It’s easy to say that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, and it’s true, but how often do we forget the other crucial element: the place where the journey begins: the contrast between being born in one place versus another, in one skin, one culture, one language, one color and the impact that it will have in the way your journey unfolds.
When I was six, I went to see ‘Cats’ for the first time. It was such an incredible experience. The world of theater and performance, became a parallel universe to me: a place where everything was possible. In time I’ve realized that’s why art, in any form, medium or expression, is so needed in our lives. It opens up space to a parallel universe inside ourselves that can’t be shared. It’s an individual experience: some find it through music, others through writing, or through visual arts, but we all feel safe and understood in that one place.
So I searched for that safety. I read every play, studied a bit of acting, landed a role as a TV anchor for a Disney show in Mexico, and then, that was that. My dad assured me that trying to pursue a career as an actress would just lead me to the bed of a ton of producers. I will never know if that was the case or not, because I simply stopped trying, and there wasn’t an infrastructure to rely on.
I experienced the energy and talent of the latest generation of Young Arts, an American charity established in 1981 to help nurture emerging high school artists, for the first time. This foundation has been key to launching the careers of Nicki Minaj, Doug Aitken, Kerry Washington, Viola David among many other internationally acclaimed celebrities.
The theater performance was extremely moving. About twenty actors sitting in the middle of a stage with a story to tell. Every story was different. In about 5 minutes they were able to empathize with you and make you feel what it was to be them, through whichever character they were channeling.
I spoke to one of them in the after-party. He was the one that made me laugh the most, through his monologue on being a waiter and hating parents and children. I asked him how he figured out that acting was the path he had to pursue:
‘It was because of an experience I had in Disney’, he said.
‘Disney?’ I asked full of surprise. ‘I was also an anchor for Disney when I was 15,’ I said.
‘Oh, no. What I meant to say is that I went to Disney with my parents and was asked to go on-stage for some show, and realized I wanted to be on-stage forever,’ he said with a smile.
And so he did.
What lines should we all be crossing? How far should we go as we pursue our dreams? How many lines are real, vs imaginary? How important is it to find great institutions, such as Young Arts, (and be born in places where they actually exist) in the young and full of self-doubt years of your life?
I never experienced fully that parallel universe I so wanted to inhabit, and yet it all comes back to the place where my journey began. Following my passion was equivalent to a fairy-tale in the world I lived in. My mother had tried, and that was the mistake that led her to a place far away from me that I didn’t understand. And yet we all have our set-backs, and that’s why we celebrate the success of others whole-heartedly.
In time I’ve realized we all have more than one self in which we operate our life. There’s a community inside of us that helps us survive. Make sure you listen to the right voices.
You always know. I always knew.
Pic: Celia D. Luna