5 Lessons From 5 Years in New York

I’ve been trying to find the words all day to articulate how I feel about living in New York City for five years.  You’d think as a writer they’d come easily, but that’s just the thing: writing is intellectual.  It puts you in your head, and as someone who is already admittedly an “over-thinker,” finding words—or more precisely, the EXACT words—to describe an experience or sensation or anything else can sometimes keep me from writing anything at all.  Over-thinking can keep you from doing a lot of things, actually; not just writing or something else creative.

When I moved here five years ago, I was as green as the wannabe Elphabas I sat next to in audition holding rooms.  I would never have admitted it at the time, but the truth is everyone is green when they move here, because no matter how many times you’ve visited, nothing can prepare you for the real ins and outs of daily life in New York.  Everyone thinks they “know how it works,” but I definitely didn’t and none of those wannabe Elphabas did either.  And that leads me to what I really want to talk about: who I am and what I’ve learned.

I can see you starting to roll your eyes thinking this is yet ANOTHER blogosphere tome of Millennial angst and self-actualization in the Big Apple (HOW original! #not), and it might turn out that way (after all I’m just making this up as I go, folks), but you should know that these lessons can apply to literally anyone of any age who feels stalled in life or work or love or whatever.  And you don’t have to live in New York City to learn them or understand them.  And what I’m offering isn’t—as so many in my generation would usually opine online—special, but it never hurts to hear it again.  And maybe the way I say it will hit someone who needed to hear it THAT way instead of the five bajillion other ways they’ve heard it.

ANYWAY.  This is in no way an authoritative guide on how to live your life, but it’s helpful, okay?  Here’s five things I’ve learned in five years in this magical if occasionally frustrating city:

  1. Own who you are unapologetically. Though I do not claim to speak for all my fellow Millennials by any means, I have noticed we do this thing where we try to downplay our passions so we don’t come off as uncool or crazy or whatever to other people.  We live in a culture right now where overt shows of emotion, especially passion, are treated as uncool or some kind of weakness, and to quote our very cool Vice President Joe Biden, “that’s malarkey!”  IF SOMETHING LIGHTS A FIRE UNDER YOUR ASS AND GETS YOU EXCITED, YOU DON’T HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR IT.    A lot of people, especially creative people, are sheepish about admitting they’re actors, singers, dancers, painters, writers, comedians, musicians, etc.  I won’t get into how society still questions the validity of jobs in artistic fields because that is another discussion, but suffice it to say that I hear too many people, including myself, essentially apologize to people around us for being creative rather than “being something else.”  If the people around you think you’re uncool for being passionate, that’s THEIR problem.  For the first 4 ½-ish years I lived here, when people asked me what I did, I’d respond like, “Oh I temp to make money but I’m really an actor-y, writer-y person like everyone else. [insert various sarcastic jokes here]”  I wouldn’t really fully own up to being the things I most wanted to be.  And I hear people say all the time, “Oh I want to be a” whatever instead of “I am” this or that or the other.  Somewhere over the last year, I stopped doing that and started fully owning my identity as a writer, actor, and producer.  And it became a self-fulfilling prophecy because as soon as I stopped essentially apologizing for it, I started picking up writing jobs and making films and being asked to produce things.  When I started talking the talk, not only did I feel better and happier but I also opened up doors for myself to do all the things I like doing.  But just talking isn’t enough, you also have to…
  2. Do the work. I’m a workaholic, you guys.  I have an insatiable drive to accomplish stuff, so I struggle with even taking a day off, which is important for mental health (seriously).  Talent is great, BUT there is no substitute for actually DOING THE WORK.  The only way you’re going to learn how to do anything or be anything is by doing it over and over and over again.  I’m a paid writer these days, but I’m a writer whether or not I get moolah for sending my editor 1000 words on Tom Hanks.  I write all the time in various styles because it’s the only way to get better at it.  I go to acting class twice a week and do endless Meisner repetitions because it makes me more spontaneous and vulnerable.  I read.  I research stuff.  If I don’t know how to do something, I try to figure it out by trial and error and Google searches and occasional phone calls to my Dad if it’s something related to carpentry/home improvement.  If you do the work and know HOW to work, you’ll be ready for when those bigger and better opportunities come along.  Not only that, but having a good work ethic shows people you’re serious about what you do.  Set goals/deadlines.  Hustle to meet them.  Have consistent hours for practicing/doing whatever it is you do.  And the hard part is you have to do it because you love it and are serious about it and not because you have expectations that it will somehow always lead to “fortune and glory.”  BUT you can also create your own fortune and glory too, which brings me to…
  3. Give yourself permission and run with it. When I first moved, I had this idea that I had to essentially ask people for permission to do my art.  I’d go into auditions, like so many of my colleagues, and through my audition material inadvertently ask, “Will you please let me be in your show so I can perform?”  YOU DON’T NEED ANYONE’S PERMISSION TO BE AN ARTIST, BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT WAY TO BE SUCCESSFUL.  Feel free to read that several times until it sinks in.  It took me some time to learn that one myself.  Write the script.  Film it.  Put it online or show it to friends.  Go to that open mic night and do your standup.  Choreograph a dance and perform it wherever you can.  The more I have read about how various people got into the business, the more I have learned there isn’t some secret formula or special handshake to admit entry; it’s about work, ingenuity, and a lot of times, luck.  I finally took the plunge and started writing a television pilot, and I have no idea what will happen once I finish it, but I’m doing it because I want to have my writing and ideas seen and heard…that won’t happen if I wait for someone else to give me permission to write it.  You know what I REALLY think?  I think waiting for permission is a way of letting yourself off the hook because it’s scary to do something that hasn’t been done before.  You could fail.  You probably WILL fail at some point or another, but you will absolutely feel better just doing what you want to do than waiting for someone to “let you” do it.  Give yourself permission and don’t think twice about it and then do the work and share it with people.  Van Gogh made basically nothing while he was alive, but he kept painting anyway.  He also cut off his own ear, but I would advise you to think twice before doing THAT.
  4. Surround yourself with people who root for you no matter what. Life is too short to spend your time with people who:
    • Condescend to you
    • Talk about you behind your back
    • Don’t care about anything or anyone else
    • Only are available to you when it benefits them
    • Belittle your ideas/dreams
    • Don’t listen with the intent of understanding (as opposed to listening so they can just respond)
    • Are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, etc
    • Don’t tip waiters/maids/service industry folks
    • Don’t read/educate themselves
    • Take themselves too seriously

