Of Meisner and Men

So for almost the last two years, I have been taking a Meisner Technique class down in the West Village on Saturday afternoons with a great, no BS teacher named Alan Gordon.  For those unfamiliar with the Meisner Technique, it is so named for Sanford Meisner, one of the preeminent American acting teachers.  Meisner came out of the Group Theatre alongside people like Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and Elia Kazan and eventually created his own approach to acting, which became known as the Meisner Technique.  The main points of the Meisner Technique are about not doing anything until something happens to you, doing something because of how you feel, and doing whatever you do fully.  Get that?  It’s all about DOING.  No thinking.  No trying.  It involves a LOT of repetition, which most people would assume is boring, but it disciplines you to listen, focus on your partner, and get out of your own head.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s basically a magic sedative for your neurotic tendencies. 

Well, at least it is for me.  I can’t speak for the OTHER 8,999,999 people in New York City.

Anyway, in Things That Never Happen To Twentysomething Female Actresses in New York (which will probably be the title of a chapter in my memoirs), my acting class happens to have quite a few straight men. 

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This is a vision board I made this past summer while drinking a glass of white wine, and yes, features a Beyonce quote. #hypocrite

Yes, you read that 100% correctly.  I am just as baffled as you.  I spent four
years at an artsy university where our unofficial slogan was “gay by May or your money back.” (That is a real thing. #goStars)  I haven’t been around so many straight men in a creative scenario for so long, it feels like being in a foreign country.  The best part is I didn’t even have to make a vision board (which, if I understand correctly, is where women drink white wine and cut pictures of yachts and six-pack abs and Beyonce quotes out of magazines?) or use the Secret to manifest this, it simply happened!

I am at an unusual stage in my development as an adult woman, I think.  My last relationship ended over three years ago, and I really haven’t dated anyone seriously since.  Yet, 75-85% of my closest friends are all in serious relationships now.  I’m 28, and I’ve basically had all of about two actual boyfriends in my life.  I realize I shouldn’t really compare myself to other people, but sometimes I look around and think, am I doing something wrong?  Even my ex is dating someone else (and honestly, I don’t even want to get into THAT right now).

And did I mention that I pretty much work with all men, the majority of whom are straight?  I am surrounded day in and day out by single, eligible men, and I didn’t even have to subject myself to being on the Bachelorette to do it.  No roses to give out.  No weird hot tub conversations.  No fantasy suites.  I wouldn’t mind chatting with Chris Harrison, because we went to the same university, but I don’t want to do it while I’m also trying to court twenty-five dudes with appallingly preppy names like Chad or Geoff (apologies to all non-douchey Chads and Geoffs).

chris-harrison

Chris Harrison, fellow OCU Star, and red rose/love advocate

ANYWAY…College Emmy would excitedly down half a Four Loko (the original version with caffeine, because those still existed in my day, sorry body) and proceed to try to get one of these dudes at work or in her class to be interested in her.  She’d try way too hard and get very drunk and force her best friend to drive her to get cheeseburgers from Whataburger at 3:30am and help her take her pants off before going to bed (which may or may not have happened…several times.  Sorry/Thank you, Caitlin.).

But Current Day Emmy can’t be bothered.  It’s not that I’m not interested, exactly; it’s that I’m less interested in TRYING.  Why should I TRY to make any of these men like me?  Why should I TRY to force my way into a relationship I’m maybe not enthusiastic about for the sake of saying I’m in a relationship?  I tried very hard to make my last relationship work, but truthfully, his heart wasn’t fully invested in it or in me.  Trying just isn’t good enough; it isn’t active enough.  Trying isn’t enough.  It is because of my Meisner class that I have become less interested in trying and more interested in DOING.  In FEELING.  In BEING.   I believe it was Yoda who said, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  I subscribe to that more than ever these days.  It’s like carrying my OWN little Yoda on back through my personal Dagobah training ground (i.e. New York City…which CAN actually get quite swampy in the summer heat).  And that is why I just DO my work and don’t try to make men like me anymore, and you know what?  I have noticed interesting things have started to happen to me.

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I carry my Meisner Technique training on my back like it’s Yoda…except my sweaty hair never looks as good as Luke’s.

The more I have focused on my work and doing the things I want to do, the more opportunities have started to come my way.  Better creative jobs.  People wanting to collaborate with me.  Money is flowing in.  I’m happier (other than the deep worry over the spectre of fascism associated with this dumpster fire of a presidential election).  It feels as if the universe is conspiring on my behalf (I know, Amy Schumer; I’m the worst.) the more I DO my own thing, the more I DO my work.  And that has also led me to feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and worrying less about whether or not dudes are into me.  It’s actually really freeing.  And when you’re comfortable in your own skin, I think it also makes you more attractive to others.  It’s amazing how when you let yourself be seen for who you really are without apologizing for it (which is a major struggle for women, because we always think we have to be someone else in order to please everyone in a way men never do), the right people start making their way into your life.  You are far more interesting when you’re really being yourself.  And some of the gentlemen around me these days are noticing that confidence and noticing me…if you know what I mean.

And as great and flattering as it is, I realized I actually like having my skills and work validated more than my relationship status on Facebook.  It’s taken me awhile to get there, and I could very well change my mind tomorrow, but if I’m really being true to myself, I’ve always cared more about what I’m doing and putting out into the world my whole life than whether I’m attached to somebody else.  I KNOW.  That’s a pretty big life realization, but it’s the truth.  I never really remember dreaming about my wedding as a kid; it was always about what I was going to DO with my life.  But you all know that if Benedict Cumberbatch or Oscar Isaac or Tom Hiddleston or Michael Fassbender (or any of my other Dream Internet Boyfriends) came knocking on my door, there’s no way I’d be turning THAT down. Honestly, if I feel a strong attraction to a dude now (and maybe I currently do to one one of the fellows around me…which I will neither confirm nor deny at this moment in time), and I feel it’s worth doing something about, then I will (okay, fine, I’m currently doing something about it; I’ll confirm it).  But gone are the days of TRYING; that only led to me feeling unhappy and like I was less than others.  I may not have all the same things in my life right now as many of my friends, but that doesn’t mean anyone is better or more fulfilled than anyone else.  It’s just different is all.

