Yet another post about me learning something from children.

There is a phrase that I think about a lot. It takes many forms, but because I love a good prayer, my favorite wording is:

God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.

I make this request to God frequently, because frequently, I feel like I did something wrong. So I have to tell myself that it’s all in my head, and this prayer-phrase is very motivating in that regards. But anyway, this isn’t what I meant to write about. Get out of my blog, Men!

This week I realized that while man confidence is advantageous and all, I would rather have the confidence of a middle school girl who hasn’t yet fallen off the cliff of Childhood Revelry into the tempestuous waters of Adolescent Confusion and Trauma.

This was solidified for me during a shoot on Monday at a middle school in East New York. My friend Stephanie was directing a series of promos for an upcoming pilot, and asked if I minded jumping on set for the afternoon. My task: to block a short fight scene.

I’ve directed a lot of kids. It requires stamina. And a lot of breathing from your diaphragm. And yep, these gals were just as deafening as every other group of kids I’ve worked with. But there was one major difference: they somehow managed to be great listeners, too. Not just to me, but to each other. Even through all the teasing and the verbal digs, they managed to be accepting, patient, and extremely creative. Sometimes, without even speaking, they would all erupt into the same dance. Or one girl would start quietly singing, and then suddenly they were a choir.

I hardly had to yell at all. In fact: I found myself mostly listening.

A good actor will take a look at a script and flesh out the world surrounding the lines. They will get in front of a camera, or on a stage, and think: what would I do in real life? And then they will find a way to inject that real life into the scene. Atmosphere will roll, the audience will be transported, and we will all live on a different planet together for 15-130 minutes, plus any residual feelings. Easy, right? Not in my experience.

This takes confidence, which is very hard to find. So when these kids jumped right in and put their own spin on it, creating a fully fleshed out and tremendously entertaining scene, I was honestly kinda jealous. They even added a little moment before the scene started, which is something that many grown up actors don’t think to do even after dumping a hundred grand into an MFA.

Their confidence came from an organically childlike place  -one of wonder and adventure- but it was ever so slightly tinged with the dynamism and resolution that comes with being a woman.

What a powerful combination.

$78

Today I put my frog suit on, jumped from one job application to another, and caught no flies.

Unless flies are just a metaphor for frustration and despair. In that case, I’m full.

Days like these always start by checking my bank account and realizing that I missed the Chewy.com shipping reminder and have just spent $90 on cat food I didn’t need.

Last week I decided that I very seriously need to crack down on my finances. Set up an IRA, check my balances every single day, get back on the student loan train, not spend money on tacos and Frose, yadda yadda.

Since the key to having more money is making more money, I got up at 6:30 last Monday morning and applied for bar jobs, tour guide positions and temp work. By Friday, I got through the rounds with a tour guide company which now seems to have blossomed into nothing, decided that my schedule doesn’t really allow me to bartend right now after all, and nearly cried in a temp agency when they told me “12-13 dollars per hour.”

I also decided that setting up an IRA was too confusing, and I told myself that I had enough in my account for now and I’d be fine and didn’t need to check everyday.

I’m not irresponsible. I’m very organized, highly neurotic and concerned for my future. However, when you don’t have money, checking your bank account is like being tied to a chair and forced to watch a horror movie. I guess you have no other choice but to watch.

So I can say I logged into my bank account this afternoon and immediately yelled “run, idiot, run, he’s gonna stab you.”

AKA: $78

 

Thus triggering my money panic routine which goes like this:

  1. I will get a job in an ad agency or something.
  2. I look through copywriting jobs and think about what my life would be like if I made at least $30,000 / year.
  3. I tell myself I have no experience and/or marketable skills and decide to move on.
  4. What about social media?
  5. I tell myself that I have no followers on Twitter or Instagram and therefore nothing to prove and also I hate social media.
  6. Ah, administrative work! I start with colleges and universities.
  7. I imagine what the job would be like. The beloved children’s book character Amelia Bedelia races into my mind and I imagine myself accidentally breaking machines, fucking up travel itineraries, crying and watching Excel how-to videos on lynda.com, and getting a firm talking to in an office while sweating through an ill-fitting pencil skirt and a thong. For some reason.
  8. I decide I am too scared to work as an administrative assistant.
  9. I curse myself for spending 10 years of my life pursuing acting.
  10. Oh wait, I am an actor with 6+ years of teaching adults with developmental disabilities, at-risk and homeless women and hundreds of kids ages 3-15. I go to Playbill.com.
  11. I find the perfect job and then realize I have to write a cover letter.
  12. Quick! I see if any of the previous cover letters I have written will suffice.
  13. Nope.
  14. I tell myself that most places prefer you to have an MFA, which I think is a waste of time, and that I’m not diverse enough and therefore don’t deserve to teach our youth.
  15. This is a good transition into brand ambassador work.
  16. I go to Craigslist and consider applying for the job with the headline “No nudity required, promise!” for about the 600th time.
  17. I tell myself that I am worthless and stupid and I probably won’t be able to connect to the monologue I am doing in class tomorrow even though I have a high emotional IQ and that is about all I have, which makes me an extraordinarily overdramatic person who has a hard time falling asleep at night.
  18. The dog outside begins to bark so I spent time cruising around for new music on Spotify and I hate everything and wonder what is wrong with our youth, why do they listen to this absolute crap?
  19. I remember that writing makes me happy and sometimes posting a self-deprecating blog post perks me up.
  20. I scold myself for not writing more blog posts.
  21. I realize I could have spent all that time looking for auditions.
  22. I think about emailing my mangers to tell them I’m done acting. But then I realize I have no back-up plan.
  23. Here we are.

Dudes, I could have spent the whole day playing around with setting my sock fuzz on fire instead of all this crap and it would have been way more productive.

And in an ironic twist, I have to stop typing so I won’t be late for work.

I’m babysitting tonight, which means I’ll get to hang out with a child who could probably afford to pay off my student loans- but at least I will get to shut my brain off and use my imagination for a few hours, which is something that I am, in fact, pretty good at.

But first, I have to feed the cats and replace the litter in the box with real paper money.

Real Life is Not Mario World

I’m always looking for a reason to “start over.”

October 11, 2011
Dear Diary,
Today is the first day of my NEW life!

I blame it on Super Nintendo. When you get down to the last 10 lives or so, you go back to the early levels you’ve mastered, get about 100 lives, and then take on Bowser’s Castle.

Unfortunately, we live on Earth, not Super Mario World. So until Steven Hawkins finds a way to use black holes to build a time machine, we just chug along and layer our new mistakes on top of the old-but-wise ones.

I recently got my headshots taken. (David Noles!) For a second, I regarded it as an opportunity to start over. (Dear Diary, I’m $34,000 in debt but I have 1,000 really good photographs of myself).

Apart from being a major time suck, going back to Level One is boring. I am currently performing a couple times a week with various improv teams, collaborating on a couple of really exciting new works, and directing a musical with a cast of 70 little girls. All stuff I certainly wasn’t doing this time last year.

There’s a difference between starting over, and moving forward. Either way- new headshots were a necessary investment and a nice boost of confidence and energy.

You don’t need to buy a new car- you just gotta remember to keep changing the oil on the one you already have. And to build on the metaphor- BECAUSE THATS WHAT I DO BEST- this isn’t a career with cheap mechanics, so it’s better to just change it yourself.

If I had a nickel for every mediocre metaphor…