7:30 AM till 4:30 PM I waited patiently, hoping to be seen at least for one of the three auditions I had put my name in for. See, because I’m not in the union (Actor’s Equity Association), I am not guaranteed an audition slot. Even though I may be there earlier than others, and have waited all day, an equity member can swoop in and take the space that could have been mine at any time.
Now, I understand the system, I do. Equity members have done their work for this title and privilege, putting the time and effort to get where they are now. It’s still hard and surprisingly exhausting waiting there all day to not be seen. As I sat there - basically motionless mixed with spurts of conversations with friends and acquaintances I ran into throughout the day - I was thinking about what I could be doing during this wait; I can only look over my music and lyrics for so long before I go insane and or psych myself out.
So what could I do?
I thought I could knit. I do know how, and that would be productive. But that even gets boring. There must be something else, something that would benefit my artist track and get me in the right mindset for my audition.
After this long day, I got back to my room and found on my bookshelf Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”. I was introduced to this book four summers ago by Carol, a friend and co-worker of mine. But let’s take a little farther trip back to the beginning of that summer...
I was introduced to this book was the summer after my freshman year at Middlebury. I had become a big time journaler after having been introduced to it by my first boyfriend during my second semester. I couldn’t stop journaling; every moment I had, I was writing. The words that fell on those pages became chances to get out what I was feeling, seeing where I had come from, where I was going, and understanding more about myself, my being.
This summer (2007) I had the wonderful opportunity to be a horseback-riding camp counselor at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches, a Christian Science camp in Buena Vista, Colorado. I had been there as a camper for three years, a Counselor in Training for one, and now would be a full-fledged counselor in my fifth year. I came to camp with excitement, confusion, and fear. Homosexuality is not accepted at the Christian Science camps. At that point of my life, I was still questioning. It was only just recently and after the counselor application process that I had fallen in love with Adam; everything was still so new and unclear for me.
Not knowing what to do, I continued on to A/U, having had signed the contract that denied homosexuality at camp. In return, I did everything to keep my recent past a secret from others. What was so hard for me though was that my “recent past” made me so happy, actually the happiest I had been in a really long time. However, I wasn’t ready to accept this happiness as my own just then. Not only could I be fired from an institution that I still felt so connected and committed to - a place that had provided many years of loving support through countless life-changing experiences - but I myself just didn’t know if I was actually gay or not. At that point in my life, I could still see the white picket fence, golden retriever, kids, and a wife. With this lingering connection to be nuclear, to have that All-American dream that I was already so beautifully en route to, I felt that I still belonged at camp, that I was not breaking my contract agreement.
Little did I know that it was my time at the Ranches I found myself and saw that whatever my sexual identity was, there was no negative correlation with my true spiritual identity. I saw that I was able to be gay and still have my faith no matter what other people told me. Through journaling my thoughts and experiences with my co-workers, campers, and horses, I found balance and happiness. This discovery allowed me to live an honest life and in return become positive thinker that I am today.
That summer I ended up talking with a few girls about my inner feelings; I had to talk with someone about them. They were all so supportive and were there to talk with me whenever. These young ladies kept my questioning a secret; it was almost as if they knew that camp was the perfect place to be during this time and in turn buttoned their mouths to make sure I stayed there to find myself. I don’t know how I would have been able to get through that summer without their support and love; it was their love, members of this institution that could easily have thrown me out, that showed me compassion, that I did still belong someway or another.
At the end of youth camp at A/U, there is a banquet for all of the staff members. This ceremony is filled with wonderful food, fun speeches of the summer’s happenings, and awards are given out for various accomplishments. They were explaining the Cap Andrew’s Award for Excellent Leadership in the Christian Science Way, and all of a sudden Deb (the camp director) was talking about me. Me. Me, the questioning guy, the one who may be gay. But what I realized at that moment, as I walked up to accept my award, was that my sexual identity was actually by the wayside throughout my entire eight weeks as a counselor; it was a part of me, but wasn’t entirely me. Never were my questioning thoughts at the forefront of thought when I was tacking hoses, working with the other counselors, or guiding my campers. My real being was what I expressed there in the mountains of Colorado, losing myself in the joy and harmony daily expressed. By leaving my fears and questions to the judgement of the good being lived in every moment of the camp day, I fully found myself and my own connection to the beauty that Christian Science is in my life.
I was handed my award, I turned around to see my girl-friends, the ones who I had trusted with my secrets, all crying. All of a sudden it hit me; this award was a wonderful marker, a beautiful moment showing me that I could be gay as well as a positive member of the Christian Science community, no matter what anyone else, any institution, any "rule" tells me.
I flew straight from Colorado to Maine to return as a camp counselor for Family Camp at Camp Newfound & Owatonna, another Christian Science camp that I had grown up in. This was my fourth year working there in the "Little Loons" and "Bear Cubs" childcare programs. Over my time there, I had watched infants grow into toddlers and toddlers into big kids. Each year I looked forward to being there, catching up with the perennial families and co-workers I had made such close friendships with over the years. Each year I saw the children in my program grow, learn new things, and overcome previous years’ challenges and fears. Truly a blessing experience.
It was at Family Camp that I met Carol. We were both counselors and had a mutual love for journaling. When I got to Maine, I would get up early every morning, go to the lodge porch with my coffee, look out over the still lake, and write. As the mist would rise off the glass water, I acknowledged the waking birds, follow the occasional Common Loon break the glass with its rippling bobs and greet campers as they slowly emerged from their cabins. It was one of the moments I looked forward to each and every day.
This year, Carol was holding a workshop during the rest hour right after lunch period. It was a journaling session based on this book called “The Artist’s Way”. Now, I only went a few times, but I loved those hours and enjoyed giving my journaling more direction. It brought me many news ideas of how to journal, how to learn more about myself. But those few hours was it, and I forgot about the book.
I couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else than the Christian Science camps as I was figuring out my own identity. But I knew my time with the Christian Science camps was going to be prematurely finished for me. When I finally accepted myself and came out, I wasn’t going back into secrecy for anything, even though that meant I wouldn’t be able to go back to camp. I have had conversations with people from both camps and unfortunately my time with them on staff is over. While I do my best to understand their ideas and reasons, it still hurts. Here is a place that I love and truly believe in; it was at these camps that I had the majority of the experiences which have made me person I am today. Even though there is this barrier now, I do still love camp. Some think that's crazy, but when you've had as many truly life-changing moments as I have at these camps, you understand why I can, and will never turn my back on the Christian Science camps. I do hope I can go back someday, that they will see I am still a worthy Christian Scientist, that I want to continue to learn, express, love, and that my loving men does not get in the way of that.
It was months after my last summer at camp that I came across “The Artist’s Way” at a Barnes & Noble. I immediately brought it to the cashier, and took it home. I started reading it, but set it back on my bookshelf for no apparent reason. It did end up here in New Jersey with me though, and I am so grateful it did. This book is all about releasing the natural creativity we all have within our natural being, something I am so intrigued by in connection with my theatrical dreams. I am looking forward to bringing this book with me to my auditions and filling my time with a new journey.
It’s funny... I started this blog in regards to talking about the introduction of the book itself, about what I found in those first pages. Then all of a sudden this memory, this story came out and I just started writing. So, take it for what you will. I truly believe all of our experiences make us the artist we are, no matter how amazing, hurtful, wonderful, confusing, small, or large they are in our life.
Here’s to my creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that made me who I am who I am today.