Just Kidding Around

I love Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan so much I could cry...IF there was crying in baseball.

I love Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan so much I could cry…IF there was crying in baseball.

I started training for a new job recently.  In a bout of financial exasperation a little while ago, I combed through the job pages on Craigslist, and on a whim, applied for a job assisting with youth baseball classes on the Upper East Side.  The ad said they were looking for twenty and thirty-something actors who loved baseball and liked kids and wanted some extra money.  I haven’t played baseball in a team setting since about second grade, but I’ve always loved watching the game; not to mention A League of Their Own is one of my favorite movies of all time (For the record, I still get mad that Geena Davis’ Dottie Henson chooses to drop the ball so her sister can win at the end).  For two months, I’ll be helping kids aged 3-6 learn how to play baseball in the sunshine and urban oasis of Central Park.  It’ll be a nice break from office buildings and audition rooms; a return to the simpler days of recess and moms telling their kids to “go outside and play.”

In starting to interact with these kids during my training sessions, it’s gotten me thinking a lot about barriers and inhibitions; the process of covering up our true identities in order to be more socially accepted or “cool.”  We care so much about it that from our teen years on, we never stop trying to be part of the “in crowd” or at least get their nod of approval.  Music, fashion, technology, movies; these things are all built around the here and now, the new, the “it factor.”  They are, as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous would say, an “industry of cool.”

"...an industry of cool." Philip Seymour Hoffman doling out sage advice in Almost Famous

“…an industry of cool.” Philip Seymour Hoffman doling out sage advice in Almost Famous

The kids I’ve been working with fall anywhere from three to six, and most of them are boys.  When they come in to class, they all want to tell you about their pets or the crazy thing they did at recess.  Several of them do very impressive (and accurate) impersonations of Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas & Ferb.  They’re willing to try anything and everything you suggest (for the most part), laughing when you make a silly face or do a weird accent.  They have vibrant, vast imaginations.  These kids run on raw instinct, energy, and emotion; every action or feeling is big and bold, no hesitations.  For them, “cool” doesn’t exist yet nor do these layers and masks we pile on as adults to keep people from seeing our weird, wonderful inner-selves.  Kids are beautifully unfiltered creatures, feeling and exploring every nook and cranny of the world without fear or rules.  It’s all play and no work.

What happens to us?  What is the trigger for this gradual switch from uninhibited and thoughtless expression to secrets and suppressed instincts and feelings?  Somewhere in our formation as human beings, we forget how to do things because we want to or express our thoughts because we must.  We become self-conscious about every word, every outfit, and every action because we’re looking to be accepted by everyone else instead of accepting ourselves first.  Kids don’t understand that, but somewhere, somehow they learn this behavior.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Mad Men.  The very core of the show is about Don Draper struggling between who he was and who he’s become.  Much of Don’s struggle with identity stems from his childhood; in many ways, it’s always the thing against which he battles the most.  He is a self-made man, crafting a new, slick identity to cover up his past as an unhappy nobody.  But the kicker is that the more Don tries to convince himself that is happy with his “new” life – whether that be landing a huge ad account, wedding a young secretary, or ordering around his creative team – the unhappier he ultimately becomes, because he’s spent most of his life pretending to be something and somebody he’s really not.

Who IS Don Draper?

Who IS Don Draper?  I wish I could say an Emmy winner (at least for Jon Hamm).

Don Draper is an enigma; he’s a master of disguise.  He’s the perfect example of the suppression of desires, because he proves the more you squash those instincts, the unhappier and more unfulfilled you become.  As a result, when he DOES give in to his raw instincts, the outcomes are often explosive.  That’s part of what makes Mad Men such a delight to watch (other than the fact the acting and writing are superb; SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE JON HAMM AN EMMY ALREADY).

