going well and I didn’t want to spend that much time with the guy. Still, I learned a lot about the program, and I came to respect it. Yes, it pushes products, but the supplements are good and helpful ones, as far as I can tell, and they aren’t necessary to complete the program. The program, itself, is a simple, easy to follow (and easily available online and in library books) combination of exercise and nutrition. Body-for-LIFErs do short, moderate workouts six days a week, lifting weights (which I actually enjoy) and doing their choice of cardio exercises, starting at whatever level feels challenging to them and gently increasing intensity as they grow stronger. Taking classes or meeting with personal trainers to learn correct form is strongly encouraged. Eating is sensible, and involves real food in small, balanced meals including protein, carbohydrates, and lots of vegetables. Unlike the plan I tried last time I really thought about improving my body, (when I was about 20. Step one: Berate self for not looking like Kate Moss. Step two: Stop eating entirely for two weeks. Step three: Try eating. Get severe stomach pains. Throw up. Step four: Terrified, learn to eat again. Give up on dieting. Step five: Berate self for not looking like Kate Moss …) Body-for-LIFE could actually teach me to kick my junk food habit, while making me strong enough to do all of the adventurous things I’ve been wanting to do, if only I weren’t such a wimp. Some examples: Surf all day long. Rock climb. Snowboard. Cross-country ski. Spend a day snowshoeing with my super-tough buddy, Brian, and not once have to ask him to slow down for me. What I’m doing now: I have to do some preparation for this. Over the past few months, I’ve slowly trained myself to run for 20 minutes straight, (Yes, I was an incredible wuss to begin with.) as I’d like to use running as my main cardio exercise. Now I’m working on gently weaning myself off Pepsi, as it’s not on the BFL menu, and right now, I’m so thoroughly addicted that a day without caffeine is a day spent in bed with a withdrawal-triggered migraine. I’ve also checked out the latest BFL book, Champions Body-for-LIFE, from my local library. In about a week, I should be caffiene free, studied up, inspired, and ready to get started.
  • Start my own business. This one is scary to say out loud, too, as it will require a lot of learning and a good amount (for me) of financial risk. And yes, I realize that I have my own business already, sort of, by selling my time as a freelancer. What I have in mind here is my own business selling something besides myself. I’ve been reading about internet stores, marketing ideas for new gadgets, manufacturing, packaging and selling information (e-books, craft patterns, informative audio, etc.). I don’t know what I’ll sell yet, but this year I plan to give an online retail business a try. Whatever happens, I’m sure to learn a lot. What I’m doing now: I’m reading books on small business, and contemplating. Actually taking this huge step will wait until I’ve landed a regular home and settled into it. I intend to cherish the time and energy I save on packing, unpacking, and driving around, and use it to take this leap.

This post is exactly 2009 words long. Happy New Year!

Eowyn, the Build-a-Bear Workshop bunny I made in the image of my childhood self.

Eowyn, the Build-a-Bear Workshop bunny I made in the image of my childhood self.

An old friend wrote me recently to ask for my advice on speech impediments. You see, he knows that I talked like Elmer Fudd until I was 9 years old, despite the best efforts of many speech therapists, and he wants to know how I finally mastered the “r” sound. He has a young son who also has trouble, well, saying “trouble” and “rascaliy rabbit,” and anything else with an “r” in it, and my friend hopes I might have some ideas to help him.

Well, for my friend, his son, and anyone else out there who might find this helpful, this is what little I know:

According to the basic linguistics class I took in college, children usually learn to talk just by hearing people talking around them, then imitating those sounds. Most kids are amazingly good at this, but some of us—quite a few of us, actually—have trouble figuring out how to make certain sounds, or how to hear the difference between them. Common problem sounds in English include “th,” “sh,” “s,” “t” (and knowing the difference between those), and “r.” Some kids learn this late, but eventually figure it out on their own. More often, they’ll either need a speech therapist to teach them specifically how to make each sound, or they will sound strange and be subject to ridicule and misunderstandings for the rest of their lives. I needed help with all of the above sounds, and now I speak, if anything, a little bit too correctly. As a child, I sounded like Elmer Fudd. Now I sound like Frasier Crane. Why? Because, I am firmly convinced, speech therapists rock!

My Experience
By the time I got to first grade, I still had trouble with “s,” “sh,” “t,” “th,” and “r.” I hadn’t noticed a problem by then, really. My parents and teachers were the ones who pointed out that I was different from other kids, and told me that I had to skip regular class (Aw, darn!) and go see a special teacher, a speech therapist, once a week.

