thi.nguyen

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Time

I wish you could see /your history is chaining you/ We could let go and never lose /Nostalgia is killing us. – RAC (Doe Paoro), Nostalgia

Ocean, don’t be afraid. The end of the road is so far ahead it is already behind us. – Ocean Vuong, Someday I’ll love Ocean Vuong

All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber. – Kurt Vonnegurt, Slaughterhouse Five

There is no time. Many become one. – Interpreter, Arrival

Time is moving so fast that I can’t seem to keep up. Kids are getting younger and every day I’m at my oldest. Nostalgia is killing me as I keep looking back at Youth and looking at her with resentment as she has her whole life ahead of her, more TIME ahead of her. The more I keep looking back, the more that gap widens between me and Time, where Time leaves me behind. Alone. With nothing.

Last week, I was feeling really sad. The song Nostalgia came on my Discover Weekly Spotify list and the lyrics just resonated with me. I had this sinking feeling that I was entrapped in a toxic circle of my own doing. Procrastination. Every day I tell myself, I’m going to write a few things toward my script, or I’m going to write creatively like a poem or even a blog post to express myself. And yet the last post I did was in December. Shit. Three months have already passed! See! Where did the time go?

Then a few days ago, I went to this poetry reading/talk. Ocean Vuong, this kid who writes for the New Yorker, a poet and an essayist, read his poem with this line: “The end of the road is so far ahead it is already behind us.” Fucking blew my mind. I went from, Oh shit, Time is so far ahead of me, it lapped me, to Oh shit, Time isn’t a straight line, it’s a  CIRCLE. (This poem is so visceral and poignant, it inspired me to write one myself.)

Now, that wasn’t the first time I encountered Time as being circular. This concept kept getting introduced to me through ALIENS — whether it was from a novel or a Hollywood movie, apparently this concept was always the most PROFOUND THING offered by out of this world creatures. Ha, it’s so foreign, it’s out of this world.

But that concept never took on a personal level for me until Vuong read it out loud. Coincidently, Vuong was an alien. He was born in Viet Nam, immigrated to USA when he was 2. But anyways I’ve digressed. I think what made Vuong such a powerful and effective vessel for me was that he started the poem out with, “Don’t be afraid.”

Is that what I’ve been feeling? Fear that I may never catch up to Time? That I may never fulfill a goal, a dream, a passion, let alone FEEL fulfilled? Fear that instead of blaming it on the lack of Time, it is I that should be blamed for my shortcomings, my wasted potential, my failings? Yea. All the above.

But why????? Why be afraid? JUST FUCKING DON’T. Fear, Time, Fulfillment … all these things aren’t even tangible like this hard ACTUAL scratched up aged cheap wood coffee table in which I write this blog post on.  They are ideas and concepts who’s meanings are adjustable to one’s own mind and experiences. So why can’t I just CHANGE MY MIND? I CAN!

All time is all time. Take it moment by moment and it isn’t scary or monolithic. It’s approachable, it just is. It’s a CIRCLE. Circles aren’t sharp like the pointy ends of a line. I think of a line as stagnant, but a circle is always in motion. It’s the easiest thing a small child can draw. It surrounds things and everything that is within the circle, it bounds it and becomes ONE. And instead of feeling alone, I’m a part of something ALIVE. 


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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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Writing

It is my belief that if you can write, you can do anything. Especially in this town.

Writing for me comes easily when I know what I’m talking about. When I write about myself, whether it’s through this blog or a fictional novel that is based on my life*, cake. But when I attempt to write about something that I think will sell (based on what I’ve already seen on TV and movies), in a format I’m not all too familiar with (screenplay) duh, just so I think it can forward my stagnated acting career, I fall short. By a lot. To the point that I avoid any progress on the manuscript. Le sigh.

I know that when the going gets tough, you just have to plow right through it, to not give up! I just have to keep on writing! But I can’t. (Not with that attitude). It’s daunting to write about something for an audience I’m not all too familiar with.

The set up. So I know someone that has a production company in Viet Nam. (Yo, if I can’t make it here, I can maybe make it out of here). She says that the movie industry in Viet Nam is booming. Exponentially.  But there is a lack of scripts.

There’s my opportunity!

The catch. The story must appeal to a Vietnamese audience. I am not Vietnamese. I’m American. My friend said that Vietnamese humor is completely different than American humor. Vietnamese people love slap stick, obvious physical humor. I’m an American that find slap stick humor out of date and am more accustomed to sarcasm, irony, dry wit — which would never appeal to the Vietnamese public. Another le sigh.

