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).

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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

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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.

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.

14

I nearly moved to New York City four years ago on September 11, 2011: the 10th anniversary of the most horrific day I’ve ever lived through. I had been looking at flights for mid-September during that summer after I graduated college, and not even registering the date, I almost booked my one-way flight on that day. I was wondering why flights were so much cheaper and then it dawned on me that no one wanted to be on a plane that day.  I quickly booked my one-way flight for two days later, September 13, 2011 instead.

I have never been a very superstitious person.  I’m not given to throwing salt over my shoulder or carrying garlic around.  I have no Egyptian ankh necklace to ward off evil spirits.  I don’t cross my fingers when I drive past cemeteries or avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk lest I “break my mother’s back.”  While I believe in ghosts, I take a skeptical view of Ouija boards, which are more about the power of suggestion than the power of spirits.  And while I’m a religious person, I don’t see images of Jesus or Mary in my toast.  I’d consider myself an imaginative, open person, but a level-headed one; I’m more Scully than I am Mulder on most days.

But September 11 is not “most days,” and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to set foot on a plane on that day.  I haven’t in fourteen years, and I imagine I, like so many other people, will never be able to fly on any September 11 ever again.  Rationally, I know the likelihood of another such event happening on the same date is statistically low, but fear isn’t rational.  Anguish isn’t rational.  I can never un-see the things I saw that day; they’ll be with me for the rest of my life, shaping me in ways that I do not always understand or even recognize.  Everything and everyone changed, so I think I’m allowed one superstition; one belief in something born out of a fear. black ribbon

Maybe there is a parallel universe out there somewhere where September 11 never happened and all of us had very different lives.  Wars didn’t start.  People didn’t lose loved ones.  The Towers still stand.  In that world, you don’t have to remove your shoes when you go through airport security.  No one worries about receiving an envelope of a white powdery substance that could be Anthrax.  There’s not a cloud of fear and paranoia hanging over everyone’s heads.  I probably watch too many science fiction television shows and movies, but I’d like to believe that such a place exists even if we can’t see it.  I don’t understand enough about advanced quantum theory to explain it, but maybe it’s possible.  It sounds like something Mulder would say.

When we fly now, we all have to pay something called a “September 11th Fee,” which gives a couple extra dollars to the TSA for the numerous baggage and security screenings we all have to go through.  Flying used to be glamourous once.  Back in the 1960s, it was the height of sophistication; you know, the Jet Set and all that.  People got dressed up, were excited to “pack up and fly away” like Sinatra’s song goes.   Gone are those days.  No longer can you see your loved ones all the way to their gate, watch their plane taxi down the runway while they wave at you from their round, plane window.  Airport travel today means arriving early enough to wait in long lines to have a security guard search your shoes for bombs or pat your body down.  There’s nothing glamourous about knowing security guards are looking for anything that could cause an entire plane of people to crash.  Maybe there is an alternate reality where that doesn’t happen, but this is OUR reality, and we have to live in it.

When I arrived in New York on September 13, 2011, I was hopeful about the future, and I could feel that same hope hanging in the air of the City.  I gratefully stepped off my plane into a New York that was very different from the one it had been ten years previously.  Four years later, the City is still hopeful, growing and changing and adapting as it always has.  People from back home in Missouri often ask me if I am ever scared to live here, and I know what they mean.  The truth is we’re all a little scared, but the hope outweighs the fear.  The perseverance outweighs the fear.  The love outweighs the fear.  If I walked around every day throwing salt over my shoulder, I’d never get anything else done.  Am I afraid sometimes?  Yes.  But even though none of us got a choice in September 11, we all have a choice in how we live the rest of our lives, and I choose to live with hope.  I choose that, and that choice is what gives me strength, even on days like today where it is harder to do that.

So no, I’m not going to start throwing salt over my shoulder.  After all, when salt enters an open wound, it burns.

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.

Going Solo: Movies Edition

Going to the movies solo (and I don’t mean Han Solo) can be a terrifying prospect for some.  It seems unnatural in a society where we’ve been trained to think about it as part of a classic date scenario (dinner, movie, terrible or awesome goodnight kiss) or a group activity where at least one other person is involved in the rite of watching images on a gigantic screen in a darkened theater.  And I certainly can understand the need for someone with whom to share popcorn during and discussion after.

Ridin' Solo

Ridin’ Solo

But we also live in the golden age of binge-watching where we can watch hours of television shows and movies without changing out of our sweatpants, and the majority of us participate in THAT rite alone (save for maybe a bag of our dear friend, Doritos).  I realize a night in with ye olde Netflix may seem a bit different than one out at your local movie multiplex, but with a little courage and maybe a gentle swath of mascara (if you feel like it), it’s not as different as you might think.

