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Thoughts on Choice

In November of 2004, I found myself alone in New York City. My husband had stayed home, all of my New York friends were otherwise engaged, John Kerry had just been defeated by George W. Bush, and I needed to get out of my hotel room that night. 

There was a new play at Manhattan Theatre Club by John Patrick Shanley. All I knew about the play was its one word title: Doubt.

Doubt left me flooded with questions. As I filed out with my fellow audience members, I found myself wanting to know how other people were feeling about what we’d just experienced. I wanted to know what I was feeling. I wanted to have a conversation.

The seed of something was planted in me that night. I longed to write a play that would make people want to have a conversation after they saw it.

That was the beginning of Choice. Well, one of the beginnings. It’s not always easy to pinpoint the moment of conception. For instance — when precisely did you fall in love? Was there one fateful moment? Or was there a series of moments — each making the next moment possible? I can remember the first time my husband kissed me: It was in an elevator. I was wearing a blue print dress and I’d just handed him a prize from a box of crackerjacks. (It was a tiny joke book.) That kiss changed both of our lives, and now whenever we walk into an elevator together we smile, and sometimes try to recreate it.

Similarly, I remember standing in my kitchen — it’s now 2005 — telling my daughter and my husband an idea for a play. They encouraged me. (I have no idea what I was wearing.)
Could I have chosen not to fall in love? Not to write this play?

Falling in love with an idea is not unlike falling in love with a person. You become energized, obsessed. It feels so right! Then time passes. You wake up one day and look at your idea (or your spouse) and think: What have I committed myself to?! That blissful certainty is gone, and you regard your play (or your person) with clear cold eyes, realizing: they’re not perfect. They have problems. You’re filled with doubt.

Because kissing someone in an elevator is (relatively) easy. Joining your life with theirs is not. It’s one thing to get an idea, and quite another to live with that idea for years, allowing it to reveal itself to you in all its (sometimes alarming) complexity.

I was, in some ways, scared to write it. But more scared not to.

One thing I find to be true as I grow older: whether we are old or young, wherever we find ourselves in our busy, scary, always challenging lives — no matter how little freedom we seem to have — we are always free to choose to look at something — or someone – in a new way.

Which is why the past is never completely over. Because how we choose to think about the past can change it.

And that choice — to view ourselves and our past choices in a new light — can transform us. If we choose to allow it to. Our pasts, presents, and futures are all subject to change, depending on how we choose to see them.

At least, that’s how I see it. You may choose to see it differently.

—WINNIE HOLZMAN


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