There are a bunch of other things I could add, but those are big things.  You want people on your team who want the best for you and others…especially on days when YOU don’t always want the best for yourself.  TRUE #squadgoals are people who support your dreams, motivate you to keep working, listen to/assuage your fears and sadness, and always treat you and others equally.  Accept nothing less than the best from those around you.  The dead weight will eliminate itself from your life once you make it clear you only want positive people around.  See?  You CAN lose weight and feel better without drinking any weird green juices!

  1. Stay in your own time zone. What I mean by this is there are always going to be people who are ahead of you and behind you in work and life and any number of things.  Don’t focus on what’s happening to them because they’re operating in a different time than you.  You aren’t in Jennifer Lawrence’s time zone (or probably even her friend zone, honestly), so don’t try to be.  You can only do what you can do and you’re “Jennifer Lawrence” to someone behind you.  I’m not saying I never am envious of people having successes that seem bigger than any of mine, but by focusing more on my own work and less on other people, it makes it easier.  Our teachers didn’t say “keep your eyes on your own paper” for no good reason!

I have also learned that bagels really DO taste 1000% better in New York than they do anywhere else, and no, I don’t know why, but that’s just how it is.  I’ve yet to need a therapist or have a totally crazy meet-cute with a charming Tom Hanks-type on top of the Empire State Building a la a Nora Ephron movie, but I’ve done pretty okay in my first five years here, I think.  So onward for the next year of carbs and writing and acting and self-indulgent ennui and running all over these crazy, occasionally mean streets.  Happy New York-iversary.

An open letter to Seth MacFarlane

Dear Seth MacFarlane,

I’m sure you get lots of mail: some from dudes who love Family Guy, some from people who hated Ted 2, some from ladies who thought your boob song at the Oscars was in poor taste (for the record: I’m neutral…even as a feminist), some from ladies who are only interested in your immense wealth.  Maybe some from dudes hoping you’ll put them in touch both literally (gross) and telephonically with Mila Kunis, Amanda Seyfried, and/or Charlize Theron.

seth-macfarlane-tuxI’m writing to you about exactly none of the above things (although I wouldn’t mind talking to Charlize about being a 5’11” kickass woman who manages to look good with any hairstyle), because what I care about is your voice.  No, not the Stewie or Peter one from which you have made millions.  I mean that velvety, unabashedly old-fashioned crooner voice of yours singing along with Joel McNeely’s amazing orchestrations.  The one that conjures up images of velvet suit jackets, smoky lounges, and stiff drinks.  The one that has graced the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall.  The one that recorded three albums.  I realize you probably get mail about this too, but because I’ve watched Sleepless in Seattle too many times, I have developed this idea that like Meg Ryan’s character, my letter to you will somehow be more important than all the other letters you and your adorable-if-precocious son have received from women all over the country.

