thi.nguyen

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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


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#OscarSoWhite Is Not the Problem

it's a trap meme

Yup. The Oscars is only a distraction from the REAL problem. The studios and the execs, the gatekeepers that decide which movies to greenlight and budget every year are the ones to blame. The Oscars are merely a reflection of what is out there and yes, while most people nominated are white, it’s because the pool is largely comprised of movies with white actors. The movies that campaign for their actors to win awards are the ones with the most budget for sending out screeners, getting ppl to notice, to watch and to remember those films. Although there were a number of films with Black actors this year, movies such as Tangerine and Dope that were very well acted, were barely mentioned in the media, much less pushed in the faces of old white men of the academy to be in their radar. Unless, of course the movie is about some form of slavery, in which a feeling of white guilt is felt and only then does the movie get nominated. Check video below.

Now how does this relate to me? It is 2016, fucking 2016 where we have the internet, self driving cars, phones that act as mini computers and cameras that fit in our pockets, where in major metropolitan cities, cultured cities, are filled with a diverse, eclectic mix of human beings — Black, Latinos, Asian, Native American, etc. It is 2016 where most if not all of these ethnicities have been around much much longer than the fast and ever evolving technology listed above. Machines are evolving more so than human beings??? And yet, Black people are barely being recognized now??? WHAT THE FUCK. Blacks make up about 13% of the U.S.’s population and Latinos make up about 17% of the U.S.’s population. Check out the census here, circa 2014. If Blacks are the minority that is most represented in Hollywood out of all the other minorities, the next up is going to be Latinos, and then, only then is it going to be Asian. But it is 2016, Blacks are in movies but are not recognized, Latinos are still playing stereotypes and wow, Asians just got their first and only family sitcom (Fresh off the Boat) since circa 10 years ago (All American Girl).

I saw The Revenant recently. I’m glad that there were real Native Americans in the movie. However, it made me uncomfortable when Leo said in his speech that he would share his Golden Globe award with the first nations and indigenous people. That’s as if a man were to pocket his ballooned paycheck yet demand equal pay for women. Leo is sharing his award, but is he going to share the award money he gets (3 million bump) if he wins the Oscar? And what about this option? Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING. Leo has the clout, the power to maybe fund, greenlight movies that have a Native lead, instead of taking the lead himself. He has the power to promote such movies and get them in theaters, get them seen! There’s nothing wrong with making a movie about a guy that survives a bear attack and seeks revenge on the men that left him for dead, fine. But couldn’t an equally good movie be made about the Native Americans finding their kidnapped daughter from the French fur trappers as well? This was the B story of that movie when it could’ve been the A story.

Hollywood is changing yes. But at a pace that my impatient heart dies every time I see a predominantly white cast.  I FUCKING CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. It’s at a point where it doesn’t make me angry or frustrated, it makes me sad. A strong feeling of despair that I might not ever ever get on the screen, not even for a role such as Student #2. How pathetic.

Let’s add on that from the auditions I do get, one was for a pilot that was basically describing me (20s, Vietnamese, teacher, mega watt smile), in which my audition was cut short to 5 minutes because the girl that auditioned before me was a well known name (she was half Vietnamese, half Black and looked Black, ugh) who got to audition for 20 minutes. Or I had another audition for a movie where the character was fresh from Viet Nam, where she was described as fierce and emotional, so I played her dramatically, only to find out a month later, TODAY, that the tone of the movie is a comedy. Acting is a numbers game where the more auditions you have, the more chances you’ll book. You’ll also have more room to blow auditions because another one will come. But what if it doesn’t come, or you have to wait an entire year for the next? What if I can’t increase the number of my auditions because there is NO DEMAND for my look.

And then I look at Master of None:

Hah, our stories are kinda fresh and original now.