Her Soul I’ll Carry Forever In My Heart…

As I write this, it’s been just over 24 hours since the announcement.

On Your Feet! is ending its Broadway run on August 20, 2017.

Now, I know in the midst of everything going on in this world – Manchester, Portland, Kabul, Syria…and the list goes on and on – a show closing is a minor thing. As Ana reminded us all in an InstaStory last night, “No one has died. We will all go on to new things.” And yes, we all know there is going to be a tour.

But at the same time… Yes, we know that nothing lasts forever – especially Broadway shows. Yes, OYF has had a good run of almost two years. But yes, we’ve also all been in the house when the back of the orchestra was far from full – hell, a couple of weeks ago I won the ticket lottery and my seat was FRONT ROW. Side, sure, but front row. Yes, we had all heard the rumblings and rumors for a while, the “if we’re still open” comments from time to time at the stage door. I think deep down we all suspected it was coming.

But it was still one of those moments when the Facebook posts and Tweets started coming from the cast – I was sitting on a bench at my dojang before class and I know I audibly gasped. It felt like a gut punch.

I waited until I got off the subway and was walking home to put on the cast recording on my iPod, and I made it to “Anything For You” before I lost it.

Seriously – ALL the feels.

And yes, we know that no one has died, but it is a kind of a death for those of us who have come to love the show, for whom it’s a safe space to turn. We need the freedom to have all the feels we’re all still working through.

I had no idea what I was getting into on February 19, 2016 when I won the ticket lottery for OYF. I’m not normally a jukebox musical kind of girl, but I quickly discovered this was no jukebox musical. It’s the story of two people who fought for what they believed in and for the life they wanted – and made it happen. The story of triumphing over adversity – in more than one way. It’s Gloria and Emilio’s story, yes. But underlying everything is the story of every immigrant who has come to this country to seek a better life, of anyone who has a dream and the courage to pursue it, of anyone who has faced obstacles and overcome them.

I found a familia that I never knew I had – or needed. I’ve made friends. I’ve learned about this world and about myself – I traveled to Cuba partly because of this show, of wanting to see, to feel, to experience that land. The show has made theatre feel like a safe place for me again after experiences with another show had made it feel not so safe. It’s a haven where I can laugh, cry, sing, dance…just BE.

I’ll see it on Sunday for the first time since the announcement – already planned to celebrate my belt test on Saturday – and I’m sure it’ll be emotional. I’m seeing it on my birthday – a month before closing – and I’m sure it’ll be emotional.

But I won’t be there on August 20. I will be in another place of peace, happiness, and comfort on that day – I’ll be at the beach with my family. I’ll celebrate the show in my own way that day. My last time with the show on Broadway will be August 17 – the night before I leave. On a slightly selfish note, I’m kind of glad my last time won’t be THE last time. But at the same time, another part of me would love to be among this familia on the last day in person. You can bet I’ll be there in spirit.

I’ve discussed the show at length before, and I’m sure I’ll do a farewell post, but tonight I just want to say Thank you. Thank you Emilio and Gloria Estefan for allowing your story to be told in this way. Thank you Emily for the beautiful song you wrote with your mom for this – “If I Never Got To Tell You”. ALL the feels!! Thank you to the cast – Ana, Ektor, Eddy and Kevin, Alexandria and Fabi (and the “new” girls Madison and Amaris), Doreen, Christie, Linedy, Genny-Lis, Karmine, Yasmin, Emmanuel, David, Angelica, Natalie, Alexia, Henry, Nina, Omar, Hector, Liz, Jeremy, Eliseo, Jose, Julius, Jennifer, Marcos, Martin, Brett, Eric, Lee, Andrea, Luis, and Carlos for weaving this magic every night and for those who know who they are, for making me feel like part of the familia. And thank you to my other Feeties – even if I’m not always involved in everything you know I love you!

The title of this post is taken from “Mi Tierra” and it’s the most honest thing I can think of to say about this little show. I will carry her soul forever in my heart.

PLEASE do yourself a favor – if you’re in or around NYC, go see this show before it closes; and if you’re anywhere near a city where it will tour, go and see it.

Conga forever!!!

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Mile 24…

I’ve given you my recap of yesterday’s events as they happened, so I’m not recapping them again. I feel like I’ve got a marathon hangover, which at first seems weird, but as my friend Amy said, each runner is responsible for him/herself but we took care of 50,000+ runners. So it’s no wonder I feel so drained.