Wait.  Sorry.  You don’t have a son.  At least, that is what my current Google Search results tell me.  They also tell me that prolonged cell phone use may cause an increase in back and neck pain and brought up the Wikipedia page for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  So I have a very exciting life as you can probably tell.

Anyway, I think you should know that one night I stayed up until the wee small hours of the morning (Haha get it?  Because you idolize Frank Sinatra and he recorded an album with this title and this joke is so funny you should hire me immediately to write for one of your shows hahaha) watching you sing “Joey Joey Joey” from Most Happy Fella at the BBC Proms on YouTube.  I’m kind of a sucker for that song anyway, because I happen to think Loesser is one of our most underappreciated musical theatre composers (did I mention I have a degree in musical theatre and an old-fashioned belt like Judy Garland?), but something about the way you sang it in your beautifully spun vibrato just knocked me out.  And despite years of watching Family Guy in living rooms around the Midwest (Where I grew up; I’m dropping these details just in case you want to keep falling in love with me.), this is when I fell in love with you: at 2 am in a tiny NYC bedroom with just the glow of my Macbook screen slicing through the dark and your voice ringing from the speakers.

I’m pretty certain I’m not the first woman (or even the second or third) to tell you she’s in love with you, because you are, after all, a good-looking, successful adult male who is well-rounded and charming and has had his fair share of romantic relationships (and probable imagined relationships in the brains of too-enthusiastic, moony-eyed fans of both sexes).  And I’m pretty certain I’m not the first woman to tell you she likes your singing voice, because you have a mother, and mothers will always tell you they like your singing voice even if it is terrible (unless your mother is Rose from Gypsy, because she will definitely ruthlessly tell you you’re not cut out to be in the biz if you’re terrible).  But I might be the only natural blonde woman (Are you in love with me yet?  I’m 27, so I’m definitely within your suitable dating age range) to tell you both of these things and also say that I think it’s time for you to change careers.

I know, right?!  Who the hell am I to give you career advice?  I’m not Oprah or one of those super attractive “career consultant” type ladies in Manolos The Today Show brings on for a segment that Matt Lauer has to pretend to care about when he’d rather be talking about ISIS, but because I’m a fellow Scorpio like you (See? We are perfect for each other), who has killer intuition and x-ray vision for bullshit, I have always sort of felt like Family Guy was a way of giving you the so-called freedom to do what you REALLY wanted to do: make pseudo-Sinatra albums and give into your more Capra-esque cinematic leanings.  Basically, all that long-windedness above summed up: please just go make Technicolor movie musicals or a Frank Capra-style screwball comedy or earnest drama.  Ted 2 was basically a Capra courtroom drama masquerading as a frat boy comedy.  A Million Ways to Die in the West wanted to be a musical.  Your albums are oozing with charisma and sentimentality.  140529100659-05-seth-macfarlane-0529-horizontal-large-galleryThis is not to say that Family Guy doesn’t have its merits as a consistently funny show and that your voice and animation work are not also important facets of your multifaceted talents; I merely am saying that I feel you are sometimes afraid of being earnest, sentimental, and—dare I say—sweet outside of your recordings and concert appearances, and frankly, those qualities are more attractive to me as an artist and woman than someone who always goes straight for the joke every time (and I would know as someone who regularly is afraid of being honest and sentimental and covers everything up with a well-timed witticism or joke).