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Oscar Isaac: deserving recipient of my pancakes, $12 maple syrup, and my undying love/devotion

Do I get lonely sometimes?  Sure.  I’m a really supportive, smart, funny person who makes awesome pancakes that I think an intelligent, funny guy would enjoy eating for breakfast, but I’d rather the RIGHT intelligent, funny guy get those pancakes than waste my precious time and energy and maple syrup on a string of wrong guys (Hey, real maple syrup from Vermont or our Canadian neighbors is like, $12 a bottle. Not giving that liquid gold to just ANY Chad or Geoff.  Chris Harrison, you may have some.  Also Oscar Isaac.).

And it’s only natural that so much of what I’ve learned in nearly two years of studying the Meisner Technique has begun infiltrating my personal life.  If art truly imitates life and vice versa, then how could I possibly avoid speaking my mind/feelings honestly with others both onstage and off?  I’ve always been a confident person, but having grown up in the Midwest where politeness is prized above plainspoken candor, I haven’t always felt comfortable communicating my wants/needs out of fear of insulting others or being a burden.  But you reach a point where that repression is unbearable and you have a choice: wallow in it or DO something about it.  So now I DO something about it.  And that has made all the difference, because when you are clear about what you want and/or how you feel, it makes it easier to deal with others and for others to deal with you.  You can’t control how others will respond, but you eliminate the guesswork.  Honesty is still, most of the time, the best policy.  DO something because of how you feel.  DO it fully.  Meisner’s mantras are now MY mantras.   They should be all of our mantras.

So DO your work.  DO things that make you happy.  Don’t worry about the other stuff.

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Nothing says “I’m a confident, independent Millennial woman” like a hipster filter-y Instagram selfie on a mountaintop (that probably has a caption like #wanderlust)

“We know what we got, and we don’t care whether you know it or not.”

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

A Tale of Two Hearts: How Doctor Who Helped Me Get Over a Breakup

My last relationship ended two years ago.  I was totally heartbroken and in dire financial straits, two things which greatly contributed to my nightly cry-sessions and horrible depression.  I felt pretty trapped by the circumstances of my life, and I wanted to escape by almost any means.  It’s a desperation I hope I never experience again, even though it forced me to examine a lot of parts of myself I had been surreptitiously avoiding that were in need of fixing.

And that’s when the Doctor came into my life.

I wasn’t the most fun person to be around for the first couple months of 2014, so I would often come straight home from work, cry, and watch movies or TV to soothe myself until I fell asleep.  I had been catching up on another of my favorite BBC shows, Sherlock, and I wanted something different; a little more escapist.  My brother and various friends had been begging me for a long time to start new Who, believing (rightly) that I would be hooked if I actually gave it a shot.  My main excuse for not watching had been a combination of stubbornness, lack of time, and too many other shows to keep up with.  But considering I was an emotional wreck with quite a bit of time on my hands, I figured that was as good a time as any to start my travels with the Doctor.

The Ninth Doctor is totally underrated.

And like most of the companions, the Doctor arrived when I needed him most.  Within minutes of starting the first episode, “Rose,” I was swept up by this Madman With a Box into a universe full of aliens and amazing planets and historical figures.   I felt the same rush of adrenaline the Doctor’s companions feel stepping into the TARDIS for the first time; eyes large with wonder and disbelief.   For the first time in months, I felt hopeful instead of dejected, like my life really counted for something.

I know this probably sounds silly to say about a television show, but when someone and/or something has crushed you so completely you feel like you’re nothing, like you’re worthless, to have something constantly remind you of the sheer wonder of being alive is not silly at all.

As a companion, I'm some hybrid of Donna & Amy

As a companion, I’m some hybrid of Donna & Amy

To be inundated in episode after episode with the message that even the smallest, seemingly insignificant person is actually deeply valuable and worthwhile and capable of extraordinary things just because they are human and alive and full of feelings and thoughts can work wonders on a heart and soul that have been battered and beaten to think otherwise. This is what the Doctor does to everyone and everything he encounters in his travels: he saves them by showing them how those “weaknesses” are strengths, how their ability to feel things deeply makes them stronger and more capable than they’d ever imagined.  How they always have a choice between light and dark, right and wrong, war and peace, hope or despondency.  He even says at one point, “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”  And boy oh boy did THAT one hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard that for the first time.

I became addicted to the Doctor, which tends to happen to his companions and fans alike.  I couldn’t wait to get home from work and watch hours and hours of Doctor Who until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

"Vincent & the Doctor" is one of DW finest hours

“Vincent & the Doctor” is one of DW’s finest hours

And then I’d dream of adventures with the Doctor in all corners of time and space.  And the longer I spent with him, the more my broken heart started to heal and get stronger.  And I realized the Doctor is no stranger to heartbreak eitherHe’s lost so much, but yet, he keeps going.  He keeps fighting for those he loves.  He never gives up on them even when they’ve given up on themselves.  He looks for the hope even when it’s just a sliver…that’s all he needs to keep going.

