Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Born This Way: my song and my tee-shirt

If you're a fan of Glee, then hopefully you caught last week's episode (Season 2, Episode 18) about loving yourself as you are and living life to the fullest. My friend, Sam, has been all up on following your dream, living the life you always imagined, and being your best. From getting married to dying for a dream, Sam is always asking his readers to be uniquely them, to create from that conviction, and to simply get serious and live life, or maybe to seriously, simply live.

I too have been trying to do that in my own life. I quit my job last year to do theater full time (check that off), write more (picked up the pencil, but no check mark yet), and get more speaking and preaching gigs (ugh, I can't do this on my own... feel free to pick up the phone for me and hook a sista up) in addition to being more available to my friends (I'm a nanny for one of my bestie's - well, actually her 17 month old daughter - who was twice diagnosed with cancer last year) and my family (I hope to attend more graduations, retirements and holidays from here on out). Check and check on those.

But it's hard to live life to the fullest. Sometimes there are doubts. Sometimes there is self-pity. Sometimes there is self-deprecation. And sometimes there is the stopping of living life fully all together.

Glee sort of tackles that this week. Much of it has to do with image issues and self-loathing typical of teenagers, but certainly not limited to them (I mean, have you seen my nose? or how about my super round face? or my ass?!). However, another, more challenging aspect of last week's episode began to tackle bigger prejudices. Boldly, Glee has taken on homosexuality and bullying. And it's not just a tipped hat to the gay guy who dresses nicely and sings in the choir. One of the a gorgeous, Latino, cheerleaders is a closet lesbian. And one of the top football players is homosexual. But in addition to these prejudices, now Glee's taking on mental health disorders as School Counselor, Emma, discovers her OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is a little OOC (out of control).

So when Rachel (the star of Glee Club) decides she wants a nose job so she can look like Quinn (the former captain of the Cheerio Cheerleaders), Mr. Schu steps in. And everyone makes tee-shirts confessing what they wish were different about them, what they've been ashamed of before, what they've let plague their thoughts so that they couldn't be who they were born to be. And we get an array of shirts:

After first writing GINGER, confessing her embarrassment at the color of her hair and the critiques it brought her in High School, Emma finally changes her shirt and writes, OCD. Mr. Schu writes BUTT CHIN, Brittany writes I'M WITH STUPID with an arrow pointing up to her brain and Puck writes the same with an arrow pointing down to his... dumbstick. Finn writes CAN'T DANCE, Mike writes CAN'T SING, Tina writes BROWN EYES and Mercedes writes NO WEAVE. In addition, they sing songs by reject artists who didn't make it as far as they really should have. They sing songs about claiming who you are. And of course, they end the episode performing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and wearing their tee-shirts. Check it out.

So that got me thinking, what would be on my tee-shirt? And what song would I sing? It was easy to find an answer to the latter. I'd consider 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco, Beautiful by Christina Aguilera, but would probably pick I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles, which has been my favorite song since I was a little girl and paraded around my parents house performing it until someone told me to shut up and quit singing for God's sake.

As for my tee-shirt? Well I've already mentioned my ski slope of a nose, my round face and matching bottom. But there were other things too... WEIRD maybe. I learned to embrace it as a child (or at least put up a good front) when I would respond, "Thanks, I take that as a compliment," whenever one of the kids in grade school would say, "You're so weird." In college, I learned to write, CLINICAL DEPRESSION on my metaphorical tee-shirt and at the advice of a therapist, chose to let God use me and my illness to help other people through hard times instead of resenting life and closing myself off to it. But now, maybe now I would write PERFORMER. Because for as impractical as it seems, and for as long as I've tried to just keep it a hobby, for as long as I've pushed it to the back burner because really, I'm an academic who should quit meddling in the arts... because now, it's just what I want to do. I am a singer and an actor and an actor who sings and a singer who acts. And I love performing anywhere, in churches, on the stage, in bars or clubs, at children's birthday parties (I would totally dress up as Mary Poppins or the Little Mermaid and crash your kids bday!). But owning that is hard. So is owning WRITER. So maybe that would be on my tee-shirt too. I write and write but I never publish. I set goal after goal of getting out a book but always find some reason to let it go. Everyone writes better than me, has more to say, employs better metaphors... whatever. You name the excuse and I've used it. So maybe WRITER would be on the shirt.

When I started writing this blog, I wasn't sure what would come out. I figured I'd write about how I love the song "I Am What I Am" and how I'm always afraid someone will find out I have a mental health disorder and will look at me differently. But I guess that's another perk of writing, it exposes how we really feel. And right now, I want to write. And perform. And I'm taking big steps (if hard steps) in one (do you know how many times I audition but am not cast?), and little steps in the other (at least I'm publishing my blogs!).

But maybe if I keep learning from art (Yes, I just called Glee art. Get over it.), I'll muster the courage to wear my shirts proudly, and eventually retire them for their irrelevance. And maybe I'll go to Curtain Call or some other open mic night one evening in Austin and sing "I Am What I Am" (even though I'm a girl and I'm not gay). And maybe one day I'll make theater my profession. And maybe one day I'll write a book, and go to Barnes and Noble and see it for sale on the shelf.

But in the meantime, maybe I'll just get used to saying, I was born this way... and smile... and mean it.

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