Who Knows Who Cares

road in city during sunset
Photo by Nout Gons on Pexels.com

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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Just Keep Swimming

And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She’d say, “oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise”

This could be
Para-para-paradise
Para-para-paradise

This song came on my shuffle today and it got me thinking about some recent events.

Yesterday I got to be on set (whoo!), but not as an actor (whoo?).  As a Rubik’s cube solver.  Yes, one of the many useless skills I have on my resume.  I can solve the 3×3 Rubik’s cube with an average time of 2 minutes.  I’m not a genius, I just memorized the directions when I was a kid.

My friend Ross Ching (he sat across from me in homeroom in the 6th grade <3) was directing a music video for a YouTube star named Jason Chen.  Ross really tries to stray away from the mainstream, concentrating on things that haven’t been done or featured before into his projects.  Through time lapses, dominoes, light fixtures, yarn and with his most recent work (this video) Rubik’s cubes, Ross is always letting us see things in a different paradigm.

This video uses Rubik’s cubes to substitute pixels in a photograph.  From close up, it looks indistinguishable, but as you back out, you begin to see an image take shape.  He had posted an instagram picture of all these Rubik’s cubes in his apartment and I had commented if he needed help solving any of them, just for fun.  He never responded until maybe a week later, asking if I would be able to help out on the video.

To play with Rubik’s cubes all day, get free lunch and snacks, and network?  Uhh yea! Of course I’m there!

Looking at the call sheet (a spreadsheet with the schedule for every person involved in the production of the project), I have to say I never expected to see myself on it as a “cube solver”.  How nerdy. I always expected to see myself on any call sheet as cast. But since I haven’t really booked anything lately, this was as close as I could get.

Being on set was so fun.  Everyone was really nice and I made some Facebook friends.  Even chatting it up with the star of the video, I found him to be very approachable and grounded.  He was really a sweet kid.  After we wrapped, he came up to me, gave me a hug and thanked me for my work. I was just grateful to even be included.

But anyways, seeing the whole concept come to form, I found it to be a metaphorical reminder.  In the midst of all the chaos, I’m usually fixated on the problem and blinded from the bigger (and almost always much more beautiful) picture.  To relate it back– fixated on the fucked up individual cube and missing the whole image.

On set yesterday, my role was to be that guy ^, the one manipulating each cube to form the final piece.  By having a clear view of the full picture in my mind at all times, the task to make it happen became fun.  I really enjoyed the process, sitting there and playing with 500+ Rubik’s cubes.

In my last post I had voiced my worries toward my career track.  Because I hadn’t booked anything as an actor, life began to suck and I had doubts to “just keep swimming”.   I wasn’t having fun anymore in acting class.  My part time jobs that allowed me the flexibility to go on auditions became unbearable.  Living check by check and eating McDonalds was annoying.  I questioned to myself, is it really worth it?

By fixating on the problem, I lost sight of the bigger picture and it began to affect everything in my life negatively.  But reflecting back on how I felt yesterday on set, I realized that yes, in the midst of all the chaos, I must never forget the dream, the full picture.  Because if I do, I wouldn’t put it pass me to give up prematurely and never make or contribute anything beautiful.

To really reiterate this point, I went to Death Valley this past weekend.

death valley

The picture above is Zabriskie point, one of the places to check out in the Death Valley national park.  Anyways, death valley was formed by the erosion of sentiments and the unpredictable movements of the earth pushing up and out away from the valley over millions of years.  “Erosion”, “unpredictable”,  “pushing up and out away”, even “death” are words that sound pretty problematic.  But if the earth had stopped doing what it was doing, would something so overwhelmingly stunning exist?

True, the earth didn’t have a clear image of this in the back of its mind when it was moving about, but there’s something to be said when you give in to the feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability.  Yes, you might not know what is going to happen, but is that so bad?  Could something greater happen that is beyond our human intellect and imagination?  Absolutely! Why not?

