this is the real life

New Year, New Habits - "Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Ryun

So it’s been a minute since I’ve posted here. But I like to recap my annual New Year’s Resolutions, and I miss having the opportunity to reflect and self-assess on this blog!

2018 was a lot of a year for me. If you don’t follow me on social media, then, in addition to the sketch comedy group I mentioned in my last post literally nine months ago (Hot and Funny! Check us out on YouTube!) I was also in a choose your own adventure play called Princess Priestess with Neko Squared Productions that flew me to Dallas/Fort Worth, a Hollywood Fringe Festival musical called Public Comment that won a Producer’s Encore Award, an experimental short film called Blackmail by Charmed Productions that will be coming out later this year, and I applied for a Fulbright Award. So all good stuff. And Los Angeles is becoming easier and easier - I definitely don’t hate it anymore the way I used to. But you know, I barely thought about any of that lately until I started typing this paragraph.

So. Reflection and recapping! Let’s start with last year’s resolutions.

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Produce 2+ new projects: Success! I fulfilled this one so easily because of all of the work I’ve been doing with Hot and Funny, to the point that if I had known how much I would be producing with them, I wouldn’t even have made this a resolution because it wasn’t a challenge to achieve.

Travel to 2 new places, domestic or international: Also success! Most of them were in California, but seeing how I’ve barely explored the west coast, it still counts! This year I went to San Diego, Dallas/Fort Worth, Vermont, Sacramento, and Solvang, in addition to traveling home to New York and visiting Boston, and it was all lovely.

Take 3+ new performance or skill classes: Didn’t quite hit this one, unfortunately. I was well on track - I did a scene study/audition workout class with Stephen Snyder, and then Improv 201 at UCB, but towards the end of the year I didn’t have as much extra income for things like classes as I had hoped. Oh well. It was nice to be working out again, though, and working towards this resolution gave me better insight into classes in LA, so I now know so many places I would like to study!

Get my driver’s license: Didn’t get this one, either. I got my driver’s permit, and I had intended to make driving lessons my third skill class, but then it wasn’t that lucrative a fall/winter. I’ve carried this resolution over to this year, though, so I intend to make it happen before my permit expires!

Be more of a bitch: Success! This comes from a line of resolutions I used to make that I KNEW I could achieve, just to get me started. The first year I did these, it was “don’t get somebody else pregnant,” and for biological reasons, that was an easy victory. But this year, totally by accident, it ended up becoming more of a real resolution. And because of it, I have taken way less bullshit this year, and become known as someone who can handle herself with difficult people, or men on the street.

Have/Complete monthly goals: Hard fail on this one. I don’t even have that good a reason for it. It’s just ultimately a pain in the ass to come up with a list of things every month, especially as things changed on a month to month basis. I’d be halfway through a month and find out that a project was a much bigger time commitment than I had thought. I still write out plans, and things I need to do, in my planner. But this, in this format, isn’t what works for me, and I think it’s time for me to give up on this as a resolution and find a different way of doing it.

Finish 26 books: Close, but no cigar. In all fairness to me, some of the books I read were quite long, cerebral, and difficult. (I loved the 600 page biography of Queen Elizabeth II, but it took me FOREVER to read.) But on the flip side, I also counted plays. But I’m bringing this one back again, so hopefully I’ll make it this time around!

Start a retirement account: Success! It wasn’t the IRA account I expected, but it’s still a solid investment into my future.

Apply for the Fulbright at LAMDA: Success? I did apply for the Fulbright at LAMDA. It was way more difficult and time consuming than I expected, but I did it, and grew through the process, and it literally changed the way I look at myself and my work. And then I was rejected for the Fulbright at LAMDA. I was rejected way earlier than I expected, too. I thought I’d at least get through the first round with my application. It’s making me take another hard look at myself and my work. This is mostly a post for another time, but it’s inspiring me to make 2019 the Year of Excellence.

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Get my driver’s license: It’s time. Because this shit is just getting pathetic.

Finish 26 books: I was so close last year! So I think I can really do it this year!

Open a Roth IRA account: I started my investment account last year, but I’d like to have a solid nest egg of money that I’ve just put away, too.

Have 250+ strong days (defined as practicing 3+ of the habits I’m trying to cultivate): I’m trying to 1. practice Spanish on Duolingo, 2. do a small workout, 3. go a full day without eating meat, 4. practice piano, 5. meditate, and 6. go to bed before 1am every day. Since I started tracking these habits, I’ve been pretty good about doing 1-2 per day. But I think I can do better. So I’m trying to do at least three of them every day now, or at least three of them for roughly two thirds of the year!

Finish writing a script that is not a sketch: I did SO MUCH sketch writing in 2018, and it was awesome! Particularly because I had so many of them produced as well! But I want to also take time to focus on a couple of other projects I enjoy that I’ve put on the back burner just because they won’t be as easy to produce.

Produce another staged reading for charity: I did a couple of them very successfully in 2017, and I think they’re a great, fun way to give back. So I’d like to do them again.

Start my script consulting business: It started out coming from the need to supplement my income a little… but I need to really get it together, create a contract, specify what services I provide and exactly what they entail, and start marketing myself in a big way. I think I could be very, very good at this. So I need to make sure it happens!

Don’t re-watch any TV series more than once: Since I’ve come to LA, I’ve been relying on comfort TV a whole lot. And while most of my favorite TV shows stand up to the rewatching, there’s so much other television out there to be watched that I can’t rewatch Parks and Rec over and over and over again.

