I’m struggling.

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It’s been a pretty rough month. First, the trivial: I am getting my ass whupped in Fantasy Football (49ers suuuck, so long playoffs), as well as the most current – my poor parked car got smashed Saturday night. I woke up Sunday morning to see the hubcaps leaning against their naked tires along with the entire left side scraped and dented. Claim agent said it looked like a drunk driver in a big car, slammed in my car and ran. I blame Saturday night, Dodgers winning and myself for parking in a corner of a busy, two Stop signs intersection. SIGH. THE IRONY: it was a parking spot RIGHT in front of my apartment! I knew the busy intersection well but I took the chance because parking in KTOWN is an achievement in itself. AND I stayed in Saturday night to prevent myself from going out and spending money. INSTEAD, I’ll be paying a steep deductible to get my car fixed as well as losing the expensive buy in for my Fantasy league.

Circumstantially, I’m struggling. 

Also, it was my birthday at the top of the month. I chose not to cry this year, which I didn’t. I splurged on a birthday tattoo and after it was done, I HAD NO BUYER’S REMORSE. I spent a lot on the artist and his design aesthetic and I love my tattoo. You can call me boojie, but I needed to treat myself externally so it’d distract me from what I felt internally.

Emotionally, I’m struggling. 

I’ve been going through some family drama. In such emotional turmoil and angst, I had a moment of clarity one morning. I suddenly found an explanation to my birthday blues and to my desperate need to be an actor. Yes, I didn’t cry this year on my birthday (nor last year — let’s celebrate the little successes) but it didn’t mean I wasn’t wary of my birthday.

I have a complicated relationship with my mother. I follow the usual trope of “my parents really fucked me up,” and I’ve grown up broken. Look, I am a firm believer of what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and I refuse to be a victim of circumstance, but after years where suffering and brokenness are compounded on top of each other, it’s easy to feel weighed down and drowning all the fucking time.

My mother made it known early on that me and my sisters were a burden. As a child, I felt the complete reluctance when I wanted my birthday party at Chuck E’ Cheese. During the party, my mom frowned the entire time, worrying about the increasing total cost and never failed to remind me how much time, effort and money she put in this little party. I never had a birthday party after that.

This is just one example of my relationship with my mom, and yet it’s indicative of the underlying conflict I have with her. Here’s a woman that gave me life and yet showed distain in the mere obligation of raising me.

Hindsight is a gift and I know as an adult she had a lot going on. She was a Viet Nam refugee, uprooting her life to a foreign country, working full time, going to school at night while raising 3 kids in a one bedroom apartment for a good 10 years. Because of hindsight, I can forgive my mom and let any resentment towards her go.

But as a child when I wasn’t able to make sense of what I was feeling, that feeling that I didn’t matter left a very lasting scar into adulthood. That’s why I feel the way I feel towards my birthday. I don’t matter, so why celebrate? I’ll just take up space and waste people’s time and money.

It’s interesting to note that I also tend to fall for guys that don’t value me and easily discard me. Last year I was ghosted and the year before that, I was just another ho on his ho-tation. Maybe it’s a Freudian slip, and I like guys that remind me of my mother, because they give me this feeling that I don’t matter, a feeling I’m all too familiar with. And I’m confusing familiarity with love. Isn’t that sad?

So what does this have to do with acting? Where’s the connection. For a story to affect me so emotionally to the point that it’ll guide my life long decisions, where its characters were the contributive factor to this, shows me that they matter. They are essential and necessary. You can’t have Indiana Jones without Indiana. You can’t have Star Wars without Han Solo. YOU JUST CAN’T. THEY FUCKING MATTER.

So, unconsciously I wanted to be an actor to matter.  I wanted to be integral to a story that could affect people’s hearts and minds. And then they’d remember me, value me and maybe want me.

But no one ever told me just how emotionally taxing it would be.

Emotionally, I’ve BEEN struggling. 

It is hard to compete in this industry, let alone in this world right now. Where superficial, immoral and antagonist people win without any consequences, it’s hard to find a place where I fit and won’t lose my soul. Why, why are shitty movies being made? Why are unskilled influencers getting paid beaucoup money? Why is the GOP so hateful and yet have all the power? I’ve been frustrated with myself for wanting so desperately to eat at the cool kids table, knowing full well they are soulless and corrupt. And I know full well that I’d defy them and refuse to abide by their standards (or lack thereof). And yet, I am lamenting at my circumstantial brokenness because it feels almost like a punishment to want to be good and fair and free.

