I saw Green Day's American Idiot last Friday at the Ahmanson. I'm a huge Green Day fan, so I expected to love the music and enjoy the show. I expected the social commentary and for it to be thought-provoking, and to then discuss the state of the world with my boyfriend after it was over (particularly that of the younger generation's apathy, the immediate impulse of today's society to go for quick fixes of numbing themselves, the control the media has over us, etc). But man, I wasn't expecting the reaction I had. I was in for a surprise.
This show touched something in me on such a deep personal level that it was shocking. Yes, it did brilliantly evoke all those points I previously mentioned, but like all good art is meant to, there are many different levels to it. Good art touches each individual person differently and uniquely. Something that I have hidden deep down inside, covered up, tried to ignore, that has been lying dormant, well, was awoken.
Whenever I see theatre -- I mean good theatre, there's a lot of crappy theatre out there -- and particularly musicals, I get nostalgic and may even get a little teary eyed. I grew up as a child actor -- it began when I was 3 and I saw another little girl on TV and starting crying and told my mom "mommy, put me on there! I can do that!" But really what I did, what I loved, was theatre... really musicals, which I did up until college, when I gave it up for many reasons (more on this later). The stage was my home. So I expected the little twinge of heartache and homesickness I normally feel when I walk into a theatre and smell that perfect mixture of paint, wood, stale heat from the lights, cream make-up foundation, the subtle smell of dust on the curtain; it's a twinge similar to that of when you see an ex-love... But I didn't expect what happened next.
I felt the initial jealousy when the cast came on stage and starting singing and dancing their hearts out... seeing these performers' souls actually get to live out their purpose and passion. But the heat in me started rising more and more as the musical journey on stage unfolded, and then, when I heard these words sung, BAM. The dam broke and emotions I didn't realize I had been walling up for years came pouring out uncontrollably:
"When you're at the end of the road,
And you lost all sense of control,
And your thoughts have taken their toll,
When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul
When it's time to live and let die
And you can't get another try
Something inside this heart has died
You're in ruins"
( -- "From 21 Guns," written by Billie Joe Armstrong)
Before I knew it, I was sobbing. Yes. Yes... what they said. Exactly. When I gave up on being on stage, something inside my heart died. And it's too late now, I can't get another try. And my mind, which listened and succumbed to fears, absolutely broke the spirit of my soul.
I gave up on going for a career on stage, which is all I ever really wanted. I gave into rejection, and I gave into the influence of others. I gave into my debilitating fear of failure; I absolutely did not believe in myself -- I didn't believe in my talent, I didn't believe I could do it, so I decided it was easier to not even try. And now, at my age, and because of the choices I made based on fear during those "formative years," I can't get another try at being a working (musical) theatre actress.
I love all the other things I am doing with my life -- I love being a healer, and a writer, and a fitness teacher. I love being able to help people. But for the first 20 plus years of my life, I never thought I would be anything other than an actress... When I quit acting "forever" because I refused to take my top off for a movie and my manager and agent dropped me, I stopped fighting. I gave up. But see, that choice of not taking my top off, that's not what I'm regretting.
I messed up. I made the wrong choices. I didn't listen to my heart, to my soul. I never cared about being a famous movie star. I never cared about being on a TV series. I cared about being on stage. About carrying the life of one character from beginning to end LIVE -- experiencing and sharing her joys, her pains, her loves, her heartaches with the audience, evoking their own breakthroughs and realizations, just like this show did for me; to, in a sense, help heal people from the stage.
I cared about the art of acting, not about the business... I studied classical theatre at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England... it was the best experience of my life. When I came back to L.A. after that and was on the "circuit" taking meetings with managers and agents, I had this one meeting with a manager who asked me, essentially, that if I would be guaranteed to make $40,000 a year for the rest of my life doing great theatre consistently, always working, would I do it. I was so excited, it sounded like a dream!! YES I told him. NO he told me. There was no way he would sign me. I obviously didn't have the drive or hunger to make it in the "biz."
So, from fear, I jumped right onto the film and TV bandwagon. I was told I couldn't make a good living doing theatre, but that probably wouldn't even matter, because there's no way I could even book a musical theatre job, because I wasn't a real dancer, my voice isn't Julliard trained, and on and on. So I caved. And I was miserable every day of pursuing the "dream" of TV and film acting. It never felt right to me. I felt like I was sleep-walking doing it. So it was easy for me to walk away from.
I wish I had a time machine to go back and tell that girl to F her fears. That fears shouldn't keep her from going for her passion and her purpose. That each rejection, each no, is just one step closer to yes. That rejection is a normal part of the process and that it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with her or that she's not talented. To give her the tools I now have, have learned through the years, of believing in herself. I would tell her just how incredibly talented she is, and help her to own that talent. I wish I had a time machine to tell her to F her fears and go to New York and just do it, who cares if she was a poor waitress, at least she'd be trying. At least she'd be doing it. So that years from then -- if she wasn't actually IN the show, which could have been a possibility -- as she was sitting in the audience of the show, she wouldn't be filled with such extreme regret that she quite honestly doesn't know what to do with herself.
Spiritually, of course, I know that everything happens for a reason. That we are exactly where we are meant to be. Yes, that's true. BUT, we have free will. We each have the ability to make choices. I believe that if I had made different choices back then, choices not based on fear, that the universe would still be supporting me in the same way and I would still be learning the lessons I'm here to learn. Yes, I believe that there may be "plans" for us, but again, I believe we have free will to make our own choices. When we make those choices, our plans just adjust and flow with us. I made choices from fear and lack of belief in myself. I ignored my heart and my soul, and because they felt so broken, I just pushed it deep down inside. This show last night triggered that part of me again.
I know many of us have this -- dreams, passions, purpose -- that we never truly went for because we let what society or our parents or whoever say influence us, because we didn't believe in ourselves, because we let our doubts and fears -- fear of failing, or even, sometimes, fear of succeeding -- win. I'm sure most of us, knowing what we know now, if we had the chance, would go back in a second and do it differently... choose differently... really go for it.
So now what... do we come to terms with it, face it, accept it, heal it, and move on? Or do we try again? Are we sentenced to walking a lonely road on the boulevard of our broken dreams... or does the acknowledgment of our broken dreams actually allow for the dawning of the rest of our lives?
Follow Holly Sidell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HollySidell