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The Life and Times of Art

Working With Time, Not Against It: A Retrospective on My First Semester of my BFA, Life, and Time

The Life and Times of Art

Something they don't tell you enough about college: you don't have any time. You'd think that, if you're majoring in some sort of art, you'd have ample ability and time to do, create, and work on the art you care about. I thought that. I thought wrong. I was only two months into my BFA Theatre Arts program at Boston University last fall when I realized that I longed for the time to actually make new art rather than fall back on art I had already made. Time may be irrelevant-at least that's what they say-but I had all and none of it right in my way. I had all the time in the world to do anything and everything, but absolutely no time to get something-one thing-done. There were so many artistic endeavors that I wanted to work on yet quickly discovered that they had to be put aside in the name of turning in an essay on time.

Time is something that I've wrangled with my entire life-partly from executive dysfunction, partly from my own self-inflicted timelines, and partly from timelines dictated by others. My entire life, I've felt like I was running up the arms of a giant clock, barring me from doing certain things at certain times for certain reasons or only allotting a certain amount of time for me to do something or else it will tear away from me forever. Opportunity is fleeting and I felt that with every waking and sleeping moment. Back when I was a competitive gymnast, I had to deal with time to wait for my injuries to heal or time until the next meet and even the planned out timeline of events that would need to coalesce to get me to the olympics. I always knew I would retire when I was either 18 or 24, no in between and no different. But then the timeline didn't work out, and (due to medical reasons) I was forced to quit at 10. Out of nowhere, my entire life, once planned and laid out before me with certainty, fell to shreds of contingency. I was onto the next timeline; a career in the performing arts.

When I started working professionally in film (age 7) and stage (age 12), I found that time worked slightly differently. Private vocal technique lessons, advanced dance classes, master classes/intensives in acting, improv, and auditioning took the place of hours of practice in the gym and obtaining pre-set competitive skills. I had to also take into consideration that my own hard work and talent is only a portion of what could be my "success" in the film and stage world. In this field so much of the possibility for success is knowing the right people to help foster connections as well as simply being in the right place at the right time to make those connections. While this industry is lifelong (compared to gymnastics where your career ends by age 24), one does still have to wait to be a particular age for some opportunities. Yet one could wait and finally arrive at the "particular age" to only learn that the industry changed and they are now casting right above or right under your age for those same roles.

With my first year of my BFA training behind me, I feel all those impending pressures and possibilities deeply, but separated from me. Although I am still auditioning outside of school, it is hyper-selective on my part. I see so many opportunities that could help me grow as an artist in this industry that I so desperately want to audition for, but they directly conflict with my schooling and would not be worth taking a leave and losing the money already paid for the current semester. So I don't attempt to seize that opportunity and instead am stuck watching time seemingly slip away. Higher education is supposed to be where one gains the skills and knowledge for particular fields. However a degree is not required to work in or be successful in the arts. It's hard not to watch time and opportunity pass you by as you forgo auditioning or writing the exciting play idea that has been on your mind for months in the name of getting an essay on a topic of the least interest to you submitted on time.

I've now been on summer break for a month and I feel so relieved. While I still have to be hyper-selective on auditioning opportunities (I do have a summer job here in Boston that I have committed to and most projects won't end by the time school starts up again in early September), I now have the time to create the art I've been longing to make the past 9 months. I've finally completed the edits that I've been holding off on due to time constraints on two full length play scripts I've been writing since over a year ago, interviewed for and committed to assistant direct a mainstage show at BU for fall semester 2022, took notes on three new story ideas that have been bubbling in my mind, written a few chapters of a novel I've been writing for two years, wrote a ton of poetry, watched one of the best productions of theatre I've ever seen (go see 1776 at American Repertory Theatre or on Broadway next fall if you can. I don't particularly love the musical itself for obvious reasons, this production was beyond words and made me bawl on multiple occasions), read more books and plays than I can count, walked all over the greater Boston area, and filmed multiple self tapes. My quality of life and relationship to time is so much more healthy.

However, there will always be this feeling of being behind when it comes to me and time. Behind who or what? Beats me. All I know is that, for reasons beyond me-having to do with place, time, money, and people-I can't help but feel as though I might never achieve my dreams no matter how hard I try, how much I care, or how brilliant me and my art are. It just feels like I'm in this unbearable waiting game, (un)patiently tapping my feet and checking my watch until opportunity knocks on my door. And the sad thing is that I'm not wrong about this. Not to be completely pessimistic about our craft and industry. In actuality, this is a fairly realistic view of how it works. But I can be realistically pessimistic about this while also allowing myself to dream and care about my art. I don't need to sit and wait until I happen to be at the right place at the right time, or know the right people, or eventually get that long awaited call from opportunity itself. I can put my heart and soul into the things I love because I love them while keeping an eye out for possibility. I can find the time to take in and make the art I want to be surrounded by while also allowing the time for possibility to happen. I can make art happen while letting art happen to me. These experiences can both exist at the same time.

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