I have been feeling like I just don’t fit anywhere in this world. And my circumstances have reiterated that feeling. I’ve been going to therapy to reconcile this internal conflict as well as to turn off the noise. To me, it is such an overwhelming problem and yet my therapist said this so easily, “Your brilliance is not meant to fit.”

I question the validity of this statement because emotionally it’s not ringing true to me. I’ve never thought of myself as brilliant so to believe it is too far a leap to make. And to hear that I was never meant to fit is hard to accept because for so long I’ve wanted to belong and yet never questioned if I ever should.

EVERYDAY, I’m struggling. 

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I’M STRONGER THAN I THINK

So, I botched another audition … 😦

Before any audition, I always kinda downplay any excitement or gratitude regarding the opportunity. Thoughts of — oh this is just protocol, it’s a long shot, they already booked someone, you’re not going to get it, you have no credits, you have no experience, they don’t know you … help soften the blow when I actually don’t hear back from casting directors. Call it self preservation, but it’s gotten me through 7 years of constant neglect and false hope from Hollywood.

At least I thought so anyways. I didn’t realize the longstanding detrimental repercussions to my sense of self worth and self awareness.

So there are two parts of me: 1. the intellectual, measurable, on paper part of me, and 2. the emotional, can’t put my finger on it but can feel it part of me. I’ve realized recently that there’s a huge gap between the two. What I know and understand about myself isn’t equivalent to how I feel about myself.

Most of the time, I don’t like myself. A lot of the time, I feel I have nothing to offer to this world and my life is meaningless. I have no talent, I am ugly and stupid and there’s a ton of people smarter, prettier, nicer, anything-er than me. I am nothing.

This is the type of thinking that is the result of all my “self preservation”.  In the name of protecting myself and my sensitive ego, talking myself down from any opportunity, I am little by little chipping at any sense of self worth and self confidence I may have had.

And at the most recent audition, this self preservation led to self sabotage. I came in the room not confident, kept fumbling over my lines, and worried that that cuter, younger, smarter, more talented girl in the waiting room is going to kill it and I’m the old hack that never stood a chance. This thought literally manifested into my performance where I completely looked like a noob. After my performance, the director literally said, “Awww you’re so cute.” Ugh, KISS OF DEATH. “Awww you’re so cute” is subtext for “you can’t act, but hey consolation is you cute.” The casting associate asked, “how long you’ve been in LA for?” I meekly replied, 7 years, and his eyebrows arched which translated to: “you’ve been in LA for that long and you still can’t act?!” To add salt to the wound, that cute girl in the waiting room got a callback. I did not.

Look, I know it’s probably not as bad as I have described it. I AM being dramatic, but I am showing how far this negative thinking can go for me. It destroys me and its incessant voice is on loop ALL THE FUCKING TIME. To the point that it blinds me from the intellectual part of me.

On paper, through class time and the observations of my peers, I know I have talent. I know I’m good and have good instincts. I’m relatable, personable, intelligent and inspiring. It’s fun to watch me. And yet I’m so blind to these facts that when someone else, even a stranger, recognizes these features about me, I’m always so … SURPRISED.

This year it’s happened three times already. The first time was when I booked a lead role in This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. I wrote about the experience in a previous post.  I was surprised that the director and co director trusted me to play a character, the most difficult character to convey, a character I thought very much unlike me, a character I had a lot of trouble understanding and relating, and yet … I killed it. I never even had the capacity to think that that was even a possibility of booking a lead role let alone do it well. They saw something in me that I wasn’t even aware was there.

The second time this happened was last month. I’ve been volunteering at a youth leadership camp for years and one of the traditions at the camp is for two staff members to do a two-person scripted scene. A scene that addresses the existential question of a life worth saving. Heavy stuff, a dramatic piece that I’ve always been intimidated by and never really had the confidence to do it. It was suggested that one of the counselors, a New York theatre graduate, super talented and so funny, should be one of the characters. But when this opportunity was brought to her, she said she would only do the scene if I did it with her … I was shocked. What???! Someone I respected as an actor and admired for her work and thoughtfulness wanted to work with uncombed, unpolished, rough around the edges me? She cray. She’s stupid. WTF? …Wow, once she said that, the idea appealed to me, her confidence in me gave me confidence and guess what? We killed it.

