Are you in or are you out?
Most definitive moments of my life have happened from answering that question. The proverbial line had been drawn in the sand. The sharp edge of rock bottom had been hit. The last chance had been startlingly offered.
We are in or we are out.
And we can act like it’s a one time choice, but live any number of years with even partial awareness and you’ll recognize that this question repeats and repeats and repeats.
When I sit down to write, I begin. I delete. I begin again. I delete. And after a few minutes, I stop deleting and just let the words come as they will. That moment is when I say: I’m in. I’m in for the terrible ideas, the half-assed truths, the sentences that end with a preposition. I’m in because I know the longer I stay in the closer I come to flow. The longer I stay in the closer I come to finding my voice. But each time I type the period and begin the next sentence - I don’t know what I might write, I don’t know if it’ll be any good, all I do is choose, just for one more sentence, to stay in it.
A few months ago, I decided to be an actress again. No, I never “left the business” because that would be answering the question. I was straddling that limbo tightrope with circus-like skills, never really committing to The Life and never really abandoning The Dream. And then one day, I felt the question settle into my heart at the unmistakable point of no return and I said: I’m in.
When I was younger I believed integrity meant you made a choice and you stuck to it without ever questioning it again. But I think integrity has to do with honoring your truth - a subtle, shiftable, malleable truth that ebbs and flows with the inertia of your life. If you don't question the choices you've made, you've fallen asleep at the wheel. We choose, life changes us, we choose again. Truth with a capital T is painfully fluid, annoyingly un-static, temperamentally pliable. (Anyone who has argued politics knows that.) Now I believe that if you can hook your heart to your Truth, and allow yourself to be consumed by it, and then answer the question, choosing again for the 122nd time, that is integrity.
Integrity is being honest with yourself. Not shying away from what you need to face to be really, superbly present. Showing up again. Going to see your therapist one more time. Choosing your partner every morning. Following through on your dreams. It’s sitting down to write. It’s getting up to sing. It’s exposing yourself. Choosing yourself. Using your own alienation and loneliness to connect with others instead of retreating inside your self-made fortress. It’s choosing risk. It’s choosing openness. It’s choosing light. It’s choosing contentment. It’s choosing growth. It’s knowing you don’t know. It’s feeling what you feel. It’s understanding that complacency doesn’t mean life stops moving, but that life wrenches forward whether you're awake to it or not and what a shame it'll be if you miss it. It’s allowing yourself to get just unstuck enough so that you can answer the question one more time.
My second week of college I found myself in rehearsals with an absurdly talented and emotionally intelligent director. He shared this quote by Maya Angelou with us: “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, and always, one more time.”
Life lurches forward with momentum we can’t resist. Without a doubt, the crossroads will converge, the line will get drawn, the edge will be finally met, and you will be left with one question. Meet it, hear it, honor it, one more time, and always, one more time:
Are you in or are you out?