I worked at a Hallmark store for a bit and an older woman who worked there too used to talk about her “salad days.” I always found the expression a bit silly and antiquated but, as most things; its true value and meaning have only come about as I grow up. It’s come to mind lately as this last stretch of time has proved rather trying. There have been some tough life lessons slamming right into me at full force, in vivid color. And somehow I longed for the simplicity of a life less realized, a career less volatile.
The play I am beginning to write involves some research, mostly historical or folkloric in nature, so while I was in that mode I decided to look up that quaint expression. It turned out that “Salad Days” is from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra (1606) and means (well I knew this part) “The days of one’s youthful inexperience.”
My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then!
I suppose the expression floated around my head this week because I was reminded, via a specific scenario that I don’t need to go into in this format, that people can be cruel and selfish. I know, you’re saying ‘wake up Louise” but I honestly forget sometimes that people don’t put art first or truth first, they serve themselves. And sometimes that fierceness is justified and purposeful (helpful even) but often it leaves behind it a big mess. Okay, you know I wanted to write “it leaves behind a big pile of _______” but I’m striving for some kind of eloquence here even though this week brought out more cursing than I usual admit to using.
So instead of mourning the hurtful actions of others and moaning about my loss of naïveté, I have embraced a new approach. I am trying to grow from my previous melancholy post. Trying to actually find comfort and inspiration in being kicked in the teeth by life (metaphorically kicked, don’t worry Dr. Kincaid I still take care of them… please don’t call my parents). I am going to focus on the bad component of “Salad Days” to see the passage of time and the realizations that have occurred as a gift. Warped, I know. But it seems that we have modernized the original definition. Now the phrase seems to mean something much more nostalgic or fond, a gazing back on golden days of our youth. However, Cleopatra speaks of those times as a period of weakness. I get that, a time of being green, or under-ripe and untested. Of being not ready.
So I’m going to follow through with the ancient description. Okay, with that in mind I see that I could wistfully long for a time when things were simpler and calmer but, honestly, I don’t think I want to go back to that person, to that place. When I went back to the Midwest briefly after Graduate School overseas I realized that I had grown so much that I didn’t fit back into the space I left behind. I was a puzzle piece that somehow grew or expanded and I didn’t easily slide into the spot assigned for me. Like Alice when she grows so big her arms and legs are coming out of the house’s windows and doors. If I tried to recapture my childhood whimsy, I would have to give up what I’ve learned, give up where life has taken me so far.
But, as with anything, if you go too far in one direction you can lose it all. If I simply embrace Cleopatra’s reasoning, ignoring the modern analysis, then I run the risk of simplifying my experiences, boiling the past down to idyllic innocence and setting myself up for a future of playing offense lest I fall victim to others’ deceit. And if I only adopt the definition of my co-worker at Rod’s Hallmark, then I’m afraid that I will lose the ability to grow, to push forward, to want.
And isn’t it always our “Salad Days”? Aren’t we always learning, looking back on yesterday or last week or last year with the settled gaze of one who survived, one who came out the other side changed and stronger?! Maybe it’s time for a new definition. One that incorporates the original’s future focus on growth and strength as well as the modern version’s reflective view of the past. Because I‘d like to think that we can be both idealistic and watchful, both a warrior and a story teller. I just need to choose more wisely when to get up and fight and when to take a moment to think and remember. But I shouldn’t wait too long to decide, after all… a salad wilts and dies. It does not last forever. No matter how hard you try to keep it.
Ah… I feel as though I descend into a diatribe each week. Let’s see. News, yes good old fashioned news. I am helping out with two industry/backers readings of David Stallings’ Barrier Island in the coming weeks. I am excited to help out MTWorks and I believe in the play. I’m not saying it’s not incredible hard to only read stage directions but you have to see each opportunity as a chance to learn and you simply never know what might come of it. I’m also trying to push myself to get a first draft my new play up and running. Sometimes my self-imposed deadlines are productive and sometimes I ignore myself… it’s definitely the latter right now. I am also set to film another episode of the new web series Debuffed before the end of the year. It’s a character written for me but I’m not sure if her archetype is flattering, it’s definitely NOT autobiographical. I am also going to work with Robert Jason Clark soon. He’s an amazing screenwriter.
Okay, I feel better now that I wrote some tangible events down. I hope you are having a great Guy Fawkes day, please be careful if you burn anything.
See you next week,
Things I’m digging this week: Scheduling extra days off from work (I know!), Emotes!
Dream Role: Clare Abshire in The Time Traveler’s Wife (I know… don’t start)