Look at the above sun in eclipse. Beautiful, isn’t it? Behind that giant black disc of a moon is a glorious star, almost resentful that the moon’s blocking its way. It stretches its light outward, blossom-like, as if it were to say, “you can’t stop me, ya hear?” Sure, the dark moon has its moment, but the impatient strength of the sun will soon overtake it, filling the sky once more with its light and warmth.
Well, that’s been me. A woman in eclipse.
For too long I’ve been leading a shadow life, hidden behind the perverse comfort of a retail job. By that I mean, no real brain challenge, no real growth, but just by showing up each day and doing menial tasks I’d receive a paycheck. I’ve been so caught up in the stresses of my parents’ deaths, losing and trying to find a better job, separating my life from my ex, and to a far lesser degree, my son (he did grow up and join the Navy, after all). And starting over. Even writing’s become a chore, something I need to kick myself in the butt to do.
In all of that, I kind of lost who I was. I became a shadow of my former self.
It’s amazing what a second chance has done for me. I’ve actually exchanged complacency for competency.
My first full week on this new job has been a blur. As with any new position, everything’s dumped at you with an expectation that you’ll catch on quick. And for the most part, I can do whatever the job requires. It’s just that there’s an awful lot of stuff to do. It’s almost comical. My new boss has been in meetings out of the office. Not her fault; it’s the nature of the beast. We’re chasing grants and projects. And as I’m the grant writer, she schmoozes, I scribe.
Friday we both left the home office to meet with people in a satellite office. There’s a wonderful city emerging from a sad period of decay, turning into a place where many are discovering its charms as well as its affordability. Many artists are moving there, including those priced out of New York City (especially Brooklyn). Throughout the day, everyone we spoke to shared their excitement over how arts can grow a city.
And here’s where I surprised even myself. I managed to convince a very conservative politician that part of the reason why this city is blooming is because arts and artists found a home here. Here was a person who considered The Arts to be, well, paintings… and a very limited scope of interpretation. It was all lines, squiggles and mediums that made no sense. So without any condensation or judgement, I explained to him that The Arts included writing/literature, drama/plays, music of every genre, dancing, sculpture, and much, much more. How investing in The Arts brings tourism to an area – and now that’s happening in this city – creates a welcome environment as well as positive energy.
Of course I gave him examples through personal anecdotes. I wanted to illustrate just how powerful The Arts could be.
I happened to live and work in Manhattan during 9/11. And yes, I knew people who died. It wasn’t an easy place to be. But what kept that city going was its stubborn insistence that everything should continue as best as it could. A friend of mine was a stage manager for a Broadway play. The actors and the entire production crew, against the wishes of the union, opted for a pay cut so the play wouldn’t close. It was much more important to fulfill the run than to cave into what the terrorists – shut down the city.
Even more so was the season’s opening of Carnegie Hall. The city’s mayor at the time, a dedicated supporter of what good the arts can do and be (so much so, he dedicated some of the city’s budget to fund/invest in school programs), gave a brief speech. He stood on that glorious stage, with a world-famous symphony behind him. Without any written notes, this mayor thanked us for filling every single seat. He hoped we all went out to dinner beforehand. And took the subway to get there. He said the best way to show what New Yorkers are made of is to continue to support the arts by attending every manner of performance, by eating out, shopping in stores, taking public transportation and going about our lives with purpose. While the city had endured a horrific tragedy, its collective strength would ensure not only its survival, but its future.
I said the aforementioned as if I’d been there yesterday. The politician said nothing. He listened. For three hours. That’s how long we discussed how The Arts, and governmental investment in them, is a good thing and not a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Then he left, promising to come back the following month when we next held our open satellite office hours.
My boss turned to me and smiled. “That was amazing!” she said. “And such passion!”
I let out a laugh. “Yeah…sometimes it all seems too fresh to me. I hope I got my point across.”
“It’s pretty clear you did,” said my boss. “I can’t wait to tell the board president about it.”
I knew I made an impact on this politician. He’s the opposite party of me, yet he still wants to talk. He intended to stay for a half hour. Instead, he stayed for three. There’s much to be said about having a conversations with someone rather than an argument. Not once did I inflict my very differing political views. I chose to illustrate my point with someone who’s both passionate about The Arts and of his conservative party, and what that combination could achieve. If I can convince him to invest in some of the city’s arts projects, so much the better.
We left and I drove home in the darkness of country roads. All the while I thought to myself that this girl hasn’t gone anyplace; she just hid in the shadows. But like the moon sliding away from the sun, I’ve emerged just as bright, and maybe a little wiser.
So watch out world! It’s my time to shine!