Achieve one or more of the following: theatrical agent/manager, speaking role in a TV show, another role in a feature film: Fairly self-explanatory. These are the next steps in my career, so I need to make sure I hit them.

Beyond all this, though, I’m trying to just be better. I think I’ve been giving myself too much slack - I am capable of more than what I have been doing, particularly in terms of the quality of my work, and that’s going to change. Like I mentioned before, 2019 will be the Year of Excellence, so I’m hoping to not just achieve all of my resolutions, but to achieve them well.

What about you? What resolutions or habits are you starting this year?

Sexuality and Taking Control - "My sexuality is a part of me that I really like. But it's not the totality of me." - Portia de Rossi

A few weeks ago, I was cast in a female-based sketch comedy group! Yay me!

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I was super, super wary when I was first auditioning, though. Because the group is called Hot and Funny, and the person who directs the sketches is a guy. I've seen plenty of "sketches" that are littered with terrible excuses to get women naked, and I'm not about on screen nudity. Thank goodness he included a couple of really funny sketches in the invitation to audition, because I was considering just not going! But I went, we clicked, and it's turning out to be so much better than I had expected. So it's made me consider the ways in which I do and don't use my sexuality.

The first thing to say about the way I usually use my sexuality is that I... don't. I typically play young, intelligent, and innocent. I'm an ingenue. And that's a hard role to play if someone can Google my name and find naked images of me. So I won't do any kind of sexualized nudity, and I'm cautious and hesitant to do scenes that take place at the beach, the pool, or in a shower. There's one time I got into a fight at an NYU seminar with a ton of student directors because I said that nudity is usually a crutch, and they were all convinced that when THEY used it in THEIR films, it was art. I wasn't buying it, and they were not happy with my ability to argue my point of view. It was awkward all around.

But being in this group is making me properly consider how to use my sexuality in a way that purely benefits me without delving into the inappropriate or over-sexualized. It's making me consider for the first time how I can use the fact that I'm ultimately, you know, an attractive young woman and have it work for me through my own initiative, as opposed to banking on it for making men want to talk to me who might be influential.

It's something I'm still exploring. But I love the idea that I use my body to make things that I think are funny and good, not just projects I think will turn on other people.

New Year's Resolutions - "I hope that in the year to come you make mistakes." - Neil Gaiman

Happy New Year! January 1st may be a cosmically insignificant date, but I still think it's amazing and very cool that we as humans took the coldest, darkest part of the year and chose to make it about rebirth and new beginnings.

Let's talk new year's resolutions.

Like last year, this post is going to be about the resolutions I made for 2017, how I did with them, and the resolutions I've got coming up now for 2018!

2017 Resolutions

2017 Resolutions

Move to Los Angeles: Done!
See 2+ New Cities in the USA: I'm probably cheating a little bit by including Cooperstown, NY since it's not in the spirit of traveling like I had meant, and I technically went there when I was very young, but it was still new to me, so good enough! Cooperstown, NY and Detroit, MI.
Increase my Future Financial Security (401k/IRA, credit score) (fuck you money!): My savings took a pretty big hit from moving across the country, but my credit score is way better now (in that it exists) and, in the spirit of the resolution, I've started saving money again, so I'm counting this as a win.
Get a New Doctor and Have a Check Up: Done!
Be the Blood of the Dragon: Every year I give myself one resolution that I know I can accomplish, mostly for the funny, but also so I can know for sure that I'll accomplish at least one. In 2015 it was not to get anyone else pregnant. In 2016 it was to take less BS. This past year, it was this, because this quality of fire and leadership is a) something I greatly admire about Daenerys in Game of Thrones, and b) want to have. I feel like I let myself get walked over a little bit too much this year, though. There were some aspects of my life in which I really took charge and made things happen and was a leader, and some in which I really didn't. So I don't know about this one. I wouldn't say that I didn't do it at all. But just that I wasn't really consistent with it, either.
Get at Least One of the Following: Agent, Manager, or Union Status: Well, I'm still unrepresented and non-union. The bright side is that moving out here made it very clear that I am not yet ready to be SAG, although I could definitely join AEA. And while I don't have representation yet, I've done heavy research into agencies, and I'm working towards it. So I guess I fulfilled the spirit of the resolution, if not the actual letter of it.
Finish at Least One Feature-Length Project: Nope. Didn't do this one at all. It was maybe a bit too ambitious of me to hope that I could write a feature around producing multiple other projects and moving across the country, but at the end of the day (or, rather, year) I just... didn't do it. Oops.
Simplify Your Material Life: So, so done! I got rid of a ton of stuff this year.
Have/Complete Monthly Goals: I just... didn't do this one, either. After February I decided it couldn't really be a priority. I think that was misguided of myself, but it's what happened.

So... a mixed bag on resolutions for 2017. Some great successes, but not entirely enough follow through. It's unfortunate because I know I can do better. But the year is over now. Meaning that it's time to move on to 2018!

2018 Resolutions

2018 Resolutions

First of all, can we just appreciate how much better the camera quality is on my new phone??