The Doctor is lucky enough to have two hearts to keep him alive.  But in reality, ALL of us have two hearts: one that breaks and one that keeps  beating.  You mourn the one that’s broken while you ignore the one that’s beating and full of hope for a future you cannot see until eventually through time and healing, that becomes reversed.  Eventually, you allow yourself to focus on the hopeful heart instead of the broken one, but you always carry both with you, because one cannot truly exist without the other.  To ignore the pain is to forget what makes you so beautifully human.  The Doctor would agree with me on that.

YES!

YES!

I’ll fully admit to having become a full-fledged, cosplaying Whovian these days.  I own two Sonic Screwdrivers (and I guess I’m gonna have to get a pair of Ray-Bans now too).  I have a Pinterest board full of quotes and gifs and behind-the-scenes videos.  I read fan theories and follow DW writers on Twitter.  I’ve gone to multiple early preview screenings and been to the Pandorica Restaurant in Beacon, NY.  I re-watched the entire series over the summer to prepare for the current one.  The Doctor is an old friend now; someone I rely on to show me a good time, encourage me to never give up, and occasionally give me some tough love.  But I need him a little less than I did when I first met him.  This happens with many of his companions too;  they grow enough to not always need him around.  They learn to fend for themselves and others without constantly relying on him for help.  I’m always up for an adventure, but I don’t need him to be everything for me anymore.  My heart is healed.  My spirits are high.  I have, thanks to the Doctor, learned to navigate my life as well as he navigates his TARDIS: competently, enthusiastically, and  with the occasional malfunction every once in awhile.   It doesn’t always take me where I WANT to go, but it always takes me where I NEED to go.

You’ve gotta (un)friend

I have spoken many, many, many, many times about my ex.  I’m sick of talking about him, but the fact is, I’m still learning a lot of valuable lessons about myself from him sort of indirectly these days.  I’m also pretty sure all my dearest friends are sick of hearing about him too, but they put up with it because they love me so much (Thanks, y’all.  You know I love you.).  He and I have been broken up for well over a year, but—brace yourselves as I defy all logic—I still haven’t unfriended him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Scarier than pressing a button to launch a nuke

Now, this isn’t necessarily uncommon among people of my generation.  We seem to like holding onto these impersonal social media ties.  I think it has something to do with the fact that psychologically, Millennials, as a whole, like to have as many options as possible so we have the power to choose our own destinies in a way.  Whole sociological articles have been written about how we suffer from something called, “the fear of missing out,” which is the idea that there is always something better we should be doing with our lives or some other person who might be a better fit for us to commit to.  We are paralyzed by having too many choices, so we wind up keeping a LOT of doors open just in case the one we actually choose to walk through doesn’t feel right to us.  The problem with that is by never closing any doors and keeping them FIRMLY closed, we are confusing ourselves and possibly frittering away time and energy that could be spent on people and things that actually make us happy and more fulfilled.  “The Fear of Missing Out” makes even the most committed of us Millennials (myself included) pure commitment-phobes.  So even though I know in my heart my ex and I are never ever EVER getting back together, I haven’t been able to totally sever those ties.  Why?

  1. I don’t like admitting defeat.  Like so many Millennials, my biggest personal fear is of being a total failure at life.  I was the kid who got straight A’s (up until trigonometry in high school; B+), and everyone knew it.  If someone in one of my classes found out I got less than an A on a test in elementary or middle school, they would tease me about it.  “Awww Emmy didn’t get an A!” or “Guess Goldilocks isn’t so golden.”  You know, REAL highbrow wit (Oscar Wilde is shaking in his very dead, probably fabulous boots…NOT).  I was a real life Hermione Granger.  My parents expected good grades from me too, and so I put a LOT of pressure on myself to be the best all the time in everything I did.  In many ways, this work ethic has paid off for me, but it also led me to having at least two emotional breakdowns (one in high school, one in college) by the time I completed my formal education in 2011. 

    Wise words from Commander Peter Quincy Taggart

    I think I still have this “straight A” mentality when it comes to my life and that if I am not constantly achieving, I am not a successful person of worth.  It has taken me a long time to learn I am liked and loved because of who I am and not what I do, and I still struggle with that constantly.  In terms of my relationships, I work as hard on those as I did any paper or project in school and so when they have ended, it’s hard for me to accept some things were out of my control and that it wasn’t a “success.”  With my most recent ex, I often felt like our relationship failed because of things I did (“Um, you realize he’s an asshole for making you feel that way, right?” —my very blunt, wonderful friend, Ariana), so unfriending him feels like the waving of the last white flag on our relationship.

  2. We agreed to “try to stay friends.”  Now, no actual contractual (I could write raps for Empire with rhymes like THAT…or not; you guys, I am OBSESSED with Empire. #hereforCookie) agreement exists binding us to “be friends” after having our “irreconcilable differences” (which, for the record, I finally understand what that means whenever I see it listed in celebrity divorce papers on Extra, which I am ashamed to admit I watch sometimes, because Mario Lopez is probably immortal and will be fine and beautifully sculpted until the end of times).  The thing is that I have always only ever been able to stay friends with the majority of my exes after our “mourning period” ended, so I’m stubborn and think life works like sitcoms where I can be the Elaine to his Seinfeld (You’re not and never will be as funny as Seinfeld, dude, and I am a WAY better dancer than Elaine). 

    When you realize exes can’t be like Jerry and Elaine

    But he’s also a different person than my other exes, so why do I think what is true for them is true for him?  It’s not.  Honestly, I spent as much time with him as I did because I liked him and wanted a boyfriend, but now that I see him for who he really is, I can’t say he’s someone I’d actually hang out with anymore.  I’ve changed a lot since we dated, and I’d like to think that means I’ve grown into myself more as a woman, an artist, and human being.  I have less tolerance for certain people, things, and situations that do more harm than good in my life, and he’s one of them.  I’ve severed ties with other “friends” before, and I am better off, because I have friends who are actually friends in that they cherish me and support me and make me better.  Why would I want to “stay friends” with someone who causes me pain and makes me feel worse?  “Staying friends” only works when you’re Elaine and Jerry…because you’re just characters written that way for the sake of entertainment.