That said, I’ve been thinking about Mile 24, where I spent every minute of the day yesterday. About what it means to so many…about what it’s been to me.

From my experience both in volunteering at Mile 24 for three years and in having run three marathons, Mile 24 is really a microcosm of every possible emotion. You see them all there – not always in one person. Many people say that Mile 20 is the wall, but I contend that for many and in many cases, the wall is in fact Mile 24. As I told my squad yesterday before the first elite wheelchairs passed, you truly see every emotion at Mile 24.

Mile 24 can be that place where people want to give up. Yes, you’re only 2.2 miles from the end (but don’t you DARE say that to a runner – I did yesterday, but only because I knew the person I said it quietly to, and I knew she needed just that little push…that’s the only time it’s allowed – and you might still expect a smack if you say it), but that 2.2 can seem like an eternity. Especially when you’re in the back of the pack. You may never have gone that far before and your mind may start perseverating on that fact. You’re exhausted and just want to finish and get off the damn course. You know you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other if you want to finish, but you wonder if you can even move your foot an inch.

I saw plenty of that yesterday. Of people questioning if they could do it. We had two runners go down with cramps and others limp past who were visibly cramping. I don’t know where they went after passing us – if they stopped at medical or if they courageously kept going. But none of them dropped out in front of me.

Mile 24 can be that place where you realize that you’re actually doing it. That you really CAN finish what you set out to do so many weeks (and possibly months) before. The tears of happiness, of pride, and even of well-earned exhaustion start to flow as you realize that you’ve come this far and you’re going to finish. And if people are cheering you on, pushing you as they can, sometimes it makes the tears flow more.

I saw plenty of that yesterday as well. The woman who looked at me with gratitude as tears filled her eyes at my encouragement. The Achilles athletes who all gave me a reason to never say I can’t again. My friends who found me for a hug and encouragement helped to keep me going even as they say I helped them keep going. And while I don’t think I was still out there when he passed, the story of Jimmy Jenson inspires as well. Again, how can I say I can’t do it in the face of courage like that??

I’ve experienced both sides of Mile 24 – the desperation and the elation. And at Disney it can be both. At Disney, Mile 24 is around the Boardwalk, and there are almost always spectators out along that section, usually including a woman in an electric scooter who is at practically every Disney race holding a sign that says “Perfect stranger, I’m proud of you too!!” She and everyone lining the path encourage me to keep going even as the sight of Spaceship Earth in the distance shows me how close I am to the finish…and yet I know I have to go around the world to get there! Well, all the way around World Showcase anyway. And I know if I’ve made it to that point, I can keep going, that I’m really almost there (even if I don’t want to hear it!).

And then there was Chicago 2012. Chicago where I’d started so well and so strong only to hit a divot and jar my knee enough my ITB started aching. And then cool winds on warm muscles causing cramps. I’d gotten stretched at Mile 21 or 22 and was managing. And then things all fell apart. I’d randomly met up on course with a couple of running club teammates who are usually much faster than me, spoken briefly and then been left in the dust. Not unexpected, but at around Mile 23 and with it (I choose to believe) happening to coincide with photographers close by, my brain went to worst-case scenario of “They don’t want any proof that they were anywhere near slow, slow me” (in spite of the funky starting arrangements they had that year where it was very likely that a lot of Wave 2 would have passed me and have better times despite starting after me) and just spiraled down so that by Mile 24 I was choking on sobs and ready to walk off the course and wait for the sweep vehicle. And then I heard a woman yelling my name and encouraging me to keep going. I looked over at her and her friends and they all screamed my name and said variations on “You’ve GOT this baby girl! You keep going!!” like angels sent from on high. Somehow I was able to get control of my sobs and keep going. And I finished. But I still wonder in my heart if I would have kept going if they hadn’t been there.

So for me, Mile 24 is really the wall. For me, it’s the make or break point in the race, that precipice of “I can’t do this” and “Holy shit, I CAN do this.” And that’s why I love being at Mile 24 – even if I sometimes question belonging to my club (another story for another day). For one day – one very long and emotionally exhausting day – I can do my part to be even a tiny part of someone’s journey. I can give back – pay it forward so to speak.

Mile 24 for me is really a microcosm of the marathon. And as such, I love being there to experience and encourage all that that mile marker entails.

Mile 24, I love you and I hate you. And you will continue to be my home in the NYC Marathon.