As a nerd, I can instantly recognize other nerds, and you are a big one.  I’ve heard you give interviews, talking, in detail, about Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins (who is totally underappreciated) or film scores with an enthusiasm normal people reserve for like, Beyoncé or the latest episode of Game of Thrones.  I once wrote a 25-page paper in college comparing John Williams’ scores for Star Wars, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Wagner’s use of leitmotif in his operas.  This is not what normal people do, Seth, and you and I are not normal no matter how hard we both try.  I have made peace with this as I have aged and realized the right people will think I am cool, and I think you’re still working on that, which is totally fine.  Being comfortable with your nerdiness actually makes you cooler, I think (I’m still waiting for the popular girls from my high school to confirm this on Facebook, so I’ll get back to you).  I’m not saying you aren’t comfortable with your nerdiness, but because most people know you for being the cool guy of Family Guy or making dirty jokes at the Oscars, it’s almost like your nerdy jazz career is a super-secret alter-ego you only reveal to those you can trust, which is apparently mostly musical theatre/jazz aficionados, the BBC, and old people who miss the Big Band era, which are three very trustworthy, awesome, reliable groups, honestly.  Kudos.  But no great thing ever came from not taking risks, and I think you’re on the precipice (I am always looking for an opportunity to use that word, which I learned from Old Rose in Titanic back in 1997) of something great if you have the courage to just go for it.

I’m sorry for sounding like one of those motivational posters teachers hang in their classrooms that have trippy photos of nature, but I really think it’s time for you to boldly go where you’ve never gone before (Star Trek is still on the brain, clearly).  It’s your earnestness that I responded to when I watched “Joey Joey Joey” at 2am on Youtube, because you didn’t do anything for a laugh or to coast by on charm: you just sang the damn song from your heart.  I think there’s a big ole warm, gooey heart inside of you, MacFarlane, and I want to see it, because it’s way more interesting than everything else.  It’s real…you know what I mean?  And unlike Blanche DuBois from Streetcar Named Desire, I want real, not magic.

Okay, I sometimes want magic too (and especially during the holidays), but real is the substance of life, and I want that.  I think you want that too.  I need to take my own advice, as per usual, but this isn’t really about me.  Actually, I guess it IS sort of also about me too since I’m the one being all righteous and trying to tell you what to do with your life while ignoring my own.  So for the record, I get scared too.  Being funny always feels better because people don’t have time to judge the real parts of you when they’re laughing at something you say instead.  But being funny isn’t all that I am, and I could do a better job of letting myself be honest too.  I guess we both have homework to do, Seth, and if you’re anything like me, you probably enjoyed doing most of your homework (except math because you don’t need that to sing Sinatra or Garland songs).

I’m gonna wrap this shit up here, because I’m worried you’ve already stopped reading and/or are considering getting a restraining order against me, and I really only wanted to write to tell you I’m your fan and really rooting for you in whatever the next phase of your multiple careers is.  I think you’re probably the coolest nerdy dude in Hollywood, and I’m hoping NBC casts you as Harold Hill whenever they decide to do Music Man Live.  You’d crush it during “You’ve Got Trouble.”  I know that because I also watched you do it at the BBC Proms on Youtube in my bedroom (I should probably get a social life).

And if you feel like meeting me at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, I will be the blithely-cool, semi-neurotic, blonde Meg Ryan type (but taller) waiting for you.

Think about what I said.  And think about my Valentine’s Day offer.

Live long and prosper,

Emmy

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.

Free to be…you and me

I haven’t written anything in quite awhile, and I do apologize.  I could make a lot of excuses about how I’ve been living my life instead of writing about it, but the truth is that I have mostly been avoiding writing about some of the harder parts of my life, because I don’t want to drudge up a bunch of emotions.  Let’s call it emotional recall avoidance or something fancy like that.  I have even been avoiding writing in my own personal journal because I’d rather pretend everything is peachy than sometimes admit that it is not, or rather, I am not that at all.  It is easier to lie to oneself than to confront the truth, isn’t it?  Lies sound better but make you feel worse in the end, no matter how bad the truth makes you feel.  The lie delays the hurt, but also adds to it.

I know everyone is spending today reflecting on the past year, and I am no different in this regard.  New Year’s Eve is about looking backwards and forwards at the same time, planning out what to change or keep for the year ahead.  Other than our birthdays, it’s the only celebration of time itself; it is a call to be present in the here and now but ever mindful of the past and future.  We want more time to do the things we love or spend with people we love, we wish for less time spent on things and people who have or may hurt us.  We’re going to change everything in the new time given to us, so we all say each year.  Time is a valuable currency, and we’re all greedy for more.  We think a new year will solve all our problems, because we have three-hundred sixty-five new days to sort everything out, but life has a way of surprising us and filling up our days with events and people for which we never planned.

