day/survival job

Truth and the Pursuit of It - "If you're engaged in a fight with something, then it's not with me. It's with your own blindness." - The Crown

Yesterday, I had an epiphany.

To set the stage for it, I need to catch you up with how much the past few weeks have been. The place where I live is surrounded by massive, blazing wildfires. I finally got a serving job in LA, so I'll be making more money, which is pretty necessary. But until my first set of tips come in, money is still pretty tight for me. I got a callback for a really interesting play here, and while my confidence comes from within, it's nice to have that external validation that I am indeed a good actor, even if I'm not quite what they needed. It's the holiday season, which is one of my favorite times of year, and I am surrounded by cool new friends and great old friends and we're all having holiday parties. But I can't go home at all this year, and New York around the holidays is one of my all time favorite things, not to mention that I miss my family and friends there.

And, on top of and beyond all of that, last week a friend of mine from college died.

I want to take a moment here to remember her. Her name is Miriam. She and I worked together in the theater a whole lot, particularly with the Shakespeare group. She was always sweet and kind, she had this incredible zest for life, and this crazy amazing voice. We had fallen out of touch after graduating, but I would still see her on Facebook - she was an award winning screenwriter, and I admired the work that she was doing, and hoped that we'd maybe even get to work together one day. And it's shocking and upsetting to know that any chance we might've had at reconnecting at all is just gone now. People die every day, but the realities of it when it affects you are always surprising.

So yesterday, I was heading to an audition, and already felt like I wasn't going to get the role. I may be a good actor, but the character is a teenager and I knew I was auditioning with some actual 16 year olds. It's always good to practice audition technique when you can, but it felt like a lot of time to put towards this practice, and I was miserable, and there was nothing I could tell myself to make it feel better. All I could do was use the emotion - the character is supposed to be insecure anyway, so it's ultimately good, right? (For those of you who aren't actors, that doesn't actually help you feel better.)

The epiphany hit me like a freight train or, more fittingly, a speeding car: I don't like LA.

And that's okay.

There are people here who I care about a great deal. There are specific neighborhoods where it is pleasant to spend time. And I know I'll stay because the work I want to do is here. But as a whole, I just don't like it.

I didn't realize how hard I had been trying to convince myself that I do until I admitted that I don't. But now it feels like this incredible weight has been lifted from me. I don't like LA. And that's okay. And just acknowledging that truth makes everything so much easier and better.

No wonder we're all in pursuit of such obvious truth as artists. It's wonderful.

Stress and Relief - “It’s a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.” - Paulo Coelho

If I never have to contact a utility company again, it will be too soon.

Almost a month ago I flew out to LA with a one month sublet in West Hollywood and some very simple goals in mind. II was going to find a job and a permanent home, and then once I was settled, I could start taking acting classes out here, look for LA representation, et cetera.

God, what a stupid plan.

Don't get me wrong, I did it. I found some temp work, and this week I have an interview at a restaurant I'm excited about. And I just signed the lease and set up utilities for my new home in North Hollywood. I definitely made it happen.

But this past month has been one of the most stressful, depressing months of my life.

It might have been that way regardless. I just left my home and the greatest city in the world to come to a place where I have friends whom I love and cherish, but it's not the same as the roots I had there. The job hunt is always stressful. The apartment hunt is always stressful. Trying to find an owner who will let you lease an apartment when you don't have a job is even more stressful. And I did it while seeing things happen with my support system in New York and knowing I would've been a part of it had I stayed. I've been homesick like I've never experienced before in my life, and even though I'm known for my consistently positive outlook, I've found that almost impossible to maintain. I'm used to the vast majority of days being good days for me, but I've found myself counting the good days here because they've been so much rarer.

Partway through, I definitely realized that what I should've done was get a longer, but still short-term sublet. Like, three months or so. That way I could take the time to find a day job - the right day job - and not worry about being able to tell landlords that I'm employed. Take the time to explore the neighborhoods of LA. And let my roommates get out here so we could do the house search together, instead of insisting that I could do it all myself.

