i’ve never been alive this long before by Sam Johns

Black Forest Inn Cottage

Friday August 7, 2015

Response by Erin Search-Wells


What should one do with one’s life? What do we owe the world and what are we allowed to take from it? How does a person have a job and be an artist and have a child and be in love?

First it was a show. There was unison, repeated, elbow-step-turn choreography. There was a piano. There were improvisations with time-based parameters. There were lists, competitions, microphones, props, and DIY puffy pink scenery.

Then it was a birthday party. The people in the room were friends: audience, panelists- everybody seemed to know this “Sam.” There was cake and a big surprise present. It was starting to appear as if the answer to her question was quite simple. She should keep on doing exactly as she is currently doing. What is she currently doing? Performance events like this one.

And then suddenly it was theater. I especially enjoyed watching it dawn on the panel’s faces, from inside the show, that this had become a transformative experience. How did it happen? You see, people kept bringing up Sam wanting a baby. It just kept coming up and everybody would laugh uncomfortably. Finally the discussion opened up to the audience, and someone said something like: “I think that’s the reason Sam is asking this question. Because she certainly can keep on doing what she has been doing. But 30 feels like a different age. And when she thinks about having a baby, or having some stability, or some retirement, she worries if she is going to have to give up some of that freedom.” Everybody got quiet for a moment as the problem crystallized. That’s when her mom (one of the panelists) said “Well, Sam’s dad and I had the same jobs for 38 years, and she… she’s different- (getting choked up) she’s so brave.” Half of the eyes in the room filled with tears. I saw them through my own tears.

At the end of the night, Sam’s mom sang a song. I thought she must have sung in a choir for many years. I don’t remember the song but it was something about living in the moment. Her blouse shimmered, in relief against the traditional Bavarian décor of the Black Forest Inn banquet hall. This woman sang lullabies to Sam. Yes, she worked at the same job for 38 years but she also sang lullabies to Sam.



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