One morning this week, I woke up and tip toed (so as not to wake the bairns) my way down to the coffee maker.
I got things brewing, drank some water, and pulled my phone from the charger in the living room.
The little white arrow in the red box beckoned me, and I obediently tapped.
I scrolled through the offerings and got increasingly agitated.
None of the click bait headlines were baiting my click.
“Algorithm, why have you let me down?”I queried.
[I’ve logged more YouTube screen time since the invasion in Ukraine. Okay, that’s a lie. My YouTube time was already ample, but recent geopolitical events have goosed my stats.]
I comb the site for a reputable news source to tell me that Vladimir Putin has been vaporized.
My searches have proven fruitless thus far.
But that morning, I took note.
I was enmeshed with and dependent on my AI frienemy.
My internal monologue: “YouTube, you know I enjoy a good “A Closer Look” with Seth Myers, but come on, the Android monitors my every word. I’d think you’d understand my viewing need nuances as I wait for the BOGO Café Verona to percolate.“
later that morning as I took the train into work,
I did something utterly shocking.
I looked out the window.
I knoooow. Right?
I sat in my seat, and I watched the boulders, muddy Natick backyards, bougie Wellesley boutiques, and reservoirs go by.
I wondered, “Who lives there?”
“Who dumped that vinyl couch by the tracks??”
“How did that graffiti artist shimmy down that bridge?”
Reminded me of when I played Philadelphia with Phantom, and I stayed with the Ledger family out in Malvern. I took the SEPTA every show day, and all I had for ocular occupation was Pillars of the Earth and the Bryn Mawr station.
But nowadaze, you know the drill.
We’re all up in our screens.
I’m looking at a screen as I type this to you right now…on the train. (Although I’m attempting to type and look out the window, too.)
And what are we missing? And what mysteries are we not getting to be baffled by? Like that couch!
That morning waiting for the coffee, I realized I’d given my agency to the algorithm.
I didn’t even take the step of going to the google machine to type in, “When is Vladimir Putin scheduled to be vaporized?”
Nope, like some laboratory mammal, I let the YouTube slow-drip the control group serum to my eager limbic receptors.
[***Quick tangent*** The train conductor just said, “Wellesley Squa-ah next, no no, Wellesley Fahms next. Wellesley Fahms.”***
That’ll never get old to my silly hillbilly ears.]
But yeah—the algorithm and the train window (The title of my next musical)— They got me thinking about you.
You know how we actory singery folk get when it comes to jobs?
Who’s gonna hire me? What’s trending? What do the table people want? What Olivia Rodrigo hook should I mash up with “Poor Wandering One” and a triple pirouette?
We’re waiting around all Daisy and Violet belting, “Who will love me as I aaaaaaam???”
But here’s the good news.
You don’t got to get this job, and I’ll put money on the fact that you’re not a conjoined twin. (In-Sideshow reference from above. Sorry not sorry.)
Therefore, there is no physical constraint placed upon you that would dictate any limitation on your creative path.
The thing that scares us the most (at least me, it does) is that there is SO MUCH possibility, not an opportunity drought.
Just ask me.
I submitted a few self-tapes this spring for summer work.
I was proud of em.
So, I could look at that and think,
“There just isn’t a place for me this summer. No opportyuuuunities.”
But thing is, there is. And there are.
I can make them up.
I can make up about five right now, and that’s not even counting garage organization and tax filing.
What’s coming to mind for you right now?
What idears did you talk into your Google Keep?
What if you opened that note and talked a few more ideas underneath that?
You might come up with something crazy and fun.
It might not pay your bills. Might even cost you.
But what if it knits community and connection for you and your people?
What if it’s the thing that makes someone laugh, cry, or feel beauty and meaning?
In my experience, that transcends a project’s ability to make money.
I mean, Anyone Can Whistle closed on Broadway after five minutes, but dang I’m grateful Mr. S wrote that score.
And if you make money, too, I’m so happy for you.
And then there’s this cray cray notion —
What if you sat and looked out the window?
I know, right?
Now, that’s the thing we’re all relentlessly fending off while gazing at these 2D configurations.
Sitting. Looking. Noticing questions that aren’t google-able.
It’s way too Rilke for most of us.
I encourage you to try it, and I’d love to hear how it goes. Maybe take a pic out your window with that phone you’re not looking at.
In the meantime, remember, for reals— There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.
ps Today’s our Noah Bear’s fourth birthday. I can’t even believe it. I even typed “first“ in that last sentence. Our sweet miracle Cinco de Mayo baby.
pps This is what I meant when I said “way too Rilke.” Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
One thing that’s not a question? You’re terrific. Now go look out a window 💙.