(Or: Lessons That Should Have Been Fairly Obvious, But Somehow Weren't.)
The lesson? Get off your ass and go out and talk to people.
I've been spending a lot of quality time with a cup of coffee since I got back to here. That is, I spend most of my days plunked in front of my computer screen with my beloved caffeinated beverage, searching for jobs, writing query letters, and cruising the internet for people, places, and things to do in Albuquerque that might appeal to me - might get me closer to my goal of following my passion.
But Googling "Cool stuff in Albuquerque," and all the permutations thereof is not going to get me the answer I'm looking for.
Getting out is gonna do that. Talking to people. Getting to know this city.
This seems to be a fairly obvious truth, and yet I cling to my keyboard with bony little white knuckles. Why? I think a part of it is due to the success I had extending my community through Twitter and blogging last year in New York. But the key word there is extending. Not building from scratch, which is what I'm doing here. I already knew the New York theatre community when I jumped in online; I already had a good idea of the people I wanted to talk to, the things I wanted to do and see.
But you can't become a part of a place by reading about it. You can't understand a community by asking Google. Obviously.
This facepalm-truth hit me with its full force this past Tuesday night, when I crawled away from the bright, calming light of my computer screen long enough to attend the kick-off party for Tricklock Company's Revolutions Theater Festival - an international theater festival that, while I WAS excited about it before Tuesday, I don't know why I wasn't jumping up and down and gnawing at my knuckles to stifle high-pitched squeals about it. Well anyway, I am now. It looks awesome.
The very moment I got to the party, I opened the festival's event calendar and learned something all of my furious searches across the internet had kept from me. A new restaurant is opening next month - a kind of business that looks right up my alley. I made a point to call the owner the next day and learned more about it: it really is exactly everything that I'm passionate about. Organic food sourced completely locally, much of it from the very farm it sits on. A focus on community and culture, complete with events and workshops on site. Collaboration and support of local artists and musicians. Oh lord. It's actually overwhelming how awesome this place seems. But more on that later.
I also ran into my very first mentor, the person who first got me hopelessly, irrevocably addicted to theater when he cast my 12-year-old self as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a thrill to see him again, an even bigger one to see the look on his face at seeing me and an incredible ego-boost to hear him immediately say, "I want you to audition for me!" Why, little old me? Act? Oh, you flatter me, sir.
Even better: I told him I'd love to audition for him, but I'd love even more to assistant director. How delightful would it be to AD for my first and most beloved mentor?
But this isn't about networking, or making connections, or even about theater at all. It's about actually taking action to be a part of something. Being at the party, hearing about the shows in the festivals from so many of the people involved, got me excited about theater in a way I haven't felt since moving here. It made me excited in a way I haven't felt since moving here, period, really.
The night was tough. I won't lie. I felt stiff and awkward for most of the evening, knowing very little of the people in the room, and even less what to say. But there were some introductions, and a few fleeting moments of real, genuine, lovely conversation, and I feel happy knowing that now, next time I see those people, maybe I WILL know what to say.
The night ended with a house party and a little impromptu jam session. Me, despite 8 years of piano lessons, I don't have a musical bone in my body. But I sat and watched, and don't think I enjoyed the evening less for it. And even if only for a fleeting second, even if only on the periphery, it made me feel like a part of a community.