I didn’t let this minor discrepancy hold me back. Oh no, I started writing this script … last year, about a month after my friend told me about this opportunity. Too bad I’m still not done with it and it has been over a year. Pathetic Thi!

Instead I concentrate on what I do know. Myself. Oh the so self-involved American. Get. the. fuck. over. yourself. But at least I know what George Martin feels like. I’ve procrastinated, just like he has in his Game of Thrones books. (Maybe he doesn’t know who’s going to win the throne, thus he procrastinates). I wrote more blog posts on my day to day life, I’ve edited my old fictional novels based on my life, I’ve avoided that script that I know nothing about.

And here is where I must ask myself, is that so wrong? Is it so wrong to stop writing about something I don’t know and concentrate on something I do? I’ve gone to panels that spotlight writers in the industry and I’ve noticed that overwhelmingly they are mostly comprised of da da da DA … white 30-40 year old males. Unsurprisingly. This would explain the prolific and wide range of white male roles on television. These guys aren’t racist, they’re just writing what they know, themselves. Different versions of themselves and their friends. If they were to write something other than themselves, it would come off as a caricature, a stereotype, a sloppy cover up of something they know nothing about.

I am not getting any younger, true. Ugh, the countdown to my 30 year old demise is looming near. Hollywood isn’t changing quickly for me to be the next star any time soon (I just got an audition as waitress, yaayy). So what must I do? I must write. I must get better. I must be part of the change I want to see.

The solution. Just keep writing. Maybe I’ll find a balance between the script for Viet Nam and find a little of myself in Vietnamese’s sense of humor.

*Some of you have asked me where you can find my fictional novels. Here they are:

love quest image              identity quest image


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FREEDOM

today was my last day at a job i hated. it made me money, but it also made me very unhappy.

it wasn’t flexible. we were so short staffed. and to help out the team, a lot of us were working doubles (lunch and dinner shifts). this was supposed to be a part time job for me, to make enough money to survive but to also be flexible enough for me to commit to my acting career, yet i found myself working 40 hours a week.

i have never in my adult life worked 40 hours a week ever (lucky me). and especially for something that wasn’t toward my passion was unbearable.

something had to change. so i put in my two weeks. during those two weeks, i was stressed out. there were thoughts of, oh my god, i don’t have a job lined up yet. i’m not gonna make as much anymore. am i gonna be ok? just yesterday i had less than $100 in my checking account. i was so stressed out that i completely forgot my other commitments. completely. had i made a mistake?

and then life gives you signs. or maybe i was searching, whatever, who cares!  friends, coworkers, industry people said, “good for you,” once i told them about my two weeks. i mean why commit to something that doesn’t progress your passion? why not use that 40 hours for something you DO care about? and so what if i’m not gonna make as much money? i’m gonna be fine … right?

there was a sense of tranquility as i sat on the bus on my way home from work today. somewhere in my gut, i knew everything was gonna work it’s way out. i don’t know how i’m gonna do it. but i really am gonna be ok. i know it.

here’s a pic of my celebratory sundae, rejoicing my FREEDOM.

sundae

and don’t worry. i do have two part time jobs lined up. both jobs are flexible, thank god, because i have a lot of things coming up toward my acting career. yay! below is what to expect from me and please do. you’ll keep me in check 😉

– currently writing a script with my friend. i write myself in it, he’ll direct it and we’ll both have experience.

– will write a script for a vietnamese audience. again, i write myself in it so i can be in it and maybe be a star in viet nam!

– acting more. i auditioned for a theater group and made their list for guest star roles. SWEET!

– develop my TWITCH channel! WASSUP. this will help me improv and fine tune my witty commentary as i play those awesome RPG games i love so much. hopefully i will entertain a following which will give me clout for when i audition, i can be like “yo, you should book me because i have x amount of followers.” plus it will definitely improve upon my game play. follow me at http://www.twitch.tv/twitchthi 

– do some storytelling stand-up.

and finally, i’m not gonna let my fear of not making rent impinged upon my FREEDOM to chase the dream. i got credit cards! #mycreditormycareer


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and then i was done.

oops, the title pretty much spoils it.  hahaha, yes it is december 1st, and probably not many are still wondering if i was able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  well wonder no more!  i did it!  i was really proud of myself by the end of it and celebrated my accomplishment with my wonderful friends.  they bombarded me with excited questions such as, how did you do it?  how did it feel?  are we going to read it?

let’s start with the first question: how did you do it?

there was never a doubt in my mind that i wasn’t going to make it.  it was interesting.  yes 50,000 words looked overwhelming, but breaking it down to how many words a day (1667), it wasn’t that bad.   i figured that would be about the length of a college personal statement (2-3pages).

also, i don’t have a full time job.  on average i work about maybe 25-30 hours a week.  take away some hours for sleeping, and i’m left with over 12 hours a day for misc (that could include going out, eating, watching tv, auditioning, and classes).

