Dad used to say to me, “When you’re tall, you have to grow into your height.” You don’t come automatically coordinated or with an instruction manual.
I never put any thought into those words–that maybe he was talking from experience–or if I did, I quickly brushed it off. “Dad? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
I had Grandma’s stories to remind me that Dad could dribble the ball everywhere, even to take out the trash. How’d he do that if he was uncoordinated? Or how the older kids in the school yard wouldn’t let Dad play basketball with them so Grandpa bought Dad a ball one Christmas and Grandma marched down to the school yard and told them, “Here’s a ball you could play with, just let Bill play some.”
We all start somewhere, and we all have to act as if while we’re making our way through the growing pains.
It’s a heck of a lot easier to imagine those growing pains happening when we are young and awkward anyway, but truth be told, we’re acting our way through life no matter how old we are and no matter what we may have accomplished in another area of our life. We are always honing our skill of starting over, no matter what we might feel about it.
Yes, even if we’re feeling bad about ourselves, we can act as if. Just take one of my top five favorite TED Talk’s with Amy Cuddy delivering her speech, “Your body language may shape who you are.”
She claims that our body language can change our minds, our behavior and our outcomes. All we need to do is stand in the victory pose (with both hands in the air forming a “v”) for two minutes, somewhere private. (It’s instinctual, even blind people do the victory pose when faced with success even though they haven’t seen an athlete do it when they win a game).
I’m not doing justice to Amy’s TED Talk as she so beautifully drives her point home, “Don’t fake it ’til you make it, fake it ’til you become it”. If you want to hear her powerful story about this, do so. It’s an oldie, but goodie and the 21 minutes you lose in viewing time will mean nothing to what it will make you become.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to start over. We need help and thanks to power posing, we can act as if, especially when we feel insecure.
When I told the kids about power posing, however, they laughed, just like I sneered at my Dad when he tried to tell me about growing into your height.
It’s impossible to believe someone when we haven’t experienced it ourselves.
Kids haven’t grown into their heights yet. They most likely feel horribly awkward about it. My youngest found a half of a golf ball this week, which sums this idea up perfectly. Talk about feeling less than whole.
Only we adults know better, kids, athletes (and golf balls) aren’t the only ones who need to grow into their height. Everyone must do so, including me, and every time I start over, I feel insecure, it’s not something that just happened to me as a kid.
Just because I’m a writer who feels like half a golf ball, I’m not exempt, I have to write anyway. So when I’m not power posing, I do what community theater got me to do last year: I get outside of myself and act, even when I don’t feel good enough, I act as if.
It’s a lot easier to act in a group. It’s like power posing on steroids. I don’t feel nearly as self-conscious. So I had no problem being one of the organizers for a bus trip to go see Come From Away on Broadway. It’s a group of 54 of us from three different community theaters.
I also had no problem tracking down Joel Hatch when I heard at Sunday’s practice that my community theater group, Jenkintown Music Theater (JMT), had connections to the actor from Come From Away. It wasn’t his resume that mattered to me, though it was incredibly cool that he was in “The Untouchables”, I cannot lie, but it was the passing fact that he was the son-in-law of one of the founders of our community theater group.
I didn’t even have to do a power pose before searching for him. And to be perfectly honest, I had another motive, in community theater when we’re not in shows, we are going to one another’s shows. We’re a family that way. How cool would it be to know someone in Come From Away?
I found him on Twitter, but he doesn’t accept personal tweets so I had to make this public. Only, while I’m telling truths, it’s not like I’ve ever done anything great with Twitter, it makes me feel like half a golf ball (while we’re on the subject). Since I wasn’t contacting him for myself, it was for my group, I lost my inhibitions and I tweeted him that we were coming to the show and I had to point out the great part of the story, “To think we’re all connected to Dolly.”
He responded within no time that he would be away visiting family and he won’t be in that particular show.
I tweeted him back to say I was bummed but to have a great time off!
Then I slept on it, and I still wasn’t able to let this go. Maybe if I could just tweet him once more and ask him for a nugget that I could share with the group on the bus ride to the show.
He tweeted back, and this was a big deal because nine out of ten people don’t tweet me back, and that includes people I know who are on Twitter. (Sorry Joel to disappoint you if you hoped I could do more for your career due to my Twitter reputation).
Joel Hatch tweeted: “I grew up on a farm in Minnesota near a town of about 800 people, so I don’t share the kind of background that you’ve experienced at JMT.”
Unbeknownst to me, my reporter instincts were kicking up their heels. I was faking it until I made it. I had to know more. This had nothing to do with my group. This was personal. One tweet was not enough. Do you think he’d answer another question?
I tweeted back, half of me wanted him to know I was a real person and the other half of me just wanted to know he was real, too. “Thanks for sharing. Our roots are there to ground us. The metaphor of the farm, though unintended on your part, reminds me of us being the cows on that farm of yours. Maybe that came to mind because I wrote a blog post about cows, but did you aspire to act when you were a kid?”