Reflection

Who is that girl I see staring back right at me? Hahaha.  A good friend of mine sung that to me after I got a big makeover from my friends. OMG so after Vegas (went to Vegas and had a good time btw) with the makeovers and the Michelle Phan makeup videos, I started experiencing with the limited make up I had.  I also I have an empty apartment so I was more inclined to paint myself into a clown.  I’m really interested in replicating the smokey come hither look.  The makeup that Mila Kunis had on during the SAG awards.  Or Misa’s makeup for her Westfield prints.  I love the black eyeshadow, mascara, and liner.  But alas, I didn’t have any black/gray eyeshadow nor did I learn how to apply from those damn Phan videos, couldn’t sit through them.  Blegh, I tried my best with what I had and got an ok look.  But after comparing to the looks I saw online and then looking at myself via my webcam, I found myself looking very foolish, almost like a kid trying on her mom’s slutty make up.  Gross right?

I don’t know what it is lately, perhaps I’ve been having too much time on my hands where it just leads me to over-think and over-criticize myself, but damn, I can’t stand myself right now.  How I look, how I act, how I am! With the restaurant being extremely slow and my friends being so busy with deadlines, I find myself hanging out with myself a lot.  A LOT.  Too much of anything is not good and I’m with myself 24 hours every fucking day.  Bleeeghh.  The more I look at myself, I find more imperfections:  my cheeks are too fat, my hair is too flat, my tummy fat sticking out, etc. etc.  I don’t necessarily feel depressed or insecure, but it’s more like me A is tired of hanging out with me B. Consequently me B is trying way too hard to be in me A’s good graces again, by working out and trying to minimize that muffin top.  That shit doesn’t go in a day and A is still annoyed.

What does this have to do with my budding career?  Yesterday I was recalling some of my past auditions, especially the bad ones and one of them stuck out in my mind because I realized that I had TRIED TOO HARD.  It’s kind of like that kid in high school that really wants to be cool and is super duper overly accommodating to the cool kids that it’s sad and pathetic.  I was that kid at that audition! It ruined my nerves and it made me lose a call back.  What happened? So it was a callback for a karaoke video game. me and 4 other girls were auditioning at the same time.  After we each slated we also had to show our hands (hands that use the controllers you know).  That kinda weirded me out because it was my first time slating my hands.  I wasn’t prepared for it and needless to say neither were my hands (I’ve never had a manicure).  Alright then they set up the scene.  I’m holding a water bottle and staring at a blank TV screen.  the girls are cheering me on and I’m singing them a song.  The only song I know is “can’t take my eyes off of you”.  I sang it for my first audition and got a call back, so since it worked, I sang it again with this audition.  Buuut, I was sooo strung out wanting so much to impress the director, I sang the song grossly wrong. The line was supposed to be: “can’t take my EYES off of you” (seriously it’s in the title) but I said, “can’t take my HANDS off of you.”  I’m singing acapella, at the top of my lungs, and you could seriously hear a pin drop after I sang that line.  There was such an awkward millisecond silence, where the girls and I locked eyes and we knew I fucked up.  Ugh.  What’s more, we had to do a pseudo interview with the director.  He asks, so I hear you beat your bf on call of duty last night?  All the girls answered, “Yea, no problem, it was so easy.”  Where I got super awkward and said, “yea, I don’t know how it happened, I just pointed my gun and shot him.  I mean Call of Duty isn’t even my favorite game, Sing Star (the name of the game) is my favorite!”  So not only did I sound morbid and weird, but I was constantly plugging in the game which = TRYING TOO HARD.  So fortunately me A recognizes that me B is being stupid and should just be cool.  Be cool in the sense of calming down, lightening up and just be free to go left or right.  JK be free to be me, the typical ending to any after school special.  But that’s what it is! the cool kids in middle school, and high school were cool because they were comfortable being themselves.  They were confident.  I didn’t get this epiphany until sophomore year of HS where I got rid of my glasses and got contacts.  And I guess recently I’ve forgotten this lesson.

But as superficial as it may sound, I did gain confidence after I felt I looked better.  Now that I’ve had contacts for so long and I’ve been looking at myself in the mirror so often these days, I feel like I’m ugly again.  So I put on makeup.  It’s an improvement but comparatively to the looks online and in the media, I’m still not marketable.  Bleeeeghh, what to do?  How do I get space from myself??