Friday, May 1, 2015

believe you can

I'm least for one or two posts. To be honest I haven't really missed blogging. What I missed was creating and writing, but not necessarily expressing that creativity through my blog. I have somewhat mixed feelings about blogs right now- there's so much curated content and product placement that it just doesn't seem real anymore. It feels like blogs have become part of the social media conundrum of only sharing the best 1% of life. As much as I may not like it, I get it. I get that blogs have had to evolve from when I first began reading blogs and writing my own blog. I'm happy for my favorite bloggers who work hard and make a successful living at it, but it may not be where I want to create anymore and that's ok.

Anyway...I digress. I'm not here to say goodbye (at least not yet), I'm here to share with you some exciting news!

The first bit of excitement is that I've been accepted into the School at Steppenwolf. My entire summer will be spent studying the craft of acting and I'm thrilled! It's a very intensive program so the only thing I will be doing for 10-weeks is learning and growing as an actor. I've never had an experience like this before- I wasn't a theater major in college and I always worked a part-time job during school, so now I get the opportunity to just focus on what makes me happy. It's going to be incredible!

It's funny how everything worked out. I was in a play this past winter and didn't have anything planned afterwards so with only a few weeks before the deadline I decided to submit an application. The application process involved writing an essay, getting a letter of recommendation, and then if you're invited to audition you have to prepare a monologue, as well as a scene from several play options they give you. I worked with an amazing teacher to prepare for my audition, which really helped me to feel confident going into the audition. My goal was to just do my best by committing to my choices and being honest. I left the audition feeling like I was successful in doing just that.

I wasn't fully attached to the idea of getting accepted into the school, but when I didn't get a callback (I thought not getting a callback meant that I didn't get accepted) I was still disappointed. Isn't that how it always works? I had heard from several actor friends that there is a callback process and if you don't get one you're pretty much done. Although now I know that I probably didn't get a callback because the casting director was in the room when I auditioned, so there was no need for a callback, but I didn't know that at the time. I just thought that I didn't get in and that was that. I allowed myself to be disappointed for a few days then I realized that I needed to do something. I needed to create. I decided that the something I needed to do was to finish a short film script that I'd been working on for quite some time. I figured if I was going to spend money on tuition for Steppenwolf why not use that money for making my own short film. I was taking action to create energy.

When I received my acceptance email on April 1st I was completely shocked! I thought it was some cruel April Fools joke...good thing it wasn't. I was then faced with making a decision- to accept or not to accept. I asked for some advice from a few trusted individuals before coming to my decision. It was this perspective from the acting teacher I coached with that excited and inspired me the most.

"Yes, now you’re in the position of really needing to decide whether or not you want to DO IT!! What an awful place to be! ;-)

But - here’s how I look at it - it’s one summer of your entire life - you can shoot the film anytime - no need to see this as an end to that. It’s a great gift to be amongst artists and collaborators for ANY amount of time - money comes and goes. Why not grab the bull by the horns and live life on the edge for a summer? Of course, there’s also power in saying no, you need to gauge for yourself what decision inspires you more!"

She is wise and inspiring and I'm so grateful that our paths have crossed. So I decided to live life where's it's most exciting- on the edge- so I said yes. But it's good to be reminded that there is power in saying no. And I can always make my film another time.

The second bit of exciting news is that I quit my day job last Friday. To be honest, it wasn't a happy ending. I didn't go into work that day expecting to quit my job. I had already requested to take a leave of absence while at Steppenwolf, knowing that when the school was over that I probably wouldn't be going back, but I still wanted to leave on good terms. It was good to have an end date though. I knew that I could handle four more weeks of this job, but then something happened that day and I just couldn't put up with a certain kind of behavior anymore. It wasn't an easy decision. I've never just quit a job like that. I've always done the responsible thing and given notice, but sometimes enough is enough and you have to do what's best for yourself. I won't go into details about what happened. I don't know if this blog is the place to discuss it, maybe some day, but not today.