Produce 2+ New Projects: I need to start creating my own work in LA. I also find that I like producing, particularly when I get to produce shows for charity, so they don't have to be huge works, but it's my new favorite kind of volunteer work, and I want to make it happen!
Apply for the Fulbright at LAMDA: Did you know there's a Fulbright available to study classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art? The odds are pretty against me, the way they are with any Fulbright, but the opportunity to study humanity and performance through classical theatre in London at one of the most long-lasting and prestigious schools of drama in the world? How could I possibly not go for it?
Start a Retirement Account: Pretty self-explanatory. I'm 25. It's time.
Travel to Two New Places (Domestic OR International): I didn't specify that they have to be cities because there are places I want to go that aren't metropolitan areas, like Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon. I know traveling new places will be a little difficult from here on out since I'll also be going back to New York a couple of times a year, and that'll be a bit of a financial/time drain. But I have every faith that I can make it happen, especially if I don't limit myself to cities!
Be More of a Bitch: I'm pretty concerned with how much people like me. A little bit too much so. I need to start standing up for what I want, even if that goes directly against what someone else wants. Some random dude talking to me when I clearly just want to listen to music/read a book? Tell him. I think someone isn't pulling their weight in a group project? Let them know. I think there's a line to be walked between being nice, kind, and polite, and being direct, firm, and a little bitchy about getting what I want, and this year I am determined to find it.
Take 3+ New Performance/Skill Classes: I realized I didn't take a scene study class at all in 2017. At first I was saving up for the move, and then money was tight, but god I am aching for a class and community here in LA. My training is slipping and I can be better. So I will be.
Get my Driver's License: I never could spell "license" without a spell checker. But this resolution is also pretty self-explanatory. Over the past six months I've proven that I can get by in LA without a car. But it'll be nice to have the option to rent one. Especially since this is a thing that teenagers can do, and I still can't.
Finish 26 Books: There's too much to learn in the world to not be reading more than I have been.
Have/Complete Monthly Goals: Recycling this one from last year. It was a good idea to make sure every month is productive, and I want to give it a more serious try in 2018. This month, I'm going to get my CA Driver's Permit, solidify travel plans to New York since I didn't get to go home at all over the holidays, and reach out to some commercial agents on the west coast.

So what do you guys think? What are your resolutions for 2018? Do we have any of the same ones? I'd love to see if anyone else has any good ones that I can steal for myself!

Inspiration - "Why don't you put that on your Good Morning Missouri fucking wakeup broadcast?"

Last week, I mentioned that the past couple of months here in LA have been a bit of a slog. It's been difficult staying here for a variety of reasons, and I've even been thinking about moving back to New York - I'm not a "giving up" kind of a girl, but when most of my auditions here are self-tapes and I'm so much happier on the east coast, shouldn't I go back there for a while?

And then, the other day, I saw Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wow. What a masterclass in acting. What incredible performances. What a brilliantly told story, with each part of it unfolding perfectly. And I was reminded of why I'm here. Because this is what I want to be doing. And Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri casts out of Los Angeles.

Going back to New York is still something I'm considering. When I get the representation I want out here, if I'm still getting primarily self-taped auditions, then I may as well be in the place where I'm happier.

But I've got some specific things to take of first out here. And I'm going to stay and do them.

So this is my fairly short post about the importance of inspiration. I should be able to work without it. But every so often I have to be reminded why I'm doing the work in the first place. And this movie did it.

You should go see it. It is incredible.

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.

Gratitude and Moodiness - "I am a MEDIUM person! I should get to go to a medium place!" - The Good Place

So I know it's Thanksgiving weekend, but it's been occurring to me how difficult it can be to practice gratitude. Primarily because I've spent a fair amount of the past few days being kinda jealous.

I've been surrounded by people who care a whole lot for each other while some of my closest friends went away or stayed on the east coast for the holiday. I know a few people who have traveled to London, while I've started to get the bug to go back there. I miss New York. My current day job isn't paying me the kind of money I'd need to get all the things I'd like to get and do all the things I'd like to do. You know, basic stuff.

I think the point isn't to try to fight it, though. This feeling, however unfortunate, is part of the human experience. It sucks that it's happening now, at the beginning of the holiday season, but it just is what it is. And by accepting it, I can also appreciate the things I do have. I had a wonderful Friendsgiving last night, I have my health and my beautiful house, I have some money in my savings account, even if it's not as much as I'd like, and overall, I'm generally more happy than not. Even if I have a computer keyboard with a sticky "c" button, or I'm missing New York and the people in it.

Maybe it's not a coincidence (god, that was a terrible word to write with my "c" key) that all of this is happening as I'm bingeing The Good Place. It's the appreciation for the balance between the good and the bad. Everything is a gray area, and nobody is perfect.

Or maybe it's just that I'm moody in my first holiday season away from home. Or it's because I had nightmares that kept waking me up all night last night. I don't know! The human experience. Isn't it exciting.

Regardless, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with loved ones and good food, and I hope you have something special ahead of you as we move into the winter holidays. No matter how I feel today, I'm still psyched for them.

 

Sexual Assault and Hollywood

I feel like I should write a post about all of the sexual harassment "scandals" rocketing through Hollywood (and now also politics and on to pretty much every other industry) over the past several weeks. I'm just not really sure what exactly I have to say about it.

Anything I could possibly write in this blog post should be fairly obvious. Duh you shouldn't rape people. Respect women; we're people, too. Let's also not touch men without their consent while we're at it. Like, duh. There's no hot take to be had. There are shades of gray like there are in everything - there's a huge difference between Harvey Weinstein and Senator Al Franken - but so long as you have the minimal amount of awareness and respect for your fellow humans, acknowledge when you fuck up, and do your best to make it right when it happens, there generally shouldn't be a problem. Let's all work together to destroy rape culture. No shit, Sherlock.