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

I could keep lying and say my year was capital and simply post all of the best parts on my Facebook to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were, but frankly, I’m a little exhausted with pretending my life is perfect and wonderful one-hundred percent of the time.  I’m not saying all of this to bum you out or to feel fatalistic, but because I want you to know it’s okay to not feel happy or “blessed” all the time.  It’s okay to feel morose or livid or terrified of the future.  It’s okay to admit to others (and especially to yourself) you really AREN’T “fine” or perfect (whatever THAT means to you).  I think we’re too obsessed with creating societal camouflage for ourselves; that is, creating a version of ourselves on and offline that looks better than maybe how we really feel or who we really are for the sake of “saving face.” I know I am so scared, sometimes, of really showing other people who I am, because I have been hurt deeply a few times.

Vulnerability makes us feel weak sometimes, yes, but I’ve also realized there is great strength in it too.  Recently, I was talking with someone very dear to me, and the conversation turned intensely personal.  He asked if I had ever been in an abusive relationship, and while the question took me by surprise, I felt safe enough to answer.  “Not that I am aware of,” I said, “why?”  He looked me directly in the eye and replied, “Because sometimes I will say something as a joke or whatever, and you’ll do a total 180 as though you’re afraid of having a differing opinion than me.  Your whole demeanor changes.  Did you know you do that?  You don’t have to ask permission to have an opinion, let alone to feel like you’re not allowed to disagree with someone ever.  It just seems like such contradictory behavior for who I think you really are.  I like who you really are, so why do you keep trying to change yourself for me?  It’s okay to be yourself; no one should make you feel otherwise.”

I felt so incredibly exposed, because I realized that I HAD been in an abusive relationship after all, and the abusive relationship was with MYSELF.  In the past year and a half, I have worked so hard to present myself to the world in certain ways that I have sacrificed and compromised too much of myself for the sake of others.  I have abused myself.  I have let boyfriends condescend to me and try to tell me what to think and believe.  I have let people in audition rooms make me think I am not good enough.  I have pretended I am fine when I have been falling apart inside because I have been so worried about burdening anyone else with my feelings.  The vulnerability I felt in that moment with my friend made me feel stronger than I have in months because I finally saw all of myself, but here was a person (among several I have currently in my life) who saw all of me too, and I felt relieved.  I felt relieved to be able to be vulnerable and flawed and human and to have all of it be accepted and encouraged and dare I say, loved, by someone else.  My “mess,” in all its glorious technicolor, is part of who I am, but he and others have helped remind me it’s not ALL of who I am either.

I’m not going to lie and say 2014 was my best year.  The first few months were spent in heartbreak and depression.  There were days I nearly fainted at work because I wasn’t eating; food seemed like the only thing I could control when I felt like the rest of my world was in chaos.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I’d scribble horrible, dark thoughts in journals.  I found parts of myself I didn’t even know existed, and I would rather pretend didn’t.  I am not always such a nice person, and I found out I am capable of saying and doing some terrible things when I am pushed to my limits.  And I am still dealing with some of my anger now; anger at people who hurt me deeply.  I am often scared I am too much for any man because the last one made me feel that way.  I still worry my feelings, especially the ickier ones, are a burden to others.  I often feel lost and anxious when I think about the future because I’m not one-hundred percent sure of what I’m doing, especially when I see what others are doing (and trust me, I know comparison is the thief of joy, Roosevelt).  I know I have let some friendships wither a bit because I haven’t done enough to cultivate them, and for that and those friends, I am sorry.  And I do so, so wish I had had more time with my friend James; not a day goes by I don’t think of him and wonder if I had tried harder to reach out, would that have made a difference?  Would he still be here?

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

But like I said, life has a way of surprising us with people and events for which we never planned.  I have met so many people in the last year who have healed me and helped me and taught me things.  Many have made me laugh until I cried (which is a far better kind of crying than what I was doing at the beginning of 2014).  I found freedom in bicycling and going back to ballet class.  My church gave me solace and solidity when I needed it the most.  I saw so many amazing plays and musicals and ballets and concerts and movies, which reminded me how much I need and love creation.  2014 was the year I knew true despair and also true joy; in essence, I learned what it is to be human, and that is humbling.  But also freeing.  Not to get all Marlo Thomas-free-to-be-you-and-me on you, but when you finally let yourself BE yourself — the good parts and bad — all the weight is gone.  You are free.  It may mean not everyone likes you, but that’s okay, because the right ones will, and the wrong ones won’t.  It’s the wrong ones who make you feel like you need to lie about who you are and how you feel; they’re not worth it anyway.  They’re assholes.