But especially over the past week and a half or so, I've had way more good days. I started really reaching out to and connecting with my friends here. My birthday was amazing, filled with friends whom I love. I've started auditioning for real, because the idea that I had about not focusing on acting was dumb. It's the whole reason I came out here in the first place. And once I move in and start getting paid, my whole life will be way less stressful.

And I can't wait until my new roommates get out here, too! We'll all be starting our new lives together, and they're such awesome, quality humans.

There is a friend in New York with whom I've had extensive conversations about happiness. What does it mean to be happy? How do we feel things? Can we detach ourselves from emotions? Can we do so selectively? Can you understand happiness without feeling sadness or other dark emotions? I can't say any one of us absolutely knows the answer to any/all of those, but I'm pretty sure I'm at least going to appreciate my upcoming happiness much more for knowing how stressful not having the things I'm about to have can be.

Avoiding Burnout

If you had told me a year ago that I would come close to burning out, I never would've believed you. I would be coming straight out of NYFF 2015 having seen a bunch of the movies that would come to compete in Oscar season, hella inspired, and wanting to tell all of the stories and explore all of the human condition.

I've worked a lot since then. Both as an actor, and at my day job just to keep myself stable.

Now, in all fairness to me, I've been doing pretty well for myself. Over the summer, I was the lead in three student shorts, I was cast in two features, I did a play, I went through a solid portion of the post-production process for my own short film, and I started work on my new solo show. I'm literally living the dream, and it's pretty awesome.

In fact, I was so happy with the work I had been doing that I didn't realize that, between all of that, working at my day job, and trying to have some kind of a social life, I was burning out until I got on the plane to go on vacation, and my whole body lit up at the prospect of just being on holiday.

Oh yeah, a couple of weeks ago, I went to London! There is a massive blog post coming up about everything I did, the love I feel in and for that city, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I'm wearing my new Slytherin necklace now and everything. It's pretty badass. I also went to Edinburgh. I had never been there before. It's so beautiful I can't stand it. And I ate haggis. I'm pretty brave.

Now, part of all that is just me and how much I love to travel. But it was such a change to wake up in a hostel room at 7am after maybe five hours of sleep and instantly be awake and excited for the rest of the day instead of oversleeping if I try to make myself have any less than seven and a half hours.

I'm not really sure what the answer is here. I still do the work now that I'm back in the US, and I love doing the work, and it makes me happy. Maybe it's just that it's that much easier to be excited while on vacation because you know you only have a week to do everything so you want to soak it all in while you can, and it's a totally normal thing.

It does help me remember how lucky I am, though, that I can be an actress and still travel the world, it helps me remember how important my discipline is while working at home, and it makes me especially excited to go to Peru later this month! So there's still all of that.

Goals and Resolutions for the New Year! - "Don't get a girl pregnant." - Me, a year ago

Happy New Year! Sure, as we're already a week into 2016, it's a little bit awkward to say it. But I hope you have a wonderful rest of the 51 weeks left!

And I'm feeling good about this year. It still feels shiny, sparkly, and new. It's a leap year, which always seems special to me! And it's an excellent time to set new goals for ourselves to reach.

Last year I experimented with writing down my resolutions and goals for 2015 and putting them up on the back of my bedroom door where I could always see them. I probably shouldn't be as surprised as I am at how well that worked. But, I kid you not, I made nine resolutions, and I basically accomplished all of them. In fact, I did most of them by halfway through the year.

So now I want to take a moment to look at last year's resolutions and how well they worked, and also share my goals for 2016.

New Year's Resolutions: 2015

New Year's Resolutions: 2015

Take less shit: Guys, in years gone by, I was kinda a doormat. For a variety of reasons, I never really fought back against anybody, aside from in the context of academic debates. This year, I wanted to take less of the bullshit people will sometimes try to feed you to take advantage. And I suppose I can say I did it. I've certainly started standing up for myself more than I used to. Because I didn't put a way to qualitatively say that I've done it, I guess I just have to use my own analysis. But I do take less shit than I did a year ago. I still take more than I'd like. But less than I have.

