I have to admit it. It’s deeply embarrassing, but here goes nothing. **deep breath** I’m completely addicted to Smash.
Every tiny fiber of my Recovering Actress body loves it, from the audition process, to the songs, to Anjelica Huston’s everything. I can gush on and on about it ad nauseum (and I do mean nauseum) but there are plenty of 14 year old girls to do that for me.
What I wanted to say about it is something weirdly adult and fundamentally grounded that I’ve discovered about myself watching it: this is a story about living with passion. It sucks. It’s painful. It involves a huge amount of rejection and loss and heartbreak. Every day feels like the world is crashing down on your head and oh god why do I do this to myself?
But. You get to feel all those things. There’s that cliche Jack Kerouac quote, about how the “only people for me are the mad ones” who “burn, burn, burn,” and he’s probably not a great source of advice, being an alcoholic with an overdeveloped sense of ennui and all, but he’s got a point dammit.
Here’s the thing: just like a lot of other good children of my generation I did good in school, did what I loved, graduated, and realized that in order to move out of my parents’ house I would need a job. A good-paying job, not just part time at the local Starbucks, but something fo’ realz. So that’s exactly what I did, I went out and found me a good-paying career, moved into a nice apartment, and lived like a responsible adult. I even liked it. It was like playing a new game called AdultVille, and I was winning at it.
Eight years later, though, and it doesn’t feel like a fun game anymore, it feels like a trap. And money doesn’t seem like freedom now, it feels like responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of things about my life that these choices have given me. I got to go to Africa and Greece, I got to live in San Francisco and Brooklyn, I got to get married to an amazing man. I own a fainting couch and a laptop and a smartphone and I take all of those things for granted on the regular, and they all cost money. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten, so that I get to sit here and complain like a goddamned princess, and I would probably just curl up into the fetal position and let wild dogs eat me if I had to live in a third world country. Boo-fucking-hoo.
At the end of the day, though, it seems like if I have the gift of time and money and a first world lifestyle I should be doing something with it. Every day I do my work and get paid, but I never feel like the universe might tear apart at its seams or that I’m walking a tightrope to disaster, mostly because if disaster struck I wouldn’t care. Not even a little bit.
Because that’s the upside of all that rejection and sacrifice and world-ending: you get those sublime moments of joy. You get to feel goosebumps of excitement, and when you’re exhausted it’s because you’ve given your whole self over to something.
Look, I’m not saying pursuing your passion doesn’t have its boring moments. Its spectacularly, mind-numbingly disappointing moments. And Smash manages to show a bunch of part-time Broadway chorus dancers who live in fabulous apartments and don’t have any problem dancing perpetually in the background. Occasionally there’s a nod to Katherine McPhee working as a waitress, but it’s the kind of job where if she makes it big and leaves for three months there’s still a job waiting for her when she gets back. Hey. No problem. (It’s also the kind of waitressing job that somehow allows her to live comfortably in New York City with a large wardrobe and plenty of time for hanging out with her friends) So TV is far from realistic or perfect.
It’s still got me thinking though. Thinking about how good that felt, to be throwing yourself into something and letting yourself free-fall. To be risking your heart every day.
…Which brings me to this awful, terrible, deeply unfortunate conclusion: I need to live my life more according to Smash. God help me.