I know you’re excited and hopeful about having a fresh start tomorrow.  Trust me, I understand how important and necessary a fresh start can be.  So many of us focus on remaking the outer parts of ourselves by pledging to go to the gym or eating better, and that’s fine, but the inner parts need love and attention too, sometimes even more so.  As someone who feels a bit like a phoenix this year, rising from the ashes of her own life, I ask you to check in with yourself once in awhile and really consider how YOU are doing. 

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

When someone asks you how you are, why not be honest and really tell them?  You’re not always “fine,” and that’s okay; believe me.  Let yourself be human, because that’s what you are, flaws and all!  I say this because I don’t think these things get said enough, and I know what it feels like to have to be “on” and “happy” all the time when maybe you aren’t.  Whoever you are reading this, know you, all the parts of you, are ENOUGH.

Stay present.  Love yourself.  Love others.  Seek peace.  Have a happy, truly happy, 2015.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Three is a Magic Number

Someone, and I can’t remember who right now, once said to me they thought it takes about three years to settle into living somewhere.  Three years to work out some of the kinks, establish some favorite haunts, orient oneself with its landscape and features, make new friends, and ultimately, become acclimated enough to start calling it “home.”

One of many gorgeous sunsets over my city

One of many gorgeous sunsets over New York City

Now, college doesn’t quite follow the same rules.  I went school out of state in Oklahoma City, and by the end of my sophomore year, OKC already felt like my second home.  I had put down enough “roots” to feel about as comfortable there as I did in my Missouri hometown.  And if I went back to OKC now, I would probably settle right back in fairly easily even though it is a rapidly changing and growing city, which thrills me; though I DO wish some of that growth had happened during the four years I spent there.

Ah well.  C’est la vie.  Oh, and THUNDER UP.

ANYWAY, the point is this past Saturday, the 13th, marked my three year anniversary of moving to New York.  Usually, my yearly moving anniversaries have been plagued by tumult in some way, always spurring changes in my life.  Last year around this time, I had just been slapped by a dramatic confrontation with my previous roommates and the nightmare of having to find a new apartment in an incredibly brief amount of time.  It set me off on a collision course with other problems both financial (Hello overdrawn bank account, we meet again!) and personal (Goodbye boyfriend who won’t commit!) over the next several months, which were tough to shake off, leaving me depressed in all senses of the word (monetary and emotionally) well into 2014.  My third year in the Big Apple, which should have signaled my “settling,” was, well, rather unsettling on the whole.

Elliott on the Hudson River, looking down at NYC from Palisades Park, NJ

Elliott on the Hudson River, looking down at NYC from Palisades Park, NJ

BUT, when my third year here was good, it was REALLY good.  Like getting to go to an opening night party for a Broadway show and getting to work that same show’s TONY Awards party.  Or joining a new church and making some of the best friends I’ve had.  And I would be remiss without mentioning my many, many bike rides around the five boroughs, which has kept me saner than almost anything other than writing.  Sometime a little more than midway through my third year, the “settling” actually began to happen.  Money worked itself out.  A lot of the personal hurt vanished.  It felt as though a giant weight had lifted.  Suddenly, I was very much enjoying this City instead of feeling as though I was being hurtled around inside of it.

My third anniversary this past Saturday was decidedly unceremonious.  I spent the morning riding my bicycle, Elliott, over the Queensboro Bridge (which is a bitch of a steady incline, though it’s getting easier the more often I do it), down Second Avenue, across SoHo and the West Village, and then back up Eighth Avenue to Times Square.  Then I went home, showered, went grocery shopping, made my first pumpkin-flavored dessert of the season, watched Doctor Who, and went to bed.  So, all in all, it was a fairly ordinary Saturday, not unlike most of my Saturdays in recent months.

Solid life advice from the Twelfth Doctor

Solid life advice from the Twelfth Doctor

Ordinary.  Standard.  Settled.