24 x 7 = 168 hrs in a week – 30 hrs of work = 138 – 49 hrs of sleep (7hrs/night) = 89 hrs / 7days a week = 12.71 hrs a day.

so, to devote about 2-3hrs a day to writing wasn’t that bad at all.  it actually passed by quickly when i got into the zone.

finally, i wrote what i knew.  myself.  and in doing that, i also discovered a lot of things as well (which for me, was the whole point of the entire process).

i’ve said before that writing for me is a very cathartic act and it was very much so during this past month.  there’s always some part of my life that needs reflection and improvement.  thus, i took one of those parts of my life and used it as fuel to write my novel.

however, it must be clarified that i wasn’t writing a diary/journal/memoir.  that’s too easy.  it’s national NOVEL writing month.  i wanted to actually have a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  i wanted to create, not to retell.  plus it was fun to learn about writing a novel.  i actually read up on do’s and don’ts and to really be cognizant with the reader in mind.  is what i’m saying clear enough for everyone to understand?  is this passage confusing?  inconsistent?  i had to think about writing in first person vs. third person.  i chose third person. ok, well, third person singular?  or third person omniscient?

by no means am i a professional, seasoned writer that knows exactly what she is doing.  i chose to do third person singular, to just concentrate on developing my protagonist.  but by the end, it became third person omniscient.  whatever.  i went to my accountability partner and lamented my inconsistency, but he allowed it saying, “just call it your ‘style’.”

ok, second question: how did it feel?

if you recall from my nov 1st post, i tried to convey how incredibly motivated i was to do this.  i actually wanted to write.  at the crack of dawn on november 1st, after writing a blog post that day, i also went on to write 2000+ words towards the novel.

the easy part was having a story to tell.  i had it.  the hardest part was getting started and figuring out the best way to articulate it.  it took a lot of effort to get started.  i would distract myself by watching top chef, south park, and mtv battle of the seasons.  i would listen to music and wikipedia the artists.  but then once i ran out of things to watch and listen, and then realized how much time i had spent NOT writing, i felt so unaccomplished that that feeling was what made me set to work.

also, the community that nanowrimo had created online was so supportive and fun!  i loved perusing the website and checking my nanomail for pep talks from participating and published authors.  it really did pep me up and gave me that want to write.  i would get emails telling me about all these write ins at coffee shops or ihop around la and just the thought that there were so many people writing just to write was inspiring enough for me to continue typing along.  i actually donated money to their promote literacy and provide writing equipment for kids charities and i even bought myself a nanowrimo 2012 tshirt.  i’ve already sported it around town with pride.

when finally i got to writing and even though i didn’t know exactly what to write or how to write it, by just doing it, by just getting into it, i made some really powerful revelations about myself and my story.  i had an idea of an ending, but by the time i got there, the ending had changed.  i had changed.  i didn’t plan the ending, i discovered it.  the words flowed easily and it was almost an out of body experience as i was acutely aware of myself.

i am my protagonist.  that i did not make up.  and it was interesting to see myself in the third person.  as ironic as it is (because of course i live in irony), when reading novels, i gravitate toward strong women characters, but in writing a novel, my protagonist is a dumbass.  she’s the girl that as loud as you yell ‘don’t go into the basement’ she’s still going to go into the basement and get her head chopped off by the zombie in the corner.  ok, so maybe i am my harshest critic.  that’s why it was such a surprise to discover that i could also empathize with myself as well.  i could forgive her.  it’s ok, people make mistakes.

by writing and reading my writing, i was putting my vulnerabilities on paper.  do you know how emotional that can be?  not only am i putting some part of my life ON PAPER, i’m putting my creativity (or at least what i think of it as creativity) ON PAPER.  the fact that it’s on paper makes it all so real.  so raw.  so scary.  it’s a tangible, literal record of my vulnerabilities.

alright, last question: are we going to read it?