But on a more personal note, it's the first thing that's ever made me nervous about being an actor. I've known my whole life that I'm going to struggle a little financially, that I'll never have job security, and that if I do "make it," I'll be objectified in tabloids. It's not exactly a part of the career that I enjoy/am looking forward to, but I knew what I was getting myself into with that and I'm okay with it. I did not think I was signing myself up to, more likely than not, get sexually assaulted.

Another obvious statement: I don't want to get raped. And it's discomforting to realize I've put myself in a place where it could easily happen. If my previous experience with harassment has been any indicator, no one will step in to help - the only one who would be able to stop it is me. So many abusers are being dragged into the court of public opinion, but not a whole lot is being done to change the "old boys club" culture and mindset, and there are very few recourses available if someone in a position of power does decide to put me in the casting couch scenario. If/When that happens, I will be forced to choose between my self-respect and my dreams.

It feels like a variant on the trolley problem in ethics. I can do nothing, and let someone take advantage of me, or I can walk out and potentially wreck my career, the only thing I've ever really wanted.

To be honest, if/when that happens, I genuinely have no idea what I'll choose.

It should be more comforting that people are beginning to actually believe women as they describe being assaulted and by whom. But, while I support each of these incredible people coming forward 1000%, it's way more terrifying than comforting. It's just another stark reminder that so many people I've spent so much of my life admiring are actually monsters. And who am I if I've spent all this time wanting to be them, or at least be around them?

Destroying Personal Limitations - "The limit does not exist!" - Mean Girls

Well. It's been an eventful month. I was in an off Broadway showcase back in New York. Two weeks later, there was an attack in Tribeca. The Weinstein scandal hit, and then so many other people have been shown to be abusive as well. Halloween. Personal technological problems (all of my electronics are dying all at once help).

Obviously, some of these are bigger and more relevant than others. Those are the ones that take more time to think about and really consider. The growing number of sexual harassment accusations in Hollywood is one of them. I'm gonna make a post about that soon, because I have Thoughts and Things I Want to Say. But the situation is still unfolding, and it's so sensitive that it deserves a measured, well-considered response. But don't worry. It's coming. (Pun, while morbid and in bad taste, intended.)

Instead, I'm writing about something lighter today. It's the showcase I did of Taking Wing: Legends of Emimencia in mid-October, and how it showed me that, even though I have self-esteem coming out of every inch of me, I still put limitations on myself that don't exist outside of my mind.

I hadn't done musical theater since college. Then I was brought on to this show relatively early, and didn't entirely know it would be a musical. I knew music would be involved, but when I got an email asking me to send the composer/lyricist my vocal type, that was a bit of a surprise.

And then I walked into my first rehearsal. I was handed the book for the show, some sheet music, the music director played the music for the opening song, we said the words together in rhythm, and then he said, "Okay, go." And he just played the song and we had to sing it perfectly with him and I had never done that before but the cool thing was... I did it. I just made it happen.

The show overall was insanely fun - it's children's theatre, after all, why wouldn't it be? - and I got to meet so many lovely, interesting, funny, dedicated people through doing it. I couldn't have had a better excuse to go back to New York. And it was a whirlwind two weeks in terms of personal growth. Just like I would expect NYC to be.

(I'm not trying to turn this into an essay about how great New York is. It's already great. It doesn't need yet another essay on the subject for that. But just so long as I'm mentioning the city, it seems like a good time to say, once again, how much I love it.)

Now, here's to more projects ahead full of destroying the limitations that I only believe exist.

Yom Kippur, Judaism, and Me - "No. It's the holiest day of the year." - Transparent

As a not especially religious Jew, I know I don't have to fast on Yom Kippur. Except I know that it is absolutely the right thing for me to do.

Let's keep in mind that I am really not observant. I didn't go to services today, yesterday, or on Rosh Hashanah, or on any of the Days of Awe in between. Or frankly any at all for the past several years. I think nothing of working on Shabbat. I barely celebrate most holidays. Honestly, even though today is both Shabbat AND Yom Kippur, making it especially holy, I'm still going to an audition this afternoon.

But for whatever reason, it's still deeply meaningful to me that I am Jewish. And Yom Kippur along with Rosh Hashanah are the most important holidays of them all. So I ate apples and honey last week, and today I am fasting until 7:39pm and thinking about what it is I have to atone for.

To be honest, I'm not sure about most of my atonement. I'm sure I've hurt people in the past year because we all do. Humans mess up sometimes. But, like, everyone else, it's always unintentional, so if someone doesn't tell me that I hurt them, I probably don't know that I did.

I could do the thing that some of my Jewish friends do where they make a Facebook status asking people they've hurt to come forward and tell them so they can apologize. But that always seems like such a bullshit, empty gesture to me. Why would anyone ever come forward with an old grievance? Assuming we're all mature adults, the wronged party should've already moved on by now. And it passes off all the work of atonement on to the people they've already hurt. That's not what it's supposed to be about.

Fasting reminds me that atonement isn't about apologizing for individual sins. Obviously, when I do think of specific people I've hurt, or specific things I've done, I want to do what has to be done to make it right. And if someone does want to come to me and tell me how I've hurt them, I hope they feel free to do so. But the lessons of atonement are about realizing what problematic behaviors we employ, and how to change ourselves so we don't continue to do them in the future. It's about constant personal improvement so we are worthy of being sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

I know that I can be judgmental. I know that I can be selfish and greedy. I know that I am willing to flat out use people sometimes to get what I want. I know that I am deeply impatient. I know that it is difficult for me to let things go, even when it's harmful to me to keep holding on to them. These are the things that I'm thinking about today while atoning. And over the course of 5778, I'm going to work on making myself better in each of these areas. I still won't be perfect. I'm still human. But the whole point is that I'm aware and I'm trying. It's all any person or any god could ask.

