There's been talk of moving in our home, as the job market becomes more a part of our lives...and interviews and dossiers and the like. I didn't expect it, but I'm saddened by that likelihood. When I first moved to Columbia, people weren't nice to me. Immediately. I mean, strangers were, but people in my department, colleagues and the like, weren't. They made plans to have drinks after class and wouldn't invite me. If I suggested it to them during a break from an evening class, they'd say they had too much work to do after class and just couldn't swing it. As I walked to my car after class in the dark, I'd consider that the Ph.D. required a lot of work and that they were probably right: I should get home and study hard. But then, I'd reach my car and start driving home through the city streets only to see those same classmates who thwarted my efforts at socializing walking into a bar, laughing and joking around together. It was crushing.
Honestly, it took a few years for me to really just accept that my colleagues didn't like me for whatever skew of reasons they might have. It took time for me to realize that some people don't formulate their own opinions, they just adopt the opinions of others. The hardest part for me was understanding that I hadn't actually done anything to these colleagues; they didn't even really know me and had never actually had a conversation with me. It's hard to believe, when a group of people around you don't like you, that in rare instances it really isn't your fault, you really haven't done anything, they're just close-minded and sort of mean.
I took a little time off from school when it all became too much. There were other forces at play, even bigger ones, but they're not blog-ready. When I came back from my semester off, I dove headfirst into my work, my relationships (with Dustin, that is, which was quite new at that time) and my other interests. I didn't allow myself to lament the outcast position I'd been cast into. And my life got so much better.
When Dustin joined our local community's cast of Communicating Doors, I thought it was great for him to be getting out there, doing something outside of our field and having a hobby that removed him from the stifling atmosphere we'd been living in. I remembered loving the theatre my whole life, seeing my first Broadway show at the age of 9, then dozens and dozens of others in following years. I remembered how much I, too, had once loved being on stage until one day, in a production at the age of 17 years old--after having been on stage for the better part of my life, I noticed the audience and got really scared. Let's just say I never got up on a stage to perform again--crippled by sudden stage fright.
But the friends we made during Communicating Doors were incredible. They were supportive and came to our readings. They were always willing to make time if something came up and we needed support--both emotional and otherwise. And our relationships kept growing, our circle of friends expanded and when Rory asked us to be in the IAT's short Women's Play Festival, I responded with: "Do I have any lines?" Remembered how wonderful these friends had been to us and before he could answer the question, revised my response to: "Who am I kidding? If you and Kir (the director) need me, I'm happy to help. Just tell me what you want me to do."
I didn't know then that I didn't have some lines, I had many--all crammed eloquently into a nine minute scene, but I did know that these friends had been here for us when Dustin was attacked back in September, showing up at our door to check in on us, taking time out of their lives to come lighten up his spirits. I knew they had come to our house for various get-togethers and had invited us to theirs. Some of them had been to our wedding! I knew them before, during and after they found "the one!" and got married, the heartbreaks they'd been through and the relationships that thrived, how they sang karaoke and what they liked to drink, their favorite restaurants and football teams...I knew that they were our friends and if they needed something, even for me to overcome the knowledge that an audience would be watching my every move for ten minutes, I was going to do it.
This weekend has reminded me why I liked being in productions so much. It's the coming together of a cast of sordid individuals and characters to create a unified existence that's more than just the self, but a community creation. Together, we have created something bigger than any of us individually; we have made an audience laugh and cry and think. It's the perfect metaphor for what this group of friends we've found has done for our lives: gave us experiences that are fulfilling and thought-provoking and meaningful when I, for one, had started to doubt that such things still existed.
Last night, after our performance, we went to dinner with some castmates we didn't know very well, and the dinner lasted for two hours, each of us talking passionately and excitedly, finding more and more things we had in common or respected, learning and sharing and enjoying each other so profoundly that, even then, we had a hard time walking out and leaving.
So it saddens me to think that, at some point, Dustin and I will be leaving Columbia and this phenomenal group of people we know here. Friendships last, I know, but the distance can be far and sometimes crippling. Time passes and life happens and we miss each other. Many of these friends have planned and considered leaving, are actively looking for jobs or opportunities elsewhere, so we're not alone in our departure from Columbia. But, this push toward departure is like being at a party with all the people you love and care most about while knowing that, eventually, everyone is going to leave, but just not wanting to be the first to go...pushing out those last few hours and minutes, collecting and lingering by the door just a little bit longer, not wanting to walk out into the darkness, into a world that's not always so nurturing, unsure of what you'll find, just knowing you don't really want to go.