Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dealing with it, sort of.

I've been meaning to write about my current obsession with The Last Five Years, which is probably my favorite musical. It's not very popular; it was an off-Broadway show that came out in 2002, and I happened to catch a production at DePaul in February. The play has only two characters, Cathy and Jamie, and it chronicles the five years of their relationship, from their first date to their marriage and eventual break up. The songs are presented as soliloquys except for one duet in the middle, and the interesting thing about the play is that Cathy tells the story from the end of the relationship to the beginning, while Jamie tells it chronologically.

The play brings out a lot of emotions in me, especially since I saw it with my ex during an awkward, fading time in our relationship. I can't help but see a lot of similarities in our relationship and the characters'. Cathy is a struggling actress in New York, desperately trying to make a break for herself and continuing to be defeated, while Jamie is a successful young novelist, and the varying degrees of their success is an eventual issue that contributes to the break up of their marriage. I relate to the Cathy character quite a bit, as I've also struggled with this constant feeling of mediocrity in the last few months. I'm here, living in a big city, which is something I always wanted for myself, yet at the same time I'm constantly hitting these obstacles in my professional life and finding myself more and more unhappy with how my life is going. Seeing someone you care for so much having the exact opposite experience than you can be quite difficult and frustrating, especially since you cannot for the life of you figure out how someone can be so lucky while you, on the other hand, can't get a chance to prove any degree of success and self-worth.

A few weeks ago I discovered that someone had filmed the entire original off-Broadway production and posted the videos on YouTube. Sometimes I sit at work and, during the usual slow periods, I'll watch some of them. There are three songs in particular in the second half of the play that I especially love and relate to. The first is "Climbing Uphill," which features Cathy's character auditioning for several shows only to be rejected over and over again. During her audition, she has several internal monologues where she questions why she is even bothering to keep up with the process, only to have to admit defeat after each one. I feel the same way when I keep sending out resumes and go to interviews for jobs I don't particularly want, only to continue to not get a chance to prove that I am fairly intelligent and competent. There's a line she sings that particularly affects me: "I am a good person. I'm an attractive person. I am a talented person. Grant me grace."

The next song, "If I Didn't Believe In You," is sung by Jamie, directed to Cathy. It's one of the first scenes in his version of the story that shows a negative progression in the marriage. It directly addresses the two characters' levels of success and how it puts a strain on their relationship. He knows Cathy is better than her career makes it look to be, but he can't help but feel angry that she wants to bring him down to match her depression while he's pleased that he's as successful as he is. He sings, "No one can give you courage, no one can thicken your skin. I will not fail so that you can be comfortable. I will not lose because you can't win."

The third song, sung by Cathy, is "I Can Do Better Than That." It's my favorite from the show. It shows Cathy in the beginning of the relationship, driving with Jamie to her home town. She compares her life living in New York and following her dreams to what she could have been doing had she taken the easy route and gotten married and lived in some suburb somewhere. It makes me think of where I might be had I gone back home, or just stayed in Virginia working at some job that was easier to get, rather than taking the huge risk of moving to a brand new, huge city six hundred miles from home.

I've been looking back on the last few months today after speaking to the ex for the first time since I demanded to be left alone almost three months ago. I screamed over the phone at four in the morning, for the first time getting very upset about how things turned out, despite hearing about how I'm a "genuine person" and receiving sincere apologies for the hurt that I've been dealing with since the break up. I wouldn't say that things are resolved at all; while I appreciate the sentiments, I can't forgive someone who treated me so poorly, even if those actions are finally being recognized. It's much easier to apologize to someone you hurt rather than accepting those apologies, since I was the only one in the situation whose feelings were hurt. I've spent the entire day in a daze, realizing that I'm not actually over the relationship and still have these conflicted feelings I have to sort out. I really just wish that I could just ignore them and move on: move on to someone else, find a better job, and finally start to feel like I've reached some semblance of success.

I'm really exhausted and wish I didn't have to keep waiting for something to happen. I've tried very, very hard to stop relying on others and make things happen for myself, but I feel like I keep failing and fall back into this rut that I can't break myself out of. I keep setting deadlines for myself and get frustrated when I can't reach them, and I'm tired of making mental to-do lists and not being able to cross out the items. I'm tired of having to constantly accept this idea of a quarter-life crisis and wish I could just be grown up already.

I really don't want to feel this way five years from now.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Beall said...


Go to graduate school.

--Jeffrey in Denver