Finally, I'm not eating today by choice. But it's not an option for people in Puerto Rico. I'm sure you're all aware and doing what you can for hurricane relief, but if you can, please give. And give again. This is a pretty good charity through which to do it: https://hispanicfederation.org/donate

Good Things and How Did I Get Them?? - "Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results." - Jeff Olson

I'm a pretty determined, stubborn person. And I am very, very good at getting things done - I'm good at pushing until it happens. So usually, when I hear people talking about submitting to the flow of the universe and how the path of least resistance is usually the best one, I think it's bullshit.

I also hate to admit when I'm wrong.

So it's a struggle for me to acknowledge that there are a few areas of my life where I just haven't been able to aim my focus over the past month or so, and suddenly each of those areas is going really well.

I decided that I needed to put more energy into making money, and I'm going on auditions almost daily. I decided that it's not even like I know that many people in LA so instead of being social, I would catch up on movies and TV I want to watch, and now I have so many social plans that I have multiple people trying to do things with me on any given weekend night.

Do you know how frustrating it is to know that there is nothing I can do to make this happen in other areas of my life, or to ensure that this keeps happening?

There's a certain point where some of these things come from habits that I maintain, and all I have to do is continue with those habits and the good things will keep coming. I read a couple of books a while ago called The Power of Habit and The Slight Edge, which were about basically that concept. Good things don't come from one big positive action. They come from little positive actions taken every day.

But there's also a certain point where I can't be making these people like me. I'm a lovely human, but no one is everyone's cup of tea.

So I suppose, for now, all I can do is be grateful I have these good things and auditions and people, and keep up the good habits that allowed me to get them in the first place.

Somehow, that doesn't feel like enough for the good things that are coming into my life. But I don't know what else to do other than appreciate them.

Happiness, Depression, and Creating Art - "I needed color." - Jim Carrey

In my sophomore year of college, one of my exes was dating one of my friends, and I wasn't jealous, per se, but it wasn't something I had experienced before and it was weird. I spent a lot of that first semester feeling lonely, unwanted, and just generally sad.

When I was an underclassman, I also made a lot of vague, passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. What do we call it when it's subtweeting but on Facebook? Because it was that. I did that. But at one point I made some angsty status about my sadness at least good fodder for my artistry as an actress and a writer, and one of my friends - an actress I deeply respect - commented on it, saying that she does her best work when she's at her happiest.

Especially since my last post about how hard the first month in LA has been, I've been thinking a lot about happiness and depression and the art that comes out of it.

I've considered all of the great artists who experienced incredible pain, to the point of taking their own lives. Robin Williams (it's the anniversary of his death today, too), Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Heath Ledger, for example. They all created art that has brought us incredible joy and meaning, even though they were also in excruciating pain.

I also think about awards show speeches, though. I know, I know, awards shows don't really matter, they don't represent the things that "real people" actually watch, and all that other crap. But I also love them, because you get to see peoples' dreams coming true. And in almost every thank you speech, the honoree talks about the people that they love, and the support they feel from them. These are people who have blessed lives in many ways, and while we can all point to examples of celebrities who have various demons made public, I think it's also fair to say that many of the most successful ones can and do lead happy lives, and they also make joyful and meaningful art.

And maybe it's just a combination of both? I watched this short documentary about Jim Carrey and his work as a painter where he talks about how he used art to take him out of a depressive place and into a much happier one.

For myself, I know working on my art has been much more difficult over the past month. Part of it is also that I don't have a structure for doing it, or a place to share it. But I've also just been sad, and that makes it so much harder for me to work, even if it's the work that I love and enjoy doing. Even in the evenings, time I would usually spend writing, or researching, or watching new movies and television, I've instead been binging episodes of shows I've already seen multiple times. They're comfortable, and I just can't make myself want to do anything else.

I'm not sure how to get out of it or change it. Maybe I just need a group to help me out? If I were to join a scene study class, I would be forced to work, after all. And it's definitely possible I'm thinking about it the wrong way around - maybe it's not that I need to be happy to work, but I need to work to be happy. My life is always at it's best when I have the most stuff going on, after all. That's money that I don't have, though. So I'm not really sure what the next step would be. I'm sure I'll figure it out, or I'll start getting more work in films as I stay here longer. Something will change. It has to. Everything has been so in flux in my life, it doesn't make sense that this could be the one thing that would stagnate.

And, I have to say, I have gotten such an appreciation for those who deal with mental illness. It's been exhausting for me, and my experience is just a month of high but normal levels of stress from moving. I've always known that mental illness = bad, but if it's been this difficult for me, I can't imagine what it's like for people who experience it on a chronic level. I consider myself to be a fairly strong woman, but they have a strength that I will never know.

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.

Travelling Across the Country - "To what extent do you know that I'm moving to LA?" - Me, lately, a whole lot.

Yesterday I flew to Los Angeles. Now I'm here.

Over the course of the day I fluctuated from being deeply excited to explore a new city to not wanting to ever leave New York to being determined to make this happen to wondering why the hell I was doing this to myself to desperately wanting to produce something and act in it here so I can find my fellow People Who Do Things. And I would go through all of those within the span of five minutes.

