And before long I find that catching up on 'me time' means printing out and poring over drawings for a proposed water catchment structure project for remote communities in Vanuatu, in particular response to the devastating effects of Cyclone Pam in March 2015.
(If you're just tuning in, I was a Peace Corps Vanuatu volunteer from 2007-2009. I write more about it in previous entries.)
And as I spread each of the seven pages out across my desk, rotating each drawing to try to make sense of the dimensions, attempting to interpret the excited markings of an ambitious crew of New Zealand Rotarians, I am struck by the quiet...circularity of it all. "Eight years," I think to myself. "It's been eight years and three countries and here I am still poring over hand-scrawled drawings from those guys in New Zealand trying to solve The Problem of Water."
And I remember one of my favorite lines from the fascinating documentary Gideon's Army, spoken by public defender Travis Williams:
"Either this is your cause, or it ain't."
Would I have a wildly successful acting career by now? My own ascerbic 22-minute sitcom? A thriving, critically-acclaimed production company building a cutting-edge platform to nurture women and underrepresented voices? Would my office be, like, actually my office, where I did Fancy Important Person things and where, on Sunday nights, I would go to write more than once in a very, very blue moon? Would I have my own line of eco-friendly, Ayurvedically-inspired upscale aromatherapeutic cosmetics? Cause, like that was always my plan for a side project after I had mastered the whole wildly successful actor-cum-writer/producer/showrunner project.
Would I have a tightly-knit group of fabulous friends akin to the cast of How I Met Your Mother and a regular bar we'd meet up at every night? Would I have a life that had enough time in it to hang out with friends in bars? (But I hate bars, right? I always did. Even when I had free time.) But would I have a nice apartment in a neighborhood people have heard of on a train line my friends would actually go to on a weekend? Would I have money? Like actual, real money in a bank account that I could spend on whatever I wanted like...um, like stuff that people with money buy, whatever that is?
Or would my life be, just, like, more or less the same as it is now? Same exhausting day job, same hustle, same race against the clock to 'make it' as a woman on screen before crow's feet render me irrelevant, same unrelenting sense of guilt for not making more of myself, same inexplicable wistfulness. And would I find myself wondering each day, "Who would I have been if I had followed my heart to the Peace Corps all those years ago?"
And it occurs to me tonight, flipping through these drawings, is that maybe life is so much simpler than I ever imagined. Maybe you don't get to choose your destiny. Maybe it's just yours. All of it at once. The coconut trees and the black sand, the volcano and the hurricane and the falling roof and the F train and the flourescent lights and messing up your eyeliner just before an audition, the Not In My Name pins from the Hyde Park protest and that time you almost auditioned for a strip club in Blackpool for an investigative theatre piece. The cow that was slaughtered in your yard while you curled up in a ball inside, the homeless guy that threw your Larabar out of the subway car onto the tracks in a rage, the hot-and-cold spring in Rotorua and the late-night boat in the Bahamas that first journey to the ashram. The thigh-high snow in the Laurentians and that ghost you both swore you 'felt' in that warehouse in Florida. Maybe all of it belongs to you - in exactly the order that it should.
Maybe you don't get to choose your destiny. Or maybe you choose it once and then you can't unchoose it, once you've found it. Not for a long, long time. And it's not about being this kind of person or that kind of person. Because if you're meant to look at drawings on a Sunday night then that's what you need to do and tonight's the night you need to do it, and it doesn't matter how many years or lifetimes or oceans you've crossed since you began it.
And finding your way through it all...
"Either's it's your cause, or it ain't."
Maybe it's as simple as that.