I’m not a confident person.
I know, I know, I could have fooled you.
But it’s an act.
Me being confident is only ever an act. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going to get there or when or if I will ever arrive.
If we’re supposed to do things that scare us, it often seems like that’s all I do every day. I open my front door even though it scares me, and I stare out of the world that expects things from me that I don’t know how to give.
And it terrifies me.
When I auditioned for Othello in October, I mainly did it because I knew it scared me a lot. It scared me more than any auditions should, because I’m a thespian. I have been since the day I was born.
I directed my first show when I was 4 years old, and even though I made the dumb casting decision to cast my 9-months-pregnant mother as the angel Gabriel and my three-year-old sister as the virgin Mary, I’ve always been a part of the theatre. Theatre has always been a part of me.
But when I auditioned for Othello in October, I wanted to be anywhere but the theatre. I barely got out of my car. I barely walked up the steps into the building and open to the door. The audition form was overwhelming. Sitting in my chair, I felt as though the whole world was staring at me and telling me just to go home. You don’t belong. This isn’t your home anymore.
How did that even happen? How did I get to a place so lost and so broken that the stage, my first home, became such a leering monster, a presence that filled me with dread?
It’s funny, but sometimes I don’t realize how much something hurts until it starts to get better.
“What wound did ever heal but by degrees?”
That’s one of Iago’s lines in the play, and for all that Iago is an absolutely despicable human being, he manages to speak the truth here.
Wounds heal by degrees. And a lot of times, I think those degrees are people. People who don’t realize how important they are, and that’s a tragedy. More of a tragedy than everyone dying at the end of Othello. (Although, in fairness, not everybody dies. Just most of them.)
The cast of Othello has been exactly what I needed in my life, the balm that has helped to heal the wounds on my heart that I didn’t realize theatre had left there.
When I left theatre a year-and-a-half ago, I didn’t want to look back. I didn’t know exactly what was broken, but I knew that it was beyond broken. It was shattered. Theatre had left me absolutely shattered and exhausted and never never never wanting to go back.
Sure, I sat in the audience. I’ve seen some awesome shows, and I didn’t intend to stop doing that. But the stage? No. That wasn’t for me. I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t good enough to belong there. I couldn’t be good enough. And then, lo and behold, this show comes along that I want to audition for.
Even though I am so scared to want it. I am so scared of how badly I want it. And then I get cast. And it doesn’t make sense because I’m not good enough. Everyone and everything have told me that I am not good enough. I am a mediocre actress at best.
But I got cast.
And then rehearsals started, and people trusted my acting instincts. They didn’t tell me I was wrong when I made a decision. It was…novel. It was confusing. I didn’t know what to do with it. It terrified me.
So everything inside of me started screaming. Started telling me that I needed to go home, that I didn’t belong here, that I wasn’t good enough to belong here. The director had made a mistake. I had made a mistake for thinking I could step onto a stage.
I honestly have never experienced anxiety like I have had for the past month and a half. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, and it wrenches away my appetite. It steals my rest and twist my emotions into something I don’t recognize. I am all jitters all the time, and if by some miracle it got a little better during rehearsal, this heaviness was there waiting outside of the theatre doors.
You’re not good enough. You’re dragging the show down. Everyone wishes someone else had been cast. Anyone but you.
Those voices in your head gets so loud sometimes. You don’t want to listen, but you do, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it. Even when you know it’s a lie you believe it.
Monday at rehearsal was the worst. Anxiety was acting up something fierce, I hadn’t slept well in weeks, and I’d barely had an appetite and had to coax myself into eating dinner. Which then made me feel sicker. And then on stage I was a disaster. (Or, at least, it felt that way in the middle of my personal tempest.) I dropped lines, I missed cues, and I walked away so so discouraged.
I never want anxiety to win. I never want fear to win. And yet, here I was, acting less than my best because of this sickness that was living in my belly.
God listens. He listens so hard and so true that you can’t help but sense that it’s so safe to pour out your soul to him.
And I did.
On Tuesday I told God exactly what was going down. I told him that I wasn’t enough, but I needed to be for this week, for this amazing cast that He’d surrounded me with. I told him that I needed anxiety to quiet down so I could hear the lines and hear my cues.
God is such a good father. He speaks so much louder than the lies.
Tuesday, God spoke loud. He spoke through people, who reminded me that, impossibly, I am more than just someone who goes around pretending to be confident when she’s not. More than someone who pretends to know what she’s talking about when she doesn’t. More than someone who somehow fools the world and makes them believe she’s not afraid.
I’m an actress, not for the mask I wear, but because God made a little girl who loved theatre so much that she started making it before she knew what it was called. Because he’s gifted me in such a way that I can step onto stage and make connections and trust my instincts. Because I have a capacity and the heart to tell stories that need to be told. Because it was never about whether I could make it on Broadway.
I’m enough. That’s what keeps echoing in my head: I am enough. It’s written on my front door. I am enough. It pulses through my veins. I am enough.
My father says that I am enough.
But I’m not.
I am so full of inadequacies and broken places and rough edges that have yet to be smoothed out.
I am so full of anxiety and self-doubt and fears that don’t make sense.
But that’s not what my worth depends on.
That might seem like a leap, I don’t know. This show has been a journey that I can’t quite put words to, despite spending the past three hours trying to set it all down on paper. It’s been bigger and deeper and wider than I could have possibly imagined on that Sunday in October when I stepped into a dusty auditorium. It’s been bigger than I can ever make known to my castmates, to whom I owe so much, or to my director, who has quietly built up my confidence without even realizing that she did so.
I had no idea how deep my wounds were, but God did.
I had no idea that I needed a community theatre show, a stupid Shakespearean tragedy where everybody dies, but God did.
It’s been such a long two months, and I haven’t been able to see where this journey was taking me. But this week…this week it feels like things might finally be coming into focus. Maybe the reason that this healing season has been so confusing is because I didn’t realize yet what was broken.
Wounds heal by degrees. With balms and ointments and tenderly tied bandages.
With Shakespearean prose, and backstage giggles, and words of kindness that mean more to me than I can ever say.
This weekend we opened Othello, the first show I’ve opened in almost three years.
And here I am:
Actress, student, daughter of the king.
Despite myself, enough.
Hallelujah, heavenly father, you have made me enough.