I took my very first meditation class yesterday, and at risk of sounding like a total cliché, it was a fairly eye-opening experience.  My fabulous acting teacher, Robyn Lee, put together what she calls the “Color Spa,” which is an interactive meditation class using colored lights and principles of the light spectrum to re-calibrate the mind, body, and spirit (to find out more about this event or her upcoming NYC acting classes, hop on over to HERE).  It may sound New Age-y, but instead of judging how weird I may or may not have looked, I let myself succumb to the experience, using my imagination and body without limitations.  In allowing myself to act without restraints, I felt fresh and stripped bare of all the clutter I’ve accumulated for so long in my body and mind and even heart.  It was almost out-of-body; I felt like I was seeing myself in a different light (no pun intended).  I realized how much I personally judge and edit my words and actions before I put them out into the world.  Why do I spend so much time editing myself for the world?  What happened to really, truly being yourself?

I think most of us take that whole “look before you leap” thing too seriously: we spend so much time on the looking that we often don’t leap at all.  Kids, on the other hand, usually leap first and deal with the consequences later.  What we should strive for is something in between: being flexible enough to know when to just leap and have faith we’ll land on solid ground and when we should look first to see whether the leap will be worth it.  We can all learn something from these kids who so lovingly and willingly give themselves over to their rambunctious spirit.  We can all choose to let go and just be like kids do every day, taking the ins and outs of every day life with aplomb.

So I’m looking forward to returning to my youth as I work with these kids, running around and doing silly voices.  No judgments or editing.  No Don Draper emotional layering or looking before I leap.  After all, if you never leap, how can you know whether or not you can soar?

“From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,

Listening to others and considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.” – Walt Whitman

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The Perks of Being a NYC Temp Worker

I came to New York to be an actor.  I’d much rather be onstage or in front of a camera than behind a desk, but when you have rent to pay and no acting jobs currently coming in, temp-ing is necessary.  When you think about it, all acting jobs are temp jobs too, so I guess practice makes perfect.  Instead of lamenting my status as a “gypsy worker,” I decided to make a pros/cons list to temp-ing in NYC!

The Perks of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:

1. FREE office coffee.  It may not always be Starbucks (unless you’re temping for the Starbucks HQ or in my current case, a Starbucks-affiliated company, Barnes & Noble Corporate HQ), but it’s hot, freshly made, will keep you awake while you’re staring at a computer screen all day, and did I mention it’s FREE?  It’s okay to splurge once in awhile on your morning cup of joe for something like the Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte (my personal fave) or Peppermint Mocha, but like the McDonalds McRib and Monopoly season (I’ve come to the conclusion I will never get that damned Boardwalk piece to match my Park Place for the $1 million prize), all good corporate promotions/seasonal items must come to an end, so just bring a travel mug and stop shelling out for expensive coffee when the free stuff does the trick just as well.

2. Discovering new parts of New York City.  Unless you work with a shitty, backchannel temp agency (By that, I mean you work for the Mob, Mafia, or other underground organized crime ring, which I won’t judge you for because you’re probably making more money than I am, and your life has a better chance of becoming a gritty Martin Scorsese movie nominated for like, twelve Oscars), you probably won’t be venturing to some of the seedier parts of the City and its burroughs.  I’m currently working in the Union Square area.  Next week, I might be in Midtown, the Flatiron District, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, or the Financial District.  I get to explore all sorts of areas of the Big Apple without taking the Circle Line Bus and finding out where all the celebrities live (It’s called Google, people.).

3. No office drama.  Though sometimes you’ll receive longer gigs, most of your work will probably be no longer than a week or two at a lot of places, which means there’s not enough time to really get involved in any office fights or gossip unless you’re really trying or are filming a reality series for E!, MTV, VH1, or Bravo.  And let’s face it: you’re probably not going to be on one of those networks unless you happen to be something people in red states deem as “controversial.”  Anyway, being a temp means (most likely) never getting into table-flipping catfights.

