thi.nguyen

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Time

I wish you could see /your history is chaining you/ We could let go and never lose /Nostalgia is killing us. – RAC (Doe Paoro), Nostalgia

Ocean, don’t be afraid. The end of the road is so far ahead it is already behind us. – Ocean Vuong, Someday I’ll love Ocean Vuong

All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber. – Kurt Vonnegurt, Slaughterhouse Five

There is no time. Many become one. – Interpreter, Arrival

Time is moving so fast that I can’t seem to keep up. Kids are getting younger and every day I’m at my oldest. Nostalgia is killing me as I keep looking back at Youth and looking at her with resentment as she has her whole life ahead of her, more TIME ahead of her. The more I keep looking back, the more that gap widens between me and Time, where Time leaves me behind. Alone. With nothing.

Last week, I was feeling really sad. The song Nostalgia came on my Discover Weekly Spotify list and the lyrics just resonated with me. I had this sinking feeling that I was entrapped in a toxic circle of my own doing. Procrastination. Every day I tell myself, I’m going to write a few things toward my script, or I’m going to write creatively like a poem or even a blog post to express myself. And yet the last post I did was in December. Shit. Three months have already passed! See! Where did the time go?

Then a few days ago, I went to this poetry reading/talk. Ocean Vuong, this kid who writes for the New Yorker, a poet and an essayist, read his poem with this line: “The end of the road is so far ahead it is already behind us.” Fucking blew my mind. I went from, Oh shit, Time is so far ahead of me, it lapped me, to Oh shit, Time isn’t a straight line, it’s a  CIRCLE. (This poem is so visceral and poignant, it inspired me to write one myself.)

Now, that wasn’t the first time I encountered Time as being circular. This concept kept getting introduced to me through ALIENS — whether it was from a novel or a Hollywood movie, apparently this concept was always the most PROFOUND THING offered by out of this world creatures. Ha, it’s so foreign, it’s out of this world.

But that concept never took on a personal level for me until Vuong read it out loud. Coincidently, Vuong was an alien. He was born in Viet Nam, immigrated to USA when he was 2. But anyways I’ve digressed. I think what made Vuong such a powerful and effective vessel for me was that he started the poem out with, “Don’t be afraid.”

Is that what I’ve been feeling? Fear that I may never catch up to Time? That I may never fulfill a goal, a dream, a passion, let alone FEEL fulfilled? Fear that instead of blaming it on the lack of Time, it is I that should be blamed for my shortcomings, my wasted potential, my failings? Yea. All the above.

But why????? Why be afraid? JUST FUCKING DON’T. Fear, Time, Fulfillment … all these things aren’t even tangible like this hard ACTUAL scratched up aged cheap wood coffee table in which I write this blog post on.  They are ideas and concepts who’s meanings are adjustable to one’s own mind and experiences. So why can’t I just CHANGE MY MIND? I CAN!

All time is all time. Take it moment by moment and it isn’t scary or monolithic. It’s approachable, it just is. It’s a CIRCLE. Circles aren’t sharp like the pointy ends of a line. I think of a line as stagnant, but a circle is always in motion. It’s the easiest thing a small child can draw. It surrounds things and everything that is within the circle, it bounds it and becomes ONE. And instead of feeling alone, I’m a part of something ALIVE. 


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2016, you a bitch.

So … I got over turning 30 and less than a month after my birthday, I was diagnosed with active tuberculosis. In hindsight, maybe my reluctance to turn 30 was warranted … but then again hindsight is a nagging bitch.  Anyways, because I had active tuberculosis, I was deemed contagious and a hazard to the public. I was put into isolation for a month. Not fun. But what does this have to do with my creative endeavors? Everything.

Isolation gave me an unwanted reprieve from the working grind. I am a social being and to be put in confinement made me sad, especially on the weekends, when I knew all my friends were having fun and going out without me. Facebook’s a real irresistible bitch. Isolation gave me a lot of time to pursue creativity — writing, reading, coloring (indoor solitary activities) but stripped me of any motivation to actually do it. Instead, I found myself watching a lot of television. A lot.

