Torn between two loves

I'm in love with a man and a theater career. Do I have to choose between them?

Published February 3, 2003 8:04PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm a 30-year-young woman and have had a passion for performing since I was a wee tot. I've been singing, acting and dancing semiprofessionally since I was 6 years old, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't doing something related to performance regardless of what else was going on in my life. In my mid-20s I earned a B.A. in history from a prestigious university and shortly thereafter landed a great job in the Far East, where I still work today.

After much deliberation and agonizing, I recently decided that I wanted to get a degree in theater, something I have always dreamed of, and began actively researching universities abroad where they offered the type of program I was looking for. The country where I live doesn't offer much in the way of theater degrees, so I am forced to look elsewhere to pursue such studies, and until a few months ago I was eager to make a change and try something new.

And then the most unexpected thing happened ... I fell madly in love with an amazing man whom I feel very serious about, and who feels the same way about me, and suddenly everything has changed. I have been through my fair share of tumultuous relationships and have recently come out of a three-year stretch with no serious boyfriends because it was important for me to take the time to get to know myself and learn to be healthy, happy and self-sufficient. It has been a very successful time for me filled with immense amounts of personal growth.

I am currently in the midst of writing essays, sending applications, and making plans to possibly leave this country next year, and I find that I'm completely lacking the motivation to go through with any of this. How can I leave him when I finally feel that I've found a man who is a true friend, a "mensch," a kindred?

On the other hand, performing is one of my most favorite things in the world. I feel that I owe it to myself, and to the man who will eventually be my mate, to see this thing through. He agrees with me. We both feel that not going to theater school will leave me forever wondering if I could've succeeded in this field.

He has a young child from a previous marriage, so the possibility of his coming with me is difficult, and while he is talking about it, I have to prepare myself for the possibility that it may be too difficult for him to make such a huge move.

Cary, please give me your two cents. I am so very...


Dear Torn,

I think you have to go through with your plans to study theater. It will be sad to say goodbye to the man, but I really believe that a long-nurtured love of learning and the development of one's talents must come before a sudden infatuation with a person. If you were already committed to the person by law or biology, that would be different. But you've been pursuing this interest for a while, and it would be wrong to derail it.

Your interest in theater is not going to go away. It comes from who you are. But love for a person can fail. The spark, the promise, the euphoria of a relationship, can fade. Artistic dreams of the kind you are talking about will only grow richer over your whole lifetime as you pursue them. If you choose the man, not only might you lose the education and the career, but your doubts about the sacrifice you made for this man might also subtly erode the relationship until you end up with neither man nor career. On the other hand, if you choose the career, if you're successful and you stay in touch, you might end up with the man and the career. Not to mention, he's going to feel heavy pressure if you give up your plans for him. So I would force yourself to continue with the application process; if it's hard to find motivation, try to visualize it not as giving him up but as an act that will enrich both your lives.

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By Cary Tennis

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