January 31st, 2013

When you haven’t ridden a bike for a while, you begin questioning just how well you’ll remember. There’s no demo version to ease your mind. Standing there, holding the frame upright in front of you, there’s only one thing you can do: get on and hope your body either remembers or figures out what it’s doing. It’s a peculiar feeling, given that we hold as sacred truth the notion that no one forgets how to ride a bike, ever (doubly true for elephants, according to the same pool of knowledge), and yet, I’ve felt it.

I salvaged my Trek from the rafters of my parents’ woodshed before leaving home after the holidays and brought it with me to Abingdon. Walking it up the red steps and into my new room, I thought: am I going to wobble off of this thing the first time I get back on? I felt the uncertainty creep into my legs as tension, stiffening my calves and thighs. Uncertainty. I would have challenged my concerns right then, but the tires were flat, a spoke had gone missing, the gear cables were rusted and the back brakes didn’t catch quite right. It wasn’t ready for a passenger.

I’m waiting on a call from the bike shop. Should only be about $100.

As of yesterday, we’re two weeks into rehearsals for Walking Across Egypt and one week into Little Women. A fortnight ago, I climbed the once familiar, peach-colored steps of Barter’s production building. My calves tensed. More people were there than usual—designers, marketing department, photographer, playwright. The tension spread to my thighs, chilled by the folding chair. I held the script upright in front of me. “I won’t say too much before we get started.” The director. “Let’s just dive in.”

Truth is, when it’s been a few years, you can expect a wobble here or there, but as long as your body and mind are focusing on the peddles and the shape of the road beneath you at each given moment, you’ll keep on rolling. Where you go—whether you circle the block several times or seek out unpaved roads that you’ve yet to explore—is up to you. It’s not always easy turning into those unknown lanes (you may never work your way back, knowing how way leads on to way), but there’s a lot you stand to learn about your world and your place within it each time you take the risk.

I am passionate today about a lot of things that I didn’t even know existed ten, five or three years ago; last year, even. None of these things are tangible—hands aren’t made to hold ideas. They’re fished from a certain stream of knowledge in which others before me have been wading for thousands of years. Observations about human existence. Our needs. That which binds us and that which rends us. These things are mapped out in story: plays, paintings, tapestries, poems, sculptures—all signposts along the lesser known roads in life.

I don’t know where I would be today if I had let uncertainty rule the last ten years of my life; if I had not gotten on that bike; if I had not braved certain uncharted roads; however, given the great trails I’ve seen and the vast amount I’ve learned from them, I wouldn’t desire any other path for my past. The two people I have to thank the most for this are my mother and father for the freedom they granted me when I decided to take my first big turn into the unknown by moving out when I was 16 years old and embarking on my dream of being an actor—the first of many wild roads. Now I chart the unknown for a living (as an actor, among other titles), leaving signposts along the way.

Some explorers map the oceans
and others outer space.
I’m mapping the most infinite
of all: the human race.