  3. I’m selfish.  I really hate owning up to my less than desirable qualities.  I, like literally every other person on the planet except for maybe Ann Coulter, am afraid of being totally disliked (and good for her for giving zero fucks about spewing the pure festering turds of opinions/hate-speech to the world she does on a daily basis; it’s kind of sickly admirable, really).  However, I have learned over the last couple of years—whether in conversation with close friends or vulnerable moments in acting classes—that admitting these darker thoughts and feelings, really owning up to them, actually feels SO much better than trying to hide and suppress them.  TRUTH: I am NOT always a nice person.  I am not always a “good” person.  I have a lot of anger I don’t always let out.  I have had shitty thoughts about others and myself.  I have done shitty things and lied about them.  I’m selfish sometimes.  I want to be the center of attention sometimes.  And unfriending my ex means I no longer will occupy even a tiny space of his day (at least that I’m aware of and can control).  I want him to occasionally think about and be reminded of me; to see how I’m doing and what I look like, because I’d like to think it will make him feel a little bit sorry for letting me go.  I guess I think that will make me feel better, prettier, etc. 

    Thank you, Beyonce.

    Rationally, I know it won’t, and that this is a completely egotistical reaction, but honestly, it’s what I want.  I want him to feel a twinge of something whenever my face lands in his newsfeed, but honestly, I’m not sure he thinks about me at all anymore anyway…and I’m not sure he ever really thought about me at all back when we were dating.

  4. I have an outlet for my anger.  You guys and gals, here’s something no one tells you except for Bond villains: anger can feel euphorically good.  Screaming feels awesome.  Simmering, seething anger just below the surface can be very weirdly invigorating. 

    Xenia Onatopp: literal Bond femme fatale, killing men by asphyxiation with her legs.

    Anger and rage make you feel really alive, you know?  My ex’s posts give me a sharp intake of breath or an eye roll or a punch to the gut.  They rev me up and get my blood going on days when I feel like a zombie at work.  My friend, Shannon, wisely pointed out that maybe I am addicted to the pain and anger my ex brings out in me; that I would rather keep feeling these things than let them go because I like having an outlet for them.  That anger, which is not an emotion in which I choose to operate on a daily basis, feels so good to me is the very reason I know I need to stop.  I am not a Billy Joel or Alanis Morrisette song protagonist, even though it feels very good to act like I am sometimes.  No one is benefitting from my anger but me, and truthfully, anger benefits no one (though those two singers made a lot of money from their angry songs; and actually, so have a LOT of singers).  Why hold onto it?

  5. Mostly, I’m simply scared.  He was someone who was really important to me for a while, and completely letting him go and not keeping tabs on his life without me means I have to accept he has a life without me.  It means I have to accept he might forget about me even if I never forget about him.  It means taking a firm stance and slamming a door on someone who I know didn’t love me, doesn’t love me, will never love me and being okay with not giving any more of myself or my emotions to someone who never deserved them in the first place and never reciprocated.  It means risking not being liked by at least one person for the rest of my life (though I’m pretty sure other people don’t like me, and I’m pretty sure he’ll never actually think horribly of me, but who cares if he does?).  It means forgoing a designated outlet for my selfishness and anger.  It means really, REALLY moving on in all aspects.  It means taking sole responsibility for my general wellbeing and happiness and admitting he is not a person who contributes to either of those things.  It’s scary to let go of all that junk because it makes you feel important in a way, I think; it gives you a self-indulgent sense of importance in a way only a character in a movie or book feels.  But self-indulgent behavior is bullshit, you know?  No real reward comes without risk.  Goethe said it better: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

But see?  All of that is just bullshit excuses.  I’m not “missing out” on anything by not being with him.  Do I miss being in a relationship?  Yep.  Am I going to have others?  Absolutely.  I have plenty of other doors left in my Choose Your Own Adventure novel. 

The title of my story, which works both literally and figuratively

Closing the door on something or someone who doesn’t contribute to your health and happiness is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, because it helps you find open doors (and sometimes windows) to things that are better for you.  To PEOPLE who are better for you.  Walking away from something you wanted but ultimately isn’t good for you is difficult, but it’s necessary if you’re ever going to become the person you’re meant to be.  Sometimes, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other until you literally walk into the life you’re supposed to have.  And you will.  But that’s only when you start closing doors and walking through others.  Making hard choices.  Letting yourself fail sometimes.  Eliminating negative things from your life can only increase positive things in your life!  We have to stop being emotional hoarders; keeping people and things around us that we think we “might need later,” because what we’re really doing is cluttering our life with a lot of people and stuff that aren’t truly serving us instead of looking for what really does.

Pretty much all of my favorite romantic comedies take place in the days before Facebook and Twitter.  When Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman break up in Sleepless in Seattle, they’re done.  They might run into each other at a mutual friend’s party or the supermarket, but other than that, they won’t know how many people “liked” a picture of them running a marathon or constantly “see” one another over Facebook. 

Ah the 90s…when you had to deal with awkward moments and exes in person instead of via Facebook.