I think it was inevitable that I eventually just had to walk out. Honestly, it was a long time coming. I'd put up with outrageous behavior for 3 1/2 years too long. Sometimes you have to deal with people and situations that you don't like- that's part of life- and I stuck it out that long for various reasons, a few of them being that the job was easy, I had flexibility, and I liked my co-workers. There comes a time though when you have to stand up for yourself and no longer accept being treated unkindly by another person. You don't bring out the best in people by being mean to them. Leaving that negative environment has probably been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've been so much happier this past week. I'm taking this time before Steppenwolf starts to focus on me and get back to creating my happy. Sure, we might have to tighten our wallets a bit since I stopped working sooner than we anticipated but I'm trusting that it will all work out. I'm living on the edge of trust. It's a scary but exciting place to be.

So whatever it is that you want, believe you can and do it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

the rest of the 24 days

Christmas is over. And I am relieved that it is. Not that I didn't enjoy the holiday season because I did, especially since the 24 Days of Giving put me more in the holiday spirit than I have been in a few years. It's just that now I can get back to…well, my life. It feels like the holidays are so consuming, and sometimes that distraction is necessary, but I'm ready to be rejuvenated not by distraction but by doing a lot of work- by creating my happy.

Here's how the 24 Days of Giving wrapped up -

Day 17 - I had a bag of food in my car that I've been meaning to drop off to a food shelter. Then I saw a makeshift bed set up underneath the train tracks by my work so I decided to leave the food for whoever was staying there. I wrote a note on the paper bag wishing them well. It wasn't much but I hope it gives them some nourishment for a few days.

Day 18 to 23 - To be honest, I don't really remember what I gave, if anything, these days. The intention was always there to give but some days it just didn't happen.

Day 24 - I baked this cake for my co-workers.

Even though I missed quite a few days to give this was, overall, an amazing experience. In some ways I feel like this ended up being more of a gift to me than anything because these moments of giving were so joyful and filled with love. It's kind of how I want every day to be.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 16 of 24

Day 16 - This by far has been my favorite giving day. Not only was I able to give something to one of my favorite people, my sister, but the way everything worked out was like magic.

I called my sister when I got home because, due to some emails I had received from her earlier in the day, I knew she had a rough day at work. She was on her way to meet a teacher friend for dinner after staying late at school to tutor some students. I asked her where they were going and she said "We're teachers, all we can afford is Pei Wei." Immediately I thought how fun would it be to buy them dinner. I casually asked her which Pei Wei they were going to, then came up with an excuse to get off the phone with her. She was already in the parking lot so I had to act fast. I called Pei Wei and the manager I spoke to was so helpful- she didn't hesitate at all. It was almost like this sort of thing happened to her all the time and she knew exactly what to do. She said that if I trusted her I could give her my credit card info and she would enter it in manually. That sounded like a good plan to me. The only thing was that we had to make sure that I would be buying dinner for the right people. I had no idea what my sister was wearing so I could only describe what she looks like. I've never met my sister's friend so we didn't have a lot to go on. I kept saying something about them being teachers. Then all of a sudden the manager tells me to hold on. About a minute later she comes back on the line and said that she recognized them and had to make sure that the cashier didn't charge them. At this point I had no idea if it was my sister and her friend but I just had to trust and go with it. I gave the manager my credit card and contact info and thanked her for helping me make this happen. Then I texted my sister to tell her to enjoy her dinner, but also to find out if it was indeed her that I had just bought dinner for. And it was! The best part is that my sister and her friend didn't know it was me until that text. They just thought it was some random person on the phone who was doing a kind deed. It caught them completely off guard. My sister's friend was ordering first and when the cashier told her that someone had bought her dinner she started crying. My sister then ordered not expecting someone to also pay for her dinner and was just as surprised when the cashier said that her meal had also been paid for. And it was only when they sat down to eat and saw my text that all the pieces came together. My sister knows that I'm doing this 24 Days of Giving but she never put it together that it was me on the phone, and since the cashier only said "the person on the phone" and not "your sister" they had no way of knowing anyway. It also helped that my sister's friend was wearing a shirt with the name of the school on it.

