The best advice I've ever received came from Stephen Sondheim. Actually, Sondheim didn't deliver it personally. Rather, someone suggested that I pick up a copy of Sondheim's 1984 triumph, Sunday in the Park with George.
Sunday in the Park with George, like all of Sondheim's work, is deep and complicated. If you're looking for something light and uplifting, a Sondheim musical probably isn't for you. Sunday in the Park tells a fictionalized story of Georges Seurat, the French pointillist. Specifically, it tells a fictionalized story of his life as he set out to paint Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Portions of the play take place within the painting itself.
Act two moves the action ahead 100 years to the year 1984. Georges Seurat's great-grandson, George, is also an artist who shares the tortured soul of his famous ancestor. In act two comes the song "Move on." Here's a recording from a London Concert last year. The singers are Daniel Evans and Jenna Russel who starred in a revival of the play in London in 2005 and then again on Broadway in 2008.
The best advice I've ever been given is in that song. Stop worrying where you're going, move on. Let me repeat that. Stop worrying where you're going, move on.
When I first heard that song, I was a neurotic 31-year-old who spent more time second guessing himself than he did being productive or carving out some kind of happiness. I was unhappy and I couldn't figure out why. The first time I heard that lyric it hit me like a Mack truck that I wasn't happy because I wasn't letting myself be.
I was so afraid to make the wrong move that I ended up not going anywhere. So I sat and wrote down all of the "bad" things in my life. I used to blame that stuff for my unease, but as I wrote I started to see that the common thread in all of those situations was me. Once I had that aha moment there was no going back.
I'm hardly perfect and I backslide all the time, just like everybody else. But thanks to a song in a play most people have never heard of, I see my life differently than I did when I was that neurotic 31-year-old. I am a happy man and I got that way because I decided to be a happy man.
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