Just over a month ago, I attended my first USITT (United States Institute for Theater Technology) conference. I was delighted and honored to be a mentor for a wonderful and talented young woman as part of the Gateway Program (http://www.usitt.org/gateway/) , and humbled when I was asked to speak on a panel of Women in Technical Theater. It was also my first time away from my toddler. I was very brave.
Speaking on the panel gave me an opportunity to address a number of things that I don't necessarily deal with on a day to day basis. One moment I was laughing, and the next I was on the verge of tears... I felt empowered, and vulnerable, and supported, and very contemplative all at once.
When I left New York, I left in a frenzy. I was 6 months pregnant. The decision to move was a direct result, and a choice I felt I had to make for the future of my family. I did not feel like it was my time to go. Though I had always wanted to have a family, leaving New York meant leaving the theater community I loved, a city that had become part of my vitality, and Paper Mache Monkey, my first baby, the company that I helped build.
My business partner and I had discussions... I could just bring the baby to work..... Could we change our meeting/drafting room in to a baby area? Why not.... It is OUR company. Though a novel idea, we had opened a shop. We cut wood. We built puppets. We painted sets. We made messes. Our shop was full of tools to make those messes: saws, paints, adhesives, and sharp knives. Bringing a baby to work would mean tiny ear muffs and I wasn't even sure if they made respirators for baby sized faces... Clearly my tiny human would not be safe in our our beloved studio.
Then, I started thinking about money. I was considering finances from both a personal perspective, and from a business perspective. Though our company was relatively successful for being in its 3rd year, we were not in a position to pay for maternity leave. And, though Loren (my fiance) would have gladly done it (because he is the sweetest human ever), I could not in good conscience ask him to try to support himself, me, and a child in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I would have never seen him. He would have never seen his child. It was out of the question. All of a sudden, that $1700 a month, 4th floor walk-up, one bedroom apartment in Astoria seemed rather self-indulgent. Not to mention our careers in theater.
So, in anticipation of our new family, with slightly broken hearts and a glimmer of hope, Loren and I made the decision to move to my home state of Oklahoma. I had family there, and we heard there were backyards (we agreed very early on that children deserve backyards). Surely we could find jobs.
Thankfully, Loren found a job right away, and after Henry was born, I too found a job.... I now spend my days teaching future theater makers at the University of OkIahoma, my alma mater. I enjoy the students energy, and can only hope that I am helping to steer them in the right direction. I am about to finish my 2nd year, and I have learned that college is a time for growth whether you are a student or a professor, particularly when you are a new mother.
I love being a mother. I love my child. He is a delightful human, and he fills my heart with joy. We paint and play and laugh and learn together, and that is very cool.... but it's not everything (I almost typed everything). Loving Henry so much does not make me miss my company or my career; which I was incredibly passionate about and proud of, any less. That love doesn't make me miss the hustle, the business, or the energy of New York any less. I naively assumed that when Henry was born his presence would somehow fill the hole in my heart where Paper Mache Monkey once was. Turns out, that's a lot of responsibility to put on a person just entering the world.
Henry instead created his own (humongous) space in my heart. It is a wonderful, glowing, thriving space, and it does me the favor of overshadowing the love for my little company most of time. For that, I will be forever grateful... In the mean time, I am looking forward to nurturing the life I have made for myself, embracing the choices I have made, discovering new passions, and finding ways to satisfy my endless urge to create something new.
I think I am going to start by painting mountains and trees on Henry's wall.