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The Accidental Podcaster: Pomp and Circumstance, Part 2
It is a June heat wave, a few years ago. The asphalt along Euclid baking and reflecting its warmth off the skyscrapers and office buildings of downtown Cleveland. I am in a full skirt suit, stomping down East 17th under a muggy sun. I am hot. I am tired. I am stressed. And I am beside myself with fury as we maneuver around destruction work randomly chunking up or blocking the sidewalk. A mistake has been made. A vital piece of information about a student's needed accommodations were not relayed, and that paired with massive renovations at the venue meant I was the only person who knew how to navigate the student in the back way - through the crowd, out of the theatre, around the corner, down the street, and in through the delivery entrance. It didn't help that we are close to showtime and the radio at my waist constantly chirping to ask where I was keeps slowing us down. However, my job is to think on the fly and make things work, and that's what we're doing. I'm not even mad about that.

What has me hot is that this is the second time this same issue has taken place to the same student.

"I'm telling you, Miss D," I say as we skirt around another set of scaffolding, "this is not normal for us. At. All. And I'm very sorry this is the second time we haven't been ready for you."

Sitting in front of me while I try not to tip her chair on a curb, Miss D is fanning herself with a program and gazing up at the buildings. "It's alright. You're getting us where we need to be."

"That's not the point. Wait." The sun is now blazing overhead as I come to a complete stop in an empty parking lot. "Where the hell are we? Oh God, I've led us astray!"

She turns and squints up at me as the radio crackles once again. "I think you just don't want to go back in there."

"I think that might have some truth to it."

I find the door I'm looking for and have a momentary panic when I realize I have to tip the chair up to get on the curb again (she assures me she will not fall out. "Are you always like this?" she asks. Yes, yes, pretty much).

Finally where we need to be, Miss D has one more question: which side does her tassel need to be on?

"Right," I tell her as I make sure it's secured to her cap. "You'll move it to the left at the end of the ceremony. If you decide to go on for your masters degree, it will be on your left the whole time."

She grimaces. "I don't want to go on for my masters. It was hard enough doing an associates and a bachelors!"

"Oh, tsk," I grin back. "Nothing worth doing is easy. Think about it. Besides, third time's a charm, right? I need one more chance to get things right."

Miss D. rolls her eyes, and I have to go and get the ceremony started. We don't get to talk again until after the ceremony is over and we're both waiting on the now-empty stage for her family to meet us at the stage door.

"How long does it take? The masters, I mean."

"Two year program, give or take a few months."

"Will you be here when I'm done?"

"I hope so."

She sighs as her brother appears at the door. "Fine. I'll think about it."

I grin. "See you in two years, then."

*****

A full year has passed now since I started this blog. 52 weeks, 42 posts. Not exemplary, but not bad, all things considered - we also threw a convention and a fiction run in the mix, not to mention the fact that all of us on RCM's staff hold very time-consuming day jobs. The next year will be better, but for now, it's where it needs to be. The entire purpose of starting these weekly missives were to chronicle what we're learning as we build a media company from scratch, showing the connections between daily life, leadership, and showmanship. We've come a very long way in the past twelve months, and reflections like these are what help us cement these lessons and build on them.

Commencement time makes me think about these things. The school I work for does not follow a traditional setup, just as RivalCast as a company doesn't follow the traditional ways of doing, well, anything. The graduates who walk the stage each year are often the long shots, the ones who didn't quite fit with what the traditional "college experience" dictates...and neither do we. My students collectively have overcome such astounding odds to get where they have that at the end of the day, when the theatre is emptied and the cars are packed and the regalia tossed in the back seat while we go grab a celebratory round, I pull out of that parking garage at 15th and Chester and take a drive around the streets of Cleveland feeling like I can do absolutely anything. The only other time I feel quite the same way is when I look back at the magic tricks we've pulled off here at RCM.

In my back-up speech last year, a lot of the advice I wrote in came back in themes I wrote about in this blog:
When you start facing your fears of the unknown, don't forget or underestimate who you are. Be radiant.

Don't hold back from your dreams. If you want to do something, do it.

Follow through on your commitments and promises, not just to others, but to yourself. And do them when you say you'll do them.

Work harder than you have to. It makes a difference.

Be kind, always. It also makes a difference.

Do no harm.

There will always be naysayers. Don't take their negativity to heart. But at the same time, hear them out. They'll sometimes present a point you haven't thought of yet.

Learn from everyone around you. If something sparks your interest, read everything about it that you can get your hands on.

And most importantly, remember that you are the star of your own story. You have a lot more power in telling that story than you realize, and you're only given one chance for sure to try telling it. So make it a good one.

*****
Before we close for the evening, let's rewind a bit to last Sunday. Commencement Day, 2016. It's hotter than hell outside. I'm frazzled with the four-hour barrage of non-stop questions I'm fielding as I sprint about the theatre, but I'm not worried about anything. And when I break away for a moment to go find someone in our waiting area for the graduates, I'm definitely sporting a half-cocked grin when I find her.

"You know, D, I hate to say I told you so, but..."

She smiles back. "Don't you dare try to talk me into a doctorate."

The plan is set, the players know their moves. Later, during the ceremony proper, she'll lead the masters candidates for the stage walk. I'm waiting next to her while the bachelors candidates make their stroll when she whispers over, "Seriously, don't try to convince me to go for a doctorate."
"Don't worry," I whisper back. "I wouldn't tell anyone to do anything I'm not willing to do myself."

She thinks about this a moment, eyeing the robes of the doctoral candidates seated on stage. "How long does it take?"

"What, a doctorate? At least two more, if not longer. It depends on what you choose to do for your dissertation. Doctoral level means you have to know your stuff, in and out. And it's a lot of work. I'm at the point now where a doctorate wouldn't really help me, since I don't plan to be in academia much longer. About a year, if all goes according to plan."

She looks at me, surprised, then back to the doctoral candidates. "Would you stay in touch?"

"With you? Absolutely, if you wanted to."

She nods, not saying anything, but she has a look in her eye I've seen before. The look of contemplation. Of weighing options. Of realizing possibilities.

It's the same look that Varyar wears when he's formulating a plan.

The same nod Bio has when he's digesting a complex problem.

The same glint of the eye that Killer has when imagining possible courses of action.

The same smile that creeps over Baron's lips when he pictures what could be.

It's the same look I've witnessed countless times over the past year: the look of hopes, dreams, possibility, and determination.

But I don't have time to dwell on it. The music is drawing to a close, the masters candidates working their way backstage to take their places. It's showtime, and we all have a part to play.

I stand up and take the back of Miss D's chair. "You ready?"

"Of course," she replies. "The question is, are you ready?"

Oh, yes.
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