My birthday this year was relatively uneventful. Honestly, it was almost boring. For the last seven years I've celebrated my birthday by hiking in England or cutting class and going out to lunch with friends. The last two years of my responsible adult life I've had a weekend birthday. This year I had to teach. The school year is in the process of ending and most of the people I would normally choose to celebrate the day with are so busy with grading and end of year concerts and such that I spent the majority of my birthday alone with my Facebook alerts and a depression funk I'd been fighting for several days before hand for company. Mazel tov.
(Don't feel too bad for me. I intend to extend my birthday for several more days until I can have a proper party with people I love. It will happen. And it will be delicious.)
Determined not to let my day be a complete depressive funk of work and usefulness, I spent my prep period (and the study hall I supervise) be devoted entirely to finishing I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak again. (Incidentally, if you haven't read any of his books, do it. Now. They're gorgeous.)
There is a sentence at the end of the book that I had to read several times over again.
Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of.
I thought about this for the rest of the day. As a teacher, I'm a huge advocate for my students. All of them. The nation spends their time fighting primarily for the failing students who need help because of learning disabilities or financial troubles or eating disorders or general disinterest. I spend my time reminding my students that no matter what their age or ability or socio-economic background, everyone struggles to get to the next level of awesome. It's just part of life. Something will (or should) always be hard.
I just wish sometimes I could take that advice myself.
Playing Beth in Little Women has been a bit of a rough experience in some ways. I can count dozens of times in my life when my verbal-ness has been the subject of sarcasm and laughter, and just as many where suddenly my love of language and gift with words felt more like a curse than a blessing. Times when I would try so desperately to be shy and quiet and void of opinions and the revolting urge I have to share them. Try to be the one that is easy to like and to understand. And now I spend my nights being the one that is easily adored and fawned over by everyone so that her eventual death is something worth mourning - not just because death is sad. In some ways, coming out of that mode and back into the reality of my own rather difficult personality isn't always pleasant.
A few days ago we were running a scene where Jo takes Beth to the seashore as a last ditch attempt to try and bring her back to full health. Sitting there in my wheelchair while my Jo flopped with joy over my lap I smiled and felt for the first time in a very honest way why Beth is so attached to her older sister. Jo's way of life is more dramatic - much more dramatic than Beth's simple existence - but Jo is so full of life. She is ambitious and excited about possibilities. That excitement occasionally blinds her to the simple joys her sister Meg seeks in a home and family, or the perhaps more trivial ones from Amy who loves beauty and luxury - but she does the best she can and always comes around.
So as much as I admire and love people like Beth, and as much of a joy as it is to play her, I also know that to become her would be to sacrifice much of what makes me feel alive. Like Jo, I sometimes learn the hard way and the long way and frustrate people before I realize what I've done. But, like Jo, I do what I can to make amends as soon as I can. I have ambition and drive and always do better when I make choices without feeling pressure from family or society. It can be a curse - but it can also be a blessing. I am learning to live beyond my current capabilities without feeling burdened by them.
You'll just have to forgive me if it takes longer for me to adjust myself than you would like it to. This "perfecting oneself" business is a pain. (I'll return the favor.)