Build up savings: Kind of. Not really. 2015 was a turbulent year in terms of day jobs for me, so I had issues putting money away just to have in savings. But I've since gotten a new day job that pays more than my old ones, so at least I'm on the right path towards building up my savings!

Get a better job at the museum: At this time a year ago, my day job was at the American Museum of Natural History as a Visitor Services Representative. It was an incredibly cool place to work, but the job itself wasn't exactly interesting, and it didn't pay as well as I'd like. Since then, I've gotten a better job than the museum. So while I still miss working in one of the greatest museums in the world, I make way more money than I did, which is what helps me pursue my true goal. (You know, the whole "acting" thing.)

Take 2 acting classes: I took four. Boom. Thank you, The Barrow Group.

Get vouchers from the union (SAG-AFTRA): Two things have happened in the past year. One is I learned that I don't really need to collect those vouchers for where I am in my career right now. The other is that I started accidentally doing it anyway. So... success!

Start sending out an industry newsletter: I don't send out a monthly news update from a mass email service. But I do know people in the industry who I personally update with news about when I get cast in things, or when I get footage back from new projects. Which is close enough for me to consider this a job well done!

Write/Act in 2+ shorts: It really depends on how you want to define this one, I think. I acted in at least a dozen shorts over the year, and I wrote a whole handful! Now, what I meant when I wrote it was that I would write and act in at least two of my own projects, and for that, I only did one. (And it's pretty sweet, short, and worth watching. Just saying.) I have a lot of excellent projects coming up for this year, though, born from the work I did towards this resolution last year!

Go to London: What do you think?

There are giant teddy bears like this all throughout Harrod's!

There are giant teddy bears like this all throughout Harrod's!

AND I went to Reykjavik, Iceland.

This shot is from the mountains in Iceland, when I did a Viking Horseback Riding tour!

This shot is from the mountains in Iceland, when I did a Viking Horseback Riding tour!

Don't get a girl pregnant: Smashing success.

And now, looking ahead, are my RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016!!!

New Year's Resolutions: 2016

New Year's Resolutions: 2016

Write the Uglies screenplay: Have you read the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld yet? No? Well damn, you better get on that. I'll wait. Now do you see how groundbreaking this series is in terms of societal norms, beauty standards, and the way we treat looks and intelligence? And how good it would be as a movie? And the best thing I can do to make sure it happens is to do it myself. Sure, it's highly unlikely that my script for it will ever come to anything. But hey, what if it does? What if it does, and I can then play Tally? Guys, that would be such a dream come true. So I'm gonna kick it into high gear this year and just write the damn script.

Get my own apartment: Confession time: I still live with my parents. Sure, it's a great way to save money, especially living in NYC. But I'm also an adult who needs her own place. I'm not saying that I'm going to live entirely on my own without roommates or anything. But I need, as Virginia Woolf has said, a room of my own.

Go to South America, Asia, and/or Africa: I dunno whether or not you've noticed, but I really like to travel. And I used to think of myself as someone who has been all over the world. After all, I've been to over a dozen countries. And then one day I realized... almost all of that has been within Europe and North America. And that is an unacceptable for a "world" traveler. So, somehow, I want to make it to one of these three continents. I may not yet know how I'm going to afford the flights or anything. But this year I am determined to make it happen. And I am really good at making things happen.

Do 10+ industry seminars/workshops: I'm already signed up for one. And it's pilot season, so everyone is gonna be trying to meet everybody else. This goal is pretty straightforward, and I have every intention of and belief in meeting it.

Attack life with the confidence of a mediocre white man: If you're a straight, white, cisgendered man reading this, don't worry, I probably don't mean you. I don't mean every straight white man. I mean the guy who sends unsolicited dick pics to women with whom he's only just begun chatting. I mean the guy who says sentences that begin with the phrase "Okay, no offense, but-". I mean the guy who thinks it's deep to be angry and sad, and tries to force that on the people around him. Haven't you ever noticed how that guy always seems to have an extraordinary amount of self-confidence and belief that the world is, or at least should, belong to him? I want nothing to do with that kind of person... I just want to live my life and approach my career with that incredible level of self-confidence.

