“I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.”
- Daniel Kahneman
“Places, please!” As I make this final call, the house lights dim and I slide into my chair, heart racing before the play even begins. Before me sits my promptbook, short marks etched into the page waiting only for my breath to jump alive onstage. These cues, with some minor support from the cast, bring a world to life. In our world, bombs can explode outside embassies without killing anyone, American tourists can escape the Communist police dressed as sultans, and weeks can pass in the blink of an eye. When we step into the theater, we leave behind reality and get lost in the world of the play. Indeed, we call it a play because it occurs so far outside of everyday life.
Unfortunately, everyday life does not stop when I step into the theater, as much as I wish it did. I spend hours tweaking a light cue or working on a scene, oblivious to the world continuing on without me. Not until I step outside the theater’s walls do I discover a day has passed unnoticed. With that discovery comes the realization that I still have hours of homework awaiting me. I pay the price for my time spent playing with late nights and little sleep. Invariably some part of me regrets my choice in the morning, but nonetheless I head right back to the theater that afternoon. The play proves to be both its own gift and curse. The more I play the less time I have for work; the less time for work the more stressed I become; the more stressed I become the more I seek refuge in the playing. I always finish a show proud of the work I’ve done, but the cycle of play and stress leaves me exhausted.
Ironically, when asked to work on the next show, I never remember the regrets or the sleepless nights. I recall only the joy of playing and the anticipation of doing it again. So, when called upon to work my second show and then my third, I eagerly volunteer. My remembering self fixates on the world of the play, where I can spend hours creating without exhaustion. My experiencing self pays the price for my enthusiasm, but it gets no say in whether I take up another project. I want nothing more than to dive back into another world, to create a space separate from everyday reality. I need nothing more than a few weeks off to catch up on my sleep. But I’ve accepted that creation requires some self-destruction, and I dive back in.