Disclaimer: This is not a short entry. Buckle up.
Let me tell you something about the state of Texas.
The people are extremely kind hearted, friendly, and down-to-earth.
Let me tell you something else about the state of Texas.
They have more critters under one roof that could latch on and kill you with one bite than I ever expected to even exist in this world: Black Widow spiders will kill you. Rattle snakes will kill you. Scorpions maybe, might kill you. Centipedes, they may not fully kill you, but those fuckers need to be surgically removed because they will take their little poisonous pricklers and latch onto your skin, while they slowly try to suck the living life out of you. (I realize the phrase ‘living life’ is redundant, but I felt it necessary to be used as emphasis on how Texas’s deadliest weapons come in bite-sized form and will kill you before you’ve even realize what’s happened).
That’s why, while performing in Texas, in an outdoor arena, the stage hands carried blow torches on their person, should one of these lovely critters decide to attack us unexpectedly on stage.
Let me say that again, the stage hands were equipped with blow torches. FIRE. READY IN HAND. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? FLAMES. TO BE PROJECTED OUT OF A CANISTER AND AIMED AT A MINIATURE KILLER. READY. TO. GO.
And then there was the heat.
A lot of people complain about heat. It’s sticky, it’s irritable, it makes people sweat, which also makes them so very angry. But I don’t ever want to hear anyone complain about FL or CA heat until they’ve endured 120 degree dry weather, in the middle of the second largest canyon in the nation, wearing a heavy-ass costume dress, dancing high energy choreography, with tights and a leotard underneath their clothing, and a forced smile on their sweaty, make-up dripping faces. That’s right, one more peep out of my hometown folks and I’ll spray you with a water spout and tell you to eat it.
On the contrary, have you ever tried to perform on an outdoor stage, with electricity running in or around it, in the pouring rain, high winds, and the threat of a slippery stage? Yes. At this point the love for what I do has surpassed all logic, friends.
Despite these dangers, however, the above mentioned experiences are not what almost killed me. Sorry, I left in you suspense again, didn’t I? Ooops.
The above mentioned experiences did not kill me, no. On the contrary, were it not for the “TEXAS! Outdoor Musical Drama,” I would have never survived. They saved me, way before I even knew I needed saving.
Remember when I said, after my first year in Houston I was under extreme stress to be more than what I was, and how I was about ready to throw in the towel on my dreams and quit?
It was because of the summer of 2013 that my spirits were revived and I felt confident enough to fight on.
Let me give you a little bit of preface, though I will keep the whole of it REALLY short:
“TEXAS! The Outdoor Musical Drama” was a summer outdoor spectacle in Palo Duro, TX. It was a musical theatre extravaganza about the founding fathers of the state of Texas (“The Official State Play,” they call it). We were a full cast of about 24 dancers, another 15 or 20 singers and actors, musicians, stuntmen, and crew. We spent the first three weeks of the summer, every waking minute of every day with one another, rehearsing, practicing, and living in the same apartment complex. We then proceeded with the rest of the summer, performing 6 nights a week, and about 65 performances in a row, over the course of 3 months. To say that I now considered these people family was an understatement.
So now, I’ll cut to the chase:
At the end of the summer, we all got together for a cast party; an all day event, where we could unwind, have fun, and enjoy each-other’s company. We had one more week of shows to perform before we closed out the summer, so this was our final celebration before we all left and went back home. I remember this day from beginning to end, with vivid detail. I may never forget it for as long as I live.
That night, as the party was coming down to a close, a few of the girls and I left to head back to our apartment, so that we could get rest for our final week of performances. It was that same night, a few hours later, we learned that five of our cast-mate family members were killed in a tragic car accident on their way home. The sixth, was the only survivor, and being rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
I will not go into detail of what transpired thereafter, out of respect for the people who were there and lived through the horror, and the family of those who died, but also because I myself do not wish to relive it.
The next morning the accident was national news. Some of our Texas family decided to pack up and go home, and some of us decided to stay and finish out the run of the show. Which we did, as we were, and missing about half of the cast. It was important that we carried out the show in our friends honor.
For the last four performances, the entire audience was over sold. We even had to put chairs on stage for people to sit in. I remember thinking I had a job to do, and I was going to do it to my absolute best ability, despite the fact that we were all completely torn to shreds inside. On stage you would see smiling faces, but behind the curtain and in between costume changes, we were breaking down physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Two days after the close of the show, I was on a plane back to Houston and thrown right into my second year of grad school. I had to audition the very next morning for the upcoming theatre season, and I had absolutely nothing prepared. I think I cried through my entire audition, which looking back on it now, probably looked completely hilarious.
My point is, I didn’t have time to process what had unfolded. Within a matter of days, I was thrown right into the next task, back to where I started, with immense stress and pressure to perform well, while battling a war zone of emotions that would erupt sporadically and without notice. I think I suffered a little bit of PTSD for a while, though I never went to see a psychiatrist, so I can’t really confirm that that’s what was going on.
I do know, however, that to suppress my emotional instability, I sank quite deep into my work. If I was working, I didn’t have time to think about anything other than what was in front of me.
AND THAT, my dear friends, is what almost killed me.
Again, I mean that literally.
I worked so hard, and so long, and so relentlessly that I neglected every other aspect of my life, including my health. What started as a fever, turned into a high fever, turned into a blood infection, turned into a kidney infection, turned into being hospitalized for a week. I literally worked through my fever, rehearsing and studying by popping Tylenol every few hours like they were tic-tacs. When I finally reached a temperature of 105, and could barely walk because my kidney was so inflamed, I drove myself to a hospital, where they told me I was hours away from a full blood transfusion.
All. my. fault.
When I got better and they released me from the hospital, I had another week of recovery at home, and thats when the school threatened to not let me graduate because I had missed too much school.
Then, out of no where. POP! Something in me snapped.
After a year and a half of enduring complete and utter bullshit, I was not going to let them kick me out. As if to say all that work and turmoil was for nothing. WAIT, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME?!?
No, bitch. Sit down. Take notes. It’s my turn to talk.
So I told them to shut up, I graduated, and then I left. I didn’t even stay for the graduation ceremony. I got on a plane and I moved to Los Angeles. And that was that.
I now had a new purpose. It was impossible for me to quit now because there were people I once knew in Texas, whom I loved, and who unbeknownst to them, saved me by paying the ultimate price. And I was not going to let anything or anyone get in the way of me repaying them for it.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Who ever said that was extremely wrong.
I was not killed in Texas. But I am also not stronger because of it. I’m still a complete and utter wimp, to be honest.
I still wont fight a centipede, bro. You can chill with that one.
But what I am now, is smarter. Smart enough to know that no one has the means to get in the way of anything that I want. They can and will provide road blocks, obstacles, and turning points; they can detain me, they can do everything in their power to keep me from reaching the end, but they cannot take away my purpose for what I am doing. As long as I’m smart enough to remember why I keep fighting, and to remember that I’ve had worse, I will always find a way through.
I would advise everyone to find a point in their life to face death in the eye and give it a wink. I mean that both literally and metaphorically. And I’m only half-joking…
Repetition, so it sticks: I take 100% full responsibility for Texas’ mission to seek and destroy me. I put myself in its way and asked it to. And I appreciate Texas for all of it.
I love Texas. But I also hate that I love Texas, too.
And I’ll take that statement to the grave.
Oh, and in case you were wondering…Yes, that is me in the above picture being tossed 20 feet into the air without a net.
My brain says, “Get down from there, you idiot,” but my heart and spirit say, “Weeeee!”