Write/act in 2+ shorts & submit to FESTIVALS!!: Similar to my goal from last year, but this time I want them to be finished enough that I could actually get my work in front of an audience instead of simply posting them online.

Go to another city in the USA: I have seen depressingly little of my own country. So I'm thinking New Orleans. Or maybe Chicago, or Detroit, or Seattle. In fact, if you have any particular suggestions, I'd love to hear them! I'd love to see more of the rest of America.

Get my reel together: I have plenty of clips available online. But I'd like to get cohesive reels together. At least one, but preferably have them sorted into a dramatic reel, a comedic reel, and a commercial reel.

Start my 401K: I am an adult. I should probably act like one. And save money like one.

That seems like plenty to start with, right? I'm pretty psyched to make all of this happen.

What about you guys? Do you have any resolutions? Any extra goals I can steal and claim for my own??

Actor Spirituality - "No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and eternity." - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

So I've got this gig at the US Open, which is pretty cool.

I'm doing brand ambassador work there, which is a pretty sweet gig. But for the company I'm helping to promote, there are two groups doing the work that needs to get done. There's the marketing agency through which I got this gig. And then there's this group called Team Challenge. They're all lovely, sweet human beings, and it wasn't until a few days into working there that I found out that everyone from Team Challenge works 12-15 hour shifts, and they do it on a volunteer basis. And there's an excellent reason for it: They're all ex felons and drug addicts, and this is part of their rehab.

And I think that's incredible. Everyone who is going through that program is caring and wonderful and really wants to make their lives better. They tell people about the group when they can, and they always emphasize how it saved their lives.

There's just one thing about them that threw me when I first found out about it. It's a Christian program. Which is, like, whatever, people can have whatever religion they want. And especially for a rehab program which needs the faith in a higher power thing, Christianity is a pretty obvious way to go, especially in America. So, you know, cool.

But it got me thinking about my own religion and spirituality. And I kind of have two. One is my Judaism. I come from a religiously-agnostic-bordering-on-atheist-but-culturally-Jewish family, and I mostly go along with that? Kind of? But I also take it one step further. Because I also have what I call the "actors religion" or "actor spirituality."

It's the belief in some kind of higher power that helps guide us all, but no one really knows what it is. It's just the belief that there is something to the universe that is greater than we are. And maybe it's the collection of all of our spirits, or maybe it's just the energy of the universe, or maybe it's something else entirely.

If you've ever read books written by Paulo Coelho, particularly The Alchemist, you understand what it is I'm talking about.

It also feels a little weird to have that kind of spirituality here in New York. LA actors are famous for it, for believing that "if it's meant to be, it will come to pass" and when someone gets their break then it was "their time" and everyone else around them will have their own time soon if they just keep working hard and believing in it. In New York, the exact same events are described as "dumb luck."

It also feels weird because I also 100% believe in science. I take the scientific explanations for things as fact, fully understanding that these explanations can change as we discover stuff in the world around us... but also knowing that the things we accept as true today come from logic and evidence.

But I still have that religious/spiritual side to me. It's comforting to believe that I'm not going through life alone. That I'm connected to other people and/or the universe around me. It's also nice because it doesn't have that many hard and fast rules beyond "don't be an asshole," which has fit in very nicely with my belief that, if there is a god, he/she/it/they won't stop me from going to heaven just because I chose to do things with my life and enjoy the world he/she/it/they created instead of going to to a building and praying to him/her/it/them once a week.

Such a lack of structure probably wouldn't work for someone in rehab. And for people who do need or even just like organized religion, then that's totally fine and great. Organized religion has done some incredible things throughout human history.

