Langston Hughes may not have originated this title phrase, but I’m giving him the credit. Gotta call dibs on that stuff.
It comes from his poem, “A Dream Deferred”:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
When I was eight years old, my friend Emma introduced me to this little show, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”. It features four improvisational players, usually Colin Mocherie, Ryan Stiles, & Friends, performing improv games under the hosting of Drew Carey. I have seen every episode to date of the American version. At 16, I signed up for two improv classes in which I was the baby in one and the elderly in the other. It was just the beginning of my realization that I was actually good at something.
You know the feeling of being good at something. (If you don’t, I’d say at this point you’re probably pretty good at breathing.) It comes somewhat naturally and you have this urge to get better at it, whether it’s an interior or an exterior urge (let’s use your mother). For example, I’m pretty good at piano, but it was my mother’s exterior urge for me to get better at it. With improv, I want to get better at it. I want to do everything I can to be the best. Writing is another passion I’m relatively good at. I want to be the best and do what I love for the rest of my life.
Combined with improv, I adore television. I’ve got a 1950s television tattooed on my leg for proof. I want to work in television in some capacity: writing, producing, directing, performing, anything. It’s my dream. It’s been my dream for too many years. Now that I’ve graduated from school, I’m finally able to pursue that dream for all its worth. I need to be Los Angeles-bound.
This is the whole room and nothing but the room.
WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED?
I planned to move to Los Angeles in January 2012. I asked around, hoping a friend would let me stay on their couch for a short period of time while I apartment/job searched as well as waited for my roommate to move out there. I received little response, and the response I did was a resounding “no”. At first I thought they didn’t like me, or worse, didn’t remember me. But that sounded ridiculous. I had only been gone for a couple months. Unless the smog in Los Angeles was infused with a memory-altering chemical gas that made them forget all about me, my friends still knew who I was. Not for a dislike of me, but a lack of space. Someone had warned me about that, considering the size of the average Los Angeles apartment.
I knew that. I really did. After spending two months in a converted porch on Crenshaw Boulevard, I should have remembered the lack of space and just how good these LA folk were at cramming people into a space. There were 13 people in that house, including the landlord. Along with the bugs in my bed and atrocious rental car, I definitely left with some of the best stories.
But I would not be stopped! So, in the meantime, I searched for jobs here in Chicago. I planned to quit the jobs after a couple months and move in May.
DOES IT DRY UP LIKE A RAISIN IN THE SUN?
That would have been easy if I didn’t actually like my jobs. Currently, I’m at IKEA and The Comedy Shrine. I’m making decent money and I don’t have to pay rent (though what I don’t pay in rent I pay in patience with my parents). It’s not a bad gig. Yet, with each day, I feel the move to Los Angeles slipping away. I fear I’m never going to be able to move since I’m tied to Chicago now. As someone told me (different someone from above), most places in LA won’t hire you unless you’re already in the Los Angeles area for a physical interview. And since I have zero to no experience in film or television, it’s even more difficult. I’m not in high demand. For every one of me, there are at least a hundred others who are already out there, vying for those positions.
The infamous TV tattoo.
Here, I’m not really doing anything with theatre, film, or television. Sure, I work at a theatre and I’m taking improv classes. Growing up, we were told in school that once we graduated from college with degrees, that we’d get a job in our field. It makes sense to tell students that. It gives them hope. The generation telling us this had that same thing happen to them.
Lies. It was all lies.
OR FESTER LIKE A SORE– AND THEN RUN?
Ok, maybe it wasn’t a lie. My friend Danny got a job right out of college in his field. I’ve got some other friends doing that as well. I’m proud of them. And underneath that layer of pride is jealousy. And underneath that is a three-bean dip. I want the jobs they have. I don’t know how to get those jobs. I feel lost, confused, annoyed, and I’m kicking myself. The regret of not auditioning for Paperback Rhino, choosing a pointless second degree, not doing more in theatre. The regrets eat at me and make me feel less and less, like I jeopardized my dream because I didn’t take Path A and chose Path Q. Path Q hurts. Path Q is riddled with disappointment and sadness.
A couple weeks ago, I ran into a teacher who knew my creative work in high school. Naturally, I was wearing my IKEA shirt, proudly displaying my workplace. I hadn’t seen them in a couple years, but they knew I was majoring in theatre. Of course, when they asked me where I was working and I pointed to my IKEA shirt, I heard disappointment. Failure. I reassured them that I also worked at a theatre, but didn’t mention what I actually did. I didn’t want to hear more disappointment. Pouring salt on the wound I’ve already created due to my own disappointment in myself. I don’t need help with that.
DOES IT STINK LIKE ROTTON MEAT?
My mom: Do you know when you’re moving to LA?
You can make it in LA with $75, right?
My mom: No idea?
My mom: Like, September?
My mom: Or more like January?
Me: I don’t know.
My mom: So you don’t know at all.
Me: When I have a lot more than $75 saved up, I will let you know.
OR CRUST AND SUGAR OVER– LIKE A SYRUPY SWEET?
It’s nice to dream.
Everyone tells me I’m 21 and that I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. Excuse me, but I know I’m 21 and I’ve got a lot of time too. But in this world of instant access, this isn’t fast enough for me. I don’t want to wait. It’s my career and I need it now!
On top of it all, I’m a planner. At Iowa, I would show up for my advisor session and give Bryon my schedule for the next semester. He didn’t have any questions, knowing I knew what I needed and how to plan my schedule accordingly. I want to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and who I’m doing it with. This lack of a future is terrifying for a planning personality. I like spontaneity, sure, who doesn’t, but not when it comes to my future. There needs to be planning involved. I can’t just go with the flow! I can’t just “accept what comes”! You have to be kidding.
…You’re not kidding?
I want to believe you, that my life won’t end at 22, but I’m a firm believer in “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
MAYBE IT SAGS LIKE A HEAVY LOAD.
People believe in this?
“You’re going to go far. I believe you will.”
My parents say it.
My friends say it.
My family friends say it.
My relatives say it.
There’s a lot of belief going on and not a lot of doing on my part. Where does this blind faith in me come from? I feel like I need to prove these people right. I need to succeed and go far because they know something I don’t. They feel it. I don’t want to let these people down. I want to push forward with these dreams and make them come true, at all costs. They’re willing to support me, wanting to make sure I succeed. I want to succeed for these people, but I’m paralyzed with the fear I will let these people down.
Perhaps my dreams are too big. Too much to come true.
OR DOES IT EXPLODE?
I’m going to to all I can for my dreams to come true.
I’m going to push, shove, kick, bite my way through the crowd.
I’m going to stop regretting and believe everything happens for a reason.
I won’t become the next Tina Fey, or Jane Lynch, or Amy Poehler, but I will definitely be the best Kelly Magz. The funniest. The brightest. The one who fights her whole life to ensure her dreams come true.