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And then the third time happened yesterday. I took a spin class for the first time. I had no idea what it entailed, I had no idea how to adjust my bike and fit it to my strength, I had no idea I would sweat that much! I wanted to quit, I wanted to stop, I wanted to yell at the instructor to stop yelling at me. But then he said, “YOU’RE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK!” And he kept saying that along rock music I’ve heard on Guitar Hero. My knees felt weird and weak, there was too much resistant, I felt like I was pedaling against mud, against a wall, it felt hopeless for a good 2/3 of the class. But that instructor guy said it again, “YOU’RE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK!” So I kept moving my feet, pushing myself, pushing my legs and knees and eventually, I kept up and sped up.

So what have I learned from all this? That intellectual part of me needs to shout louder and longer for my emotional part of me to feel its truth. For its truth to really resonate within myself and manifest itself into my best self. Instead of surrounding my mind with negative thoughts in the name of self preservation, I must shout what I know about myself in the name of BEST SELF preservation. 😀

Also, I think I will be talking to my therapist to figure out a plan of action to sustain and maintain positive thinking and mental reinforcements of myself for myself and with myself. Wish me luck! ❤

 

 

 

 

Oh May Oh My

So something significant happened to me during the month of may. Honestly, I’m so glad may is over.  It’s been a long month.  Tumultuous. -Sigh- alright out with it. I was let go from my survival job — the restaurant job.

Alright, it’s not that bad.  It’s not like I was a CEO and got fired because I lost hella investor money or was a doctor and got fired because of negligence, I was a mere waitress at a corporate restaurant and I got fired. What happened?  To be honest, I was unhappy.  I had let that restaurant plague my well being and I was too lazy to quit and find another serving job. I had been unhappy there for quite awhile, disillusioned with the politics of a corporation and frustrated with the whole mantra of “the guest is always right”.  (Here’s an article where that whole POV is wrong and harmful, especially for the employees: Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is Wrong.) I didn’t feel valued.  I didn’t feel management had my back.  When I spoke up, management would pacify me and say they would take care of it but never did.  They were ineffective and there was never any accountability of wrongdoing.  My unhappiness was palpable and I grew increasingly frustrated with every passing day.  I was an ugly person when I showed up to work.  I was aggressive, I lashed out, I took everything 100% more personally than it really was. I hated that place.

But I was there for 4 years. 4 fucking years.  Why didn’t I just leave at the first hint of unhappiness?  In hindsight after every difficult shift that I would relay back to my friends, without fail, they would always suggest, “Thi, maybe it’s time for you to quit”.  And without fail, I always made excuses for that place, “oh it’s flexible, it’s consistent, there’s structure, I make money not working full time” Blah blah blah blah blah! It was like an abusive relationship.  In the end, there was no trust.  I just didn’t have the courage to leave.

So it was a blessing in disguise when I got the boot. Well actually, let me just say first, it hurt. A blow to the ego.  It stung.  I didn’t do the dumping, I was the one that got dumped! :{ And after getting dumped, you go through that whole spectrum of emotions.  First you’re in disbelief, like did that just really happen to me?  Then you’re mad, how could they do that to me? Then you’re sad and insecure, oh my god I’m nothing, I’m a failure, I have to move back home and live with my parents, the dream is over, yada yada yada. Then you’re numb.  Then you’re finally clear enough to think, blessing in disguise. Yea it took a while emotionally to get to that state. But I got there! Yay!

So now what? During the whole debacle, I went through a much needed career assessment.  I have a lot of debt (school loans and credit cards), bills (rent, utility, phone, internet, car insurance) and nothing to my name (no house and no savings).  So, on the one hand, I was panicked and stressed because I was in survival mode – find any job to make rent. Period. Finito. On the other hand, when telling some members of my family that I had been let go, they said, “good, now you can get a real job. You can finally use that degree.” my response to this was, “what about the dream?” this led to the argument that based on how many auditions I get a year (which averages to about one a month), I could get a real job (9-5), make a lot more money than I have been from my part time jobs (starting pay with a BA can be at least $40,000/year vs. my current $20,000/year), pay off my debts, build my savings, and depending on my relationship with my boss, go on auditions when or if they come up.  My family’s point, and I’m paraphrasing, “all we’re saying is that we don’t want you to wake up one day at 35 and realize that the acting ladder didn’t pan out and that you have no useful skill to make money. What happens if you get hurt tomorrow?”