last week i had acting class with my phenomenal teacher, loren.  she really gets me.  she knows that i have shy tendencies and don’t like attention despite the fact that i want to be an actress.  she related to me and said, “i get it.  you don’t like letting people see you at your craft because you’ve just put yourself out there, for everyone to see.  you don’t want to hear any criticism or compliments not because you can’t take them, but because you’ve just put yourself out there and became vulnerable to the point that as soon as it’s over, you’d rather go hide in the back.”

oh yea.  she’s good.  so to answer the above question, no.  no one is reading it. it’s my vulnerability on paper.  i’m not afraid of what people might think or say.  who cares what they think?  who cares what they’ll say?  but to let someone actually hold my vulnerability, to actually have my vulnerability in their hands, is SCARY.  it’s too personal.  some of my best friends want to read it.  they know everything about me.  and they’ll probably never get to read it.

final question to myself: what did i get out of this?

i know from brene brown that to be vulnerable is to be beautiful.  to show my vulnerability is to share my beauty with others.  but i didn’t do nanowrimo in hopes to create a bestseller for money or for praise.  i did it for me.  i was honest with myself and got to see every little idiosyncrasy, every convoluted thought process, every stupid action of me.  and out of it i really did come to see that what makes me me, especially all the vulnerability i had put on paper, makes me beautiful :]

image


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let’s go.

a few days ago a friend of mine asked me what kind of actor do i want to be?  i actually get asked this question a lot but the more i reflect upon this question, the more my answers change.  before i used to answer with the type of roles i’d be good for, or whatever roles i thought ppl would believe me to be, i.e. quirky best friend, tom boy, dork, nerd, nerdy student, awkward teenager.  even now looking back at this past response, i feel i didn’t really answer the question.  in answering my friend recently, i said, “there’s no kind of actor i want to be.  the biggest misconception about acting is that you’re pretending.  from all my classes and workshops, the one thing i’ve gathered is that acting is the opposite of pretending.  it’s actually just being.  the hardest part about acting is that you have to be yourself in whatever given situation, even when you’ve never experienced it.”

yup.  just be yourself.  sounds like an after school special.  but it’s true.  i remember asking a casting director once, “what can actors do to stand out, to get casting directors to remember them?”  the casting director point blank said, “just be yourself.  i’ve never heard you laugh.  i’ve never seen you cry.”  it’s true isn’t it?  with acting, all you can do is be yourself and if they don’t choose you, it’s not you, it’s just a matter of taste.  i was watching the finale for project runway a few weeks ago and *spoiler alert* one of the designers who is considered so avant garde designed a very ethereal dream-like collection.  he was one of the finalist and when tim gunn went around doing his critique, you could tell that tim gunn didn’t really like the collection.  but what makes tim gunn such a stud is that though he knew the collection wasn’t on his wavelength, he knew that it was a phenomenal collection.  he gave props to the finalist named fabio (he was my favorite competitor) and said to fabio, “it’s a matter of taste.  but bravo.  this collection is you.”

there’s such a sense of relief learning this lesson.  but i haven’t internalized it yet.  it’s easier said than done.  with all the different social expectations, people’s opinions, personal insecurities  and the occasional random mind fucks, it’s hard to be true to yourself and really own it too.  however, i have discovered that to really separate myself from all these distractions, i must allow myself time to reflect whether through writing, listening to music, going for a walk, etc.  only through reflection, can i really find my true self, be my true self, and really own my true self.

that is why i’m going to write a novel.  it’s november 1st and it’s national novel writing month (nanowrimo).   ira glass said that there’s a gap between your taste and your work.  often times we berate ourselves because our work just isn’t good enough to the works of people we admire.  so in order to close this gap, ira glass says you have to produce.  practice.  write.  nanowrimo encourages this.  you have one month to write a 50,000 word novel.  there’s a time constraint so that you don’t overthink your work and constantly edit and second guess.  you just write.

i love books, i read like a fiend, and i am always so amazed by how authors can describe a scene so viscerally in my mind, how they can take a bunch of words and magically (almost literally) transport me to that place and time.  i want to be able to do that with my acting.  acting is storytelling.  but for me to be a good actor, i need to be me truthfully in imaginary circumstances.  but how do you do that if you don’t know yourself?  (at 26, i have a good grasp of who i am, but i’m always down to learn more).  writing to me is a very cathartic act.  it allows me to peel off the layers of the social construct of me and really reveal my true core.  in attempting to do this, i hope to reflect upon myself, to know myself better, and to really believe in myself.  i must believe in myself before anyone else right?  right. believe achieve ah ah.  let’s go.