Julia Roberts would use Facebook and Instagram to stalk Dermott Mulroney and Cameron Diaz’s relationship in My Best Friend’s Wedding these days, but back in the mid-90s, she had to use a PHONE and her own two FEET.  We give away so much of our personal lives these days (writes the girl currently sharing a LOT about her own personal life), but people didn’t do that before Facebook.  When they broke up, they cut the cord.  And if they did stay in contact, they were basically Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Well, I’m not planning on boiling anyone’s bunny anytime soon, despite being a Scorpio (and we DO get a bad rap for being vindictive).  I can’t promise I won’t be like Sally in When Harry Met Sally the day I find out he’s getting married, crying into the arms of my best straight guy friend “But why didn’t he want to marry meeeeee?!  But I know a simple click of the “unfriend” button on all his social media profiles isn’t going to be the end of the world.  Truthfully, he hasn’t been my actual friend for a long time, so it’s time he’s no longer a virtual one either.

[click]

See ya.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life.

xoxo: Letters versus Texting

I have unscientifically determined that texting is to my generation as letter-writing was to our grandparents’ generation (and all the generations before theirs), at least in the context of dating and relationships. Some scholars bemoan the state of our writing saying no one really learns how to properly write anymore (which, I think, is partially true) or even likes to write, but I would say with the Internet and technology, people are actually writing more than ever, just not necessarily always at the highest of literary/intellectual standards. No one is going to argue “Hey bae, I love u” is anywhere on the same level as Byron or Tennyson, but the sentiments are generally the same (for the record, I had to look up “bae” on Urban Dictionary #Imgettingold).

Proof that real mail is MAGICAL!

Harry Potter: Proof that real mail is MAGICAL!

Let’s look at our grandparents and great-grandparents for a second. Technology was much more limited. People had telephones, sure, but letter-writing was still an effective and important means of communication. You didn’t talk to people on the phone every day, because it still cost a lot of money, so letter-writing was a way to pour out all your thoughts and feelings for just the price of a stamp (which back then, at least around WWII, would have been 3-5 cents). Letters made feelings and worlds tangible; it gave them actual physical weight. Without unlimited access to cameras, you had to describe everything you saw in vivid detail so the letter-reader could see what you saw, smell what you smelled, hear what you heard (song cue: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”). And you would clamor for that next letter, sometimes for a week or a month or more, and as you did, you’d spend hours analyzing every word of the current letter, committing portions to memory. You became hungry for more words from your pen pal, sometimes ravenously so. And the waiting could drive you mad with worry or lust or desperation or love (sound familiar, Millennials?).

The letters from decades and even a couple centuries past are a thing of real beauty because no one writes to each other like THAT anymore (at least, not that I am aware of). Some are almost shocking in their open declarations of love and passion; probably because we have this idea that people from the past are all stuffy and proper when really they were just like any other human being with tons of feelings pulling them every which way. Epistolary romances are basically extinct, and it’s sad to think I will never probably know what it’s like to have someone write to me with such esteem and honesty, to express enamor in such a way. It’s an art rapidly being lost every minute each day. When I think of the great love letters of all time—Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved, Napoleon Bonaparte and his Josephine, Elizabeth and Robert Barrett Browning, etc—I think how much of their souls these people let bleed through the ink of their pens onto paper. That’s why there are so many grandmothers with bushels of old letters carefully preserved in dusty trunks in their attics: because to throw them away would be like throwing away the person who wrote them.

Drunk (texting) in love?

Drunk (texting) in love?

My generation, the Millennials, has grown up with rapidly changing technology. The older of us Millennials may even be the last kids to formally learn how to write in cursive at school. We burrow ourselves into our online personalities, which we carefully construct and sculpt to look the way we want other people to see us. We live in this oddity of a half-virtual, half-real world, and the two are always shaping one another whether it’s Instagramming our meals or checking in to cool places/events on 4Square or Facebook. Communication and the sharing of our “personalities” is a constant, daily practice for us. We feel more naked without our smartphones than we do wearing our barely-there crop-tops.

And dating? Well, there’s an app for that (or a hundred). Meeting people has never been easier. These days with Tinder, it’s literally a swipe of your fingertips across your phone (The lamest conclusion to a “how I met your mother/father” story, which is good news for Ted Mosby).

Ted Mosby: lover of Star Wars and prolonged stories with anti-climactic endings.

Ted Mosby: lover of Star Wars and prolonged stories with anti-climactic endings.

Most of us barely use our phones for actual CALLS these days. No. If you want to get a hold of your Millennial child/friend/whatever, you better text us. We’d rather type with our thumbs than talk. Thus, our preferred method of communicating with our objects of affection is texting, the most personal form of the impersonal virtual contact we allow. And here is where I think we can find some common ground with our elders, because texting both plays into AND against my generation’s dependency on instant gratification. Texting is where we flirt and express ourselves, but many times, it becomes a game, and that’s when it becomes less about communication and more about the act of texting itself. We create all these weird, nonexistent rules for ourselves in this game, rules that drive us crazy. For instance, how soon can I text him/her back without seeming clingy? If he/she texts me three times in a row, can I text them back three times in a row? Do I make him wait two hours before texting back? She didn’t text me back right away, so does she not like me? It goes on and on.

But guess what? Those rules aren’t even real. (“They were real that day I wore a vest!”)Regina - Those rules aren't real We make them up to ease our discomfort with the unknown much like our grandparents and great-grandparents probably made up hundreds of scenarios to explain why they hadn’t received a letter in a reasonable amount of time. We send texts out into a void (ooh the void with the Cybermen) and hope beyond hope we’ll hear back from that person instantly. Each message notification ding becomes a trigger for our happiness and self-worth (Pavlov would have a field day with us “dogs.”). We long to hear back from that other person. We pine. And when we do finally hear back from them, it sends endorphins rushing through our bodies. The older generations devoured their letters to each other, and now the younger generation just as eagerly devours our texts to one another. But my generation no longer has to spend time describing something; we can just send a photo along or a video of where we are, so in a way, we’re writing letters like our grandparents but with technology this time.

