Lead with the Elbow.

Alright, trusty readers, I seem to have a dilemma. I have gotten myself into a particular situation on more than one occasion recently and it has really got me thinking; about me, and about life; about the way we as human beings interact with each other on the regular, and about trust in general.  So I turn to you today for some advice.  Allow me to divulge.

Earlier this week, I, along with two dear friends of mine, were in hot pursuit of a set of juggling scarves.  Yes, I said juggling scarves…

(Shameless plug: if you want to see me juggle those very scarves, tap dance and sing simultaneously, then you should come see my newest professional theatre gig at Andiamo Theatre in Novi.  We’re doing the place up like a 1920s Speakeasy and it’s awesome. Need info? Ask me.)

…Sorry, I had to.  Back on track.

So, to purchase said scarves, we went to this quaint little magic shop in Clawson, Michigan.  Not only was the atmosphere fantastic and imaginative, but the service was absolutely excellent. The man helping us, the owner, put on quite the show while ringing us up; from quirky quips to a full on trick wherein he made me believe that he accidentally cut my credit card in half, the gentleman didn’t miss a beat.  When he began to ask what we needed the scarves for, we explained the whole Speakeasy, silly vaudevillian-style entertainment bit and his eyes lit up.  The basement of my place was a Speakeasy! Would you like to see it?

Before we knew it, we were being escorted down a winding case of stairs from the 1920s; and, before we knew it, we were being lead on a tour of the basement, through the dark, while our adorably wacky tour guide frantically searched for the light switch.  I suppose it was fun to see it, although the place really no longer seemed to resemble the once elusive gin joint he claimed it was (it now looks more like the typical basement of a small business…).  It did have the remains of an old tunnel used to smuggle in booze. I guess that was pretty neat-o.  Anyway, who knew?  A speakeasy under a little magic shop in good ol’ Clawson.

As the three of us left the building, we giggled together, discussing how funny it was that we followed him down there so willingly.  But of course, the guy was nothing but cordial, exuberant, and excited to share a bit of history with us.  We were safe all along.  Honestly, the worst thing that probably could have happened was the lights sparking on to reveal our guide in a full tuxedo, pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Surprise! Watch me do magic!

This particular event made me think back to one of a similar substance last spring.  Right before my sister moved to New York City, we decided to venture to a particular store in downtown Dearborn that I had heard of many times, but had never actually visited.  It was a designer warehouse of sorts, in the Village Plaza right off of Michigan Avenue.  We went into the building, looked around, but couldn’t seem to locate the store.  After a few moments of looking like a couple of lost puppy dogs, a maintenance man approached us and asked if he could help.  We explained what we were looking for.  Oh, that’s in the basement.  Follow me.  I’m on my way down there now.  We both smiled, said thanks, and followed him into the elevator.

Down. Down. Down in the rickety elevator.  Just me, Caitlyn and a particularly beefy maintenance man who just happened to be wheeling around a cart of intimidating-looking power tools.  Oh yes, the thought likely passing through your head right now dawned on both me and Caitlyn simultaneously: GET OUT OF THERE!  THIS IS STARTING TO SOUND LIKE THE OPENING SCENE OF AN EPISODE OF LAW AND ORDER: SVU!  Sure enough, we shared a look, and as the elevator doors slowly opened to reveal a shadowy hallway that almost seemed abandoned, my heart was racing just a little bit faster.  This way. We followed him into the depths of the basement.  My sister began dragging a bit behind, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see her loosening her shoulders a bit and holding her arms out in front of her, ready for a fight if the opportunity presented itself (Thank Lordisa that my little sister took a semester of self-defense in preparation for the big city… Oh, and you should probably know that Caitlyn’s plan involved him attacking me first, enabling her to strike while he was distracted.  In her version of problem solving, I was practically bait.  Yeah, she loves me.).

Sure enough, after a short walk, the man pointed to the entrance of the warehouse we were looking for.  We thanked him again and he waltzed on down the hallway, tools in tow, barely turning around to say goodbye.  We entered the door, safe as can be.  And I bought a super fab tie-dye maxi dress. Holla!

As you’ve probably deduced, the situation I seem to find myself in far too frequently is following strange men into dark basements.  (And I’m pretty sure somewhere my Mother just had a heart attack reading this.)

Truly, this teensy weensy little habit that I have begs so many questions.  Is this a situation that young women like me find themselves in a lot?  Is it just me?  Actually, don’t answer that.  It probably is just me.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am a gullible guss and tend to get very excited when those around me are.  You know, sort of like how a baby or a puppy matches the sentiment it’s given.  So, it’s really not a surprise that I would follow a man into the basement of his magic shop speakeasy because his face lit up and got all squishy like a cartoon characters’ does when he asked us to go.  He was just so adorable!

Famous last words, right?

So, maybe, it’s seriously about darn time that I learned some legit, butt-kickin’ self-defense.  If a girl is trusting and kind in this world, maybe that really does mean she’s more apt to get lured into a basement and, well…we’ve all seen Silence of the Lambs. Yeesh.  My sister took self-defense and loved every moment of it.  Always lead with the elbow, she says.  It’s the strongest part of your body. Wham!

