Don’t tell me

I appreciate your concern.

I know you don’t want me to fail.

I know you don’t want me to suffer, to be broke, to be sad, to be judged, mishandled and derailed.

But if one more person tells me to drop what I’m doing

to stop

to quit

to give it all up

I’m gonna say

fuck you.

Don’t tell me to quit my dream.

I already know I haven’t progressed.

I already know that it hasn’t been easy.

You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know?

The problem is, is that I do know.

I hear you. I do.

I totally see what you see too.

How that one kid has had more momentum in the past 3 months than me in the past 4 years.

How I’m still living in a roach infested apartment, while friends are buying houses

getting married

making babies

making money

while I’m in the dark, with my tears, my fears, my endless queries.

What am I to do?

Quit the dream and get a real job?

Shut the fuck up.

Stop telling me to quit my dream.

Make some money.

Do acting as a hobby.

No. If it’s a hobby, it’s not a commitment.

It’s my passion.

Have some compassion.

Leave me the fuck alone!

Don’t tell me.

I already know.

 

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As some ppl say, “The theeeataaa”

 

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The play is over. Yesterday was the final performance of “so you wanna be a vampire.”  Couple of questions came up: how was the experience? How do you feel? And what’s next?

How was the experience?

I had a great time! This was the first performance I booked in LA. So, after years of auditioning and hearing nothing back, I was finally rewarded with a chance to perform. To play! To have fun! I was finally validated that I can act and that I’m wanted.

The theater is such a different medium from movies and television. There’s a live audience. We had two performances each week for 6 weeks total. That’s a lot of chances to improve one’s performance. Closing night had better be better than opening night. And lucky for us, it was! You could feel it. During closing weekend, the cast was finally having fun instead of worrying about forgetting lines or if the blood pump was going to work [reminder: we had a splatter zone ;)].

This was also black box theatre. Literally everyone’s in a black box (ceiling, walls, floor, stage all black). It was intimate. Small-scale production. Small cast. The play wasn’t well known and so sometimes, we had more people on stage than in the audience. Cast was made up of six ppl.  With so little ppl in the seats, I could hear every laughter AND every non-laughter.

I’m an extrovert. Hands down. And I define extroversion by being energized and thriving off from being around others. I would say most of the cast are extroverts as well. And I make this assumption because when we heard ppl laugh, it drove us. It fed us. Our performances were stronger.

With a live audience, you can tell if what you’re doing or what you’re saying is landing, is affecting the audience IMMEDIATELY. So based on their reactions, you can decide whether or not to change or to keep what you’re doing for the next show.  The whole live aspect was something I never really thought about for film and television. In acting class, I was taught that the most important person in the scene is the person your character is talking to. But with live theater, not only is it that other person that’s the most important, but the AUDIENCE as well!

Silence then, became an indicator that something was wrong or something wasn’t working. However, there is a caveat to this conclusion. This play was a dark comedy and what makes it a dark comedy is because the protagonist was so pathetic that you should pity her, but instead you laugh, and then you feel bad for laughing. So silence isn’t a really good indicator of any bad acting, since ppl may laugh, but just inwardly so as not to look like an asshole. Hahah!

How do you feel?

So, another indicator of whether or not you’re doing well is actual feedback from the audience! How did they feel? How did they like it? Everybody who came said they had fun! They loved it! The director said I was everything and more of what she wanted. The writer said I made an awesome bitch. And my friends told me I killed it! So, this makes me feel awesome!

What was even more awesome was all the support I got. Ok, another caveat. Feedback from the audience might not be as objective if it’s all coming from your friends and family. Hahah, they’re obviously biased. But, it says a lot when they show up and take the time to come out, to buy a ticket, to sit through a black box, and to endure a little bit of fake blood splatter. And even for the ones that couldn’t show up, everyone around me was so encouraging! I had cheerleaders, I had people believing in me. It felt really good.

When I was younger, I watched e-true Hollywood stories of successful ppl in entertainment. A lot of the stories would start off with the person saying how they went against all odds, that no one believed in them, that they succeeded in spite of all the flak and doubt they got. My situation is the complete opposite. I have SO MANY people believing in me. I want to succeed not in spite of them, but for them. To validate their good opinion of me. It’s just a really motivating thought to have in such a business like this.

So, what’s next?

While this was a great experience, I’m more than ever motivated to be on set. While theater has the live audience and the time to work out the kinks and improve, filmmaking to me is a miracle. And I want to be a part of that miracle. For a film to be awesome and to live on in pop culture legacy, every component of that project has to be fucking awesome, not only on it’s own, but it has to work well with everything else AND be done in the dark of no immediate audience feedback.  Sound. Music. Story. Performance. Cinematography. Costume. Lighting. Etc.