There's a difference between intellectually knowing that my friends in New York are still going to care about me and not feel like I decided to just leave them, and actually emotionally believing it. And I don't know how to convince them that they're still important to me when they already know it.

Also, New York is so important to me. It's my hometown, it's the "concrete jungle where dreams are made." I've discovered who I am there, I've fallen in love there, both with the people and the city. I picked my major in college because of just one street in Manhattan! (Okay, maybe it's not just Broadway, but New York is THE place to be for theatre in the US.) It's shaped every aspect of who I am. How could I possibly leave it?

But I've barely been here twelve hours and LA has already so fully welcomed me. I had several wonderful friends who I knew from before who couldn't possibly make it more clear how excited they are for me to be here. I had to promise a few of them to text as soon as the plane landed, and I'm so psyched to see them. In my Lyft on the way to my apartment, I had the most lovely conversation with my driver and fellow passengers. My roommate in my first sublet here is kind and friendly and so, so helpful. I already have social plans for tomorrow (since today is all about recovery from flying and jet lag) and people are going out of their way to invite me to events and direct me towards people and resources that could be useful. So many actresses come to LA, and I am absolutely the freshest off the plane, and it feels unfair that so many people should be wanting to help me, but I love and appreciate it nonetheless!

And LA is so beautiful. The weather here is perfect. LA people kept warning me as I was arriving that I'm coming into a heat wave, but it's just heat without the intense humidity, and it's kind of lovely. And I get to take advantage of it, because there's a pool?? In my apartment building??? It's amazing to me.

It's still hard to know that, unless I get an East Coast gig or a major audition for me comes up there and I can't self-tape for it, I probably won't be back in New York for six months. I have a thing about never letting people see me cry in real life, but I couldn't stop myself when I was in the plane and it was taking off. Good thing I had a window seat so only the girl in my row knew I was doing it.

When Seminar went up this past Saturday (!!) (More on that soon!) the rest of the cast gave me flowers after the show for my last performance in New York.

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We went out for drinks afterwards, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling, the wondering how I could ever leave New York.

I can't wait to have the same feeling about LA.

Processing Life Events

So, several life changing things have happened to me and the people around me this month.

-I left my day job.
-I found a place to live in LA, meaning that my move over there is Really Happening.
-One of my close friends from middle school got married.
-A friend of mine took me to the Tony's.

From a year and a half long dream fulfilled (I liked my day job well enough, but it's not like I ever wanted to stay a server) to a childhood dream fulfilled (I wenT TO THE TONY'S OH MY GOD), it's been an intense month. And I'm still processing pieces of it.

For instance, my friend getting married. She and her girlfriend have been together for years, so it wasn't really a surprise to anyone. But it was still so wonderful to have a day that's all about them and their happiness. You know how there's always that one bridesmaid who is up by the altar just sobbing with happy tears? Guess who has two thumbs and was the bridesmaid that did that?? THIS GIRL. But it's also made me think a lot about what it is that I want in my personal, romantic life. Casual dating just isn't doing it for me. So what comes next? What is it that I want? What are the steps I would have to take to achieve that, and are there any that I can actually do? I don't know.

My feelings about moving to LA also keep fluctuating wildly on a literally minute-to-minute basis. I can't wait to explore a new city, and see what else there is for me on the other side of the country. I love film, and I'm about to be in a city that is absolutely dedicated to it. And I've gotten very comfortable in New York; too comfortable, I think, and I want to always be outside of my comfort zone. But also... how am I supposed to leave New York? Amy Poehler talks about "finding your tribe" in Yes, Please, and I'm well aware that I have finally really found mine only now as I'm about to leave. I have people here I love both working with and also just being around. And now I'm supposed to leave them? I'm aware that it's not forever and we'll still be friends and they'll still think of me for their work and everything, the same way I'll think of them. But I can't believe that I have to start all over again. I know I would have to do it eventually anyway. That doesn't make it fun.

Anyway, the point is, it's been one hell of a month. I've loved it. But oh man, there is so much to feel and I don't know how to process all of it just yet. Good thing I'm going somewhere where I won't have much of a social life so I'll have time to myself to do just that, huh?

On a separate topic, but still important, I'm doing one more show before I leave New York!

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Come see Seminar on Saturday the 1st at 8pm at The Artist Co-op! It's a script in hand reading, and I'll be playing Kate (along with having produced it). You can get tickets at seminartac.brownpapertickets.com. I'm sure I'll write more about this one soon, too!

Food and Sleep, Even When It's Gross - "Well, I haven't died yet." - Me, to my coworkers, upon eating unfinished food

Here's a dirty little secret about me working in a restaurant. When someone doesn't finish their food, if there's a lot of it left or they don't seem especially sick or disgusting, I take it into the back kitchen and finish it myself.

For a while recently, I didn't get to do that as much. I either had shifts where people just finished their own food, or there was a child at the table who had put their mouth on everything, or service was too busy and I didn't have the time to stop and eat the remainder of that croque madame. I found myself hating everyone by the end of each shift, and I just kept thinking that I had too many obnoxious, entitled tables in a row, or that my ability to continue in the service industry was just being worn out.

And then last week I was closing the restaurant, and it was almost the end of the night, and the chef let us have what remained of our tuna tartare special because we were about to close the kitchen and it's not like he could've saved it for another service. And upon eating it, my mood just shot right up. I was so happy by the end of the night. I had never thought I'm the kind of person to get hangry before, but there it was, proof positive that food will always make me feel better.