I noticed that a lot of the shows I was watching were created by people marginalized by Hollywood — women and ethnic people. I.E. Broad City, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Master of None. It is becoming much more apparent to me that my acting career isn’t going to skyrocket from booking 10 second roles on television. It’s going to grow from within. I have to write and create my own content, because the role right for me isn’t going to come from a person unlike me.

Waking up every day in a glass box in a hospital, my experience was surreal. Why are my eyes opened to a day where I’m not even allowed to go outside?  Why am I kept alive?

I believe that everyone is endowed with a gift from above. And one must nourish and put to use that gift in order to serve the world, ultimately fulfilling one’s life purpose. Everyday I’m kept alive to hopefully fulfill my contribution to the world. I don’t know how or when or if I will ever live up to my potential, but while I’m awake and alive, I should try. 

Out of isolation, I started writing and storytelling. I don’t think I’m there yet. I don’t think I’m near fulfilling my purpose or have adequately contributed to society, but I’m on my way.  I’m on my way doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And it feels great. For the past couple of years, I’ve always done a personal assessment at the end of the year and for a long time, I always came out of it feeling so unaccomplished and a failure. That the year was a waste.

2016 sucked. Really, it did. It was a real bitch. I turned 30, I got tuberculosis and Hilary lost the election. But right now at the end of this year, for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like a failure. (Maybe because after finding out it was TB, I can blame all my shortcomings on the TB. Oh, I couldn’t ride that bike NOT because I was out of shape, but because of TB! Oh, that guy rejected me NOT because he didn’t like me, it was the TB! Huzzah!)

Instead of measuring my self-worth based on the roles I have booked (a big fat ZERO), or the amount of money I’ve made through acting (again, a bit fat ZERO — now you see how easy it was to see myself as a failure), I’m measuring my self-worth based on the work I put in to contribute to society (writing, creating, storytelling and sharing everyday = infinity self worth points).

I know that every day I’m kept alive, it’s more time to fulfill my purpose. And when I die, that would mean my life was devoted to bringing about my purpose, or that I had finally succeeded. Either way, I’m gonna be alright. 


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Recent thoughts

Ugh. Next week I turn 30. And I’ve been very emotional lately. There’s the whole, my body is actually changing. I get gassy when I eat dairy. I have grey hairs. I get hangovers. It takes me much longer to heal from anything. There’s ALSO the whole I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be at 30. No career, no long-term relationship that can lead to marriage, no money, no health insurance, no 401k, no property. NOTHING.

I know the path I chose is harder than most. And I swear everyone and their effing mom has an opinion on my career path — I recently was told I’m delusional and am using the “I’m following my dream” to not have to hold myself accountable for my arrested development.

Look, I was valedictorian in middle school. I was nominated for Homecoming Queen by the boys water polo team. I was runner up for Most Likely to Make You Laugh in high school. I went to UCLA, took on at least 19 or more units/quarter and graduated Cum Laude with a quarter to spare. I have a freakin Masters in Spanish and am fluent in three languages. This was all accomplished by 22. I was projected to do great things.

SO HOW DID I GET HERE? I’m not proud of where I am right now and I think it’s because of my projections of myself when I was 22. My 22 year old self is severely disappointed in myself now.

There’s a thing called SATURN RETURNS where it takes 30 years for Saturn to finish its rotation around the sun. Big changes tend to happen when you’re about 30, 60 and 90. I see that everywhere around my group of friends right now. We’re all turning 30 and a lot of my friends are either getting married, having babies, getting promoted, or even quitting that job they got straight out of college and traveling and rethinking a different career path. CHANGE. REBIRTH. 

