2 months in D.C. Here's what I've learned...

I moved to D.C. almost two months ago and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

Part of why my husband and I chose D.C. was because it really is a cultural epicenter and that’s where I’ve longed to be for quite some time. Now I’m here with a world of arts journalism, auditions, and classes at my fingertips. Some opportunities that are opening up feel like they are coming right on time. I’m ready for these. Other opportunities—well I’m a bit green or rusty (yes, apparently you can be both) on them. And these opportunities, a lot of them, have a common theme: I’m not an expert.

I remember in college, wanting to audition for the best choir on campus. I knew it was a long shot but I have a distinct memory of wanting to be surrounded by people who were better than me. I told my vocal teacher I wanted to be “the worst one in the room.” I’ve auditioned for shows that I might not be qualified for, shown up at networking events with people far more impressive than me, and pursued opportunities where I’d simply be stretched.

But I haven’t done a lot of that lately. 

Spending several years building a career in my smaller central Virginia city (I’d say it’s one notch up from a college town, it’s a fair size, but still—the community is really collegiate heavy), I got used to having similar or slightly more experience than many of my contemporaries. Call it being a “big fish” or call it living somewhere where 30 feels “old,” but it was the unique situation I found myself in.

Now I’m where I want to be. A place where people my age are more advanced in their careers than I am and have been living and working in a highly competitive landscape for ten years. And I’m here to catch up. It’s like the semester where Rory is trying to pack a year’s worth of school into a semester so she can catch up and graduate on time after taking a semester off. 

But I’m learning something in all of this: embrace not being the expert. 

I signed up for an advanced scene study class at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Thrilled to take it, I’m getting to absorb teaching from Nancy Robinette, a former cast member of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime on Broadway. I saw the production and it was one of the most meaningful theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. 

I waited til the eleventh hour to sign up for the class (literally—the day of the class about 6 hours before it would begin.) I vacillated on the choice because some of my commitments lately have brought me anxiety. I haven’t felt like I had the mental space and time to give to my commitments 100%. I know I can say “yes” to writing reviews for an arts publication. I can say “yes” to this class. I can say “yes” to many auditions. I can say “yes” to shows and industry events. I can say “yes” to dance classes and exercise classes. I can say “yes” to lots of out of town visitors. But I can’t say “yes” to all of these things plus my workload and my goal of getting a book published and expect not to end up in the hospital. 

In short, I didn’t want this class to be a source of stress.

But then I knew, even in my anxious place, that spending Monday nights in the world of the theatre would be life-giving. It would be joyful. And I’d probably regret not taking the plunge now.

So I signed up for the class. And as I was walking the 8-minute walk from my car to the rehearsal space in Eastern Market I examined my thoughts. What was I worried about?

-Not being good enough. Did I really have the experience and talent to be in an advanced class? What an assumption!

-Overcommitting. My life and work in DC is a lot like my life and work in Lynchburg, but now I have so much more I can add to it. And I don’t really have extra space in the “closet of life” for extra things. Some things have to come out if other things are going to be put in.  

-Lack of education. If we take a deep dive into theatre history and great playwrights, or if the teacher asks me what I think about Samuel Beckett, I may look foolish. I don't have a BFA or a MFA in this stuff. Will I still be respected? 

Worried about being overcommitted and under qualified.

Embrace not being the expert.

There was a time in my life where I didn’t know enough about great work to automatically rate performances in my mind immediately. I wanted to be “the worst person in the room.” Now I not only read between the lines and analyze other people’s performances—I give a great deal of thought to how other people are receiving me. 

But isn’t something like a class an opportunity to release those worries and just try? Soak it in. Listen. Learn.

Embrace not being the expert.  

Embrace a season of learning, of growing, of admitting when I’ve made an error. Pay attention and watch those that are ahead. Embrace the season of newness, of growth. 

So I’m doing that. I may not be a fresh-faced 18-year-old giddy to simply be included in the spring musical. But I’m still eager to learn. I know that if I fail, I’ll still be ok. And I’m willing to try. Because I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t start walking. And you can't be challenged and be the best in class. So I’ll keep reminding myself to

Embrace not being the expert.