order now, ask later

This morning, while running errands, I made my daily pitstop to The Chipped Cup, a sweet little uptown coffeeshop on Broadway at 149th that takes all my money and supplements my caffeine addiction (I love them).  I ordered my usual, and as the barista called out my drink at the bar, a man standing in line to order goes, “What is that?  I want that!”  The barista reiterated my order to him (a large, iced, almond milk latte) and he confirmed he definitely wanted that.

This guy had absolutely no idea what was in my drink.  When it came time for him to actually commit to the drink, he started changing his mind.  “Oh, not almond milk, I want regular milk.  Oh, wait, is there espresso in that?  What does that mean?  Can I get the almond in there with regular milk?”

So, what you’re saying, sir, is that you looked at the drink and wanted it, but you had absolutely no idea what the drink actually was? Clearly this man might be a little slow on the uptake (and probably shouldn’t be in a coffeeshop), but here’s a thought: Why are we so quick to look at things and instantly commit to them without knowing what’s inside?

I feel, especially in this day in age, we impulsively commit to something we see without asking questions first.  Whether it’s clothing, jobs, relationships — we’ll order it first and ask questions later.

So what happens if you realize you don’t want it anymore?  This man couldn’t return the coffee for a refund — they simply just made him another variation of what he wanted (free of charge, of course, because Chipped Cup is magic).  But in the long run, who does that hurt?  Not this customer, because there are no consequences for his error in judgment.  It hurts the business.

And what about the things we commit to that don’t come with gift receipts?  Apartments, relationships, jobs.  You can quit on all of these things, and the landlords will find new tenants, your exes will find new significant others, and the company can hire someone else; but isn’t that more trouble than it’s worth?

As the questions first, order it when you know it’s what you want.

 

The Year of Travel

The Year of Travel

Each year on January 1st, we list off a myriad of resolutions and positive promises to ourselves that will hopefully manifest change in our lives. And whether they stick or they don’t, twelve months later, we reset and do it all over again.

I rang in 2017 with a dear friend of mine, Hailei Call, who begins each year by proclaiming what she hopes it will be with one title: “The Year of…”  It’s much broader than a checklist of endeavors we set out to accomplish or the number of times we vow to visit the gym in a week.  The concept of naming your upcoming year simply promotes what you hope will manifest itself the most, not necessarily how you’ll get there.

At the start of this calendar year, I predicted this would be The Year of Travel.  The travel didn’t need to be anywhere exotic or distant, I just wanted to explore places outside of Manhattan; even if they were in states I’d been to over and over again.  I spent a solid part of this year in a long-distance relationship that had me on many midnight trains to, from, and through my home state of Connecticut.  I also spent most of this year helping my best friend plan her wedding, which, in turn, brought about planning-travel, shower-travel, bachelorette-travel, and wedding-travel to various places.  I was brought to Long Island for family holidays, baby showers, and alike.  And I’m rounding out the year on my first regional contract at White Plains Performing Arts Center where I’ll travel for rehearsals and performances.

This year, for many reasons, was my year of travel without even trying.  I’ve been lucky enough to share those adventures surrounded by lovely people in lovely places.  Here are some of my favorites to share with you.

O   R    L   A   N   D   O ,    F   L 

One of my closest pals plays Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  I started my Year of Travel on the second week of January flying down to see her for a couple days.  Despite the fact that I had been there before, being in Disney World as an adult was still just as fun as it was twelve years ago (except for the fact that Epcot wasn’t nearly as exciting when I was thirteen and couldn’t drink around the world).  I’m looking forward to kicking off 2018 the same way!

B  O  S  T  O  N ,   M  A  S  S .

Three friends and I took an amazing weekend trip to Boston together in April.  I fell madly in love (see BeanTown) and know in my soul that something will take me there someday to live for a moment or two.  I was lucky enough hit Boston twice this year and go to my first Red Sox Game at Fenway in June.