SO WHAT? My biggest change happened after 22. When I decided to leave a laid out path of measurable success (school-job-money-security) for the unpredictable and dark non path of acting. Instead of walking on an already paved path, I have to figure out a path from A to B in the dark, while using a shovel I’ve never used before nor have the upper body strength to use it efficiently. Hence the slow and immeasurable progress of this stupid acting career. I swear I’m either really stupid or really crazy.

But Saturn Returns can also mean DEATH. Perhaps a death of something to make room for something else? The same friend that told me I was delusional in pursuing acting as a profession, suggested that maybe this isn’t the path for me. That because I’m so focused on it, I’m blinded from any opportunity that is coming.

But opportunity doesn’t come from nothing. Opportunity has to come from work. And I haven’t worked towards anything else but acting. If I were to quit acting now, I would have no focus. No passion. No direction. That’s too bleak. So acting is the answer. I’m already doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

SO WTF IS THE PROBLEM??! In my teens and early 20s, I was accomplishing a lot and succeeding at a fast rate. I was used to that and carried that projection and expectation of myself into now. When I compare myself and my present to that 22 year old projection, I am deeply saddened. I think to myself that I am about to turn 30 and I have nothing worth celebrating.

And then I remember how STUPID my 22 year old self was. She was writing everything in lowercase. Everything, even her name. Ugh. How annoying. She easily felt the pressures of FOMO. She needed to party party party. Instant gratification. Always impatient, always wanting it NOW! She was exhausting.

Now in my later 20s and about to be in my 30s, I find life to be richer when lived slower. Referring to my last post “Community” where I talk about my first year of Burning Man to my second year, my 22 year old self was the yoloing burnt out first year while myself now is the smell the flowers, make time for the sunrise, tea sipping second year.

So what’s going to be my Saturn Returns? Am I getting married? NOPE. Am I having a kid? NOPE. Am I changing career paths. FUCK NO. I think it’s going to be the DEATH of the 22 year old’s unfair and unrealistic projection of my 30 year old self. She was expecting me to have it all by now assuming that I would stay on the laid out path. She didn’t take in consideration that I decided to dig and find my own path. Which does take longer but that’s OK! With this death, I can actually accept and embrace that success might come later, much later. And it’s OK! Life will be felt deeper. Richer. Fuller.

See, Sarah Paulson who just won an Emmy has some career advice: Don’t Succeed So Early.  I think I’m gonna be alright. :]


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Community

Nobody can save you but

yourself – and you’re worth

saving. It’s a war not easily

won but if anything is worth

winning – this is it.  

— Charles Bukowski

The world is strange and tough. A lot of things don’t make any sense to me — like Taco Tuesdays on a Monday. I’m making it up as I go along and sometimes I compare myself to others as a measure of my own progress.

But comparing myself to others hurts me in so many ways. And I found myself doing that at Burning Man.

Burning Man is larger than life. Large in scale. Beyond “large”. I am constantly in awe at people’s ingenuity, creativity and generosity — to the point that I feel not worthy to be in the presence of such greatness — to the point that I compare myself and realize I could never amount to even a fraction of such greatness.

Although this thought comes up for me, it’s fleeting because a lot of what makes Burning Man Burning Man is community. 

This was my second year. My first year was so overwhelming.  I am an anxious and impatient person so my first year was full of anti fomoing — must see this, must be here, must be up up up and go go go, to the point that I was completely burnt out and over it by my last day. I was so tired I couldn’t/wouldn’t enjoy Burning Man any longer.

So why come back? I’m a few years older and a bit calmer in nature (a bit but not by much) and I didn’t feel the pressure of having to partake in everything Burning Man had to offer anymore. Burning Man is so large and full that it is impossible to experience everything and this year coming into the burn, I had made my peace with that. And with that pressure lifted from my shoulders, it made me more receptive to meaningful and surprising connections with others and it opened me to discover that Burning Man wasn’t just a one time buffet of extravagant experiences, but could be felt and lived on the daily.