Do I wish I had something more tangible to remember romances of old? Yes, and I’m rather jealous of past generations for having such beautiful correspondences they can hold onto and read forever. I regularly preach the power of keeping a hand-written journal of ANY kind and how it unlocks your brain and feelings in ways nothing else does. I finished my first ever 200 page journal in May (covering a two-year timespan of my life) and have already started filling a new one, and it means more to me than anything else I’ve written, because I can see and feel those words, their meaning; I can remember how I felt writing them. No matter how great texting feels short-term, it doesn’t carry the same kind of emotional weight in the long-term as something handwritten. But the times they are a-changin’ and even if we all took the time to write each other proper letters, we wouldn’t have the patience or discipline to keep it up. After all, letters were just conversations spread out over pages and time, and now we can have those conversations more rapidly, for better or worse.

Which reminds me…I have a guy to text back.

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers…”

New Yorkers do not have the luxury of privacy.  Frankly, it’s a choice, because if we wanted privacy, we would not have moved to the most populated city in the United States where everyone is crammed on top of one another.  That’s why people live in the suburbs and Los Angeles (among other things like having a pool and needing to be more orange than a Dorito.  But I still like you and your city a lot, Angelenos).  Or the Midwest.  Or anywhere else, really.  You don’t move to New York for solitude, you move because it’s a hub of activity.  You move to New York because you crave excitement and opportunities.  The cost of that choice is a loss of privacy.  Thin apartment walls, crowded subway trains, the sound of cab horns honking at all hours.  If you’re lucky, you can find a quiet, deserted spot in Central Park, but I guarantee that someone will inevitably find your spot ten minutes later and camp down only a few feet from your little oasis (I would tell you my favorite quiet spot in CP, but I don’t want anyone bothering me, sorry.).  Privacy is a rare, precious gift in this city.

Shhh...take your obnoxious phone calls, Candy Crush playing, and domestic disputes elsewhere

Shhh…take your obnoxious phone calls, Candy Crush playing, and domestic disputes elsewhere

And that is never truer than when you are overcome with emotions and need to just weep and cry and let everything out.  I’ve never really been much of a crier, but admittedly, I have become much more of one in the last two years; I’m not sure if that’s because of living here or just that I am less self-conscious about sharing my emotions with others.  It’s probably both.  And while there is a hilarious, semi-helpful Tumblr that lists great places for a cry in New York, it isn’t uncommon to see people having breakdowns in the middle of the street, on the subway, etc.  New Yorkers ignore anything that causes a scene, so you tend to be able to just cry if you need to and you’ll be given about as much attention as those annoying “showtime” kids on the subways aka zero.

I say that, and yet, every single time I’ve found myself losing it in a public space, I have had not one but multiple people ask me if I’m okay or if there’s anything they can do.  For as supposedly indifferent New Yorkers are, many actually have good hearts and even better intentions (oh sure, there are still plenty of creeps out there).  I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that most New Yorkers move from elsewhere.  We tend to view each other here as bodies that just exist in our own little world, but we fail to realize these are real people who feel things too, whose hearts break and dreams get crushed just like everyone else.  And so I don’t know why I’m so surprised when one of those bodies, those strangers suddenly becomes my Clarence, my guardian angel, when I’m feeling low.

Frank Capra's angels are all so friendly and well-dressed.

Clarence: Frank Capra’s angels are all so friendly and well-dressed.

Take, for example, one night last week.  I found myself quite audibly weeping outside a bar (could I be any more clichéd?) on 29th Street, having excused myself from a party by pretending to have gotten a phone call.  The truth was I could feel hot tears welling up in my eye sockets the longer I stood there in his presence, hearing him talk excitedly about the next few months of his new job and life that didn’t include me anymore (at least, not in the way it used to).  I had been doing so well; we’d had a few drinks and had some decent if slightly awkward conversation.  It was altogether a very different experience than the last time I saw him in person just over five months ago where we could barely speak to one another without all the hurt ramrodding its way into every word and look.  But memories often seep through no matter how deeply we bury them, and as I stood there taking him in and letting my mind wander to all those memories, I felt myself withdrawing, and my urge to cry rising.  I had to get out, so I pretended to get a phone call and quietly slipped outside where the geyser opened up.

As I stood against the cold, metal door of the wholesale fabric retailer next door and buried my face in my hands, a young-ish woman in glasses approached me and asked, “Is everything okay?”  I nodded because I was too upset to speak.  “Are you sure?  I’d be happy to stay if you need to talk to someone,” she offered warmly.  I managed to get out a polite thank you and a tear-strewn smile, “I’ll be okay, but thank you for your kindness.”  And she smiled and continued walking down the street.  I kept trying, to no avail, to choke back my sobs, when a silver fox of a man walked outside the bar, lit up a cigarette, and upon hearing me asked, “Are you alright, miss?  Do you want to talk about it?  If you need a cigarette, you can have one.”  I replied, “I’ll be better in a few minutes, I think, but thank you.”  He turned away from me and went about smoking his cigarette, but kept an eye on me anyway like a concerned parent.  Eventually, I regained my composure and went back inside, but I was grateful that even though I felt so alone in my grief, here were strangers willing to share it for a few minutes with no other motive than simply to offer kindness.

Things didn’t get any better on the subway (apparently one of my go-to places to cry) ride home.  He and I had said a complicated goodbye, you see, full of loaded silences and questionable body language and unresolved feelings.  And after we parted, I cried all the way home.  I was met with sympathetic looks and respectful nods (mainly from women in a “I feel you, girl” sort of way).  I recall another time I cried on the subway and a guy gave up his seat for me, “Please sit.  You need it more than I do right now,” he said with a little bow.  Another Clarence talking me back from my proverbial “ledge.”

