Who doesn’t love a good to-do list? Crazy people, that’s who. Come on, those little open boxes getting ticked off one by one? Those little check marks filling spaces where there was only emptiness before, check marks that say “I’m accomplishing!” “I’m productive!” “I’m alive!” Really, is there anything more satisfying? Trust me, I’ve spent plenty of time searching the iPhone App store for the perfect To-Do List (enough time to complete an entire To-Do List, but that’s beside the point), and based on the array of applications available, I know I’m not the only one who gets her rocks off every time she ticks off: Check me. Yes! Scratch. Me. Out. Yessss! Oh god, that feels so good...
Excuse me. Having a moment.
Okay. I’m back. And I admit, maybe I’m a little obsessed. Maybe I’m a bit of an outlier in my intense love of the to-do list. I’ve used them for just about everything at one point or another. Of course I’ve made the standard lists for weekly necessities— like: pick up toilet paper and Tom’s toothpaste at Duane Reade, get Gluten-free Brown Rice Tortillas and Tempeh Fakin’ Bacon at the Astoria Fresh Start Market, buy a $4 bottle of Blue Fin Petite Sirah from Trader Joes. Scratch that. Buy 3 bottles.
But (here’s a potentially embarrassing admission), I also make Life Lists. Yep. To-Do Lists for my entire life. These lists look something like this (and by “like this” I mean these are direct quotes from lists I’ve made at some point or another): Read 12 new books in the next six months, get into The Old Globe MFA Graduate Acting Program, explore 20 New York sites this year (these can be parks, museums, libraries etc, preferably, but not necessarily cultural), perform in 3-4 plays in the next twelve months...
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But for the most part, these lists worked. For instance, the first year I moved to New York City, I wrote “See 24 shows” on my handy-dandy Life List, and I got soooo excited about ticking off that little check box that I saw every single play I possibly could. By the end of my first year, I had seen 57 plays. And my goodness was I proud of myself. I checked that box off and gave myself a big ol’ pat on the back. Because in a world of complications and uncertainties, this seemed like a very simple equation:
To-Do Box: CHECKED = Goal: ACHIEVED = Life: SUCCESS!
According to this formula, all you have to do is think about what you want, formulate it into a concise sentence, put it next to a small open box, give yourself a specific time frame to check off that small box and WHA-LA! Whatever you want, it’s yours!
But if you don’t check it off?
If you leave an unfinished, uncompleted, necessary action item unattended-- unchecked on that to-do list? And it just sits there? Staring blankly back at you. An empty space taunting you with things you didn’t do, or worse - couldn’t do. What then? What does that say? Because what kind of person doesn’t check off all the boxes on her list? What kind of person can’t manage to check off one measly stupid little sentence on a fucking list???
Not me, surely. I know what I want. I'm a hard working person. Therefore, it follows that not only am I perfectly capable of checking off those boxes, I also should get whatever my little heart desires. At least that’s what my well-meaning parents told me. And my teachers, and Oprah, The Secret, The Artist's Way, and every self-help book every written, and every single fucking inspirational ever movie made in the history of the entire world. Maybe not directly, maybe not in so many words. But it was implied. Know what you want, work hard, and you’ll get whatever you desire. So if my goal is, hypothetically, "to star on Broadway opposite Laurie Metcalf, Alan Rickman and a shirtless Eddie Redmayne in a beautiful new play written by Tom Stoppard, directed by Emma Rice, in a production that is completely and wildly successful -- not in a cheesy commercial way, but in a this-is-what-theater-should-be way, in a this-play-sends-electricity-through-my-head-my-heart-and-my-gut-until-I-am-utterly-transported-with-rapture way, and goes down in history as one of the most influential and memorable performances of the century” then, theoretically, assuming I wrote this goal down (or at least had it clear in my mind), and divided it into short and long term goals, then worked backwards creating individual, achievable steps then, conceivably, I’m up in there on a marquee in Times Square by the end of 2016.
And if that doesn't happen? If I don’t get what I want, what does that mean? That I set my goals too high? That I didn't try hard enough? That I'm lazy, or worthless or somehow undeserving? What if I did everything I knew how to do? Am I a failure? Should I aim lower next time? Aim for something I can feasibly achieve so I can hang on to that sweet little narrative in my mind? The narrative that says-- you can do whatever you set your mind to, you can check off every little box on your perfect little list...
What’s the fun in that? Where’s the challenge?
I want to terrify myself. I want to be brave to reach for the impossible, to ask for things that are laughably illogical or unreasonable, things that I may never achieve even if I live a hundred lifetimes. But if I really want that, and I truly mean it, I have to come to terms with the fact that, at the end of my life, there will inevitably be a box or two or twenty unchecked, a dozen goals unachieved, and countless attempts utterly unsuccessful. In short, I have to be brave enough to fail. In a sloppy, messy, miserable way.
So, does anyone have Eddie Redmayne's email?