achievements great & small

I’m working on re-calibrating my current definition of “enough,” specifically as it applies to my own expectations of myself. On paper, I’m living a life that would make my younger self jump up and down with glee; I work full-time for a professional Shakespeare company, and I still have time almost every week to spend among sea creatures. My two favorite things are the backbone of my adult life, and my Nice Voice thinks that’s plenty good enough for right now.

Cruel Voice, that bitch, thinks otherwise. If I start to feel too proud of a performance or too excited about holding a ball python, she likes to lean over into my ear, and hiss, “Is this it? Is this all you wanted? Were your dreams so small?”

NOT. HELPFUL.

She gets to me, Cruel Voice does. I’m proud of myself for having worked hard to make a lot of my childhood dreams come true. Now that I’m living inside of them, though, it’s difficult to feel like they’re enough. I’m used to having a dream and to having a scheme. If I stay stuck inside these childhood dreams forever, that feels like I’ve failed. But if I leave behind these dreams, that also feels like a failure. The latter feels like giving up.

Feeling “good enough” sometimes feels like a treacherous trap to me. Being content sounds like the first step down a path that leads to complacency and laziness. As a creator and as a performer, there’s always a self-imposed pressure that I should be doing more, that I should be more visible, and that I should ultimately be famous. Not actively pursuing a more high-profile career in my field makes me feel downright irresponsible sometimes.

How can I allow myself to come home after a long day of teaching Shakespeare camp, and unwind with an old episode of Parks & Recreation and a good beer when what I should be doing is taking more classes, hunting down auditions, polishing my resume, becoming thinner, becoming more desirable, becoming better than myself?

Hustle, hustle, hustle!

I’M TIRED. I WANT TO SIT DOWN, AND HAVE A DRINK OF WATER.

So, here’s my new thing, and I hope it sticks around for at least a little while. Yeah, I’m probably never going to be famous. But I’ve still done cool things of which I’m really proud. If I never “achieve” anything again (which I logically know is pretty unlikely, but again: Cruel Voice), I hope I’ve already lived a lot of life that can be “enough.”

And, so, here at the beginning of my 28th year on Earth, a brief list of my most impressive accomplishments:

– I won a writing contest in kindergarten for a book I wrote and illustrated about my pet turtle, Earl.

– I once baked a pie with a lattice crust, and I made the crust myself.

– In my sophomore year of high school, I won the most medals of anyone else in my school at the State German Convention. I crushed it in Poetry Recitation and Vocab Bee, among others.

– In a game of Battlestar Galactica a couple of years ago, I became a Cylon at the very beginning of the game, and I sabotaged the hell out of the Humans with no one the wiser. My friend Dan even said before the last turn of the game: “I trust Dani with my life.” FOOL! (Sorry, Dan. I love you.)

– At Mellow Mushroom trivia night in college, I once led my team to a victory in a tense tiebreaker thanks to my intense knowledge of the Academy Awards.

– I do a pretty sweet rendition of “Crazy Train” at karaoke.

– In the second grade, I entered an essay contest for Mothers’ Day about how great my Mom was. I forgot to tell my Mom that I entered, so it was an extra exciting surprise for her when she got the phone call that I’d won.

– I met a whale.

– At the first track meet of the season one year, I jumped 5’0″ in the high jump for the first time, and it was incredible. For a few seconds, I flew. And my Dad was really impressed and proud.

– At a talk back after The Taming of the Shrew last year, I gave a really kickass answer to a question about my approach to Kate’s final speech.

– I’m a pretty good friend.

Whatever happens next, I’ll never not have done those things. Small and large, silly and serious, I’m sincerely proud of all the things listed above. I don’t think it’s vain to give ourselves moments and even hours from time to time to sit back and bask in how awesome we are. I will probably never win an Academy Award or be on Broadway or talk to Conan about my experience performing on SNL. And, honestly, sometimes those realizations make me really, deeply disappointed.

But, hey. That pie was pretty damn delicious, and I ate it alongside some of my favorite humans in the world. As a wise Muppet once said, “That’s good enough for me.”

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