When I was 20, I attended a challenging summer dance intensive at Duke University. At the end of it, I felt superior and invincible. Conquering the dance intensive made me believe I could conquer the world!
Boosted by my seeming omnipotence, I embarked on a three-day solo camping trip on an island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There, I enjoyed three blissful days of exploring the shores, rescuing stranded jellyfish, marveling at the lightning strikes on the ocean during a squall, and chasing around wild horses in many failed attempts to take their picture.
On the last day of the trip, hours before the ferry was to pick me up on the beach, I decided to ride a rope swing that I had seen on one of my many walks by the water. It would be my celebratory swing before returning to California.
The rope was hanging off the branch of a tree up an embankment. The water had receded at low tide, leaving only sand underneath the rope. I knew that I’d have to swing out far in order to hit the water. But no problem! I just completed a six-week dance intensive and camped alone for three days! I could do anything!
So up the six-foot embankment I scrambled, stood on the edge, staring at the rope, five feet in front of me and the water beyond. Bending my knees and swinging my arms back and forth and back and forth, I readied myself for the jump to grab the rope. And then I leapt.
UNGH! OOOF! HUUUUNHHH! I landed flat on my back on the sand. The rope swing dangling a foot above me. Untouched.
I lay there stunned, the wind knocked out of me. How could I have missed it? I have conquered the unconquerable this summer! I have spirit and maturity and courage, and… and… and…hubris. Oh shit. Hubris.
Laughing at myself (once I had caught my breath) I stood up, grabbed the rope and held onto it as I climbed up the embankment. With rope in hand, I let out a big hoot and swung out over the strip of land, and into the luscious warm water beyond the sand.
Here’s hoping 2020 brings you big adventures, along with the hubris and forethought to hit the water.
by Clay Robeson October 1, 2020
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