I’m an extrovert and I feel energized when connecting with a lot of people. I usually connect with people through conversations and getting to know a person interpersonally, sharing and swapping stories. But with Burning Man and keeping with their 10 principles, I practiced Gifting. I brought my flute to Burning Man and busted it out. When someone approached me, or I was introduced to someone new, instead of asking the usual ‘What’s your name, what do you do?’ I told people to give me three adjectives that described themselves and from what they said, I improvised a little tune on my flute for them.

With something that came easy and readily for me now (albeit after years of training in music), after my little ditty, I saw genuine awe in people’s eyes. Some asked me what my process was (if your word was ‘open’ = C major — most commonly used in pop songs, ‘grounded’ = low G major — down to earth kind of feel, ‘sexy’ = flute trill with a little hip action ;)) and after explaining it, people complimented me on how I spoke and thought about music in terms of their personality, and it made me feel valued and part of the community of Burning Man.

I connected with people through music, something beyond words. I was just jamming on my flute for a camp and a violinist arrived and asked to jam with me. Burning Man is about saying yes, so I said, absolutely! We exchanged more music notes than words and when we played together, unrehearsed and organically, it was beautiful. Her name was Empress and her violin was white. I had no idea where she was from or even her real name, but we connected when our notes and rhythm just felt right together. That connection transcended and I could feel the people who were listening enjoyed our improvised songs and they in turn was part of the experience, part of the connection, part of the community.

She’s wild, uncombed, unpredictable.

She’s a whirlwind. A mess. Lost.

Insecurities manifest into a monster that is she. 

But what makes her wild, makes her beautiful. 

She is missed and her community calls to her to come back. 

And she calms, she listens, she is saved. 

photos courtesy of Niamh and PK

 

 


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Low Self Confidence is Sooo Annoying.

I’ve been watching this new anime called Food Wars! I’ve watched a lot of anime in my time and what I’ve noticed with this one and with many others is that the protagonist always has a strong assurance in himself that he will be the best.

In  Naruto, Naruto always says he’s going to be the next hokage.  In  One Piece, Luffy says he’s going to be king of the pirates. And of course with Food Wars!, it’s no different. Soma says he’s going to “take the number one spot.”

Each of these protagonists have so much potential and are quite skillful in their domain. Naruto’s a ninja, Luffy’s a pirate and Soma is a chef. They are not without fault and from their bold statements — always in the future tense — indicates that they’re not the best yet. And that doesn’t deter from their constant flow of self confidence. They’re not arrogant. They are all just so self assured that they’re going to be alright. Even when the situation is not in their favor. Naruto has lost battles, Luffy’s been in some jams, and Soma has lost too. It’s nice to see.

What’s NOT nice to see is when this bold strong character is paired up with a weak, full of self doubt, ANNOYING character. In Food Wars! especially, I can’t stand Tadokoro. Let me repeat, I CAN’T STAND HER. And you know why, because I AM HER. OH. MY. GOD. 

Is this how my friends see me?

Tadokoro shouldn’t have low self confidence! She cooks great food and has been validated by her peers, even by Soma. Yet her self doubt paralyzes her and she loses her nerve in front of tests and challenges. When up against a worthy opponent, she compares herself to the opponent and her inner dialogue is so annoying! ‘Oh so and so has studied here, I didn’t. Oh so and so knows this technique, I don’t.’ Blah blah blah blah BLAH! She freaks herself her out and it frustrates me as I’m watching it. I just want to grab her shoulders and shake her! SNAP OUT OF IT! YOU’RE SO ANNOYING! JUST DO YOU! Soma does a less extreme version of that by clapping her hands together in the midst of her breakdown (picture below).

That’s what I need to do. I need to shake myself and SNAP THE FUCK OUT OF IT!

soma claps

 


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Why does the dream feel so …

Impossible?

