Letter From My 48th Year (Feb 24)
It’s Saturday night and I don’t know what to do with myself. I thought I was going to see Phantom Thread but my nap lasted longer than I thought. I am always so tired on Saturday afternoons, possibly from struggling to unearth the Italian buried in whatever past of my brain stores 1987-1989 (when I first studied Italian) so I can get through my Italian class sounding like I’ve occasionally made out with the language or at least made eyes at it.
Thursday evening I interviewed the Iraqi-American playwright Heather R., a fierce advocate for women’s voices, particularly mothers’ voices on the stage. Tomorrow morning I am having breakfast with the actor and playwright Nikkole S. (who I also met through an interview for work) and who always inspires and encourages me to raise my voice. Nikkole’s in town to be part of a symposium on Theater as Politics (using Hamlet and Heather’s play Noura as jumping off points), which is programmed by my friend, the dramaturg (and sometimes playwright) Hannah R. I also had a good talk about future writing projects yesterday with the entrepreneur Sylvia M., who I met years ago when I was a part of a panel on how to do social media.*
I list these names not just because I’m prone to name dropping (Hi Armie Hammer!), but because this is what iron sharpening iron looks like in real life. Putting myself in the room with, or at least in a conversation with (and hopefully, a friendship with—I’m looking at you Heather) passionate, committed women who are, to borrow a phrase, doing the damn thing. While the seeds of my relationships with Nikkole, Hannah, and Sylvia came through a task I was doing for my day job, the actual relationships came from saying some version of “Are you on Facebook because I want to friend you?” or “Would you like to have coffee?” or “Do you want to try and do this project together?” They came from making myself vulnerable to a polite brush-off or even a flat-out No.
And yes, I could make a long long list of people to whom I asked those questions and with whom nothing long lasting ever sparked. The thing about making oneself vulnerable is that it doesn’t always work out, or it doesn’t work out the way you expected it might.
Or sometimes the initial connection turns out to be secondary to a connection you make via that initial connection. Take an actor friend I adore and connected with after an interview, but now don’t chat with often because life. Through the wonders of social media I’ve now become friends with his brother—one of my favorite people though we haven’t met IRL—who, though he’s not living an artist’s life is living a life full of passion for a sport he loves and doing the damn thing when it comes to nurturing that passion in the young people in his community. Which, in turn, encourages me to be passionate and committed. (Yes, James R., I am talking about you.)
And that is, in part, why I’m going to Italian class every Saturday. Yes, I do want to learn the language again, but more than that, I want to connect with people who are inspired and passionate, who may become good friends for the long haul, or maybe just for the seven weeks we’re together trying to figure out how to wrap our tongues around the passato remoto. Hmmm, maybe next week in class I’ll ask them to help me figure out how to say “Iron sharpens iron” in Italian.
*This is probably my favorite public speaking thing I’ve ever done, mostly because someone hollered out at some point, “Hey that NEA woman’s pretty funny!”