Lydia’s brain felt swollen in her head as she gazed at the computer screen. Her fingers hovered over the keys, but couldn’t seem to move. It had been a long day.
Two days before Lydia returned from her holiday, she was informed that not only was her department head on sabbatical, but the head administrators for her entire department had been fired. Something about falsified time sheets.
Suddenly a part-time job was a full-time job, and suddenly everything felt really important. Lydia absentmindedly shut down the computer, brain whirring and purring, but not getting much done. She gathered her bag and down jacket, laptop and charger, phone and keys, and stumbled out the door. She had to grab the lanyard with her keys with her teeth to pull it out from the pile of things in her arms; once freed, she stretched two fingers out to grasp it, plunge it in the hole, and lock the office door. In the hallway, she dropped her things and packed her bag. I guess I could have done this before leaving the office. The logical moment passed and her head pounded with the rest on her to-do list. Oh. Dinner. Also I should check my email again. Oh, also…
On the train home, Lydia sat in an orange bucket seat, pressed against the wall by a woman and her large coat. She let her head fall against the window. The loud thrum of the subway tearing down its steel tracks seemed to jostle thoughts free, and they floated past her eyes. I can’t let myself get this exhausted doing this stuff. This is supposed to be priority number two. How did I let it take over my life so quickly?
Unwillingly, her eyes filled with tears. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. I want to be an actor. She thought of the program meeting, hearing the students talk about the experimental productions they saw while studying in Russia, the inspiration of pure play in a show off-Broadway, realizing with each other that these are the moments that define why they do what they do. They don’t know how lucky they are. They don’t know how idealistic.
Lydia could imagine a world where all she did was act, but her mind was too saturated with logic to make much sense of it. Money sometimes precludes passion, making rent trumps exorbitant ticket prices. I never thought it would be easy, but I also never thought I’d have a week like this. Tomorrow was her day off, but already she had two phone conversations scheduled. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
As she clumped down the cement platform at her stop, Lydia tried to think forward to when things might get easier. Suddenly she felt a thought clang into her skull with the force of a steel pipe. It’s not going to get easier. I might have a full-time job next year. Or I might lose my job entirely.
For a moment, everything stopped, and the chaos fell away, and Lydia felt still. The only thing left was a thing, transparent certainty, like an icicle that would not melt. I will do what it takes. I have no doubt about what I want in this world. She forced the hot flames of anxiety, of frustration, of jealousy, of exhaustion, of not-fair-ness, down and away. It all comes down to this.
Stability is not in the cards for Lydia. She knows this, and she has learned how to live with it. It hurts, and aches, and burns and chafes, those demons of money and jealousy and frustration and every closed door can leave her so furious she could hack at it with an ax, The Shining come alive in a casting room or an agent’s office.
But those shining moments that can bring tears to her eyes in crowded rooms of students– that’s why she bears it.