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No Humbler Brag (Books Seven to Eleven)

Reader, I never win.

If I place at all, I come in no better than second place.

Red ribbon.

B Team. (click here for bonus B-Team content.)

You may recall, as I wrote about Books Four, Five, and Six I tried to balance the lameness of my heartache with a silver-lining of small victories. Victories that I credit in part to having written them down as goals.

the covers of journals seven to eleven (and one back)

Books Seven to Eleven chronicle my move from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky where I'd been accepted at the prestigious but unpaid acting apprenticeship at the Actors Theater of Louisville (ATL.) I don't know how I could have done that year without the help of my Aunt Mary Jane who let me live in her beautiful Louisville home (and even cooked me meals when we were home on the same nights!) In this set of journals, I found some written goals that almost hit their mark –that definitely place, but not in first.

  • "If I ever move back to a big city, I’d teach aerobics. I could do that traveling aerobics instructor thing. Hawaii or wherever. All you have to do is teach two classes a day or something and the rest of the trip is yours." (I do teach aerobics, but the other thing is still on my to-do list.)

  • "And what about motherhood?! What about those two or three babies that need to be born by me." (I had one.)

  • "I’m officially making it a goal: Grad School in NY within the next three years." (I went to grad school in State College, Pennsylvania.)

And many, many recorded aspirations amounted to nothing. Here are some whoppers that appear in Seven to Eleven:

  • "I want to be famous"

  • "I want to be in movies"

  • "I wish I could sing like Sarah McLachlan"

  • "I wish I could sing and sew and bake. I would make my own bread, my own pants, and be in musicals."

  • Not even close

  • Not even close

  • Not even close

  • . . . okay, I’m pretty good at baking.

So while it may appear that I'm a real go-getter, I'm only getting some of what I go for. In going to ATL, I was getting in a new game (or at least showing up for practice every day but Mondays.)

"The safe thing is to stay here (in Chicago.) The brave thing is to go and try something challenging without knowing where it will take me. That, right there is the answer. I know what I need to do . . . It’s scary. It’s a risk. It’s a good way to live."

. . . and that game had its ups and downs. Merely getting into the apprenticeship in Louisville took me three annual tries. And they didn’t pay us. But they did let us have small parts in the productions. (Even the B team gets to play sometimes.) In a writing contest of 2,200 submitted ten-minute plays, mine placed second and third. We submitted anonymously so no one knew I placed twice until the winners were announced.

"1-12-99 Michael Dixon said I competed with 2200 plays in this contest. 2200. I want that number tattooed on my ass."

There is no humbler brag, no braggier humility than that of the B-Team player.

My friend Rob came in first in that playwriting contest. He doesn’t even want to be a writer, yet to this day, his ten-minute play Lunchtime reaps royalties. I teach his play when I teach play structure to college students. He's so first place.

My year at ATL was an incredible experience that introduced me to some of my dearest friends. But for ten months I had no income, and much to my present-day, eye-rolling dismay, that heartbreak I described in the last three (THREE!) journals goes on. And on. And on. I had new boyfriends and new adventures and absolutely no contact with my ex-boyfriend and still, the loss of that relationship dominates the pages of the next four (FOUR!!!) journals.

Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn.

There is a period toward the end of this journal series that I describe sensing a change has occurred:

Something is happening with us. I can’t tell if we’re coming closer together, or moving further apart, but a change is happening. Maybe he has fallen in love. I can feel the shift.

By the end of Book Eleven I learned that my ex-boyfriend was married. Not "getting married.” Married. Done. Complete. No opportunity for me to go all “Friends in Low Places” at some wedding somewhere when they say "speak now or forever hold your peace."

So I had to hold my peace.

Books Seven to Eleven also reflect my ongoing grief over the loss of my sister.

"5-18-98 Yesterday I got one of those impulses to call her. I wonder if that will ever go away."
"2-3-99 Katie, Katie, Katie. What in the hell happened? She’s still so alive to me. I close my eyes and her face is right there, but it’s more than that, it’s her essence. I’m older now than she ever was and ever will be. That seems impossible to me. She was in college for Chrissakes! That’s not enough life."
"7-8-99 Today is the kind of day that Katie and I would totally hang out. She would have her summers off and mostly hang out at the pool at her apartment complex with Kathy and her kids. I would be in town for a couple of weeks and we would spend our days at her pool or going out to lunch. At night we’d go to different bars and just hang out, laugh, and people watch."

The thing about journal content– at least mine anyway– is that it reflects an internal narrative. I wasn't writing as much about the externals of my life: what scenes we were studying in acting class, the funny things we said or did, all the interesting places I visited. That would’ve been stating the obvious. Because I was writing the journal entries to myself and I already knew where I had been, what was said, what was studied, what was learned. The innards of my journals explored the unknowns. Which is why I think I took up so much space writing about my dreams –not the aspirational ones, the sleeping ones. It seems obvious now that the dreams were my brain's way of sorting through my losses, and my journaling was my heart's way of making sense of the dreams, but I didn't know that back then.

  • "Had a dream about Katie last night. She was dead but still moving. It was her second death. She looked better than when she died in real life. Had the same dream about my cat. Weird."

  • "I wish I was still friends with Mike and could ask him if he dreams about me on the nights I dream about him."

  • "But why? Why all these dreams? Is it just my mind harboring these safe images for me while I’m in a new environment? "

Readers, it is not easy to find something wise, funny, or even interesting to say about seven diaries of breakup babble and dreams about dead people.

But this is what I've got:

Win some; lose some; place second, third, or 278th.

Sit the bench and watch and learn.

Show up.

My losses were great and lasting because my heart plays for the A-Team.

My life is weird and winding because I am still showing up to play.

Next up: my move to Los Angeles where your trusty B team player will find herself in – as they say– a whole new ball game.

“I know it will be hard. I know. I just wanna live in California. Is that so weird? I want to take yoga and eat sushi and roller-blade by the ocean. I want to be on TV and write all the time and enjoy good coffee and good weather. I want to drive my little Jeep with my dog, Peeve sitting next to me.”

* I never got a pet of any kind, but if I do I still hope to name it "Peeve."

Other Noteworthy Content:

Book Seven is a Navy Blue Izod book given to me in 1984 by Dawn Theado McAllister. I wrote in it from 3-38-98 – 6-10-98.

"Last night my inner voice came to me sounding like Janine Garafalo."

"I vow, right now, to never say 'same old, same old' in regard to my life. I can’t live like that."

"I started reading Coriolanus but I kept falling asleep."

"… How in the world would I do this without Mary Jane? I’m so lucky to have someone cook and get groceries. I have a place to park, a washer & dryer, two rooms, and a bathroom! I’m so lucky!"

"Cameron and I are doing our Hedda Gabler scene. He wants me to bite his ear, but I think that would suck, so I don’t think I’ll do it."

"What’s ahead? What’s ahead? I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next 12 months that follow."

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