I know I've written about self-care on this blog before, but sometimes it's not treating yourself to something expensive or taking a day to do at-home spa treatments. Sometimes it's just the most obvious things that we forget, like making sure we're eating enough, and getting enough sleep.

Multiple times over the past couple of weeks, I've slept past my alarm. And it's not the worst thing in the world because I do so much of my actor/producer work from home, and I never slept in so much that I was late for a shift at the day job. But because of that, I kept forgoing the one day a week I just turn off my alarm and sleep as late as I need to. And for the past couple of weeks, I've spent every day in a fog of fatigue.

Last night, I decided that if I kept sleeping through my alarm and still continued to wake up tired, maybe there was an issue, and I should just let myself get the sleep I need. So I turned off my alarm for today.

I slept ten and a half hours. And woke up at 1pm. That's not a sustainable sleep schedule. But oh my god, I feel so good and rested right now. I feel eager for the day ahead of me, not exhausted at the thought that I can't come back to bed for a whole day.

And I think the general moral of these experiences here is that self-care isn't about doing something nice for yourself. It's about doing something necessary for yourself. And sometimes that does mean an extra dessert, or buying something that's purely pretty. But that's just an add-on to making sure you're taking care of your basic needs as a human.

I have to admit, I feel a little embarrassed that I forgot that.

Times Square Accident and How We See It

I meant to write about editing my reel together today, and then a car drove straight into pedestrians at Times Square, and it made me think about how we feel about and react to things around us.

Because I heard the news and barely reacted at all.

Before I knew it was a drunk driver, I got a little upset that someone tried to attack MY NEW YORK again. And I was - and still am - sad for the person who died and their friends/family. I hope that the people who were injured heal easily and swiftly. But that's all a little in the background since I don't know any of them. And I'm not sure to what extent that's terrifying, or is it just normal human psychology?

We hear so many stories of people getting hurt and dying every day. We can't possibly grieve them all. We couldn't get on with our own lives if we did. Is that mindset compassion fatigue, or a normal coping mechanism?

The other thing about that which scares me is that later on today, I was hanging out with my brother (he just got home for the summer from his sophomore year of college!) and we were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the episode we watched made me cry.

Real people being injured did next to nothing for me, but a fictional girl dying on a TV show made me lose my shit.

Now, there are some obvious differences. I can see the people crying on Star Trek. Even if they're not real, they're characters that I'm very familiar with, so it feels like I know them. It's personal. And all I've seen about the events in Times Square today are a couple of headlines from the New York Times. I don't think I know anyone who was involved. But isn't it supposed to be part of human empathy that we can feel for people we don't know when tragedies befall them?

I genuinely don't have any answers to this. Is it a problem that is unique to the modern era since, with modern technology, we can hear more than ever about terrible things around the world, and we're simply overwhelmed? But humans have heard about and committed atrocities throughout all of history and moved on with their lives. I don't really know. But both as a human and as an actor who is supposed to feel, observe, and tell the stories of human emotion, it's something I couldn't not think about today.

I hope you and your loved ones are all alright.

An Open Letter About Compliments from Someone Who Hates Open Letters

To the friend who complimented me at Starbucks last week,

You complimented me on my confidence, and I don't think you know how nice that was. It was really, really nice. It was instantly-make-it-into-the-top-five-best-compliments-I've-ever-received nice, right up there with "your face reminds me of sunshine," "you magical, sparkly unicorn of glory," and "I'm pretty sure anyone in this cast would do you sober" (back before I believed that I'm beautiful). You said my level of confidence is substantiated and refreshing, and I felt myself blush, waved my hands, said it was mostly bluster when I display it, and came back with a compliment for you.

A couple of hours later, I realized that it seemed like I had just blown off what you said, and then said something nice because you said something nice first. And I don't know if you saw it that way, or if you've thought of this interaction at all since. Which is a major part of the reason I'm putting this in a blog post as opposed to just saying it to you. #awkward. But I wanted to put it out there because, at the very least, I've been thinking about it a lot for the past week.

It was such a lovely thing to say because my confidence is something I've been working hard on over the past few years, and I'm proud of it. I get compliments about my looks on a semi-regular basis, and they're all very kind, but they're usually about the accident of my genetics. They're easy to graciously accept because they don't involve any kind of major insight on the part of the person giving them. It's always appreciated, but it's not like I did any work to grow my eyes.

But my confidence is still something I struggle with every day. Most days I have good days with it now. I do believe that I'm pretty, and I like what I see when I look in the mirror. I know that I'm intelligent, and I keep reading books and seeking out friends (like you!) who stimulate and challenge me to keep growing. I understand that I'm funny because I make smart people laugh.

There's a huge difference, though, between intellectually getting all of this and emotionally accepting it.

When I first started auditioning after college, I was quiet and polite. Absolutely nothing about me stood out. And I was only okay as an actress. So I really wasn't getting anywhere. I got my first callback after an audition where I had already been having a good day, so that followed me in to the audition room, and I realized that, if I don't show my personality, then I'll never be cast in anything. And if they don't like my personality? Well, that was a major worry of mine, but if I don't show anything I'll also never be cast, so it was a risk I was literally forced to take.

But I was into such nerdy stuff and spent most of my grade school life being liked, but rarely as much more than an acquaintance, that I didn't think anyone would really like me. I've had to pretend that I'm not terrified to show who I am for years now. And I've gotten better at it, to the point where I almost never have a problem anymore. But it's always there in the background, the only part of me in which I assume "real adults" are interested. I have to fight it every day, and It's a source of great pride for me that, most of the time, I win and can be my ridiculous, vivacious, pun-loving self.

