The Many Passions (and Confusions) of Lisa

I sat in the bookstore coffee shop, green tea latte at my side, and prepped for the course I am teaching at a nearby university in Theatre for Young Audiences.

A course in my actual field, what a luxury.

Suddenly, as I read the chapters from the book selected for this course (which I went along with as I wasn’t sure what text to use) I found my chest constricting, and a tense feeling in my shoulders. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and wanted to scream or cry despite being in a very public place.

A panic attack settling into my system. A moment for me step back and reflect on what I was feeling and why.

Deep breaths and listen to the silence.

I am a really good teacher. I challenge my students, I make learning fun, I set high expectations, and at the same time I work very hard to help all my students find a way to succeed.

But I’ve lost the joy of teaching. It was sucked out of me because of too much bureaucratic bull#$%* and because of a system that lets the priorities of a powerful few become more important than the needs of the students. I lost the desire from having too many students who plagiarized, or too many who expected–no demanded–to be handed grades rather than to earn grades. I lost the passion by having to fight too hard to even teach what I teach best, or create what I create best, against people who were so caught up in protecting their territory that they didn’t want new ideas, new talent, or anyone who might challenge the status quo.

Yet, I still love teaching when I have a classroom full of students who are open to exploring and seeing the power of learning, no matter what the subject. And I still love directing theatre when it is about a process of creation and exploration rather than trying to become a star and make lots of money. And I still love writing, even if I don’t know where it is heading.

This class (in the one meeting we had so far) seems to be full of students who really want to be there. Well, except for the one student who has already texted me with questions like “where do I find . . .?” “Do I type it into Google?” “How do I look it up?”  “Can I find it at Barnes & Noble?” Questions that I expect people of this generation, raised on technology, to know how to answer. They have more computer skills than I do, or at least they should.

So why did my throat constrict? Why did the panic set in?

I was reading about things I feel passionately about: like the importance of including arts education into the system; or the excellent tool that theatre  is to teach all kinds of skills and educational lessons and reach different types of people; or the need in any culture for theatre and performance and arts programming that reach all levels of society. I didn’t agree with every statement in the book, but still it is a book about my passions.

So why do I feel like crying?

The answer lies in my experience in Slovakia, particularly the time with the Roma. The answer lies in my current struggle with words and search for focus and simplicity. The answer lies in the multiple incarnations of Lisa, and in my inability to figure out how to market myself so that I am DOING rather than only teaching others how to do.

Not that teaching is a bad thing, but if I am not practicing what I preach I feel like an imposter. The answer lies in my imposter syndrome.

The answer lies in the fact that I have lots and lots of passions and projects, but without a deadline, without a “boss”, without a guarantee of a paycheck or some kind of acknowledgment from an outside source I can’t seem to accomplish them. The answer lies in the fact that I don’t have enough self-esteem to do things because I want to, I simply look too much for validation from outside when I know that I should be able to find satisfaction in myself and my projects, and in the joy of sharing what I love.

I am constantly saying that the process is as important (if not more important) than the product, that the journey is the reward. But when it comes to my own life, I can’t get past the block of feeling like I failed somewhere along the way.

This has got to stop!

I look in the mirror and I do not see what other people see.

I look at my list of accomplishments and I do not see what other people see!

I thought that I had finally gotten over this in Slovakia. As a matter of fact, I even wrote this:


Am I only able to find peace and purpose when I am away from my normal environment? Am I only able to see myself when someone else leads the way?

Somehow I must find a way to merge my passions with my abilities, and to become my own support “boss”–the person who gives herself deadlines and achieves every dream with or without validation from others.

My journey began in Slovakia, but now I have to face the painful stuff and move through it. The answers do not lie in an outside source.

The answers lie inside of me.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bornstoryteller
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:29:52

    It’s as you stated at the end: it is taking responsibility for ourselves, owning up to what we do well, setting realistic goals, setting dream goals to follow those…and hunkering down to real work and not letting our doubts and fears get in the way.

