are you all dress rehearsal, no play?

It’s hit me just recently: this is the rest of my life. This awareness has arisen because I’ve had to face a few realities lately.

Screen Shot 2012 03 14 at 10.46.03 PM are you all dress rehearsal, no play?
Image by Ben Javens

I’ve led my life thinking it would look a certain way: high school, uni, work, husband, house (that I’d build with a view into bushland), things to own, kids with interesting names, package holidays to Bali (OK, now I’m just being dumb…you get the point). I just assumed, and over the years the milestones guided me, they were my motivation, as they are for many of us.

When I got to one milestone, I used it to prepare for the next. Everything was a run-up to the next thing. I didn’t have to think too much about whether it’s what I wanted. Many of us don’t. It’s so easy not to. The path is nicely worn. Of course you get married by thirty. Of course you’ll factor in kids at some point.

Life can trip along fairly easy like this, while ever you’re nailing the milestones. You can live a whole life this way, blindly ticking them off, never thinking about where it all leads. Until, perhaps, you miss a few milestones.

But I’ve been having accept of late that some (many) of these milestones won’t (can’t) be ticked off by me. It’s not all due to unforeseen circumstances. If I’m honest, I’ve chosen this path I’m on. Over and over. Without realising. Slowly I’ve been steering myself off to the left.

Either way, it begs…when the milestones are gone, what are you left with?

Illness or a setback or a wakeup call or crazy sets of life circumstances land people at this point. Life is stripped back. You’re unceremoniously pushed from the conveyor-belt.

And then what?

I’ll tell you what: you’re left with a

frighteningly boundless freedom to choose what the rest of your life will look like.

No milestones, no rules, no norms, no sitcoms to use as barometers of what’s “normal”. Just your self.

Mother friggen scary. And lonely. But mother friggen fresh, too.

In this awareness, I’ve realised most of my milestone-hopping life has been a dress rehearsal.

I was always preparing. Always in the run-up phase.  I did things because they got me ready for the “real thing” that was going to come at the end. The play. The Play!

I didn’t fully know what this real thing- The Play! – looked like. And the run-up delayed my ever having to know for sure.

High school was run-up for university, which was run-up for my first job, which was run-up for my real career, which was run-up for when I had kids and lived the rest of my life.

Failed loves were dress rehearsals for the real thing. Compromising jobs were dress rehearsals for when I finally did what mattered to me. Being sad was dress rehearsal for when life really kicked in and I was ready to be happy.

But at some point it hits you: I’m over the dress rehearsals. Bring on The Play!

At which point you leave the script in the dressing room…

….and step out on stage to be judged for what you are on the night…

….and sometimes – actually, I reckon it could be really rather often – you realise, OH MY GOD THERE WAS NO PLAY!!!!

And so. You have to go and create your own play. But one that has no dress rehearsal because there’s no time for that now.

This is the real thing. I’m not getting younger.

For the first time in my life, I’m not rehearsing for anything. There’s no next milestone on my path. What’s left? What’s next?

I’m just shining the beam far enough in front to see where my next footstep will go

Or at least I think that’s what I’m doing.

Phew. I got that one out. I fear it’s a little over-sharey. But I also have a feeling that it’s a feeling floating about in all kinds of crevices just now. Do you feel like you’re in dress rehearsal? A hard one to answer…



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