S  A  R  A  T  O  G  A    S  P  R  I  N  G  S ,   N  Y

I’ve been visiting Saratoga Springs almost every summer since I was born.  I’ve missed a couple years here and there since moving to NYC, but it’s a place that lives in a very special corner of my heart, and I was lucky to escape there for a couple days over the summer.  My mother has been going every year for the last 40 years. FORTY YEARS. It’s such a sweet and special town. Stewart’s Ice Cream: No words. It is the best.

P  O  R  T  S  M  O  U  T  H ,   N  H

Along the way to an overnight getaway in Ogunquit, Maine, we stopped in the sweet little town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Honestly, we wanted to stay and nix the next half hour of driving! It was so beautiful — a quainter version of Boston. Our visit was short but so worth the pit stop. Portsmouth Brewery is a must-go!

O  G  U  N  Q  U  I  T  ,  M  A  I  N  E

Ogunquit was a great end-of-Summer escape.  It was such a wonderful little town, filled with cute shops and gorgeous views.  I tried lobster for the first time and we spontaneously went kayaking.  It was totally worth the drive!

W  I  L  D  W  O  O  D  ,   N  J

My bride-to-be’s bachelorette party was in Wildwood, New Jersey.  It was a perfectly inexpensive weekend getaway.  We landed an amazing Air BNB, located near a ton of restaurants on the water, and only a short walk to the boardwalk.  We rode the go-karts, Escaped The Room, and made breakfast each morning equipped with Costco bagels and lots n’ lots of mimosas.

N  E  W     W  I  N  D  S  O  R  ,   N  Y

I can’t say New Windsor, New York is the most exciting destination ever; but it’s special for the simple fact that I got to watch my best friend get married there.  It was about an hour west of where we grew up together in Connecticut, so it was definitely familiar, but still a new adventure.  The venue (Anthony’s Pier 9) was beautiful, and the rehearsal dinner was held at Newburgh Brewing Company; which is so charming and has a stunning view of the river, especially in the Autumn!

P  R  O  V  I  D  E  N  C  E  ,   R  I

Though it was only a glimpse, I took a spontaneous road trip to visit my best gal who recently relocated to Providence, Rhode Island to get her MFA at Brown (she is a rock star).  The journey was short but sweet — we got brunch at The Grange Providence, an adorable little restaurant down the street from her apartment that serves brunch all day.  Yes, all day, every day.  While we didn’t explore much, the road trip itself was a new adventure, and it was undoubtedly the first of many more visits to come!

giving thanks

Each year we spend the Thanksgiving holiday sharing what we’re thankful for and breaking bread with our families. Whether it’s your blood-related, friend tribe, or work family is up to interpretation and circumstance; but nonetheless, it is a day to share-in and be surrounded by good energy, good people, and good food.

I was lucky enough to land the trifecta this Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the company of family and friends, ending the day back in New York to a sold-out show at CATS with my work fam (eating Little Pie Company pie no less…)

I heavily considered staying in New York this year for Thanksgiving. It would have been the first year of my existence that I wasn’t home with my family. I was conflicted — on the one hand, as we grow older, we sometimes have to choose our travel battles wisely. On the other, the holiday season is sacred – filled with nostalgia and tradition that only recirculates at that special time once a year. And while it feels like a week has passed between stepping on the train to Connecticut last night and as I sit here writing this in New York less than twenty-four hours later, I would not have traded the moments I had today for anything else.

I love Connecticut. I love waking up in the morning, eating cinnamon rolls with my parents, and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love my Grandma’s mashed potatoes and the smell of her home on the holidays. I love seeing my family from Long Island. I love playing Bananagrams with them and watching my Grandma get really upset every time someone yells “PEEL!” I also love that she still slips me twenty dollar bills like it’s hush money. And, most of all, I love that my cousins and I still have to sit at the kids table even though we’re all over the age of 22.

I am incredibly blessed to have a mere sixty miles in between my two homes; and moreover to have a family there with open arms that carts me to and from the train to New York just to see me for 16 hours. I am so grateful to have friends that think to reach out and wish me a “Happy Thanksgiving,” even though we’re grateful for each other every other day of the year. And, furthermore, I am very lucky to spend one last Thanksgiving sharing this theater with brilliant artists tonight, eating pie and comparing food baby bellies.