Some people want to start things with a bang.  In this case, I’m perfectly fine with a whimper as I glide into my fourth year in New York City.  I don’t know if ALL the kinks have been worked out, but this place really IS starting to feel something like “home.”  I have an ever-growing list of favorite haunts, I know how to get basically anywhere within the five boroughs without much consultation of my MTA maps, and I’ve certainly accumulated an abundance of great friends old and new.  I don’t expect everything to be smooth sailing, because this place always catches you off guard, but I DO expect SMOOTHER sailing henceforth.  I have most definitely earned it.

Friend like me

People are taking Robin Williams’ death pretty hard today all around the world and not without reason.  He was pervasively and perversely funny; the king of so-called manic comedy.  Other than maybe Tom Hanks, he encapsulated the 1990s male movie star for me in terms of ubiquity and memorable roles.

Run-by fruiting or pie in the face, I laughed til I cried

Run-by fruiting or pie in the face, I laughed til I cried

I may have swooned over Leo, sure, but Robin was the guy I would have gladly accepted as my second dad or crazy, beloved uncle.  I think I saw almost every single one of his films from that decade and marveled at how he could make all ages laugh.  No one could riff better than him or do more voices.

But he could strip all that away and find a stillness so lovely it made your heart break when he wanted to.  His dramatic work was just as fearless as his comedy, and he could be vulnerable, flawed, and real in a way that touched you deeply.  He mined the depths of humanity, the highs and lows, with a perceived ease that was almost bordering on offensive (at least to THIS actor).  He sunk his teeth into whatever role he took on and made sure you were paying attention.  Dead Poets SocietyHe gave it his all, and that goes for everything in his life whether it was his stand-up, his film/TV roles, being a husband and father, or his charity work with our troops.  Robin was generous in all things.  I wouldn’t be able to even choose a favorite film of his but a few that have really stuck with me are Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, and Hook.  These are films that have profoundly influenced me in one way or another, and it was due in large part to Robin’s singular gifts.

Certainly his death is a difficult one for so many of us, but I am saddened even more because it comes on the heels of another, similar loss for me; one much closer.  I lost a beloved friend to suicide only two weeks ago, and he too was gifted in his own ways.  A brilliant musician, James had a passion for music that was infectious and inspiring.  But there was always a glimmer of darkness there: some days you saw it less, and some days more.

With my friend, James, back in 2010 at an alumni band concert

With my friend, James, back in 2010 at an alumni band concert

The times when his spirit shined brightest was when he was playing music, giving himself over to its powerful, magical spell; a medicine in its own right.  I knew he struggled sometimes with depression, but he never really let it affect him when he was with other people, or, at least, he never showed how it affected him.  As it sometimes goes in life, we fell out of touch in the last three years, and some bad things happened in his life.  Mistakes were made, consequences occurred, and the darkness took over.  No music could act as a salve; no words, no people. I tried reaching out once or twice (as did my brother), but he never answered.  I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t want to, but that darkness took my friend and his beautiful music.  And while I know there was nothing I could have done to save him, it doesn’t change how devastating it is.  He was twenty-nine years old and couldn’t fight anymore; though I wish to God he would have tried.  Robin Williams was sixty-three and couldn’t fight anymore either; another casualty of the crippling, cruelness of depression.

photo via Michael Parmelee Photography

photo via Michael Parmelee Photography

And today, while I continue to mourn the loss of my friend and now another person who I let into my home and heart on a regular basis (albeit through a screen), my thoughts drift especially to Robin’s family and close friends; the people who knew and loved him best.  Unfortunately, I now know what this kind of loss feels like.  How it aches in deep places that catch you off guard.  How helpless and powerless you feel.  How aware you become of your own fragile mortality and mind.  But while grief is powerful, I’m always amazed at how love breaks through it.  When I think of my friend, I think of the times spent laughing, the late nights at my house with my brother, and always the music, the wild, passionate music.  Those moments flood my brain more than anything else.  Looking at the hundreds of Facebook statuses and Tweets today, I know all of us think of Robin with only love and admiration too.  Our Robin was the one who made us laugh and cry and inspired us to do and be more.  Our Robin was a genie whose only wish was to grant all of ours.  He was our favorite housekeeper and English teacher.  He made us feel the joy of flying just with happy thoughts.  For whatever he and my friend suffered, they were so loved even though that love wasn’t enough to keep them here with us.

I thank both my friend and Robin for what they selflessly gave to me and others.  My life is richer for having them in it.

I ain’t never had friends like you.

1985-2014

1951-2014