So when you saw past my obvious positive attributes to compliment something truly meaningful to me, I just didn't know how to handle it. It's not often that anyone feels really seen, but there in that Starbucks, I felt under the spotlight, far more so than I have ever been on stage or screen, in the best possible way.

This whole post is my long, complicated, deeply-over-intellectualized way of saying thank you. The original interaction may not have meant much to you. This may be a way over the top form of thanks. I honestly don't know.

But it was really sweet, and even if it was just an everyday conversation to you, it meant the world to me. It's something I really care about, and I love that you saw it and believe in it, too. So thank you.

You da best.

Emma

Moral Gray Areas

So there's a project I was a part of that was absolutely full to the brim of microaggressions towards a group of people of which I consider myself a member, and I'm not sure to what extent I should've stood up against it.

Early enough in your career as an actor, you can't say that you're "too good" for any project that wants to cast you. You don't want to come off as aloof, rude, or difficult to work with. And the vast majority of people involved with that project are lovely people who recognized that there were times when the script was uncomfortable, and we're still in touch and work together.

But yikes at that script.

What should I have done? I'm not exactly a "name" actor, so I would've been pretty easily replaced. It's easy to write off an uncooperative actor as a diva, so I don't think my leaving would have started any serious conversations about the topic. And if I'm willing to break my word in business and leave after having committed to the project, then why should they listen to what I have to say in any other arena?

What about staying on but talking to the director or producer about it? I guess I could've done that, but I get the feeling that I either would've been insulting the director/producer and their taste/morals or I'd be a diva again. Maybe that feeling is unfounded. I honestly don't know. Neither the director and producer are malicious or selfish people. But I've been so thoroughly taught not to make those kinds of waves that it was barely a thing I considered. (And if I hated the script so much, then why had I agreed to be a part of the project?)

I won't leave you in suspense - what I did do was stay. I vented my feelings with some of the cast and crew who I knew agreed with me, but I did it. I gave my face, time, and talents to the production. I felt icky about it, but I did my job.

I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to do. I'm not sure if I should've stood up for what's morally right there and called the writer out on his shit, or if it was better to just get what I could out of that project and move on.

We all love moral gray areas when it comes to our favorite characters on screen and stage, but it doesn't seem to feel as good when it's in real life.

 

"Women will never be able to relax about their bodies the way that men can." - Kristen Schaal

Yesterday this guy I know and I were teasing each other. Totally in fun, he said that I "better" do something. I don't even remember what. And I asked him "I better do it or what?" since it's not like he can make me do anything. And still totally joking, he said "Or I'm gonna grab you by the pussy."

So I looked him square in the eye and said "If you want to grab a handful of blood, that's up to you."

And upon realizing that meant that I'm on my period, he freaked out. I wonder why it's okay for him to have made a joke about rape, but it's disgusting when I bring up something that happens to half of all humans.

Yup, this is one of those posts where I am a strident feminist.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone why rape jokes are bad over the internet. There are plenty of well-written articles about that from more informed people than me. But just, can we, as a culture, get over the idea that a menstruating is disgusting? It happens to everyone born with female anatomy. If there are four random people with uteruses (uterusi? uterusae?) in a room, odds are that one of them will be bleeding on any given day. The feminine hygiene industry is massive.

And yet, for a quarter of my life between ages 13 and, roughly, 50, the natural things my body does is considered disgusting. Like, more so than the idea of molesting it.

I can't say I know what to do about it. It's hardly like this one post is going to reach 3.5 billion men and affect them the way I wish it could.

But if anyone ever wonders why I'm a feminist, shit like this is it. How a friend of mine, someone who is a lovely human and "one of the good ones," whatever that means, can still have this so deeply internalized is beyond me.

It's just - wait for it - bloody ridiculous.

EDIT/UPDATE: I just discovered Carmen Esposito. If you know who she is, you know which bit I just discovered.

"You can take our official Twitter, but you'll never take our free time!" - Alt. US National Park Service on Twitter

So, uh, it's been a week.

We have a new president. And already shit has hit the fan, I've been to multiple protests, and the park rangers are going rogue??? Like, it's all terrible and incredible at the same time. My Facebook news feed has never been so full of politics, even during the presidential campaign.

And I'm not really sure how to move on from here. Because it feels somehow wrong to focus on anything that isn't political.

Like, intellectually, I get that it's all about balance. I can follow my acting dreams AND be effective politically - it only takes a few letters or phone calls to my senators and representatives, going to protests for an hour or two when necessary, and then I've covered all of my bases and can get back to editing my new short or planning how to put on a production of my favorite play.

But, for instance, as soon as the ACA is repealed, I'm going to lose my healthcare. And it feels wrong to be working towards a goal that doesn't involve me getting another kind of health insurance. How can I be creating stories when the NEA and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are being axed? Do I have the right to any of my Jewish heritage if I'm not constantly working to allow refugees in again from places like Syria? We say things like "never again" but we're also letting almost the exact same thing happen again there.

I guess I could argue that the most effective thing I could do is focus on my work, and if I ever get well known for it, use that status and platform to speak out. Right now I'm just another face in the crowd, but everyone knows it when celebrities join marches and movements. I'm not in acting for the celebrity, but I also wouldn't exactly be the first actor to put their opinion out there.

Somehow it feels a little hollow, though. And I'm not really sure how to get back to normal or if, honestly, I ever will. (Or, less melodramatically, if I will at all during this administration.)