And, in case you didn’t know that about me, that yes, I wrote a blog post about cows, it’s true. And if you read it, it will help you understand the golf ball reference that’s yet to come. Here’s the link in case you didn’t read it. https://stephanieortiz.com/2020/02/06/finding-a-cow-my-golf-ball-game/
But I’m side tracking now like I did then. I thought about Dad and how he didn’t know as a kid he wanted to play basketball the way Grandma seemed to have known he was destined for it. He actually excelled in baseball and football, too.
Joel Hatch tweeted back that he didn’t know as a kid either. “No, not until college, my senior year, I studied British Lit in England for a semester and saw a lot of theatre. I later applied to graduate school to get some formal training in theatre at the University of Minnesota.”
I find these tweets most endearing because they were old fashioned. The way we used to have a conversation. He never abbreviated anything. There were no hashtags. And, most special was how he used the proper English spelling of theatre. I would write it that way myself but then you’d say, “Now Stephanie, I get this act as if thing, but now you’re just taking it too far. I mean now you expect me to believe with that bad attempt of an accent to believe your British?” But at least I get to quote his proper spelling of the word.
I thought about all that acting, all that training, all those years he felt like half a golf ball but acted as if anyway.
No wonder why he is where he is today. But he’s not just an actor. So I tweeted back. “When did you realize you could also sing? (You sing my girl’s favorite song in Come From Away).”
And while the girls were still complaining that I said that, they take anything I say about them publicly very seriously, as they should, but sometimes I have to talk them off the ledge, by explaining it’s okay to pay someone a compliment. But I shooshed them because I had an incoming tweet.
Joel Hatch tweeted: “I always sang in church choir and in college choir. In graduate school I did more straight theatre, but I got my first professional work singing in the chorus of the Minnesota Opera and Children’s Theatre. I moved to Chicago and was able to do both.”
I started to feel bad that I had contacted him without really knowing anything about him, yet I acted as if I knew him. I hoped he didn’t think bad of me. So I tweeted back hoping to understand, “Is it true that you never acted for JMT, you married into it?”
Joel Hatch tweeted that indeed he had married into it. His wife acted in Chicago theatre for 30 years. She did musicals at JMT since her childhood.
There were so many more questions I would have asked, but tweeting kept the interview brief (good thing considering I’m so long-winded). Now that I had gotten to know him, I truly was sad that he wasn’t going to be on that stage! So I told him so and I added, “My daughters think you might be one of the last of the orginal cast members. It reminds me of when I met this girl who was the last of the Babylonians…It seems epic in some way, or maybe, it’s just an epic tweet? Thanks for sharing!”
The girls were furious over that one. Suppose they had their fact wrong? But if I was more interested in remembering the matter of the last of the Babylonians. This guy Alex once worked with dated her. She was tall and smart and exactly the stereotype you might have if you were to typecast the last of the Babylonians. When he broke up with her I wanted him to know he had broken up with history! But there was no time to reminisce.
Joel Hatch tweeted back, “You will see Astrid, Petrina, Caesar, Chad, Sharon and maybe Q. All original members.”
To think Come From Away is dark on Monday, and he spent the greater portion of his day tweeting with me (maybe his replies didn’t take up nearly as many brain cells as my questions). I felt honored in some weird way that we just had a Twitter interview–talk about faking it until you make it. As public as it was, no one commented, liked or commented on our conversation, yet, we had made a real connection. So I asked if I could use our interview; it started as a nugget as you might recall.
“Mind if I write a blog post around our tweets? I’m thinking of calling it “Act As If” referring to those times when I’m not feeling so great about myself (feeling like that cow) and I have to act my way through it. What a congenial mid-story you’ve provided…if you’re game.”
And there my permission was tweeted back to me, Joel Hatch tweeted, “Write your story. Have fun.”
And that’s the great fun about writing these blog posts. I don’t have to be a published writer, or even feel like one, I just need to write. I don’t need to approach a publicist to set up an interview, I just need to Tweet. And I never even needed to do my power pose, not this time, anyway, although it’s there when I need it.
I think back about what Dad had to teach me when I was growing up but I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about.
I want to explore this topic about growing into your height next blog post, too, because it’s a great topic to continue exploring, and personally, because I’m by no means there yet. But meanwhile, if you’re like me and you need help envisioning what you can do when you grow into your height, here’s one I found in Grandma’s scrapbook she made of Dad’s career. (There’s so much more to sift through than the newspapers in the basement).
Meanwhile, back to earth, no more dreaming of finding that instruction manual about how to grow into my height, I’ll just start growing already. It all starts with the victory pose. and if I continue to act as if I’m a writer, (I did score a Twitter interview with Joel Hatch), what heights will I soar to?