Before I left New York a few weeks ago, my cousin Nicholas performed with some of his classmates at the Bitter End, a West Village music venue. Nick goes to a performing arts high school, and some of the upperclasskids got the chance to tread the boards for family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. How often do you get the chance to watch teenagers sing their hearts out? I highly recommend it– watching kids perform is good for the soul, I think it shares restorative properties with kale and daily exercise. What I found so moving about the Bitter End performers (and believe me, I was moved– I cried into my vodka cranberry each time someone hit the chorus or craned to find the right note. My cousin Kyana teared up along with me, and we agreed that if we ever have children they won’t allow us to attend any graduations, no performances or school recitals, no occasions that might push us to tears. At the rate I’m going, an elementary school bake sale could make me nostalgic and embarrassingly weepy) was their absolute commitment, that life force that young people have that makes their art so clean and expressive and pure.
I love kids doing art. Anything– I love watching them draw, play make-believe, make up dances, paint, take pictures, sing songs, act in plays. When we’re young, that wall between our conscious and unconscious brain hasn’t yet calcified, I think there’s still a freedom to roam and a willingness to explore that doesn’t feel daunting. Youth allows our creativity to spool out away from us and live. At camp I would sometimes direct campers in our musical production, and there’s nothing that gives me goosebumps more than young voices tripping through a chorus together. Those kids. Their eyes were wide, their arms hung by their sides, their mouths wobbled, there was a glint just behind their eyes that told you they were communicating something crucial and necessary.
How lovely might life be if we could live that way as we grow older? I will pursue acting until the day I die, but often I feel far removed from my basic burn and need for it. I long for that eleven year old version of myself, the one who could live with all of her energy and seize moments on stage, the one who would have been up there singing Lady Gaga songs and show tunes with Nick and his classmates, unafraid of how she sounded as she hopped from one leg to the other, sticking her chin in the air, daring life to scare her out of saying all that she needs to say.