    I wish you luck. Sucks to be in this spot. I know.


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:37:10

    This is tough. I don’t know how one gets to that place of being internally directed, of having what a therapist would call an “internal locus of control.” I struggle with this every day. Hang in there, my friend!


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:39:39

      I honestly don’t know if I will ever be fully internally directed, but if I kick myself in the butt and reach out to a few trusted souls (ahem, like you) perhaps I can build that circular support system which can help motivate myself and others. I just have to stop talking and start doing.


  3. Dana
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:02:16

    Breathing is a good first step. Trusting is a good second step. Reaching out to supportive others (like you’ve done here) is a great third step. We can’t move forward *for* you Lisa, but we can be here to cheer you on as you navigate this tricky spot. Best of luck and lots of hugs.


  4. Barbarann Ayars
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 16:08:48

    You finally get to the answer in your own last line. There is no one to satisfy but yourself. Not the world at large. Not your family. not any “boss” beyond Lisa. We come here and leave here alone within ourselves. You are connected to the universe it is true. But in the end, it is Lisa in the mirror, in the work, in your future. We should come with a tag on our big toe, a message for ourselves. It would say, “this is a gift called YOUR LIFE.” find what you want. Waste it all if you like. Give it away if that is your heart’s desire. There is no right or wrong. Imprint yourself. Then go be Lisa. No judgement. No predetermination by anyone, however they try.The scary thing is only that it is solely up to you. Your limitation can be the fallibility of the world. But only if you permit it. Stand in front of that mirror until you see what we see. Give yourself permission to be who you DO know you are. You know. That is why you keep trying.


  5. Andra Watkins
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 17:21:30

    Lisa, you are in that place right before you start to make something happen, that cliff right before you jump. It’s a scary place, but you will take charge of the leap. I know it. Good luck.


  6. Victoria-writes
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 07:20:50

    Oh wow Lisa. I wish I could help. I’m glad you let it out, it helps just write it down. The answers will come, i know it!


  7. Sandi Ormsby
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:41:12

    Lisa, I truly hope you can find contentment and fulfillment. I’m sure you are a wonderful teacher. As for the other, I’m not sure what you are pursuing…to be a published author, get paid to blog doing what?, something with theater? Maybe you can have a separate blog geared toward that subject. (Like how some blogs are about published writers crtiquing other work and they offer tips for writers?) Perhaps you can talk about stage/lighting and what happens to produce a show…maybe reveiw and talk about Broadway, off Broadway and local theater waht went into bringing the show on- the behind the scenes? Perhaps report live from the backstage of the local theater? Get stage/press passes? Take photos? (I think the video thing is called a vlog?) I’d be interested to see what you would report and your opinion on things.

    Whatever it is, I hope you find peace soon. 🙂

    Lake Forest, CA


  8. thepetalpusher
    Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:58:05

    I had gone through these feelings years ago–when I was probably around your age. Once I was finally gainfully employed, it gave me a clearer focus on which direction I wanted my life to go. Once I went through that, I went through the “process” of getting my wish list/priorities in order. Peace to you, Lisa


  9. Rose
    Jul 30, 2012 @ 11:54:50

    Lisa, thanks for writing this! It really articulates that exhausting, sometimes destructive thought pattern. I especially identify with the struggle for sustained internal self-worth – I am addicted to external validation. What strikes me in this post is that we sometimes need a few kicks to get out of a mind space for the long term. Sometimes a thought pattern has to change, then slip away again a few times. Hopefully, at some point, the change becomes the new norm.

    Somebody told me the other day, “you’ll know it when you see it”. I hope it’s true for you! (Sorry to be so late to the party).


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jul 30, 2012 @ 14:55:29

      No apologies necessary Rose. Your comments forced me to look back on my words, which is always a healthy reminder. I still struggle with these issues, but I can see how far I’ve come and how far I still need to go. I too hope I’ll “know it when I see it” but for now I am still looking.


  10. Trackback: What I’ve Learned by Writing and Reading « Woman Wielding Words

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