I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No
There is a saying you find yourself saying a lot when you are an actor: “I can’t; I have rehearsal.” In community theater, high school, college, and working in the professional world, rehearsal trumps all social engagements. It runs alongside “I can’t because I have an early audition, learning a monologue, class, vocal rest, etc”. Any responsible adult says no when they have a commitment that requires rest and focus. It is the smart, mature, wise thing to do.
I have to learn how to do it with writing.
I am a Gemini through and through. I thrive on social engagements and conversation. I am exceptionally talented when it comes to shirking responsibilities in lieu of having a good time. Laundry? Fuck it. Meal prep? I can do that at 11pm. Grabbing a drink with a girlfriend or taking advantage of a friend’s comp ticket to a show are many baits I take without a second thought. Word count? Ah, shit.
I have been growing a fear inside me. June is almost gone and with it, my freedom. I will have to start a new job soon and all this time I’ve been dedicating to writing will shrink immensely. I will have to go back to carving out time for writing and making sure I don’t abandon ship as I am prone to do. I will have to start saying no to a decent amount of socializing because I have the time for it and my word count goals for the day.
I used to work three jobs, audition consistently and socialize with my friends. Granted, I was young, immune to hangovers, and could run on five hours of sleep without so much as a yawn. I survived on deli sandwiches and McDonald’s Coke. I am now a fully formed, kale eating, eight hours of sleep adult. If I can do all that then, I can manage a social calendar and my art.
The thing that is scratching at the back of my neck in that annoying ‘turn around and look at me’ way is that I was isolated from all this for years. The past year being back in the city, I have done more than I did in three in Vermont. Technically, the point of moving to Vermont was to slow down and do that very thing and that is why we moved back: it was not for us. Now I have all the shiny, pretty things sparkling around me and I want to grab a bag and collect them all. I want to be Ariel and build a grotto of all my pretty treasures to sing about and look at and feel alive and happy and joyful.
Then I remember what else I want: to be published, finish my novel second draft, to make some coin off this blog, to establish myself as a writer. I also want to go back to acting at some point, work on my French, improve my Tarot reading skills, and lose about 15 pounds. If I want to do all of that, some things will have to go.
When I start working full time again, I have to treat my writing the same way I am treating it now: as a job. I make a schedule every day and stick to it for the most part. I’m terrified I can not make this work. I am scared I have gotten my own hopes up about balancing it all and it will come crashing down around me. A pile of rubble where my work used to be. Nothing will come of this novel or anything I have hoped to create. I will put it all on a shelf, work my job, come home, and do all the fun activities I love to do. That would be fine. I would be happy. But I’d never be content or settled or satisfied. Isn’t that enough to make me say no to going out when I haven’t finished an article I want to submit to be published?
It is a challenge I think many of us face as we grow older. We all have things we wish to accomplish and ways and ideas of how to do it. I find once we hit our thirties, those paths start to fade. They are not as clear. There are survival jobs that have become more of a career, marriage, divorce, children, other opportunities that steer you away from your passions. Right now, I am distracted by only being starved for variety and socializing for several years. When is it time I wake up and pay attention to the fact if I don’t start saying no, I have no one to blame but myself when five years down the line, I am without a book and none of the checkmarks I love next to my goals? When is my appetite going to shift from conversations to finishing a chapter?
Now. I think now it shifts.
There are a handful of friends I haven’t seen yet since being back. We’ve texted, attempted to plan to get together several times. But you know what usually happens? They say they can’t because they have something creative. Rehearsal, a show, tech. They are having a writer’s meeting. They are gone for two months to do a show upstate. They are putting their creative life first.
I do not know what kind of job my next one will be. Perhaps it will be a slow one and I can write during the day and all of this panic would be silly. But I sat in a cold sweat during a recent gathering as the fear began to grow. It was not that I wasn’t having fun and enjoying myself. I was. But I saw my future standing before me doing just that: sitting and hanging out and wishing I had been more disciplined and finished what I started.
Maybe it isn’t saying no. Maybe it is saying yes to the creative goals. It is saying yes to staying in and working hard. It is saying yes to this moment in my life before a new job or a baby or another commitment comes to take it all away. So, for now, please keep asking me to get together. I’ll do the same. But please don’t be surprised if soon I reply with: I’m sorry, I can’t. I have rehearsal.