...as long as that "kindness" doesn't mean shipping me off to an asylum, we're good.

…as long as that “kindness” doesn’t mean shipping me off to an asylum, we’re good.

These little acts of kindness from strangers can be easily overlooked when you’re going through a rough time in this City, but I think they’re reassurances from the universe or God that help will always be given to those who need it (like at Hogwarts).  So yeah, I moved here and lost my privacy, but what a blessing it is in my darkest moments to have others there to help so I’m NOT alone.  Blanche DuBois would say, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” and as long as I’m here in this place and my life is messy, I’ll keep depending on that kindness too.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

You know how celebrities/famous people always seem to die in threes?  And some murders inspire subsequent copycat murders?  That whole “when it rains, it pours” thing?  What I’m trying to say is misfortune often breeds misfortune.

And I should know.  The last three months have probably been the worst of my entire life.  I know that’s a bold statement to make, but in thinking about the last twenty-five years, I cannot remember another time in my life when so much shit was flung my way in such a brief space of time.  Blow after blow after blow.  Three months of near-ceaseless gut punches.  My life literally imploded in my face.  BOOM!  There it goes in a mushroom cloud and rubble like a scene out of a doomsday movie.

There goes my life

There goes my life

(Maybe I’m being a TAD dramatic, but you get the point.)

I had a great summer, one of my very best, truly.  Lots of travel and fun times with friends and family.  After a year and a half, my best guy friend finally asked me out, and we started dating.  As my second year in New York came to its close, I finally felt settled; everything was in a good place.  I felt prosperous in nearly every area of my life from my bank account to my relationships.  I bicycled through the streets in a haze of contentment, peace, joy, and love.  I reveled in it all.  I felt seriously happy for the first time in a very long time, and even though not everything was perfect, I felt like I was FINALLY on track.  My life was slowly but surely piecing itself together.

And let me tell you, after a boyfriend drought of about six years (we’re talking committed relationship here, not random dating, which I HAVE done on and off since 2007), having one again was awesome (let alone this guy who is funny and smart and respectful).  Not that I was ever miserable because I DIDN’T have a boyfriend for a long time, it’s just you forget how great it can be.  And being in a relationship and/or love in New York City is especially great.  And since I’ve grown up by leaps and bounds since my last real relationship (considering I’m 25 now and was just 18 back then…eek), this one was VASTLY different.  It felt real and adult.

Maybe if I had invested in better floaties and a baby modeling career, I wouldn't be sinking...

Maybe if I had invested in better floaties and a baby modeling career, I wouldn’t be sinking…

So things were going swimmingly until the beginning of September when my floating turned to sinking.  It felt like someone pushed my head underwater all of a sudden.  My roommates wanted to have a conversation about apartment business, and what I thought was going to be a routine discussion of what we could all do to keep improving the place turned into them accusing me of basically being the worst roommate on the planet (which, having asked my other former roommates to confirm this, all answered with a resounding, “WHAT?!  You’re probably the BEST roommate in the world!”).  I couldn’t speak because I had no idea anyone felt this way.  Now, I’m a highly intuitive person, but I’m not a mind-reader, so if you don’t expressly tell me something is bothering you, I might not be able to pick up on it.  My roommates both avoid confrontation whereas I like to deal with things head on in a civil way, so a personality conflict was bound to arise.  All this came completely out of the blue, but here I was being asked to move out.  Two against one.  They’d discussed the whole thing behind my back and already decided the best solution was to force me out without any input from me or even attempting to fix the situation.  So here I was, a relatively impoverished twenty-something in one of the most expensive cities in the world and had about a MONTH to not only find an apartment I could afford but also move into it.

Things quieted down a bit in October, though I was furiously on the hunt for an apartment.  I lucked into one almost immediately and began planning out my moving strategy.  If you’ve never lived in New York, I can tell you that moving here is a major, MAJOR pain in the ass.  Worse than anywhere else because like no one has cars.  ANYWAY, I made it through October relatively unscathed and managed to get all my possessions schlepped from one neighborhood in Queens to another adjacent one thanks to a dear friend of mine and his sturdy little car (Tim, you are an angel!).  I let myself think the worst was over and breathed a sigh of relief that the apartment scenario from hell had been vanquished.  New apartment, new roommates, fresh start.

But the worst was not over.  Five days into November (and a little under a week to go to my 25th birthday), my boyfriend and I broke up.  Even HE admitted the timing was horrible considering everything I had just been through (because in spite of everything, he’s a really good guy).  The breakup is both sharp and blurred: parts I remember so clearly and others I can only remember the feel of them.  When you love a person, that doesn’t just go away overnight.  Love never really dies; it just transforms itself over time into different kinds of love.  What makes this particular breakup hard is that it’s not because there isn’t great care, affection, and love there for each other; it’s timing.  It’s emotional preparedness.  It’s other things that are between us right now.  And these are things people have to work out for themselves.  I’m not putting it all on him either, because I have my own set of issues to work through.  My intuition tells me that he and I have more to our story, but we both have some life to live on our own first, and for whatever reason, we can’t do it together right now. 

So I was awaiting the third event (because like celebrity deaths, these things always happen in threes), and finally it came on Sunday.  My dear friend was in town for a few days and invited me to the Brooklyn Museum to look at the Jean Paul Gaultier Retrospective (which, for the record, is amazing).  On the way to the admission desk, I slipped in some water and tumbled to the floor only to be followed by my bankcard being declined.  Overdrawn.  AGAIN.  Trying not to panic and maintain some semblance of composure (despite having just fallen to the floor like an idiot), I pulled out my bankcard from home, paid, and entered the exhibit where I put the best smile I could for my friend.

