Saturday, March 3, 2012

Step in time, Step in time...

On Sunday, March 4th, I will participate in the Climb to the Top challenge at Rockefeller Center. I will climb sixty-six flights of stairs to benefit the National MS Society.  Selfishly, I hope it will also benefit my derriere.

My training route
I have never considered myself an athlete, so taking on this challenge has ben very daunting.   I have been running the stairs in my building for months now, and lately I have been disappointed that despite my training, running up over 1,200 stairs has yet to become easy for me.  Suddenly, I’m having flashbacks of being the slow, chubby kid in gym class.  Last picked for the team, last to reach the finish line.  It’s amazing how lifelong labels can resurface and hinder reaching one’s full potential. 

I’ve always been a bit of a label-maker. Growing up, I felt I was in the shadow of my talented older brother, and I think I found some sort of comfort in the identity of the overshadowed talent.  Everyone loves to root for the underdog!  This spring, I am taking on yet another job as an understudy (in addition to performing a role of my own), and it feels almost too easy to step into this position again.  I think the line, “It’s okay, I’m next in line for the role” is starting to sound tired, especially since some are starting to regard me as a coloratura of a certain age.  Not a spring chicken in this business anymore, not my first rodeo.  I can’t help but wonder, am I the slow kid in PE and opera?

My late a bloomer label has also extended into my interest in improvisation.  Just like running stairs for a few months and wondering, “Why isn’t this easy yet?” I’ve taken a few improv classes here in New York and have been hard on myself asking, “Why aren’t I brilliant yet?”  My current musical improv class is full of experienced and gifted performers, and while I love the way it motivates me like my “Rockefeller” playlist on my Ipod, some days I feel as discouraged as when I stare up a 5k flight of stairs.   However, just as I started my journey one step at a time and now can tackle two, my peers have been encouraging me and giving me a little extra spring in my step to reach the next level. 

I can think of so many journeys that feel like Rockefeller races, challenges that seem like a boundless boot camp, be it emotionally, physically, or vocally.  My day job can feel like a winding staircase, my relationships like steep platforms, auditions like a broken escalator, anxiety that creaky step that nags me with every move.  But the reason I love climbing stairs is I can’t stay still; I either sweat my way to the top or give up and retreat to the ground floor.  I’m still worried I will stumble or be trampled in the stairwell or worse, be the last one to finish.  Nevertheless, I am inspired to know that no matter what happens Sunday morning, I will finish.   I will see the view from the top, which will last far longer than my sweaty stair sprint.  Though I may not be able to see a definitive finish line in my other pursuits, I will continue to climb, whether the journey takes sixty-six flights or sixty-six years.   My label may be slow, but my medal will read: WINNER!

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps -we must step up the stairs. -Vance Havner