I am surrounded by an abundance of love and gratitude this Thanksgiving, and I hope you are, too.

the actor’s life: a survival guide

Upon its release last week, I rapidly ordered a copy of Jenna Fischer’s new book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide.  As a newly-obsessed fanatic of The Office, you can only imagine my level of excitement when it arrived on my doorstep two days later (Bless you, Amazon Prime).

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 1.43.59 PM

My intuition was right – I couldn’t put it down.  And not because she spent 250 pages gushing about her time on The Office and guaranteeing the dreamers that, one day, they’ll too find their own Pam Beesly and live happily ever after in the magical world of Hollywood — no. While her eight-year stint on The Office was indeed life-changing, Jenna spent just as many years fighting for screen time before and after Pam.  Every struggle was a stepping stone towards a career that brought her dreams to fruition in unexpected ways.  This book is a testimony to the fact that, despite her success, she too experienced failure, confusion, doubt, and rejection along the way.  Reading Jenna’s words felt very much like reading a heartfelt, encouraging, and honest letter from a mentor or close friend who shares in your struggle and simply gets it.

If you are an aspiring and/or working actor read this book.  Read it now.  Read it next month.  Read it next year when you’ve hit a low point and you need a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

After personally spending the past year feeling artistically stifled and struggling to find my rhythm again, Jenna’s book came at the perfect time to reignite my momentum as a new year of new possibilities and adventure approaches.

Below are my favorite takeaway moments from The Actors Life: A Survival Guide — moments that I connected to and gave me permission to feel the range of emotions that come with the pursuit of an artistic career.

T   H   E     S   T   R   U   G   G   L   E

Before I moved to Los Angeles, I thought the life of an actor seemed easy.  And now, years later, I am telling you it’s not.  It can be rewarding, inspiring, magical, intense, terrifying, consuming, passionate and unique.  But it is not, and will not, be easy.  However, just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

I can’t even begin to list the times I’ve questioned whether or not I have the strength to “make it” in this industry; or how often I’ve thought of giving into the struggles that come with pursuing a career in the arts.  It is hard.  Others will try to convince you that what you do is easy; because many people on the outside rest under the misconception that being an actor is a cake walk. This is why they’re on the outside.

For me, what made the struggle even harder was the fact that my friends and family back home couldn’t understand “what was taking so long.”  They couldn’t see the value of these small milestones.  They just wanted to know when I would be on TV.  Because that’s what translated as success to them.

I am incredibly lucky to have a family comprised of tireless cheerleaders.  Whether I’m in the back row of the ensemble or standing center stage as the star, they are at every performance of mine.  My family is a vessel of encouragement, love, and support, without whom I would not have the strength to persevere through the low points in my career.  Every endeavor of mine since moving to New York has been applauded or met with excitement. But everyone’s measurement for success is different.

For anyone reading this who may not know me, I work in wardrobe as my “day job.” It has kept me artistically connected these past four years while I pursue a career as a performer.  Currently, I’m a dresser at the Broadway Revival of CATS.  Many people consider what I do to be “successful.” Sometimes, I fail to see the see it the same way.

I vividly remember the moment I told my entire family about this job opportunity at a holiday dinner two months prior to the remount of CATS.  My aunt burst into tears, hugged me, and texted everyone she knew. My uncle started singing “Memory,” and my grandma turned to my grandpa and asked if he remembered seeing the show in 1987 (he nodded vigorously, but I don’t blame him if he didn’t).  And even after their glowing reaction, I quickly followed it up with, “This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on performing just because I’m working on a Broadway show doing wardrobe.”

Why, Tara?  Why did you just say that? Why did you feel the need to justify that to your family?  This huge beacon of enormous faith in my talent, and I still felt the need to blurt out that finding success in one area of this industry did not negate the success I still sought as a performer.  Of course they knew that.  Of course I knew that they knew that.  Why was I so fixated on saying it aloud?

Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves by reminding others.  It’s not because my family asks the question of “when?”– it’s because I do.  And I don’t just blurt out to my family, I blurt it out to friends, colleagues, working professionals who learn that I simultaneously work in two facets of this business.  I will tell anyone who will listen that I am an actor because reminding myself of who I am is crucial to how I operate moving forward in this industry.  I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m “just a dresser.”  But just as much, I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m “just an actor” either. Because of this job, I have become more educated, multi-faceted, and valuable. And while it’s taken a while to embrace it, that has become my measurement for success.

