Sunday, January 29, 2012

Muddy Thoughts on Challenges

It has somewhat recently occurred to me that I overvalue the challenging choice.  I'm starting to come around to a different point of view on the matter.  I used to have an attitude that if I was trying to get somewhere, I wasn't interested in the easy path, but would rather clamor up the steep slope of difficult terrain out of some fool-headed notion of learning brilliant things through the sheer challenge of it all.  How silly.  I can trace the origins of this habit back to my time at Shakespeare & Company, back during the days when if you were only working three jobs at once, you weren't working hard enough or giving enough of yourself.  From the artistic side of things, it was a glorious experience to be a teenager, bubbling with passion and zeal, acting my little heart out in that magical patch of New England forest.  Through our theatrical explorations, my comrades and I constantly sought unique angles and novel approaches to our work, guilelessly bounding towards seemingly-impossible tasks.  Such an earnest search for the challenge was the right attitude for that place and time.   But I clearly remember, with humiliation and chagrin, taking this prideful attitude with me to my undergraduate theatre classes, and taking on preposterous acting roles (and other ambitious creative projects) out this misguided notion of challenge.  I'm sure I learned valuable things from all of it, but brilliant acting was not one of those things.  I wish I had understood the value in starting with something simpler to work on, something closer to myself, and to learn how to succeed within the rules before trying to break them all.

Today, I recognize that setting obstacles in my own path will not always serve me or my goals.  In my own mind, I say these things with an exasperated chuckle and sigh, because I know some part of my core will always believe in the nobility of such an attitude.  I won't stop trying to explore ambitious ideas.  An important thing for me to recognize is whether my immediate goal is to learn something or to achieve a specific result (or product).  There are bound to be times when the two can overlap.

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