Interstellar blew me away because it was such a powerful cinematic experience. What I saw on screen matched up perfectly with the sound, the music and cooper’s struggle. So much so, that I was able to suspend reality and just throw myself in that movie in spite of all the plot holes (I know I know).

This theater experience gave me that extra push and motivation that I know I’ll need to take on this coming year. For 2015, I’m nowhere near quitting. Looking back at this year, there were many things that happened that I could’ve taken as a sign to quit. Getting fired from my day job and getting let go from my commercial agent are some of the lowest points of my career. And they both happened THIS YEAR. But even despite the lowest, I have felt the highest from everyone’s encouragement. So much so, that I’m just gonna keep on going. Let’s fucking do this, 2015.

 

It’s Hard For Everyone.

When I moved to LA to pursue acting, I left a lot behind. My family, my best friends, a brief love … I left a stable secure life for something terribly lonely and unpredictable. I wasn’t getting any auditions, I was hating my day job and I missed home. And for awhile I thought to myself, perhaps this is what I deserve.

I’m not perfect. Far from it. And while I’m struggling in LA, I can’t help but think that my struggle is a direct result of my tumultuous past. like I’ve fucked up my chances to life. While this is a very depressing thought to have, I have to be brutally honest with myself. I’ve only got myself to blame right?

I mean I was doing everything right. I left my comfort zone to pursue the dream. Check. Leave the small town for that big city. Check. Get headshots. Yup. Have talent. Take classes. Develop talent. Network. Get agent. Get manager. Get auditions. Yes. Yes. Yes. But after 3 years, I haven’t booked a single thing. I still miss my home. I still hate that I’m living off of a restaurant job than an acting job. I live alone and sometimes at night my studio feels like it’s imploding upon me, very easily squishing me out of existence.

Would that be so bad? If god is so glorious and to be in heaven is the end all be all, can’t I just quit life and go straight there? Why go through all this? Shit’s hard and I think about quitting acting everyday. That’s when I let my inner petulant child come out, my life sucks, no one loves me, I’m a failure waa waa waaaaaaa!

And then reason sets in, because in reality I am an adult. You can’t tell because of my asian youth, but I can assure you I’m way older than 18.  And if you still think I’m not an adult, you can go fuck yourself. :p

So anyways, reason sets in and of course I know my life isn’t really that bad. It can be worse. And to be honest, it’s hard for everyone. I used to complain to a coworker of mine, who’s white, male and an actor, how there weren’t any woman roles let alone ethnic specific asian roles. And my friend said, “It’s hard for everyone. at least when you’re in the audition room, the casting director remembers you as that asian girl. If i was in the audition room, the casting director would have a hard time remembering which white guy was me.”  Now this friend has actually quit acting and is going back to school to get into sales and marketing (ironically I have a BA in that arena that I’m not using).

And lately with Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. With all the success Robin Williams had over the course of his entire career, who could possibly know the inner demons he was fighting.  And Joan Rivers. In an article by NPR, Joan rivers’ attitude about show business was summed up in an appearance on comic Louis C.K.’s FX show, Louie, where she gave him a pep talk after a tough show.

“Think it’s been easy?” she said. “I have gone up, I’ve gone down; I’ve been bankrupt, I’ve been broke. But you do it. And you do it because … because we love it more than anything else.”

And finally, I’ve been following this guy called humblethepoet on Instagram.  He’s really zen and smart and cool.  My sister introduced me to him. Thanks be’ ;). Anyways, I woke up to a post of his that really resonated with me today — “Sometimes we do everything right and we still lose.” He goes on to say:

Somewhere along the lines someone lied to us and said being a good person entitles good things, but the universe doesn’t care. If you really think about it, concepts of good or bad, win and lose make very little sense in the grand scheme of this universe; if anything, things are just happening. We all have a sense of justice, and it really does suck when things don’t go our way; especially when we do everything right. But the reality is that’s how things work. Doing the ‘right’ things increases our chances of things going our way, but doesn’t promise them. The more we understand this, the better relationship we’ll have with reality. Being a loving a partner doesn’t entitle us to reciprocity (that’s a big word for getting some in return). Playing fair doesn’t mean we’ll win. Cheating is only punished when caught. These are common themes in world, from warfare to the workplace, and everything in between. The moment we divorce the idea that we’re owed anything beyond what we’ve already received in this life, we’ve open the floodgates for broken expectations and heartbreak. Everyday is a gift, and we win some, and learn from the rest. Appreciate life for the simple fact that it exists, and roll with the challenges that come your way.

And that’s it.

trex

See, it’s hard for t-rex too.

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