I was thinking about Arthur Koestler’s work today, The Act of Creation. The Act of Creation was the major text in my Directing Seminar 681 (I think that was the number) back in graduate school. Then I thought of my very smart postmodern professor from back then, and googled his name. Then another name came up alongside his, a former professor who was thoughtful, tough, challenging, and ultimately, one of the more encouraging people in the program. I did a search of her name, wondering what she was up to, and I discovered that she’s gone to a distinguished career in both professional and academic worlds, and then I laughed a bit, because I noticed that she is the associate artistic director for a theatre to which my daughter recently sent her headshot. A tiny part of me thought “connection.” But I let that go, choosing instead to simply think how cool it would be for this distinguished former mentor of mine to meet my fine and courageous daughter.
And then I felt the old regret.
I’m not sure why, but I didn’t carry any of my relationships from those years forward. They were hard years for me, years of fear and discovery of who I was and who I was going to be. My faith was under constant pressure intellectually and personally, and though I managed to get through it (I was the only person to graduate from the directing program over the three years I was there), I was often fearful and afraid that someone would finally discover I did not belong in this very talented world and show me the door. I’ve since discovered that we all pretty much feel that way. (About six months after I left grad school, I showed myself the door as far as theatre went, but that’s another story.) I was young, naïve, and foolish. Little did I know how much I would someday miss many of these good people, regret the fact that today, I have none of them in my life.
Why did I turn away from them? Maybe I didn’t turn away as much as never turned toward. Never sent a thank you, never called them up to just say hi, how are you doing, or even, could you help me find a job? Classmates I cared about I let slip away. People I’m sure that had interesting, challenging lives, with whom it would be fun to just chat, laugh—maybe even argue. I’ve watched the careers of some. I was thrilled to see the young man who played the lead in my thesis show in first in an issue of American Theatre playing George in Our Town at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and then later in the TV version of The Music Man with Matthew Broderick. Then another fine actor I worked with there has done well in film and television and theatre, and this next summer will be playing a leading role at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The man I would call my best friend during those few years left UT and went to another program, and though we talked once or twice after that (we spent a couple of days together at the 1984 Arts Olympics in Los Angeles, and then spent another day in Vancouver B.C. later that year), we lost track of each other. A couple of years ago, I found him online, and sent him an email. He wondered what happened to me, and frankly, remained somewhat offended that I’d never bothered to keep up the relationship.
I didn’t blame him.
Today, thankfully, I’m not as neglectful as I used to be. I have more friends and colleagues than I deserve. Friends I keep up with and pour myself into, friends who I pray will be near for the rest of my life. But sometimes, I feel the old restlessness, and I know that I still have the distorted ability to walk into the future alone with my family. That same old distance I sometimes put between myself and others hovers. God knows I’ve been thinking about friendships and what it means to cultivate and nurture them, and maybe He brings me these thoughts today just to remind me of how precious friends truly are.
I sent the former professor from the Shakespeare Festival an email, just to say thank you. She was good to me, encouraged me, even let me do crazy projects that courageous actors took part in. I should have said “I really appreciate you” a long time ago.
Let 2010 be a year of friendship…