Friday, August 9, 2013

A letter to myself 10 years ago

My dear readers, I started thinking the other night that as of this Labor Day, I'll have lived in Philly for 10 years. So I wrote my younger self a letter. I'm sharing with you. Enjoy.

Dear Meghann,

You are about to start an amazing decade. I know that right now you are itchy to move out of South Jersey and start your life on your own, but don’t be too quick about it. You are so lucky that your parents had a place for you to stay after college and so, so lucky that they taught you about paying rent before it really mattered if it was on time. You owe them a lot, but you’ll figure that out in a few years.

It’s about to get crazy and fun. You’re about to learn how to use a gas stove  - which is going to seem dangerous and weird at first but I promise that soon you’ll never understand how people cook on electric stovetops. Oh! And in a couple of years, you’ll learn how to cook. You’ll get better at it, even if you do cook those sad little porkchops down to tiny bits of meat the first time you have Colin over for dinner.

There will be lots of work - too much work sometimes. But every time you think it’s the worst working situation of your life it’ll get a bit better. The theatre company you’re struggling to find a name for will be some of the hardest, most rewarding work of your life. One little thing: there will come a time when you’re staining a particleboard wall at midnight and you really hate everything about everything. You’re right to hate having to stain a wall that has already been put up, but look around because this is you and your best friends living your dream. Don’t be fooled into thinking that “living the dream” is actually fun - mostly it’s hard work with some exceptionally fun moments. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking you have new freckles on your face - those are just little splotches from the stain.

I know that right now you’re still reeling from that horrible heartbreak. Ten years from now you’ll be friends again and it won’t hurt anymore. You’re going to find a couple more people to love in the next ten years and you’ll learn so much. Don’t try to be so cool; you don’t pull it off that well anyway.

The thing you don’t know is how much Philadelphia will become a part of you and that living here will sometimes define you. It’s more than cheesesteaks and Eagles games. (Although I’m a little jealous on this side of the decade that you’re about to experience the Linc for the first time and that you’ll get to enjoy a few years of winning sports teams. Spoiler alert: pay attention to the Phillies in 2008. It’s going to be really fun except for those “saved by zero” commercials. Ugh, you’ll know what I mean.) No, the thing is this: inch by inch you are going to layer your life onto these blocks, those buses, that building. By the time you’re where I am, you’ll hardly be able to walk half a mile without having a million memories.

This corner here is all at once the theatre where you opened the first show you directed in Philly and the patch of sidewalk you stalked when your friend was so terrifyingly ill in the middle of a show and also where you waited for the bus after a second date with that jerkface journalist who liked your thighs (his only redeeming quality - don’t worry, you won’t have to deal with him for long).

This building is where you’ll spend months and months and days and nights in rehearsal or building sets. You’ll cry in there a lot, sometimes out of frustration with an actor, sometimes out of sympathy for a friend who is losing her father, sometimes out of sheer exhaustion because you just got through 13 hours of tech and now you have to stay late and paint the set. But in this building you will also form some amazing friendships, have glorious moments of beautiful work, laugh and laugh and laugh when that girl walks through the damn daisies (just wait - it’s so good), and perform (oh right, forgot to tell you - you’ll end up performing again, mostly naked - don’t think about it too much).

Over here, on this commercial corner, you’ll feel the greatest stress and the greatest elation of your life - you’ll see that soon. You’ll live through it and it will make all the difference.

It’s sort of like this extensive modge podge project that you just can't seem to finish. Things get layered over each other but exist harmoniously; never one experience trying to edge another out, rather all of the experiences building up until you sit where I am on the other side of Broad and realize that moving to South Philly was the best decision you ever made.

A few things to keep in mind:

*There is no such thing here as never seeing someone again so be gracious and kind to absolutely everyone.

* Eat at good restaurants. We have a lot of them and they deserve your time and money. I am so excited for you to experience such amazing food in the next ten years!

* It’ll be a lot easier for people to get the spelling of your name right if you go with Meg instead of Meghann.

* Cynicism is a trap and doesn’t do you any good.

* Sometimes it doesn’t matter if the play is good or bad as long as the experience of putting it together was great. You don’t have to try so hard to show your work.

*Finally, be extremely present and engaged when spending time with people, especially Aunt Dixie, Uncle Warren, Single Guy and Jackie Kay and Mel (you'll meet those girls later - you’ll adore them).

Welcome to Philadelphia!. You're going to love living here.