:/ I know time is a social construct, but with every passing day as I look at myself in the mirror, lines are getting more defined and my hair is fading color … the dream of getting from the couch to the screen seems even more out of reach than ever.

Why does time matter? I look at younger people with envy and wistfulness. They have their whole lives ahead of them. When did I get so jaded, so discouraged, so insecure?

I’ve been going to a lot of weddings lately. While everyone is pairing off, I’m still single. I’ve been single longer than I’ve been with anyone combined. I’m not saying being with someone will make me happy. If anything, I think I’m more comfortable being on my own. But it’s not because it stems from a desire for solitude, but from a need for protection. I don’t think I’m deserving of anyone just yet.

But Thi, why define yourself by your success or lack thereof? Because that has been my reality my entire life. My mom came here to make something of herself and her kids are a reflection of whether or not she succeeded. If her kids fail, she has failed. As the first born, that pressure is insurmountable and I am left feeling shut down.

Melancholy. Mood of the moment. up_on_melancholy_hill_by_katarrhe


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Writing

It is my belief that if you can write, you can do anything. Especially in this town.

Writing for me comes easily when I know what I’m talking about. When I write about myself, whether it’s through this blog or a fictional novel that is based on my life*, cake. But when I attempt to write about something that I think will sell (based on what I’ve already seen on TV and movies), in a format I’m not all too familiar with (screenplay) duh, just so I think it can forward my stagnated acting career, I fall short. By a lot. To the point that I avoid any progress on the manuscript. Le sigh.

I know that when the going gets tough, you just have to plow right through it, to not give up! I just have to keep on writing! But I can’t. (Not with that attitude). It’s daunting to write about something for an audience I’m not all too familiar with.

The set up. So I know someone that has a production company in Viet Nam. (Yo, if I can’t make it here, I can maybe make it out of here). She says that the movie industry in Viet Nam is booming. Exponentially.  But there is a lack of scripts.

There’s my opportunity!

The catch. The story must appeal to a Vietnamese audience. I am not Vietnamese. I’m American. My friend said that Vietnamese humor is completely different than American humor. Vietnamese people love slap stick, obvious physical humor. I’m an American that find slap stick humor out of date and am more accustomed to sarcasm, irony, dry wit — which would never appeal to the Vietnamese public. Another le sigh.

I didn’t let this minor discrepancy hold me back. Oh no, I started writing this script … last year, about a month after my friend told me about this opportunity. Too bad I’m still not done with it and it has been over a year. Pathetic Thi!

Instead I concentrate on what I do know. Myself. Oh the so self-involved American. Get. the. fuck. over. yourself. But at least I know what George Martin feels like. I’ve procrastinated, just like he has in his Game of Thrones books. (Maybe he doesn’t know who’s going to win the throne, thus he procrastinates). I wrote more blog posts on my day to day life, I’ve edited my old fictional novels based on my life, I’ve avoided that script that I know nothing about.

And here is where I must ask myself, is that so wrong? Is it so wrong to stop writing about something I don’t know and concentrate on something I do? I’ve gone to panels that spotlight writers in the industry and I’ve noticed that overwhelmingly they are mostly comprised of da da da DA … white 30-40 year old males. Unsurprisingly. This would explain the prolific and wide range of white male roles on television. These guys aren’t racist, they’re just writing what they know, themselves. Different versions of themselves and their friends. If they were to write something other than themselves, it would come off as a caricature, a stereotype, a sloppy cover up of something they know nothing about.

I am not getting any younger, true. Ugh, the countdown to my 30 year old demise is looming near. Hollywood isn’t changing quickly for me to be the next star any time soon (I just got an audition as waitress, yaayy). So what must I do? I must write. I must get better. I must be part of the change I want to see.

The solution. Just keep writing. Maybe I’ll find a balance between the script for Viet Nam and find a little of myself in Vietnamese’s sense of humor.

*Some of you have asked me where you can find my fictional novels. Here they are:

love quest image              identity quest image