When I tell these stories to people, they usually respond with that “Oh, honey…” phrase.  The one that is usually accompanied by that look of condescending concern.  And I know I should be more, well, aware of my surroundings.  I should probably stop following men into basements.  And I probably should be prepared to defend myself at all times.  But geez louise, what happened to good old fashioned trust?  Relying on the kindness of strangers?  Is it really safe to always expect that you’re not safe?  Or does that mentality, in and of itself really create a scarier world?  Can we find that delicate balance?

Maybe I should just stop thinking and lead with the elbow. Lead with the elbow. Lead with the elbow.

Stuck Between A Rock and Adulthood

I have always been drawn to the tale of Peter Pan.  It has been told and re-told at various points and in various ways throughout my life, and I must say that I have been a fan of nearly every rendition.  Until now, until this point in my life, I’m not sure if I could have told you why I love it so much.  It isn’t exactly your typical fairytale; no prince in shining armor comes to rescue and subsequently woo a helpless young maiden; there are no singing animals. But rather, there are fairies, the ability to fly if you believe hard enough, and a core group of characters that will stop at nothing to preserve the beautiful power of innocent imagination.

It’s the fight against growing up.  And so, perhaps now more than ever, I can whole-heartedly relate.

This year marked my quarter of a century.  And I will say, upon turning 25, that I do feel differently.  It’s a bit of a magical number.  I’m not in my early-20s anymore, so I like to think that people are a bit more apt to take me seriously.  Maybe I have some clout, you know, just in general, now.  I can legally rent a car anywhere in the United States.  That’s pretty cool.

But there’s something daunting about 25, too.  As if suddenly, there’s some real, tangible pressure to be an Adult, with a capital A.  Now, you’re probably wondering what I mean when I say “Adult.”  Allow me to explain: remember that “in the future” game you played as a kid?  The one that would start with “when I grow up…” or “when I have kids…” or maybe simply “when I’m in charge…” and ended with all sorts of awesome scenarios?  This game of fortune telling was often based on watching your parents, or some other influential Adult in your life.  Those people that had it all together, that were there to take care of you and to set a good example. For some reason, 25 has brought on the pressure to be that version of myself: the Adult version of Kirsten (KUR-sten, just in case you forgot).

That version of Kirsten had a good, solid career: part time English teacher, part-time dance teacher, professional actor and scientist (I went through a phase involving having a great interest in “science” generally speaking. I even asked for a microscope from Santa.  It was weird, but it happened).  Naturally, that Kirsten was rich and famous as a result of said career.  That Kirsten could buy all the candy she wanted and no one was going to tell her differently. Oh, and, you should probably know that kid Kirsten was convinced that Adult Kirsten was going to have children by the time she was 24 (ha!).

But here I am at the ripe old age of 25, a little farther from my goal than I’d like to be, and nevertheless harboring a nagging pressure to meet those elusive standards of Adulthood.  I’m not a kid anymore, by any means.  But am I the person I expected to be?  Most days, I just feel stuck.

When I started Love and ADD, I was blown away by the positive feedback and words of encouragement that I received.  One message stood out in particular.  It was from a former student of mine from the Marquis Theatre named Morgan.  She’s not quite the little nugget I remember teaching anymore, but rather a young lady on the precipice of graduating from high school.  In addition to being so kind and complimentary, she expressed how inspired she was that I am writing professionally (well as professionally as my circumstances will allow) and living for my passion.  She had decided to go pre-med in school.  It would ensure a good life.  It was a done deal.  But lately, the arts–reading, writing, singing, dancing–were calling her back, re-claiming her soul, and she was confused.  She was seeking advice. Which path is the right one?

Holy crap.  This fine young lady recognizes me as an Adult, as one of those influential people to help her flesh out that “when I grow up…” scenario.  Me?  Say whhhaaaat?

Of course I responded to her and did my best to give good advice.  After all, I can’t begin to explain how honored I was to even be receiving such a message.  But, after a great deal of thinkin’ on the topic, I believe I owe her the truth.

Morgan,

I think I could have probably been a doctor.  I could have been a lawyer.  And who knows, maybe if I had chosen the path of practicality, maybe I’d be successful and maybe I’d feel like I’m an Adult, with a capital A.  But, you know what, I doubt it.  I think, sometimes, growing pains just last a little longer than we’re told they should.  There’s that weird in-between stage when one is an adult, with a lower case a.  Still working out the kinks, and still a bit torn between two worlds.  I am soooooo stuck right about there.

But, I believe, so sincerely, that now is the best time to go dream catching.  To wish on lucky stars and to fight for what you want.  Geeze louise, it seems that every other day there’s some horrible “Adult problem” popping up in my life, just daring me to hop on the next floating ship to Neverland.  And it’s at those moments that I do just that.  I get lost in my writing, or I dance the Charleston in my basement.  I create characters and dream up worlds.  I honor my imagination.  I honor my childhood and I visit that place where I don’t have to grow up.

And, you know what, who knows if I’ll ever figure it out.  And who cares?  I have absolutely no idea what the future holds.  And I am a crazy batch of up and down emotions on the very subject nearly every day.  But I’m doing my best to live regret-free.  I’ll hope you’ll join me in doing so.  We’ll be as much of an Adult as is required, and leave the rest to our imaginations.  What do you say?

That’s the truth.

With all my love, Miss Kirsten.