Since moving to New York a little over three years ago, I have become a pro at the solo movie date.  Now, I know it’s a little easier to blend in when you live in a city of nine million people, but I started going to the movies alone when I was in Oklahoma City for college, and I still managed to be an under-the-radar solo movie-goer.  So let me give you the pitch for why you should start hitting the Cineplex on your own:

  1. You always get to pick the movie. Wanna see J. Lo’s new sure-to-be-a-guilty-pleasure-but-probably-terrible-movie, the Boy Next Door?  Go for it!  No one can sigh loudly and politely yet pointedly suggest something with a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Feeling more like indulging your gangster side with A Most Violent Year?  What about a Truffaut marathon at your local art-house theater? C’est bon!  Allons-y!  Going alone means you don’t have to ever compromise; your choice is the only one that matters.
  2. You always get to pick the snacks/drinks. You’re basically the Kevin McCallister of your movie going experience.  A lovely cheese pizza just for me. Or you.
    "A lovely cheese pizza just for me" = the excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    “A lovely cheese pizza just for me” = an actual excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    No judgments.  Full disclosure: one time, I snuck in a 10-piece chicken nugget combo with waffle fries from Chik-Fil-A to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature.  Because I’m a BAMF…and I was starving.  Also, you never have to share, so have a calorie fest on your own, because you can.

  3. You can wear whatever you want. Obviously, you have to learn how to not care what you look like in public, but this is the most freeing part of the whole experience.  There is no one you have to impress because you’re just sitting in the dark.  Like, who actually is going to notice if you’re in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, Converse, and no makeup?  I personally do not need winged-tipped eyeliner and red lipstick if I’m wearing 3-D glasses and watching the T-Rex attack Lex & Tim’s SUV in Jurassic Park…unless I want to feel fancier, but that decision is solely up to me.
  4. Nobody talks to you during previews. I think we can all agree we’d like to swoon over the next Avengers movie and its hunky stars without any extra commentary.  (Am I the only one who finds Mark Ruffalo CRAZY HOT as Bruce Banner?  Is it seriously just me?  And also obviously I have had several dreams involving Iron Man and Captain America…)

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK.  BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT. NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK. BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT AND NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

  5. You can double-feature it whenever you feel like it. Maybe you want to see Wild and then maybe you want to see Night at the Museum 3.  Tomato, tomato.  No one can stop you.

So now that I’ve told you why it’s amazing ridin’ solo (and also ridin’ Solo…wink wink), let’s talk logistics!  Here’s a little starter guide to how I personally do the whole going-to-the-movies-alone thing.  Feel free to adapt this to suit your own heart’s desires.  After all, as the wise and dreamy Dr. Ian Malcolm once opined in a dinosaur breeding lab on Isla Nublar,”Life finds a way.”  You’ll find yours.

...just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later, Ian.  Thanks!

…just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later in the movie, Ian. Thanks!

  1. Pick your movie(s). Remember, nobody is going with you, so you have free reign.  I actually have gotten overwhelmed before because when you don’t have to think about what somebody else wants to see, you suddenly have way, WAY more choices.  Know that you can make more than one trip or see more than one movie in a day (budget allowing).  This may sound obvious, but if you’re used to always seeing movies with other people, it might seem like a strange concept to wrap your head around.  See what YOU want to see!

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

  2. Opt for a morning showtime (before noon) when possible. In New York, it costs $14.50 for a regular adult priced show and up to $18 for an IMAX.  However, most movie theaters here in the city offer early bird prices around $8 for movie times before noon.  The great thing is most of these showings are relatively empty, so you’re guaranteed your choice of seats and an almost private viewing experience.  If you don’t have problems with hanging with the elderly, you’re golden (just like the Golden Girls).
  3. Buy your snacks/drinks outside of the movie theater. Okay, so generally, this is frowned upon, because the big corporations who own movie theater chains want you to give them as much of your money as possible (and possibly your first-born child) like the Scrooge McDucks they are.  In no world should a small Coke cost $5.25.  So I stick it to the man and hit up the Duane Reade or 7-Eleven before I go and always remember to carry a slightly larger purse/bag with me.  Since I typically go to morning movies a lot these days, I like buying a pastry and iced coffee, which costs me less than the price of a movie theater concession stand small soda.  Take a big bag and be inconspicuous.
  4. Don’t worry about being there alone. Every single time I’ve gone to the movies by myself, there have been at least one or two other people there doing exactly the same thing as me.  I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies mostly because I love movies.  Occasionally, it’s also a form of stress-relief, but that’s a side benefit.  If you’re nervous about being alone, try to focus on the fact you’re there to be entertained and engrossed in a story.  The truth is that is what everyone else is there to do, and no one is paying attention to whether or not you’re there by yourself.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

  5. Double Feature-it on occasion. What’s better than seeing one movie alone?  Seeing two!  Now, I have been a bad girl and snuck into a second movie at larger multiplexes where it’s easier to do that (I’m a rebel WITH a cause!), but I have also simply bought another ticket to a second feature.  Recently, I saw both Whiplash and Nightcrawler back to back and realized I had unknowingly created a theme night (in this case: tales of obsession)!  Part of the fun of seeing movies this way is being able to tailor your own movie-going experience. But don’t forget we all need some sunlight!

So now you have a plan for hitting the movies on your own like a boss.  Hopefully, I’ve made you feel a little less apprehensive about leaving your house, your Doritos, and your Netflix behind in lieu of a cushy seat, large popcorn, and Meryl Streep.  It’s good to do things on your own sometimes, to be the master of your own cinematic destiny.  One last thing: enjoy yourself!

See you at the movies.  I’ll be the one clandestinely chowing down on chicken nuggets towards the middle of the theater while Benedict Cumberbatch tries to break the Enigma Code and beat the Nazis.

"Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?"

“Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?”

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