What does life look like post graduation from graduate school? I am about to find out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"There's No Business Like Show Business!!". . . or is there??

When you lose your dream, you die.
Dreams change; friends are forever.
So, during my time in Chicago, I have had a lot of time for reflection. Lately I've even started doing some vocation discernment and writing in my journal about where I think God is leading me and what I am learning about myself this year. I just have to say that the answers I have been coming up with have been surprising and not necessarily the answers I was looking for. However, having had a few days to digest and process everything, I really feel like the answers I've come up with really are the answers that God wanted me to come up with and I've made a sort of peace with the decisions.
Let me explain by giving you some background here. Ever since I was a little kid, there has been exactly one dream that I have had and wanted to accomplish: becoming famous. That has literally been the desire that has driven my entire life and has been responsible for a lot of the decisions that I have made over the last several years. I started doing theatre 12 years ago because I believed that would be the best route to accomplishing that goal. I convinced myself that theatre would be the only path that would bring me any happiness. I've been telling people for years that my two major life goals are to win an Oscar and star on Broadway.
I've realized, though, that therein lies the problem. I have been focusing too much on performing for the glory and the accolades. That's not really what it is supposed to be about. Performing is supposed to be about the thrill and the adventure of playing a part and getting invested in a character and making new friends and such. For me, though, it has never been about that. It has always been about getting the glory and the accolades and being the center of attention. I have been doing it for all the wrong reasons and I think that explains why I haven't had the greatest success with it. I've done over 20 shows and yet I've had mostly minor roles or backstage roles in most of them. I'm realizing now that that is perhaps God's way of saying that I am just not meant to make a career of it. I haven't been doing it for the right reasons and yet when I think about trying to do it for the right reasons, I find that my enthusiasm for doing it at all is muted at best.
I'm just tired of the "drama" in drama. The long nights, the multiple rehearsals, the immaturity of so many out there, the constantly having to do the same thing over and over. It just wears me down and yet I kept at it because I was determined to make something of myself and become a big star in the industry. I just wanted the Oscar and that has been why I have been willing to subject myself to all the tedium and drama that comes with doing theatre. I really hate doing the same thing over and over. I used to tell people that I hated rehearsing but loved performing!! I hate auditioning because I make terrible first impressions and lack the self-confidence in myself and my abilities that seems to be a need in order to make it in the business. I convinced myself that it would all be worth it someday when I was onstage giving my Oscar acceptance speech which I had had written since I was 5 years old.
A big part of the reason why I wanted to serve in Chicago was because it would be a great place for an aspiring actor to start out his career that was less cutthroat than New York City. However, I'm realizing that God sent me to Chicago to help me realize that there is something better out there waiting for me. Doing theatre helped me develop gifts that I can take with me into other careers: public speaking, self-confidence, projecting to a crowd and many others. These are skills that I have developed thanks to my many years of theatre and they are skills that I can take with me into any other vocation of mine and God's choosing. They're also skills that a lot of people out there don't possess and would love to have.
The above quotes represent two different dichotomies when it comes to dreams. The whole point of this post is simply to say that I have realized that maybe my dreams need to change (if they ever really were my dreams). I simply don't have the passion or the talent for the theatre biz anymore. I was doing it for purely selfish rather than selfless reasons and let my own selfish pursuit of glory and accolades take precedence over just having fun and enjoying myself. I wasn't using my talent for the right reasons but also can't see myself wanting to do it for the right reasons. I'm not saying I won't ever do another show again just that I don't think that it is meant to be my career ambition anymore. I'm glad I realized this now even if it does mean that I have to now figure out who God is wanting me to be (I've got some ideas in that regard but don't want to say anything on here until it feels more firmed up). Sometimes God has a funny way of getting his message to us. Before I left to come to Chicago, I was convinced that once I was done, I was going to settle down in Chicago and become a professional actor. Now, here I am two months into my YAV year thinking seriously about leaving that dream behind, perhaps permanently. I haven't let my dream die but simply realized that perhaps that never really was my dream at all.
It's scary to think that I could potentially be giving up the stage and that whole business permanently. It's really all I have been heavily involved in over the last twelve years. Yet, I have come to realize that I started doing it simply for the attention and not because it was something I wanted to do. Now, I am forced to re-evaluate everything I know and hope that those of you out there reading this will support me as I make this quite momentous decision. I'm almost afraid to publish this and even put the idea out there that I might be "retiring" from the stage, again. I know that means people will be holding me accountable and that I have to live up to what I promise. This doesn't mean that I can't still be involved in the business, just from an outsider's perspective. I will still be a movie buff and will still always want to go to a theatrical event of any kind but won't be participating. Last time I "retired" from the stage, it lasted three years so who knows how long this one will last. I think theatre will always be a part of me and I am very grateful to it and the friends I have made through it. It helped get me through some really rough patches in my life and I am glad that it helped me develop some useful life skills. However, it's time for me to move on and work at becoming a new person. What that means, yet, I don't know. For now, let's just say I am a work in progress!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crop Walk 2010

