Who Knows Who Cares

road in city during sunset
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Oh 2018. Reflecting back on last year has left me starting 2019 with a wary hope.

LOWS

This was the year I was at my lowest emotional point. I wasn’t suicidal and I didn’t hate myself so much more than any other self-deprecating day. I just felt like there wasn’t any point to human life and saw humanity in the same vein as ants. You look at an ant farm and you can see them move with urgency and fervor … but to what end? They’re in a maze. In an instant, their life can be gone with one swift SMACK.

And so, reflecting upon my own existence with its many challenges and struggles, I kept asking myself, why am I working so hard? To what end? Why does it matter?

It doesn’t.

HIGHS

This was my best year on the job front, creatively AND professionally.

Professionally in the sense of my survival jobs. Late October, I was hired to work full time as an in-house substitute teacher/ substitute teacher recruiter. It’s the first time I’ve had a full time job with consistent income. People, I’M NOT STARVING ANYMORE. With this job, I was able to QUIT WAITRESSING. It had been 10 YEARS TOO LONG.

I’m working for a beautiful company called Scoot Education. I really align myself with their ethos and values. They believe in meaningful and open relationships with educators and schools to provide all children quality education. They’re also a start up and working at a colorful and comfortable co-working space has its benefits of free coffee, flavored water and beer on tap. 😀

Creatively, I booked main cast roles in two projects I was passionate about and was proud of : This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries and This Girl Does Nothing (I was the girl that did nothing) and Tam Tran Goes To Washington (I was Tam Tran).  I literally booked the “title” roles!

THE WARINESS

Comparing my lows and highs, it looks like my highs outweigh my lows. But let’s do some flippity flip flips.

When you’re at the very bottom, the only direction is up (unless you’re dead … more on that later).  I was at an emotional pit of despair. But after talking to a strong support group of friends, talking to a therapist and time, I’ve managed not to feel that way anymore and actually feel a lot better right now. This sense of progress gives me a metric for happiness. It shows I’m resilient.

But what if you get what you want? For me, I was grateful and proud that I was able to get a cool survival job. I was grateful and proud to get the title acting roles. But along with these opportunities, came pressure from myself to not let anyone down, to not make the people who believed in me regret their decision, to not expose myself as a fraud. With these insecurities, I could not enjoy the jobs.

Let’s play a game, If this is true, what is else is true? 

If you’ve noticed, I listed the survival full time job as a high. But if that was true, what else is true? That would mean I’m not leaving myself open for auditions. That would mean, devoting more time to a survival job, I’m not devoting enough time to my creative career. Which means that creative career becomes a hobby which means it’ll become obsolete and gone. (Not true necessarily but stay with me).

The acting jobs that I was grateful to get but too insecure to enjoy, if that is true what else is true? I eventually enjoyed the experiences once they ended. Hindsight’s a gift and I was able to reflect once I knew I had successfully portrayed the role. I was also happy once the shows ended because I wasn’t on a loop of the same project/same role anymore. The opportunity had normalized itself and had lost its novelty. The gift became a job. And I found myself unable to improve or progress the role any further. No progress = no happiness.

THE HOPE

I went to a funeral just a few weeks ago, in the last few weeks of 2018. My former boss’s husband passed away via suicide. During his funeral, everyone who spoke, talked about what a great guy he was and what a great life he lived. It was a celebration of his life.

On paper, this guy had it all. He had a loving wife, two beautiful healthy children, owned property, had his own company, worked on cool projects and well known shows. And yet he committed suicide.

His wife closed the ceremony and said that he was a privileged white man. He never had to struggle and because of that he didn’t have the chance to build himself to be resilient. Because he never had to. And so, we are here and he is not.

She was crying and smiling as she was saying all this and in that moment, I saw how beautifully raw resilience could look like and it made me grateful for adversity.

2019?!

Everything is temporary and everything changes. My highs can become lows one minute and vice versa the next. I can think there is no point to life and yet be grateful that I am alive. I can want to be an actor since I was nine years old and then finally in my 30s, find the idea unappealing.

Why fit myself in somebody else’s vision? Why try to make someone else’s vision come alive when I have a story, a vision, a perspective of my own? Why not empower myself to write it, bring it forth and be in control of my own destiny?

With the new job, I don’t have to scramble for money and spread my time over 3 part time jobs. I don’t have to devote emotional woes of when or if I can eat today. I have money to pay for writing classes. I have money to apply to fellowships and competitions. I have evenings open to network and meet other writers. I have weekends open to make whatever the fuck I want and to keep making so that if and when I’m bored, I have the creative freedom and control to change it. I have the space to improve, to make it new, to progress and to be happy.

And what if everything fails and nothing comes to fruition? So what? I’ve had adversity and I’ve risen. I welcome any challenges that come because I’ve been built to be resilient.

Alright 2019. Let’s get on with it. Let’s go.

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The Contrast Becomes the Definition

“Everybody always asks if you have a career, if you’re married, if you have children. Like if life was some kind of grocery list. No one ever asks us if we’re happy.” – Farrah Gray.

I’m totally guilty of that. Especially last year, when I was turning 30. That list was on a loop in my mind that eventually got me crying on my 30th birthday. And then I got tuberculosis, ended up in the hospital for two weeks. Waking up in the hospital, completely disoriented, I realized, I could’ve died, but I didn’t. This caused a shift in the expectations I had had for myself. After the whole TB/hospital/isolation ordeal, I still didn’t have a career, I still didn’t have a partner nor children, but I was happy. The mere fact that I had almost lost my health and got it back made me really happy.

2017. Alright, so now that I have my health, has that happiness lasted? Absolutely not. I still don’t have a career, still making devastating mistakes in the dating thing (nowhere near marriage) and thank god I don’t have children. But does this shit matter towards my happiness? No. Because last year, I was happy without it.

I heard the phrase “optimal happiness” recently. Reflecting upon this phrase, I wonder, doesn’t putting these two words together make it redundant? Shouldn’t happiness be the highest, the best you feel? And if optimal is a qualifier, doesn’t that dilute the meaning of happiness? Also, who is to say that one is entitled to happiness? What if you’re a shitty person? And you deserve sadness, trial and tribulations and unfortunate events? But then … just wait a minute …

You can’t have happiness without sadness. The contrast becomes the definition. 2016, my health was deteriorating. I was losing it. So when I slowly gained it back, I was happy because that lost was felt. 2017, I didn’t lose anything. There was no contrast to gauge a sense of happiness.

And now reflecting on this past year, asking myself, Thi, are you happy? I’m not. I’ve been feeling very very very low.  The other week, I had a bad case of the Mondays where I had such an aversion to my surviving jobs. I hated the monotony of my life. I hated the thankless kids and rude adults as a substitute teacher by day and a waitress by night. I hated that I wasn’t being creatively challenged or fulfilled. And I’ve been sad, mad, angry, frustrated, upset (more redundancy for ya), and then I wonder. Is this perpetual hell hole necessary for that eventual happiness on the bend? Or am I delusional? That there is NO bend, NO horizon, just more hamster wheel to spin.

HOPE. You HAVE to have hope. Because if you don’t, what is the fucking point?