thi.nguyen

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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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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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The War of Art

I know it´s been awhile but I guess I haven´t felt the need to update because nothing´s been happening.  I’m still not going out to auditions as much as I want to, I still haven´t booked anything, still at the restaurant etc. etc. etc.

It is now December and I’m forced to look back at this past year and evaluate.  I had made a list of goals last December for 2013 and most of it was not accomplished.  And I guess to summarize this past year, and I hate to admit it, but I must … I feel that this year has been my year of resistance.

For my acting class, my teacher made us read ¨the war of art¨ by Steven Pressfield.  I love my teacher and I love this book.  Pressfield says that the enemy of creativity is resistance. It is that destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for others or us something that´s actually good. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower will elicit resistance.

For me, acting is the thing that is eliciting resistance. I am self-sabotaging myself. I am the one that is not auditioning, not booking, complaining about my representation and not doing a thing about it.  Why the fuck am I doing this? Fear. Fear that to put in all the work and to realize I’m absolute crap. Fear that if I actually book something, they´ll find out that I’m a phony. Fear that I’ll actually succeed…

I’ve been letting resistance beat me down for this past year.  I’ve been poisoning my own mind, chastising myself that I’m a nobody, that I’m never going to make it, I’m never going to book it, I’m going to be at the restaurant forever and that I’ll never find parking in la.

There´s this thing called the law of attraction.  What you think and obsess over, you´ll get. The universe will hear you and grant it, negative or positive.  So because I have such negative thoughts, what I believe about myself becomes true. Jeez, resistance is such a bitch right?

Alright, so first thing in resolving a problem, you have to admit that you have one. Resistance is her name and she´s a big fucking bitch.  I hate what she has done to me this past year. I am glad that I am able to recognize her hold on me.

So what to do?  Pressfield emphasizes professionalism and work. ¨The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying … because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen.  A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid.  Unseen forces enlist in our cause serendipity reinforces our purpose. ¨

This goes with the law of attraction, trust, faith, and Ira Glass.  What Pressfield says, I know to be true.  For example, this blog post.  I didn´t know exactly what I wanted to write. I didn´t know word for word.  But I devoted a time, sat down and started writing.  I’m not afraid of writing, so I felt no resistance there.  It´s not what I’m meant to do.  What I’m meant to do is acting.  But with so much resistance towards it, I’m paralyzed.  Then I make peace with my paralysis, thinking that since I suck, I should just not even try.  I should just not even work. And then what ultimately happens? What I most fear becomes true.

So, I declare that for 2014, my goal is to never lose sight of the dream.  To not be afraid, to have faith and to put in the work.  I can do this.