When I was a sophomore in high school, I was given a piece of advice by my theater teacher at the time (who would become one of my biggest mentors and who I still keep in touch with). "Take it one day at a time." While this seems like a pretty simple statement, one that we all hear in some capacity from people trying to console us through some rough spot, I kept it tucked away in my mental "back pocket" and hung onto it hard.
These words were delivered to me my sophomore year of high school, when my life was in disarray, when all I wanted was to turn 18 and get out. Before I knew it, I was graduating high school and flying to California, finally finally finally able to get away and call my own shots. I had made it.
But, then, of course, it's never that easy. Life is not only rocky until you hit 18 and then it's smooth sailing. Despite my best efforts (and having had little guidance), I still made poor decisions, got involved with not-so-nice people, and did my best to just... maintain.
It was sometime in between screaming in tears at my now-ex on the telephone, next to a man dressed as Gene Simmons from KISS while on the patio of a Coffee Bean on Hollywood Blvd., and singing back-up to Neil Young's "Helpless" with shaky knees on a foreign stage in front of foreign faces in a foreign town after the play, when I was given another piece of profound, unforgettable knowledge by my teacher:
Life is made up of three things:
progression, regression, and maintenance.
I knew this was important information, so I kept it with me, and little by little I started making active efforts to "progress." I was not always successful, I often found myself regressing and making old mistakes or trying to remedy the damage done by those slides backwards, but I was always working towards better.
And I continue to always work towards better, towards progress.
I made some massive life changes that year, and I credit that bus ride to L.A. as the turning point for building the joy my life has become today. That impulsive round-trip ticket purchase, those nights watching my instructor pour his soul out onto a wooden stage night after night, going through each of those three phases in 90 minutes over and over again, and I knew he was right and I knew something had to give -- so I made it give.
We are all constantly shifting, constantly making and re-making, trying and failing and fixing and trying again, trying to push forward, make progress, be better. We are all "unfinished & perfect." There is no progress without the stumbles and falls. Like a song sings, "Sometimes broken things make for better building supplies."
Knowing that now, and having heard that when it mattered the most, meant so much and made such a difference. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I know this post is awfully text-y, but maybe someone somewhere needed to hear it too.