But I just wanted to bring up the idea of the actor's spirituality. Because I think that unorganized religion is kind of cool, too.

Cost of Living and Cost of Acting - "'I just never think of money as an issue.' 'That's because you have it.'" - Friends

It is extraordinary to me that we live in a world where saying that all people who work full time jobs should be paid a living wage is a controversial statement.

New York is passing legislation that will, over time, raise the minimum wage of anyone working in the fast food industry to $15 an hour. And there are people, even people that I know, who think that this is a bad idea, because then what's the incentive to ever move out of a fast food job? They say that we should have our "priorities straight" and pay specialized jobs, ones that require higher education, more money than customer service jobs.

Now, putting aside the classism (and, if you look at this intersectionally, racism) inherent in those statements I would suggest that the people who say things like that all satisfy two conditions. 1) That they have never worked a fast food customer service job. Because dude, working it is the motivation to move out of it. It sucks. Customers are the worst. And 2) they aren't aware that they're arguing that people who work fast food jobs shouldn't be allowed to pay rent, pay their bills, eat, AND have a life outside of their awful place of work.

And here's where I steer this away from a researched political argument. (I'll come back for that in a later post when I have time to properly research it and hit you all with statistics and hard facts, I'm sure.) This issue means a lot to me because, as an actor who needs day jobs with flexible hours, I have worked a series of customer service jobs in my lifetime. Not only are they terrible jobs to do for eight hours a day five days a week, but they don't pay nearly enough to live on, let alone be an actor.

Because guys, being an actor costs so much. All of the time. I have to maintain profiles on casting websites like Backstage and Actors Access. I pay for this website right here. Headshots, printing those headshots, printing postcards with my headshot, printing business cards with my headshot. Paying for intensives with casting directors where I can give them my headshot. Paying for someone to edit together my reel. Possibly paying for someone to help me shoot part of my reel. And those are all just the basics. Never mind paying for acting classes to actually be a good actor, or lessons in any other special skill I may want to have.

Now, I'm not saying that we should write a blank check to everyone who wants to be an actor because ~*everyone deserves to live their dream.*~ That's not how it works. It's always a struggle to be an actor, and it'd be realistic to argue that things should be otherwise.

But to say that someone deserves to never even have a shot, just because they need the flexible hours of a fast food job? That's inhumane. And elitist.

Huh. Maybe this did become a political post.

Oops.

"He has a rather delicate mind, if you follow..." - Margaret Draper, Revolutionary Characters LIVE!

So this isn't about acting, modeling, or the entertainment industry exactly today, I suppose.

Today I'm going to talk about my day job, and how much I've enjoyed it.

I work for The Bostonian Society, at the Old State House in Massachusetts, as a Revolutionary Character for the Revolutionary Characters LIVE! program.

What that means is that I get all up in the colonial outfit and tell people about what it's like living in 1765.

And you know, I have really enjoyed this day job. I get to work with smart people, talk about history, and be around some genuinely interesting things! If the name "The Bostonian Society" sounds familiar to you, it's probably because you've heard of us and the time capsule that was found in our lion's head on the news! You can read all about that on the Facebook page, if you want.

But, alas, like all good things, this day job had to come to an end. And the RCL! program ends tomorrow, on Columbus Day.

I know I will move on to other things and I will have other jobs that I will love and, to put it in the cheesiest possible way, this isn't just an ending, it's a new beginning! But I wanted to take this moment to appreciate this time when I have had an actor's survival job that I enjoyed with co-workers I like in a place that I care about. It's not necessarily that it's so rare that a combination like that happens, so much as it's just something that is worth appreciating when it does.

And hey, if you're interested and want to learn more about Margaret Draper, she/I was featured in last month's issue of the Bostonian Society's newsletter - The Exchange! You can also look her up! She's a real person, after all. (Although you'll have better luck researching her if you use her full name - Margaret Green Draper.) Or, of course, you can just ask me, and I will tell you more than you ever thought you would know about Margaret Draper and colonial Bostonian history. It would genuinely be my pleasure.