So now, I’m super bummed.  My family is asking me, why prioritize acting when it’s not making you any money? And I’m left questioning not only my commitment to acting, but my sanity, as if pursuing acting is stupid and futile.  In line with my family’s reasoning, at least going for a real job right now, I’m still young enough to build a career with a degree that is not obsolete yet (it’s only been 6 years since I graduated college).

Feeling incredibly discouraged and replaying worst-case scenarios in my head, I go to my friend Daniel and I tell him, “Maybe this is a sign for me to quit the dream. Maybe I should just pack it up and go home to my parents.  At least I don’t have to pay rent.” my friend Daniel says, “Thi, you’re looking for a sign right?” he points up, indicating I mean from god.  I nod and he continues, “I’m your fucking sign, Thi.  I’m the messiah and I’m giving you one week to give it your all and get an audition by next Friday. In one week.  Think outside the box, do your hardest, your best and if you can say you gave it your all, and you didn’t get an audition, then maybe that’s the sign you need to get out of la and go home. But if you do get an audition, which I know you will, then that’s the sign to keep going.  You can do this.”

I rolled my eyes at this challenge.  I told him I would humor him but that I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Getting an audition is such a crapshoot.  My morale was low and to be honest, I thought his challenge was stupid.

Clouded by two extreme conditions from my family and friends, I couldn’t decide on how to move forward. So on that following Monday, I applied to everything on craigslist.  Getting fired gave me freedom.  I had the chance to start over, explore other career paths.  Nothing defined, I could be anything! I applied to be a health coach, a market analyst, a full time blogger, an administrative assistant for a doggy day care, a server, a caterer, a barista, a teacher’s assistant, a private tutor, a museum researcher, a telemarketer, a copy writer, full time, part time, open availability, remote, willing to travel, etc. I cast a wide net to better my chance in getting an interview.  Depending on the pool of interviews that I would get, would ultimately decide the direction of my career. I was letting fate take control.

By the following Friday, exactly one week, I had a lot of interviews.  One was for a full time writer/blogger/website updater, another was a part time market researcher/analyst and the other one was a serving/hosting job for a gastro pub.  Now I had to really decide.  Get a full time job and give up the dream (come on, if a company knew my commitment was to acting and not to that company, why in hell would they hire me full time?) or continue with the pursuit of acting, be poor and serve tables?

Oh yea, I also got two auditions by then. I really didn’t do anything different, maybe submitted myself more so than usual (I had a lot of time on my hands), but I did take it as encouragement to continue with acting.

Here’s another thing, my other part time job.  I’m also an administrative assistant for an entertainment career coach. The company is very small and it’s basically a start up, so I wear many hats in the company — writing marketing emails, updating social media, customer support, technical support, etc.  So actually, I am building a skill that is relevant to my mass communications degree AND I’m still a part of the entertainment industry.  The company is small, but growing.  It helps with rent, but is not my main source of income.  So when I was debating whether or not to pursue a full time job, I had to consider leaving this part time position as a possibility.  I didn’t want to leave it.  I have a really good working relationship with my boss.  She’s a few years older and has a career in the entertainment industry.  She’s a director and is right now in production for her indie movie. So I went to her for advice. And she asked me, “What’s your commitment to acting? Are you gonna be ok with being poor for a long time? I was a server for over 10 years and only now in my forties am I making my own money, I am my own boss and I am filming my first feature film.”

I answered, “Well looking at you, the dream is possible.

She says, “yea, and if you work for me, being an actor is still on the table for you.  Because you know that I will work around your auditions.”

And she has.

In the end, I took another restaurant job. The dream is still alive.  And I’m still broke and poor as ever with a lot more debt (I had to eat and get to interviews and I lived on my credit cards for two weeks). But instead of letting my unhappiness turn me into a nas-t person (pun intended), the change in my well-being lifts me and makes me shine. I’m gonna be ok.

happiness