Hello all, I know what you're thinking. Wow, three posts in one week. He must have a lot to say of import. Well, that's sorta true. This post is all about what I will be spending next Sunday afternoon doing. You see, this year I am participating in the 2010 CROP Hunger Walk which raises awareness and money around the issue of world hunger. It's an important cause, one that I believe very strongly in and one that I am proud to take part in. The walk will take me throughout downtown Chicago and along the lakefront so it will be a beautiful walk, at the very least. There is a team from LakeView doing it so it will give me a chance to visit with them as we walk and chat and look at the sights and such. It's a 10K which is a little daunting but as someone who successfully completed a 5K run this summer, I think I can handle it. Each walker is asked to raise money for their walk although there is no set amount that we have to fundraise. A good minimum they give us is $120 because that will feed a family of five for an entire month. I've set my minimum at $150 just to go above and beyond. I can't tell you how excited I am to be participating in this event and I hope you are excited about it too. I also hope that those of you reading this with the funds will donate at least something to my fundraising efforts. This is such an important cause and one that I feel strongly about. Global hunger is an epidemic that affects far too many people. Over the last seven years, I have been proud to participate in the 30-Hour Famine program and that one really speaks to the issue of global hunger as well. The CROP walk is just an extension of that program so every dollar raised helps one more family overcome their conditions and live without hunger. If my efforts can help just one family, then they will be worth it. I hope you will consider donating toward this important and worthwhile cause.
To make a secure, online, tax-deductible donation, please type the following URL into your web browser: http://www.churchworldservice.org/site/TR/2010FallCROPHungerWalk/TeamRaiser-Fall2010?px=1469972&pg=personal&fr_id=6564.

That will take you straight to
personal fundraising page where you can follow the link to donate. Thanks so much!! BTW, the walk takes place on October 17th so I only have 9 more days to meet my goal!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why DO Bad Things Happen to Good People??

"Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."
Marilyn Monroe

This week at Young Adult Bible Study, we discussed why bad things happen and how a God who is all-knowing and all-seeing could allow bad things to happen in the world. If God truly loves his creation then how could he allow bad things to happen to those who he loves. We watched a video about the topic and it did a good job of explaining the concept but didn't provide any easy answers mainly cause there aren't any answers. During discussion after the video, we read the story of Joseph and talked about how the story relates to the concepts of bad things happening to good people. In Joseph's case, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers and was assumed dead by his own father. However, in Joseph's case, he ended up in a much better situation than he started out in. The quote above by Marilyn Monroe is one that I have taken as a personal motto for myself and one that I have found to be true more often than not. In the case of Joseph, he had a good thing going living in a household with a large family with a father who adored him and a Technicolor Dreamcoat. All that was taken away by his brothers' jealousy and things looked pretty bleak for Joseph. However, he ended up in a better situation because of what his brothers did to him. If he had stayed in his old situation, he would have been subjected to the same famine that plagued his family and might not have lived to carry on the legacy of his people. Instead, he ended up being in a position of power and was able to help those who were affected by the famine. Plus, he got a great Broadway musical out of the deal!!
So, as you can see, a bad thing happened to Joseph but it turned into something good maybe even great. I think that's the nature of most bad things that happen in our lives. God takes them and makes something beautiful out of the midst of tragedy. Look at the cross for another example. Out of that absolutely horrific and terrible event sprang the hope and salvation of all mankind. Sometimes, it's simply about seeing the beauty in the midst of the tragedy.
Of course, this doesn't allow for the larger question of why do bad things have to happen at all?? Can't God simply not let bad things happen?? If he really is all powerful, he should be able at least to end human suffering, right?? Honestly, I don't really have an answer for that and we never really found an answer for it at Bible Study either. I don't think there is an answer. I sincerely believe that everything happens for a reason but then, as someone pointed out last night, what about the Holocaust? Did God allow the Holocaust to happen? Was he simply powerless to stop it? Why did the Holocaust happen? Where's the silver lining in the extermination of millions of people in such a horrific and horrid way? The easy answer is I don't know. I don't know why things like the Holocaust or Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 happen. I just know they do and they are tragic and scary at the same time. It's a question that I think many Christians struggle with and I think a lot of atheists cite it as a reason why they don't believe in God. I can see their point. If God could stop the Holocaust and chose not to, then is that really a God we want to worship and adore?? Or alternatively, if God was powerless to stop the Holocaust, then what kind of God is that?? Certainly not one that most of us would want to worship. It's easy to take that route and choose not to believe in God at all for to believe in God means that we must struggle with the fact that he could have potentially chosen not to stop the bad things from happening.
I know I have been hitting hard the fact that I used to be an atheist but it's because those years of unbelief have completely shaped and informed my years of belief. Another reason I was an atheist had to do with the fact that I saw so much tragedy and pain happening in my personal life and I had a hard time reconciling that with the idea that there was an all-powerful, all-loving God. If God was truly like that, then why couldn't he just fix everything and make it all better. Why did so many people that I loved and respected have to suffer such incredible pain and loss?? Why couldn't he have made me "normal" so I would fit in with my peers? All these questions weighed heavily on my mind and I chose not to believe in a God that would have that kind of attitude toward his creation. Now, I still wrestle with those questions but now I have chosen to believe that God gave us free will and lets us make our own choices, for better or for worse. God doesn't make any mistakes but humans sure do. God still loves us even when we commit unspeakable acts of violence and inhumanity because we are his beloved children. He made us the way we are and we should embrace it. Ultimately, while I don't have an answer for why bad things happen to good people or why God doesn't just stop those things from happening, I can honestly say that my God gave us the free will to make our own decisions and our own mistakes but irregardless of those decisions, he still loves us anyway even when we don't love ourselves or him. That's the most important part of my religious beliefs: the idea that God loves us no matter what we have done or who we are or how we treat others. He still cares deeply for us and doesn't want bad things to happen to us. Humans make the choice to commit acts of unspeakable evil and God gave us that choice so that we might know suffering and compassion.
Perhaps my thoughts sound really jumbled and perhaps I'm not making much sense. Maybe some of you are wondering when I'm going to stop writing about theology and start writing more about my life in Chicago. Those are all valid points but my life in Chicago includes my theology as it is something I have to deal with on a daily basis. My Christian faith is being stretched and challenged in so many ways while I am up here and I feel the need to share it with you all and get my thoughts on these matters out there. I hope that's okay with you all. Pretty soon, I will get back to posting about life in Chicago although to be honest, there's not really that much to add to the conversation there. Things are still great here so far. I sometimes fear that I am going to run out of things to blog about as my life up here is not one exciting adventure after another. Anyway, that's all I have for today. I've had theology on the brain a lot this week between this week's Bible Study and this week's episode of Glee (one of the finest they've ever done) so I just needed to share it with you all. Remember, God (and I) loves You!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anne Rice and Quitting Christianity

