Pretty low point this week.
Last year, I spent four days at a symposium for Christian playwrights and screenwriters in Stone Mountain, GA. It was an incredible time.
In everyday situations, and certainly in the Church, I find maybe one in twenty people who think like I do and who have the same passions for God and the arts. In this place, every single person I met was passionate about excellence in the arts, creative, interesting and keenly seeking God’s truth in their lives and in their writing.
We talked, we read scripts, we watched each others new films on laptops, we smoked cigars, we ate meals together. I felt like myself, the me I’ve always wanted to be. It’s more like what I imagine Heaven to be like than anything else I’ve experienced on Earth.
This year I wasn’t invited.
It makes sense, of course. The main reason I was asked last year was because a play I’d written had been developed by the group organizing the event and there was going to be a reading of the play at the symposium. The others in attendance (whose airfare and accommodations were all paid by the group) are regular playwrights, theatre directors, screenplay consultants, studio script consultants or stage and screenwriting academic types. I am none of those things. And without a body of work, an important title, or a current project that’s being developed, I fully understand their decision to draw the line between invitees and non-invitees somewhere above my name on the list.
But I am sad.
Foremost, I am already mourning the loss of the best fellowship I’ve ever experienced. The kind of conversations and soul-sharing that allows you to skip levels 1-3 of shallow small talk and dive right into the quest for “Holy Moments.” (see “Waking Life” by Richard Linklater)
Secondly, it makes me wonder about my direction and my accomplishments. Why am I not in a position to get invited to an event like this? Why am I not writing? Why am I not directing a theatre company? Why am I not teaching at the undergrad level? Why am I not doing the things that seem like those things most closely connected with who I feel I am meant to be?
I recently saw a film called “I [heart] Huckabees” in which a main character hires two “Existential Investigators” who challenge him with the idea that he is not being himself. And he asks the question “How am I not myself?” The existential investigators are very amused by the question, and repeat it playfully as though it’s the joke of the century. At the end of the film, at the end of the credit roll, the question appears again.
How am I not myself?
The question haunts me. I am not happy and I wonder if I am being myself. I wonder in what ways I am not being myself. Yet, there are few people with whom I could share such a challenge, because most people, especially Christians would dismiss it as self-indulgent navel-gazing. But it’s there.
Shit or get off the pot.
A part of me wants to just kick my own ass. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be an actor, act. If you want to be a director, direct. If you want to be a miserable almost writer, actor, and director, just keep doing what you’re doing. But I’ve learned enough about the human experience to understand that attempts at behavioral changes (resolutions, schedules, rules or goals for myself) usually end in failure and more shame. So I am hesitant to go at this with a superficial fix. But I don’t know what’s deeper.
Have I misread my calling?
Am I, in fact, meant to be a high school drama teacher for the rest of my life? Even as I type those words, the only appetizing thing about the idea is that it’s the easy road. The other roads range from unknown to terrifying.
I need to pray.