This spontaneous and random act was a perfect example of how an awesome opportunity to give can just present itself at any moment. There's no way I could have planned this. We just have to be opening to see these moments and to give.

Here's a little snippet of the text. Just thinking back on this moment makes me smile. So much happiness being created right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

year six ornament

This year's ornament is from Fred Arndt Artworks- another great etsy find. He has about 200 mid-century wood ornaments in his shop. I'm sure you can imagine how long it took me to narrow it down to this ornament. Good thing I let Ebert help me make the final decision, otherwise I probably would still be deciding on which one I liked best. You can see all six ornaments here.

The wall art work is also stunning. I'm currently loving this design.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 14 and 15 of 24

Day 14 - On this day I was actually given gifts of kindness from strangers - someone held the door open for me, when I dropped something while standing in line someone came over to help me pick it up, and someone let me turn in left in front of them so I wouldn't be blocking traffic. Those small acts of kindness kept happening to me throughout the day and meant so much to me, especially since when I wasn't feeling so happy or jolly. It really is the little gifts that can make such a big difference.

Day 15 - I'm part of an actors meet-up group here in Chicago and on this day we had our annual holiday hurrah fundraiser party. I gave my time to volunteer at the event and also bought raffle tickets to support the group. It was fun giving back to an organization that gives so much to actors in the community throughout the year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 10, 11, 12 and 13 of 24

Day 10 - My sister asked me to adopt a couple of her students for Christmas. The package was filled with all sorts of goodies - chocolates and gum, bike lights, chapstick, toys. I had so much fun shopping for these kids! I can't wait to see pictures of them opening their presents.

Day 11 - I gave a co-worker my banana. Ha! Just writing that is funny but she was hungry and I had something to give. No picture necessary.

Day 12 - I made these DIY boozy hot chocolate gift bags and gave them to my cast mates. It was fun working with this group again, even if it was only for a one-night event.

Day 13 - I contributed to this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 8 and 9 of 24

Monday and Tuesday were a bust for me with this whole giving thing. I blamed it on being stuck inside an office all day. If I had planned better I know I could have done something. I was either just being lazy or not thinking outside the box. Also, my day job has been super frustrating this week. I've been dealing with people that aren't acting very kind so it's been really hard for me to be kind back. I know that this is a perfect opportunity to give kindness unconditionally and, believe me, in the moment I think about it but unfortunately I haven't done it.

But today when I needed a little inspiration I saw this 12 Days of Kindness post from Lovely Indeed. There are some fun ideas here that have helped put me back in the giving spirit.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of 24

Day 3 - Kind thoughts to all the people who cut in front of me on the highway during rush hour. This was a big lesson for me. I hate rude drivers- you know the ones who drive in bike lines or on the shoulder to bypass traffic and cut in front of everyone. I know I'm not always a courteous driver but I never do that. This time I just didn't let it bother me. It was probably more of a gift to myself because it was really nice to not get upset about something I couldn't do anything about it. It made my long drive home much more enjoyable. And who knows maybe it helped them get wherever they needed to get that much sooner. At least I hope it did.

Day 4 - Giving a helping hand to a woman loading boxes into her car at Ikea. The boxes weren't super heavy and it looked like she was managing just fine on her own but I thought why not just give that little extra help.

Day 5 - $2 to the man on the corner. I don't always like to give money. I feel like food is sometimes more helpful because you just don't know what they are going to use the money for. I guess it's not really my place to judge- if I'm willing to give money then I shouldn't put stipulations on what someone uses the money for. But since I didn't have food I gave the money and the guy wished me a "merry christmas" with a smile on his face.

Day 6 - Letting someone stand ahead of me in a really long line. My first instinct was to walk really fast to get in line first. I certainly didn't want to wait in a long line but then I realized that this was a simple opportunity to give.

Day 7 - $5 to St. Jude's Research Hospital.

Looking back on what I gave last week it doesn't seem like much. I feel slightly disappointed, like I should have given more or something. Then I remind myself of how giving, even something small, felt so big in the moment because I did it with an open heart.