Dear 23 year old me,
Congratulations, you’ve officially been in the real world for a whole year! I am so proud of you. I know right now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal but you worked really hard to get here and you’re doing great. In this past year you started the process of paying back your student loans, you were theatrically employed for the first seven months post graduation, you got your feet wet as a teaching artist, and just recently you signed a lease on your very first NYC apartment! As far as I’m concerned, you’re nailing it.
Right now you’re working at a theater that will change your life. Ironically, this wasn’t the job you were really hoping to book this past audition season. The job you wanted didn’t go your way, but don’t worry because in a couple years that same director/choreographer is going to hire you for a show before even holding auditions. If you had booked that “dream show” you wouldn’t have been available to attend the auditions for the theater you’re currently working at. And this summer you’re right where you’re supposed to be. You’ll meet people that will become life long friends and discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there. You’re going to do a lot of healing and come fall you will be in a completely different place in your life. Let this be a gentle reminder that everything happens for a reason.
The next few years will bring a lot of joy. There is great success in your immediate future. At times you will feel unstoppable. You will know what you have to offer this industry and the world at large. Your light will shine so bright. But there will also be struggle. This is going to be one of the first times you will question your place in this business. There are going to be days when you feel like you don’t know how to dance. You will doubt your training and your talent. You will shame yourself into taking more dance classes because you don’t feel like you’re good enough. It will be painful and frustrating. But you need to go through it because this is your unique and magical journey. It is special only to you and ultimately, it will enrich your artistry.
Soon you will begin to learn one of adulthood’s hardest lessons: you have to be your own best cheerleader in this life. Nobody else can believe in yourself for you. Sure, you can have a powerful support team made up of people you love but none of that will matter if you don’t first believe in yourself. That’s the most important relationship you have: your relationship with yourself. Nourish it. Care about it. Pay attention to it more than you pay attention to any of your other relationships. And if that means going to therapy, you can do it. I know it seems scary right now, but it’s a really beautiful gift you can give yourself.
When you’re not feeling so hot remember what it felt like to be a child who dreamed of being a professional actress. Think of the kid who so badly wanted to go on professional auditions but wasn’t allowed to because her parents wanted her to have a normal childhood. (Thanks for that by the way, Mom and Dad. In retrospect, I’m glad you didn’t let me become a child actor.) Don’t forget the teenager who gladly gave up Friday and Saturday nights with her friends so she could be in ballet class. And always remember the little girl who, after seeing her first Broadway show at four years old, knew what she was going to spend the rest of her life pursuing. That little girl would be star struck by who you are today.
There is so much more I wish I could tell you. And even though I’d love to protect you from hardships and disappointments, I want you to experience all that your journey has to offer you. Light can only exist if there is also dark. If I shield you from the painful parts of life, you will also lose the opportunity to experience great joy. And so it is here that I will say adieu.
I know I said it at the beginning of this letter, but I am really proud of you. I have the upmost respect for what you’re doing. I am your biggest cheerleader. Keep doing what you’re doing because the world needs someone like you in it.
I just want to take a moment to thank my little sister, Sabrina Kalman, for texting me last week requesting that I write a letter to my younger self as a blog post. Sabrina, I see so much of myself at 23 in you. You are where you’re supposed to be. And I am honored to be your big sister.