The public school system in our area contracted with independent speech therapists. The district’s therapist came to each school once a week, and, probably due to the complexities of government contracts, our school had a different therapist every year. Sometimes my weekly session was private, and sometimes I met with the therapist and one other kid. During first grade, I was quickly cured of my “s/sh/t/th” confusion. I barely remember my work on those sounds, but the impression I have is that I was always able to pronounce all of those sounds, but I just didn’t know (or perhaps didn’t care) which sound to use when. I’d say “thee” instead of “see,” or “terapish” instead of “therapist.” Once the speech therapist pointed out the differences, then made me practice (every week for a whole school year) saying the right sound at the right time, I was good to go with every sound except “r.”

“R” was a much bigger problem because I never knew how to produce that sound at all. I kept going to my therapy session every week through third grade, every year with a different therapist trying different tactics to get me to understand how to make the sound, but it remained a completely foreign concept to me. As I went through second and third grade, kids started making fun of me, adults started acting pissy when their inability to understand me began to feel less cute and more irritating, and I was bloody well tired of the whole thing. I learned how to arrange my sentences to avoid saying any words with “r” sounds in them. To make this easier, I got into the habit of not speaking at all. Even though I finally mastered “r” in third grade, I stayed nearly mute (speaking only when asked a direct question, and then giving the shortest possible answer) until I was in high school.

In third grade, the way the therapist du jour explained “r” to me finally clicked. It may have been that the therapists before her had made some progress, so that I was primed for my “r” epiphany, but I think it was mostly because her own very practical and physical style worked particularly well for me. When someone finally told me exactly where to place the tip of my tongue (right behind the middle of my front teeth, and back about 1/2 inch up my palate), I was well on my way to the world of Frasier Crane. By the end of third grade, I still had to consciously think about where my tongue was and how to make the sound, but I said “r” every time I needed to. In fourth grade, my only meeting with a speech therapist was a checkup to make sure I was still “rrrrrrrr”ing properly. I passed with flying colors.

Over the years, making “r” sounds became less conscious and more automatic, though “r” is still the first sound that falls apart when I’m struggling with a tongue twister. I’ve been drunk enough to slur my words fewer times than I can count on my fingers (What can I say? I’m a goody two-shoes.) but I’d be willing to bet that when I do drink that much, it’s the “r” sounds that go bad first. On the other hand, I now speak very well. In fact, my speech now sounds fairly stuffy and over-pronounced. When meeting me, people often guess (rightly) that I’m an actress. I do well with Shakespeare. I’ve played British, Southern, Polish, and Irish characters (and once several of those in the same play), and received compliments on my accents. And though I was mute for a long time, and I still prefer writing over speaking, I act in plays and independent films, I competed on the speech and debate team all through high school, I’m a member of Toastmasters International (a club in which people get together and give speeches for fun), and I am sometimes overly chatty with friends. It took them a long time to finish their work, but I am deeply grateful to all of those speech therapists who worked so hard to help me make myself heard.

What I Think Happened, and How to Help Kids Now
While it took them a long, long time to get me speaking properly (and able to pronounce “speaking properly”), I don’t think there was any problem with my therapists’ competence. I think the problem is that, although speech impediments are very common in kids, the exact problem, and its exact cure, varies greatly from kid to kid.

For example, while many of my lessons were private, I often had speech lessons with another Elmer Fudd talkalike, a polite and kind boy named Andy. Andy explained that he’d had a nasty ear infection when he was a toddler, and it left him 80% deaf in his left ear. He had trouble learning to pronounce various sounds, and most of all “r” sounds, because he simply couldn’t hear what he was supposed to imitate. On the other hand, I have always had (and still have) above-average hearing. To this day, I don’t know why I couldn’t figure out how to speak English properly on my own. I don’t think the therapists ever figured that out, either.

On top of the many possible reasons why any particular kid might have trouble speaking, each kid learns in his or her own unique way, especially when learning something as personal and physical as how to make sounds come out of his or her mouth. A very practical approach (“Put this part of your tongue right here!”) is what finally got through to me, but other kids may do better with feeling vibrations, hearing sounds, or imagining some picture that makes sense to them. Speech therapists have to try many different techniques until they find out what works for each individual kid. I imagine that now, 25 years after my last therapy session, more techniques have been discovered, and there are even more ideas about how to teach “r” and other sounds.