4. Pretending to be on Mad Men.  If you are hip or care about high quality, niche dramatic television or possibly lived through the 1960s or just have a thing for skinny ties and sleek suits (or in my case, most of the above and I have an inappropriate crush on the dreamy Jon Hamm), you probably are a fan of Mad Men.  Every new office is a new chance to pretend I’m actually roaming the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Price where I’m bound to have a steamy, albeit Old-Fashioned induced tryst with Don Draper or greet representatives from Lucky Strike in a sexy Joan Holloway manner (though I will never have Christina Hendricks’ impressive, um, “accessories.”).  This can, of course, lead to problems if you have a long-term temp job and are constantly boozing, smoking, and seducing your way around the office, because not only will your work performance suffer, people might think you’re a drunken whore who sounds like Harvey Fierstein.

5. You get to work a variety of jobs.  Though I have a slew of secretarial/receptionist gigs lined up, most temp agencies have big projects come through they need people for such as the U.S. Open (Hellooooo Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer!), designer sample sales, trade shows, and holiday promotional gigs.  So even though this week I’m stuck behind a desk, next week I might be donning a Santa hat and selling specialty toys or wearing Ralph Lauren and helping people to their expensive seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium whilst ogling Nadal’s very fine derrière.  It’s a little bit of everything that will make for great anecdotes in magazine interviews profiling my (impending) rise to stardom.

6. Learning how different companies operate.  Actors are excellent observers, so I try to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can.  It never hurts to actually know what the company you’re working for really does just in case you actually want to work there someday if you get tired of waiting in lines for auditions at 6 am everyday.  Also, I’m just nosy.  That’s why I stare at people on the subway too.

7. Meeting lots of new people.  Goodbye EHarmony and Match.com!

…Just kidding.

(Only partially.)

8. Meeting lots of new people.  Temp-ing provides all the perks (making lots of fast connections) of a New York City swanky party minus all the actual perks (booze) of a New York City swanky party.  You never know who might be able to advance your career or just want to add you to their Facebook friends list so they can stalk all your photos and then awkwardly comment on them all.

9. Paychecks.  Sure, it’s not like you’re rolling in the Benjamins (like apparently a lot of rappers do…or at least, that’s my impression based on their lyrics and music videos), but at least it’s a decent paycheck to help pay the rent and the highway-but-actually-train robbery known as Unlimited Ride Metro Cards from the MTA.  As any actor will tell you, any paycheck is a welcome paycheck (a fact which Nicolas Cage’s more-recent film credits currently reflect.).

10. Different bosses/supervisors.  I’ve had my share of strict and not-so-strict bosses (luckily, most of them have been the latter).  If you can’t stand your boss because she’s an ice-maven a la Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada or he’s a “that’s what she said”-ing doofus a la Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin, thankfully your job will be a quickie rather than working under them for forever.  That’s what she said.

The Cons of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:

1. You’re not actually on Mad Men.  No Don Draper.  No quippy one-liners from Roger Sterling.  No drinking in the office.  No screwing in the office.  No Don Draper.  No cute 1960s outfits.  No awesome office presentations about Kodak Slide Projectors.  No Don Draper.  I could go on and on, but for those of you poor unfortunate souls who either don’t get AMC or just don’t watch the show, I won’t waste your time with lots of insider references.  But please, do yourself a favor and watch the damn show.  Did I mention Jon Hamm is in it?

2. Never staying in one place long enough.  You don’t always really get to know people and forge any lasting connections.  Oh dear me, how ever will I find a husband or a doubles tennis partner?  Oh right.  That’s what working the U.S. Open is for.  Or being on the Bachelorette.

3. No Facebook/Twitter at work.  Companies who want people to be more productive have such websites blocked, which means I can’t stalk the cute guy in the cubicle down the hall or let everyone know I support #SelenaandJustin4eva.  This means I have to stalk people the old-fashioned way: Google and a pair of binoculars.

