Walking to dinner at a friend’s house the other night, I came to the realization that New York City is full of a lot of umbrella judgement. Unless it’s raining so hard that Noah’s Arc sent you a text telling you they’re three minutes away, DO NOT open your umbrella. It is like everyone else made a secret pact to muscle through the downpour and give sideways looks to anyone (me) who dares to show up to a social event not looking like they’d just jumped in a pool.
Look New York, life here is already challenging enough. I carry my laundry on my back every couple weeks hoping I don’t drop a sock (or, God forbid, an actual piece of clothing) on the sidewalk because once it’s down, I can never touch it again. So lighten up about the umbrella judgment please.
What a tangent but no, this post isn’t actually about umbrellas or sometimes judgmental New Yorkers or laundry. It is about (believe it or not) the life lessons I’m taking away from Freestyle Love Supreme and having an out-of-the-blue, one-for-the-books, totally-magic New York City night.
Before Into the Heights and way before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda created this show called Freestyle Love Supreme, a freestyle rap improv show where no two nights were alike. In each show, freestylers and musicians weave intricate rap stories together based on the audience’s input. It just came back to Broadway for a limited time and there is not one single person I can imagine that wouldn’t enjoy watching it. Do yourself a favor and see it if you can.
Despite loving musicals and living in New York, going to Broadway is still something I rarely make time for. Maybe because it’s a “just because” fun event and therefore is hard for me to prioritize over the rhythm of my routine and responsibilities? Yes, that sounds about right. That night before Freestyle, I was so tired and stressed while heading uptown to meet my friend Grace for dinner. It felt like I was sacrificing the time I should be tackling my pre-California trip to do list to just sit and relax.
As you can probably guess, the show was amazing. I felt so fulfilled seeing my sweet friend Grace, who there is never enough time to truly talk about everything we want to together (isn’t that the way with good friends?), and walked home feeling electric from having this out-of-the-blue, much-needed, I-almost-missed-it New York City night. It was a night where I came home and immediately wanted (needed!) to write. Below is where my brain wandered and the five things I’m be taking away from Freestyle and infusing into my own daily life. (Spoiler: It does not involve rapping everyday.)
My 5 Freestyle Love Supreme Life Lessons
The power of community storytelling.
I love to do a million things. That’s just my personality. While this brings me a lot of happiness, it can also make me very scattered and paralyzed on what singular thing to pursue in the moment. Blog over freelance pitches? Freelance submissions over dance class? Day spent hiking over researching where to take a Spanish class? There often feels a societal pressure to define your niche and excel in it; that having a singular passion/mission will propel you forward both in life and career. But what about us wanting to do it all?
In working on the faintest of five year plan outlines, I’ve been brainstorming what is at the core of the majority of things I’m really passionate. The verdict is: Community storytelling in all of its forms and facets. Freestyle Love Supreme makes the audience the most vital participant in the show and as an audience, it’s engaging and exciting and instills a sense of belonging. I’m not quite sure exactly what the next five years will hold (besides entering my time of “thirty, flirty, and thriving” she says as she gives umbrella judgers the middle finger) but I do know it will be inspired by this mantra I’ve created:
I want to be a creative and innovative storyteller who works with a diversity of people to make a positive, lasting impact.
Be spontaneous within your own structure.
Freestyle Love Supreme thrives because of its spontaneity and not being able to anticipate the audience’s word submissions and stories. But it is set within the faintest of structures to give the show shape and to get us from A to B in 80 minutes. While I won’t be taking up freestyle anytime soon — because it’s a craft made for the God’s and I’m heading more in the direction of oil painting with my pack of stray dogs in the future — the show left me feeling the desire to shake it up. To plan less of a structure and allow my days — while having the things that I need get me from A to B — be more open to spontaneity and malleable to the interests, feelings, and people in that moment.
The nights that feel the hardest to get away from life’s responsibilities are the times when you need to the most.
I both love my routine and, when the responsibilities of life all feel urgent at once, resent it. At the moments when it feels the hardest to break away — to remind myself this deadline is self-imposed, that the only person supplying the real pressure is me — it’s the most important to say yes to the things that are “just because.” Just because they’re fun, just because they bring joy, just because they exist and they made your ears perked up a little bit — say yes.
Not all magic can or needs to be captured.
One of the unique things about the show is that you have to lock your phone in a little security bag that is unlocked only after the show. I actually wanted to ask them if I could keep it to help wrangle in my phone habits — a goal I’ve been trying to tackle the later part of this year. When Lin-Manuel Miranda ran on stage, the audience went wild. It was noticeable that there were no screens emerging to capture this moment. Without our phones, it made everyone more present, drinking it all in while we could, and also more connected to this collective experience. Not all amazing moments need to be captured for the world to see, some moments are just for you to capture here *points to heart* and here *points to brain.*
Things of magic and expertise don’t have to last forever.
Sometimes when something is so beautiful, working so perfectly, or at the top of it’s game, it’s mindbendingly difficult for me to understand why it wouldn’t last forever. But there is something almost more special in catching that flash of lightening. I’m sure the show would love to stay forever and become the freestyle Phantom of the Opera, but for now, in it’s quick love affair with Broadway, Freestyle has reminded me that even the best of things don’t need to last forever. Things that serve me today might not serve me in a month, a year, five years. The key is learning to be grateful for the time that they do and recognize when that’s no longer the case. The magic is in the moment and appreciating it for all it’s worth.