In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
Anne Rice

In Sunday School at LakeView this week, we talked about this quote and discussed the implications of it. I don't often get to attend the Sunday School class because I'm usually running around doing things during that time but I am glad I got to come this week as this is a quote that has really been on my mind for the past couple of months. As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent several years as an atheist and some of that had to do with the fact that I didn't approve of the hatred that I was seeing Christians participate in. I have always believed that God loves everyone and that hatred has no place in Christianity. Growing up in a fairly conservative area, I was subjected to a lot of hatred and vitriol being spewed in the name of Christ. It really put a bitter taste in my mouth toward the whole concept of Christianity. I personally didn't want to believe in a God that would preach hatred toward others and didn't want to be associated with that. So, I decided that I would just become an atheist and not be affiliated with Christianity at all.
So, as you can see, I should be sympathetic toward Anne Rice and her reasons for quitting a religion that admittedly has plenty of reasons not to be a part of it. However, where I take issue with Rice is how quick she is to label all Christians as bad and put them in a box. I've come to realize that not all Christians are anti-gay, anti-birth control, anti-science etc. and that is the kind of Christianity that I belong to. I have no issues with those Christians that believe differently, I just strongly disagree with them and am quick to make that known to them. That kind of Christianity is the kind that turned me off to the religion in the first place.
Being a follower of Christ is not easy and there are plenty of times when I don't always want to believe or want to yell at the conservative evangelicals that they are wrong but ultimately, I choose to follow an imperfect religion because I myself am imperfect. It's only recently (really since I signed on to be a YAV) that I have even felt comfortable calling myself a Christian. I used to be so ashamed to call myself a Christian because I was afraid that people would lump me in with the evangelicals and that was not me at all. I'm no longer ashamed to call myself a Christian because if people know I am a Christian, hopefully that will change their views on Christians. It's my job as a Christian to exhibit the love of God and the openness of the Holy Spirit and if through that, people get a new perspective on Christianity, then all the better. Being a Christian means taking the good with the bad. I believe that the media likes to portray Christianity in a negative light. All you ever hear about on TV is the Westboro Baptist Church and such but you almost never hear about the good things that Christianity is doing in the world. Yes, Christianity is responsible for a lot of absolutely terrible things but it has also been responsible for some wonderful things and I think that needs to be acknowledged as well. Rice and so many others like to paint Christianity in a bad light and as Christians we need to be more vocal about how wrong they are about us. The majority of non-Christians will never view Christianity in a positive light unless those of us who are the "liberal" Christians stand up and let our voices be heard. I'm not trying to knock conservative evangelicals as they are children of God and followers of Christ too. I'm simply saying that those of us who are pro-gay rights, pro-choice, pro-birth control and Christians need to let people know that we exist and that there is another way to think about God and the Bible. Otherwise, we risk alienating and losing even more people like Rice who have become disillusioned and disheartened with the church and what they perceive to be its message of intolerance.
Rice may be a fantastic writer (I wouldn't know, I haven't read her stuff) but she deeply offends me when she attempts to label all Christians as intolerant and homophobic etc. That's not the Christianity I proclaim and it is not one that is endorsed by the YAV program. I am proud to say I am a Christian and will remain one now and forevermore. The church isn't perfect but neither am I and that is why I remain with it. Hallelujah and AMEN!!