“I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” – Joni Mitchell
Those words have been ringing in my ipod lately, as I have been riding the U-Bahn to rehearsals. I also just finished reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. One of the main themes in Kavalier & Clay was the idea of escape – the main comic book character that Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay create and become famous for is called the Escapist, one of the main characters is actually a trained escape artist, the first chunk of the book is devoted to the telling of an escape from Nazi occupied Prague, Houdini is mentioned dozens of times, another main character is gay and marries a woman in order to set his life “straight” (so to speak), to name a few examples. Between the book and Joni, I have been noticing how prominent the idea of escape is in our lives. I hadn’t noticed its universal presence, our communal desire for it before.
One thing that I’ve noticed is how I get to escape reality daily as part of my job. Everyday that I go to work, I am required to take off my clothes, put on a rehearsal costume, and pretend to be someone else for six hours. There are some days where I marvel that I get to make a living doing this. I am paid to step out of my life and into someone else’s on a daily basis.
Even more than this, I never work at home, so I have to travel around the world (escape) in order to be employed. It is a different way of life, and I find that I have to explain it at great length to most people I know who live “normal” lives. They never seem to understand why I am away so much and never really at home. They have this look in their eye that says, “I wonder if he’ll ever settle down.”
While this all seems very exciting, jet-setting, and yes, “unsettled”, the fact is that my life is in actuality a rather banal existence the majority of the time. There is a short film that you can download on itunes called Our Time is Up. The film begins with a shot of a Sony alarm clock buzzing at 7:00 (that white, boxy one with the black face and glowing, alien-green numbers that almost everyone you know owns). A person swings his feet over the side of the bed, puts on the slippers waiting there for his feet. Then there is a shot of him reaching for a starched white shirt that is hanging on a rack of other starched white shirts. Then a shot of him reaching for a red tie on a rack of other red ties. Every shot has a sterility, rhythm and order about it. My life is rather like that, for the most part. I try to get up at the same time every day, write my morning pages, work out, eat the same thing for breakfast everyday (one whole egg and two egg whites – scrambled, a piece of some grainy toast, fruit), check email, read the news online, shower, and then do the same 15 minutes of vocal exercises to warm up, and head to rehearsal. I do this everyday that I have to work (normally six days a week), and I follow this routine religiously. Without this routine, this rhythm, I stress and am quite unfocused and irritable. My mind feels like peach fuzz, and I am prone to snap at anyone who stands in my way.
In order to achieve the “escape” my profession requires of me properly, I have to submit to the predictability of routine – an odd paradox. Shouldn’t escape be full of adventure, the unpredictable, the unexpected, variety? On the other hand, the fact that “escape” is required of me so regularly makes it not a vacation, but a vocation. If that’s the case, I imagine a little regularity is a good thing in order to provide me with some grounding, stability, and a little bit of the predictable. It helps keep life in good flow. Sort of like making sure I eat enough fiber daily.