As I made my way to my church afterwards for that evening’s Vespers concert/service, hot tears crept into my eyes, thinking about having to make yet ANOTHER phone call to my parents asking for help.  I’m 25 years old and can’t seem to get it together despite numerous attempts.  While church was reliably soothing for an hour or two, once I left, the hot tears came again.  On the walk home from the train, I lost it.  Angry sobs.  I called my mother from my bed, curled up in the fetal position.  Ever the voice of love and understanding, she eased my fears, but couldn’t quash my anger at myself for yet another financial failure or at the universe taking another massive dump on me.  “WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?!?!” I yelled into my phone in anguish, my mother silent on the other side.  And it’s a question that is yet to be answered and may not be anytime soon.

I'd give anything to get lost in Middle Earth right now...or just maybe New Zealand

I’d give anything to get lost in Middle Earth right now…or just maybe New Zealand

To combat my heartbreak, anger, and sadness, I’ve been spending a lot of time in libraries and my church looking for answers, peace, distractions, etc.  I’ve planned out trips to places halfway across the world to try to escape my life here.  I’ve gone on two-hour bike rides.  My friends have done their best to keep me busy.  And sometimes, I can manage to forget all that has befallen me these last few months for a little bit.  I can even almost muster some real happiness if only for a minute or two, but somehow or other, it all comes back.  There is no magic salve to cure me of it all, no quick-fix.  I am, quite simply, a broken down human being desperate for a break, some goodness, some light.  A reprieve.

BUT I haven’t lost all hope.  I have to believe on the other side of this destruction and desolation there is something big and great waiting for me if I have the courage to push through all rubble.  Yes, I am angry, vehement even, but what good does it accomplish?  It’s obvious everything is out of my control right now, so being angry isn’t going to change that, but maybe channeling that energy into something else will.  Maybe forcing myself to work harder and create will produce something good.  Maybe I was too much like Icarus, arrogantly flying too close to the sun just because I could only to have my wings catch fire and plummet to the ground.  I don’t know.  At this point, I feel like I can go nowhere but up…even if it means crawling.jk rowling

Tears for Fears (and Anger, Heartbreak, etc)

I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time crying the last few months.  In fact, my daily goal – my “super objective” for all you actor/theatre types – is to get from when I wake up to when I climb back into bed without shedding a single tear.  Some days I achieve this goal, but many days I do not.

For those of you who perhaps do not know me as well, I would not label myself as a weepy person by any means; never the girl who cried at every sad movie, scraped knee, unrequited crush.  I’m not prone to tears, never have been even when I was a little girl.  Oh sure, I had my moments, but I cannot remember a time in my life when I cried buckets of tears the way I have been as of late.  Whatever dammed up those tears in the past has obviously been demolished: the Hoover Dam of my eyes is gone and the water is flowing freely.

I’m not sure if what I’m going through right now can be described as a “quarter-life crisis” or simply a series of unfortunate events (more on THAT later), but one thing is certain: whatever it’s called, it totally SUCKS.  It’s like getting gut-punched over and over again from all sides.  Just when I think I’ve blocked it, I get attacked from the side or behind or above; it’s inescapable.  I keep trying to outthink or outrun it, and I can’t.  I have resigned myself to its destruction, hoping I can climb out from beneath the rubble and emerge better or wiser, if slightly worse for wear.  I’m a molting phoenix, waiting to become ashes so I can be reborn.

The only thing on my Christmas list this year

Kleenex: the only thing on my Christmas list this year besides figuring out my life, getting my finances in order, and tracking down a cronut

People always say crying is good for you, it’s healthy.  “Get it all out,” they say.  Trust me, I’d like nothing more than to stop all the crying, to make it end, cry out every last tear so I can just be done with it all.  But shit keeps happening, and more tears come without my consent.  Nobody likes a person who cries all the time; I should know, because I get annoyed when I see certain acquaintances who cry over every damn thing.  But for once, I understand what it’s like to try to stay composed every minute of the day when the weight of everything is pushing down on you and how that can be too much to bear.  I used to think tears were a sign of weakness, not for other people but for me.  I now know tears come because you’re fighting so hard to remain strong, and you can’t bear that weight anymore.

It’s not uncommon to see people sobbing on the subways or sidewalks here in New York or perhaps a park bench.  When you live in a city of nine million people, it’s hard to find a place you can be alone to scream, YAWP, and yes, cry.  And while you’re never truly alone, this place can still make you feel that way, that no one understands the struggles you have, everyone is doing better than you.  At least in Los Angeles, you have your car for these moments (and only eating salads and no carbs is reason enough to make any person with a spray tan cry).  But here in New York, you have no option, and oddly enough, people sympathize with you and lovingly ignore your bleary-eyed sobfests.  I’ve cried many tears on crowded and not-so-crowded trains.  I’ve held them in until my walk home from the subway where my sobs grew increasingly more pronounced with every step closer to my apartment.  I’ve tried to hide them behind my giant sunglasses as I sat on a bench in Central Park.  And you’d think my bed was actually a waterbed because of all the tears shed there.  I’ve done all of these things in the last few days, weeks, and yes, months.

My heart has been beaten and broken, my spirit shaken, my strength tested.  These last few months have been the worst of my life, and I have never felt smaller and humbler; almost serf-like.  I cry because I do not understand whether I am being punished for something or being taught a lesson.  I cry because I don’t know if I’m being tested and for what purpose.  I don’t understand any of what has happened.  Am I meant to?  I don’t know.

But crying feels good.  It’s the only thing that does, so if you see me bawling my eyes out, please know I am struggling, hand me a Kleenex, throw me a sympathetic glance, and let me alone.  It’s going to be a while before I stop.