Getting a BFA is hard. Theatre school is hard. Being at the College of Fine Arts is not easy. It is a choice to take on the work load and stress that this program demands. The learning standards are rigorous and the expectations are very high. The hours lean on superabundant. The line between personal life and academic life is far too blurry to see the difference. We live at the SOT and take occasional naps at home.
But we stick through it, or at least I do, because of the strong need to make art and love of theatre.
However, I’ve been experiencing some poorly timed mental health issues and recovery from assault related trauma.
So, without spilling too much of my personal woes out into the stratosphere of the interwebs, (although many of you that know me personally will be familiar with my self-destructive depression and anxiety driven behaviors) I’d like to discuss how our program claims to cater to those struggling with personal issues that get in the way of their artistic process, yet doesn’t actually follow through with that.
We are fortunate enough to be in a space and community in which we can explicitly communicate how we are feeling and produce work that expresses where we may be mentally. However, I have found that I have the opportunity to talk about my emotions and cry in class if I want to, but that’s…pretty much it. There’s no cutting of slack. There’s no true understanding of how my poor mental health can inhibit my ability to do all of my work efficiently and in a timely matter. The standards and expectations at this school have gotten inside my brain so much, that when I can’t get out of bed because I’m so fucking depressed, I feel like I’m lazy. When I can’t write a blog post, rehearse my scene, write 20-40 pages of my play, rehearse my other scene, learn my lines, send those emails, design that poster, do that other homework assignment that was due like a week ago, and get to class on time, I feel lazy. I feel like a bad student. I feel like I have shit work ethic. And then I feel like a bad actor for some reason (???). Shit, I feel like a bad person. When I don’t complete something in the way a professor would have liked me to, I feel like a bad person that doesn’t deserve to live.
No, I don’t put into consideration that I’m in a situation where, as hard as I try, I can’t even take care of myself. No, I don’t put into consideration that because I’m having trouble eating, sleeping, and exercising that I actually can’t fully function as a happy and productive human being that gets their work done. And no, I don’t put into consideration that I’m experiencing one to three panic attacks daily. I don’t put any of these things into consideration because I feel as if I’ve been told not to. Because I’m supposed to put my academic life before my health. Because this is what it’s like in the real world, and I better get used to it.
Perhaps I’m a severe case. Perhaps I’m sharing too much personal information onto this academic platform. Maybe this is all just a little “too much.” Okay, fine. But I’m not making excuses. And I’m sick of the weight and pressure of this program telling me that I am. I’m exhausted, tired, and sad. It’s unfortunate that I only get four years here at this disgustingly expensive university and I’m spending so much of my time crying in bed and not getting my work done instead of taking advantage of the education being offered to me and the privilege I have to be here. But it’s bad timing. I don’t want to be half-assing my work, but I’m racing against this constantly ticking clock. It’s not like I want to be stuck in bed. I’m not skipping class because I want to watch Netflix instead. It’s because I’m sick. I can’t move. I can’t fucking breathe.
I don’t even take breaks. It’s constant movement. Of doing work or trying to do work. Wake up, do it, go to sleep (barely), and repeat.
I’m writing this post because I care, and I so desperately need affirmation and recognition of that. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t even be creating this dialogue. There is a fine line between laziness, and inability to complete tasks in a timely fashion. And I wish there was some more recognition of the difference between the two. At least, so as I drown in this cold ocean of work, I don’t feel like a shit human being and a bad person.