My Advice for My Friend and His Son
Here is what I’d say specifically to my friend, and to anyone else who could use my advice: To master “r” sounds, the best advice I can give is to keep trying, but if what your kid and his therapist have been trying isn’t working, try something different. If one therapist isn’t working, and if you can, try a different therapist. I am convinced that speech therapists, on the whole, are fantastic people and marvelous teachers (because I am so grateful that I can speak and be understood), but like their students, they are individuals, each with a different style and personality. Keep trying until something clicks.

I realize that this can be very frustrating for parents. Trust me: It’s even more frustrating for the kid. If it is possible to find out why your particular kid has trouble producing the sounds, that knowledge could speed the process considerably. Has his hearing been checked? Is the structure of his mouth, throat, and vocal chords normal? If he has a hearing problem or a physical abnormality, this doesn’t mean he’s doomed. Andy got his “r”s down faster than I did. Therapists know how to work with these kinds of problems, and knowing your kid has one can help them find the best way to teach him. If, as with me, they can’t figure out why he has trouble, you’ll be stuck with hit or miss. Be patient, and keep trying.

Some other important things to be sure your kid knows: Pronunciation is not an indicator of intelligence. Not everyone knows this. Some people will get pissy with him, and some will even make fun of him. These people are jerks. They just don’t get it. Tell your son to pity them, and to feel free to ignore them as much as possible. Many of the smartest people I know have admitted to me that they had speech problems as kids, too. My best friend from high school (my old friend, if he’s reading this, will know who she is), who is now a microbiologist and college professor, had the same speech problems I did. Several folks I knew on my debate team had overcome either lisps or problems with “r”s. If a person can’t pronounce certain sounds, all it means is that they can’t pronounce certain sounds. That’s all. If you want to know about their intelligence, how cool they are or aren’t, or anything else, you’ll have to be patient and actually listen to them. This goes for people with speech impediments, people with disabilities, people new to speaking your language, everyone. Be sure the kid knows to give himself a break, and to let his experience teach him to be more patient in listening to other people.

Finally, rest assured that almost everybody does learn how to pronounce every sound in their native language eventually. Think of how many kids you’ve met with lisps or “r” problems. They’re so common that we even see them on TV and in movies. They’re such a regular part of childhood that they are often considered cute. Now try to think of an adult you know who talks like that. I can’t think of one. Can you? I can assure you that there are adults all around you who have conquered speech problems, though. We just don’t talk about it all the time—it’s part of our distant past. The path from a childhood speech impediment to a normal, confident adulthood is long, and it’s frustrating, but your son will make it. Just be patient with him, and encourage him to be patient with himself.

The Elizabethan Theater with set for "A Comedy of Errors"

The OSF's Elizabethan Theater

I’ve been back in Colorado for one week, and I’m already overwhelmed by everyday life … which is surprising, actually, as I went on my road trip primarily because there wasn’t much to my everyday life. The two plans I’ve been living on for the past three years, freelance editing and house sitting, had largely ground to a halt, my other life passions (acting, writing, and chasing men) had been largely forgotten, and I was feeling lost, stuck, and a little desperate.

The road trip helped immensely. A total change of pace, with plenty of time to ponder, plenty of new information, and a great lecture by Martha Beck on my iPod, actually did (as I’d naîvely thought it would) give me a much clearer view of what I really want in my life and what I think I can realistically acheive. The biggest boost for my plan, though, came from two lunches and a happy hour with Portland’s own wonderful Ted, who, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, seems to charm and delight everyone he meets. When I whined to Ted that I felt lost at sea, he told me he, too, was feeling stuck, and then proceeded to talk himself into a very exciting life plan. Bored with his day job and heartbroken that he gave up teaching music (and significantly cut back on performances—he’s a fantastic jazz pianist) to work there, Ted has decided to take night courses to improve his work skills, but only so he can quit his job and become a part-time consultant. Then he’ll have enough income, plus the flexibility to teach, perform, and fulfill his long-term dream of earning an MFA in music.

I didn’t have such a clear idea when I left Ted, but I had another whole week of rambling planned. By the time I returned to Colorado, I had a three-part vision for my new, improved life. Now comes the scary part: Since I’m in my home state and have all of my resources available again, it looks like I’ll have to actually do something to make my vision a reality. Scary stuff, indeed! So far, I’m running on leftover road-trip optimism, but like most things in the real world, my efforts are disturbingly slow in paying off. On top of that, I have only the slightest idea what I’m doing. Still, I’ve had some lovely rays of hope (more on the best on in my next post). I’ll be refining the practicalities of my plan as I go along, but here is what I want to achieve:

The Room
Constantly house sitting has its appeal because it make rent-free living possible, but it’s also exhausting. I’m tired of packing up all of the possessions I use day to day and moving every two weeks, or worse, every two days. I’m tired of knowing that I have a storage space (in my mom’s house, because she spoils me—I’m also tired of feeling that I’m taking advantage of my mother’s goodwill) full of possessions that I haven’t used for three years, because I can’t find them in the crammed-together mess. I’ve thought of getting rid of them, but I won’t be able to until I have some space of my own to spread my things out in, so I can, for the first time in years, get a good look at them. I’m tired of not being able to get to most of the useful things I own, tired of always worrying whether I’ll have a place to live next week … just plain tired of this plan. House sitting has overstayed its welcome in my life, for now, anyway. In these past three years, I haven’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped to in other areas of my life, either, and I think it’s largely because too much of my focus has been on hustling for house sits and moving around.

So, though I know it’s a novel idea, now I actually want a home. I’m looking for a room in a house, condo, or apartment, with interesting, quiet, and respectful roommate(s) who won’t mind that, though friendly when I do see them, I’m shy and I spend a lot of time in my room. In fact, I’m very, very shy, and need a very, very quiet space to recharge myself in, but I’m still charged up with road-trip optimism, so I truly believe I can find like-minded roommates with an open room at an affordable price. I’m even hopeful that I can find them before the house sit I’m on right now ends. The room-hunting process is on hold, though, because I think it would be best if another part of my plan were set in place first:

The Job
Yes, I said “job,” that hated word I’ve been avoiding for three years. I do want a job, within specific parameters: It must be part-time, ideally 24 to 30 hours a week. I hope to find one that uses some of my most salable skills, like copy editing, typing really fast, or understanding how MS Excel works, so that I can make the maximum income possible for my time. Also, I really do like to feel smart and useful. However, it could be almost any job … well, I’ve decided any job that pays $10 an hour or better.

The goal of The Job is to give me enough regular income so that, no matter what my freelance life does, I will easily be able to cover rent on The Room, yet The Job must stay part-time enough and emotionally comfortable enough not to eat more than 30 hours per week of my time. I need to save my time and energy, as I do not intend to give up on freelance writing, acting, knitting design, and chasing any other wild idea that occurs to me. The Job is there to stabilize my life, allowing me to focus more on each of my eccentricities. And the number-one area of focus will be:

Acting
I figured this part out when I attended two plays and a backstage tour at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, America’s largest and longest-running such festival. I was blown away by their productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler. (If you’re familiar at all with Ibsen’s original Hedda Gabler, you understand the problem with this title. Yes, it was a very surreal play—right up my alley!)

However, the festival left me rather depressed. I have been acting in plays, Shakespeare and modern, experimental and children’s, old standards and brand-new workshops, regularly for 14 years now, but I’ve never given it more than a half-assed effort. I majored in English and minored in anthropology, rather than theatre, because I was convinced that making a living doing what I loved most was too much for a dork like me to hope for, and I should really be responsible and choose a practical major. I took classes here and there, in college and after, but I never got any kind of solid, focused, long-term training. Lately, I’m convinced that the level of professionalism in Denver/Boulder theatre has outgrown me. I’ve done a little improv lately, and a few scavenger hunts and murder mystery dinners, but I haven’t been in a scripted play for nearly two years. Before my trip, I’d largely given up auditioning. I’d see an audition announcement, andsay, “What’s the use? Somebody better than me is bound to show up.”

Well, here’s my new acting plan: less of a half-assed effort. In fact, like Ted, I’d like to earn an MFA in my favorite art form. I’m not sure if I can convince any MFA program to take such an old lady, (I’ll be 35 by the time I get through anyone’s application process, and for an actress, that’s way over the hill, especially for one just getting her training.) and I’m not sure how I’ll pay for it if I can, but just the process of applying would do wonders for my skills. I’ll have to take more classes, and hopefully work on more plays, to get directors and teachers for letters of reference. I’ll have to work hard and get coached to build up two or three wonderful audition monologues. To audition, I might have to go on a few more road trips. (Hooray!)

So I’ve signed up for a two-month advanced acting class that starts in October. I’m considering another, shorter workshop, as well. (I sure hope I find The Job before I’ve emptied out my savings accounts!) I’m also auditioning for every play I can even remotely imagine myself fitting into. I’ve been back in Colorado for one week, and I’ve already auditioned twice. No dice on either one, but I’m just getting warmed up. My first audition, though it didn’t land me a part, convinced me that any joyous thing is possible. I’ll write about that in my next post.