Fast Trains, Empty Houses, Hollow Hearts

It’s been a while. My apologies. I have a lot to say tonight.

I’ll start with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs: Stop this Train, by John Mayer.

No I’m not color blind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind but…
I just can’t sleep on this tonight
Stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly won’t someone stop this train

Don’t know how else to say it, don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t but honestly won’t someone stop this train

So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find away to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said help me understand
He said turn 68, you’ll renegotiate
Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we’ll never stop this train

See once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
’til you cry when you’re driving away in the dark.

Singing stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take this speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train

I was in Cleveland last weekend for the wedding of one of my best friends. I’ve been to several weddings in my life. Most of these weddings I’ve been a bridesmaid, a singer, and even the maid of honor once. I’m an expert at making sure the bride is calm, having fun, drunk (but not too drunk), and of course helping with the makeup touch-ups.

I’m an excellent bridesmaid. **brushes shoulders off**

I don’t know why this wedding affected me so much. Perhaps it was because Katie (the bride) is a friend I’ve known since I was six years old. Perhaps it was because the wedding was on Valentine’s Day (A day I usually attempt to avoid). Perhaps it was because the wedding was in Cleveland (my home city).

This wedding made me have ALL the feels.

It was probably one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. Everything was so seamless, and fun. No hiccups, no stress, no crises. It was also one of the times I watched the bride walk down the aisle and never had any second thoughts as to whether these two were a perfect match. I danced my ass off, drank my ass off, and sang my ass off (at the ceremony).

Side note: I’m an excellent choice as a singer if you want to have the entire congregation in tears. I will give you all of that emotion. 😉 And I also don’t think I’ve ever been at a wedding where I didn’t sing. (I’ve had a LOT of practice).

So where is this post going?

Well, this wedding (as amazing as it was, and as much fun as I had) made me get a taste bit introspective. I hate to use the cliche “always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” but it’s a bit more than that. I almost want to say a better quote would be, “always a girl, never a woman.”

I’m 27.

know that’s not old… but I’ve been living in this perpetual dream world in New York where I still feel like that little 23 year old girl who lost her mom and was trying to finish school so she could pursue her dreams.

The only problem is, I’m not that girl anymore.

I should be a woman.

My shit should be together.

EVERYONE at this wedding, with the exception of me and a few others, were either married, engaged or seriously dating. Typically, I try to be proud of my single-ness and even try to brush it off that I’m young and wild and free and don’t need anyone to tell me what to do or who to be.

But I’m not a 23 year old girl anymore.

I’m a 27 year old woman.

I’m not sure where these middle 20-something years went. Those 23-27 years seem to be the formative years; the years where the majority of people find their careers, become financially independent, and find their significant others. Some find it quicker. Some find it slower. Some have three out of three, two out of three, or even one out of three. I, abashedly, have none.

I never thought I would be in the “slower” category. I worked my entire life to be ahead. Above 4.0 in high school. Involved in everything in high school and college. Scholarships to college. Above 3.5 in both schools I attended. Fuck, I never even got a C as a grade in any class I’ve ever taken… ever. I did and said all the right things. I did that so much, that when I finally got into my 20s I began to become the person I really am, instead of who everyone wanted me to be.

But now I feel as though the train is going at full speed, and I’m running next to it, attempting to jump in, as all my friends are in the car holding out their hands, rolling their eyes that I can’t keep up.

I’m slipping behind.

I try to be cavalier and brush it off like I don’t care. Someone over the weekend told me that he saw right through my tough exterior. I think I attempt to be unaffected by using the excuse that I’m still trying to “figure it all out,” when in all actuality, I should have fucking figured out at least something by now.

Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Wah, wah, wah Shannon! You live in New York and are a performer and have a glamorous life.”

Yes. My life is good. I would even say that I have a great life. But my life is not full. Right now I am self-aware enough to realize that my life is better than most, but I don’t feel like I’m fulfilled.

I’m exhausted half the time from auditioning, and pulling my hair out trying to keep up with credit card bills, student loans, and expenses even with the help I receive. I’m working on productions that sometimes have me outside in 20 degree weather for hours at a time, for not so much pay. I often have to file unemployment when I can’t find enough work, or have to forgo work for auditions that take up days at a time. I go to doctors who take medicaid, which often means limited options and long waiting times. I have friends, but often find myself lonely amongst millions of people. I book gigs, only to have 20 people who said they were coming cancel at the last minute. I pay for rehearsal space out of pocket, only to make no money when I play my original music, and have band members who need to get paid. I put my life on hold for American Idol, only to get kicked off in Hollywood week with zero airtime or exposure. I haven’t been on a date that hasn’t been a “drink thing,” in almost three years. I don’t even know what it’s like to be courted by a man who hasn’t turned out to be a complete sociopath. My dating pool consists of the creeps at the sports bar below my apartment, the finance douchebags that hang out in the Lower East Side on weekends, or a slew of crazies on Ok Cupid, who lack most basic human social skills.

Meanwhile my body is only aging. I’m only getting older. My debt is only getting deeper. My professional resume outside of performance is only getting more antiquated. I’m only falling further behind the train that most of my friends and family have been on for years.

My flight on Sunday was delayed due to weather conditions across the country, and I found myself staying the night in my childhood home alone. (My dad is on vacation.) As I walked around the house that I’ve called home since about 1998/1998, I began to cry. I cried an ugly, awful cry. It scared me a bit. Especially since it often takes a lot to make me really cry anymore.

Strangely enough, I’ve been doing a monologue lately for auditions from the play, The Little Dog Laughed. In the monologue, my character goes to her childhood home and realizes her room has been turned into a craft room by her mother, and she says, “As the doll heads stare at me. I realize. My childhood is SO motherfucking over!”

That was how I felt that night. The house is more or less the same as when I lived there, except without a lot of my mother’s things. But it just felt… empty.

And that made me feel empty.

Because like Mr. Mayer says, “One generation’s length away from fighting life out on my own.”

When the fuck did that happen???

When did I grow up?

How did I not recognize it?

Am I that spoiled? Am I a little Midwestern girl who has taken advantage of all the amazing things she has been given, and let herself fall behind? Should I be working harder? Shouldn’t I already be more established? Should I feel like a grown up yet? When did I sign up for this life?

I thought to myself while I was looking at my high school memorabilia that lined my walls, “What did you think your life would be like at 27 when you were 17?”

I honestly can’t remember the answer to that question. Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I never really knew what I wanted. I had a brother who already had that figured out. I was the child who had the way paved for her. The wild child. The free spirit, flower child, who never wore shoes (or shirts) until she was at least 8 years old. The girl with the thick glasses who never got anywhere by way of her looks, but with her humor and personality. The girl who charmed teachers, and made people think she was smarter than she was by being a hard worker. The girl who covered up her true self to be “quieter,” “less eccentric,” “less emotional.” The girl who continued to give her whole heart to people, until she felt like she had no more of her heart to give.

So what do we do when we realize our childhood is over? When we can’t be that little flower child anymore? When the girl realizes she needs to put on her running shoes and catch up to the car where her friends/family/colleagues are waiting?

I do not have the answer to any of these questions.

All I know is that I cannot stop that train. I cannot fill up that empty house. I will never again eat dinner in that kitchen with my mom, dad, and my brother together ever again. I cannot hug my teddy bear to make me feel better. I can no longer say that I’ve got “all the time in the world.”

But I can work harder. I can hustle another day. I can get fall hard on both my knees and get up. I can try to love again. I can attempt to grow up.

I can try to fill my hollow heart.

I can try.

I can.

I will.

(Hopefully.)

“So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young.”

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