4. Boring office tasks.  Without Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer or Jim from the Office to distract me from the mundane tasks of office work, how can I possibly keep from falling asleep?  Oh, and thanks JG-L for giving me completely unrealistic expectations about getting a hot makeout session every time I go into the copy room.  And also IKEA.

5. Always being “the new kid.”  Now I know how foreign exchange students feel (Sorry for making fun of your Hasselhoff obsession, random German kid in high school) and also animals at the zoo (no wonder the Bronx Zoo cobra escaped!).

Clearly, the perks of being a New York City temp worker outweigh the cons although, being a temp worker means I’m still not actually doing what I came to NYC to do…land a husband.

As if!  I’m only 23, and this is New York, not Kentucky!  (No offense, Kentuckians, just trying to make a veiled Clueless reference.)

One day, I will no longer be the resident Xerox-girl, but until I land my big break, I’ll just drown my boredom in free coffee and thoughts of Don Draper.

11: The Day After

Yesterday was supposed to be the end of the world.  As if me writing this doesn’t confirm it already, we’re all still here.  Nothing happened.  There were no earthquakes; no burning rain of death.  In fact, the sun shone brightly all day here yesterday without a cloud in the sky.  On such a beautiful day, it’s hard to even fathom the thought of anything bad happening, let alone the end of the world.  So yesterday passed without a single event of any importance, and when I woke up this morning, I felt more refreshed than ever.

Makes me feel both amused and also sad for those poor people who spent all that money on such a ridiculous cause and its leader, but this isn’t the first time in history a bunch of people have been duped into believing such egregious things (see Hitler and Charles Manson among others…not that I’m comparing Harold Camping to either of those men.)

I slept late today after working such a long shift yesterday at the winery, on my feet for a solid eight hours running around the restaurant.  It felt nice to just lie in bed this morning staring at the ceiling.  I actually do most of my best thinking just staring blankly at my stark white bedroom ceiling.

Anyway, after my mother made a lovely brunch (homemade biscuits with jam, scrambled eggs, and bacon…yum!), I received a call from the winery informing me I could have the day off since it looked like rain, and they had enough people.  Instead of doing something semi-productive like cleaning out my room and closets (a task I STILL am kind of avoiding, and I’m sure this avoidance probably has a psychological reason I’m not paying someone to figure out for me), I spent the better part of my day watching season four of Mad Men with my parents.  We wound up watching eight out of the thirteen episodes.  It’s just such a fantastic piece of television: the writing, the design, the acting.  I would kill to work on a project like that.  It really inspires me when I watch it.  I think about how lucky Jon Hamm (a fellow Missourian!) was to land that project.  It was really his big break, and he’s just incredible to watch.  As a young actor, I learn so much from just watching, especially with this show, and seeing those actors make discoveries and change beats and tactics.  Every episode is like taking an acting class.

In other news, I feel fat today.  I know I need to stop obsessing about my weight and image, but every time I put a piece of pizza in my mouth or eat even a bite of dark chocolate, I feel guilty.  When did that happen?  It’s like I can feel the calories adding onto my body and weighing me down.  That’s probably a really unhealthy mental thing, but that’s how I feel now, especially at home.  We eat better here than we used to, but I still feel this pressure to eat more and the meals are not always as balanced as they should be.  I know my mother just wants to make sure I’m taken care of (she’s like Molly Weasley), but I don’t want or need to eat everything on my plate, and I don’t think she or my dad understand how much my eating habits have kind of changed the last year or so.

(Sigh)  It’s just something I’m going to have to communicate to them better, especially when summer means lots of barbecue (which I love, but I just don’t eat a lot of meat anymore) and sweets like pie (which I also love).  The Broadway Body does not just happen on its own overnight, you know?

Enough body talk.

Maybe I just need an Old Fashioned like Don Draper drinks on Mad Men.  After all, the world didn’t end.  I’m entitled to a celebratory drink, don’t you think?