The cool thing about the life of an actor is that many pointless and mundane experiences actually become important moments that you’ll reference later in your career.  You may not know now, but in a magical twist of fate, what you’re dreading doing today could inspire a role years from now.  

When you are able to use your experiences to feed your creativity and passion for acting, it doesn’t seem as hard.  Mining for gold is not easy.  But if you do it l on enough, you get to be the person who found gold.

  A   U   D   I   T   I   O   N   S    &                            S  U  R  V  I  V  I  N  G         R  E  J  E  C  T  I  O  N

You cannot possibly get every role you audition for, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. 

This is the best damn sentence in the book.  Hello, of course we should not be putting that kind of pressure on ourselves.  But do we do it anyway?  I certainly do.  Almost every audition I walk into, I’ve already envisioned what opportunities the role could bring me, or how much time I would have to take off to accommodate rehearsals, or how excited I would be to share that I’ve booked this job.

That is a mindset that just breeds disappointment before even walking in the door.  Much of the defeat I’ve felt over the past four years stems from the pressure I put on myself to book shows in hopes that it will fulfill a certain level of happiness and curb the satisfaction of knowing that I haven’t failed myself in my endeavors to become a working actor.

No job really changes everything. Nothing removes the struggle completely.

Every audition is a chance to learn, practice, and grow as an actor.  The success is not always in getting the part but in the seed that is planted.

Failure cannot exist in persistence.  If I’m still auditioning, I have yet to give in to the fear of failing myself as an artist.  Auditioning and rejection are both an unfortunate part of the process.  But if we weren’t rejected from the auditions we don’t book, there wouldn’t be room for the opportunities that are meant for us.

Your job as an actor is to create a consistent body of work.  It is not to book jobs.  It is not to worry and beat yourself up over every job you didn’t book.  Those decisions are out of your control.  What is in your control is your approach to auditioning.  So just because you didn’t book a certain role, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  More often than not, getting or not getting a role has very little to do with how well you performed at that particular audition.  It boils down to who you fit into a bigger picture they are painting.

Living the life of a working actor requires a very special emotional constitution.  You must have a strong will, you must be determined, and you must be able to withstand countless rejections without becoming depressed, cynical, or self-destructive.  Because the hard truth is that it often takes more than good work to get the job.  It’s about doing good work, certainly, but it’s also about timing, luck, being the right height, the right weight, having the right hair color, being the right race — any number of arbitrary factors.

So what if you never fit into the bigger picture?  You’re relentlessly putting yourself out there, day after day, to find out where you fit in, and the offers seem to be few and far between, if they come at all.  Does this mean you’re not giving the industry what it wants?  Do you have to go back to the drawing board and rebrand who you are in order to find your place?  Are you required to be someone you’re not to fit into the bigger picture or are you, as you are, enough?

So often we worry that we have to bring some amazing razzle dazzle to a role to stand out.  We try to figure out what they are “looking for” when really we need to figure out how to bring ourselves to the role.  Only you can give your performance.  Only you have your unique set of experiences, emotions, and way of expressing yourself.  Trust that you are enough.

It was hard to keep putting myself out there over and over, only to not get the part.

I found this Chuck Norris quote and put it on my bathroom mirror: “A lot of people give up just before they’re about to make it.  You know, you never know when the next obstacle is going to be the last one.”  I defiantly told my representatives that I would give it one more year, and after that I was calling it quits.  And, wouldn’t you know it, that was the year Allison called me in to audition for The Office.

H   E   A   D   S   H   O   T   S

If acting is the business, you are the product, and your headshot is the packaging.  You can be the most talented actor on the planet, but if you have a crappy headshot, you may never get the chance to show off your chops. 

[Casting Director] Mara Casey suggests picking five adjectives that best describe the kind of characters you might easily play.  And then ask yourself, does your headshot convey those five adjectives?

Jenna goes on to show examples of her prior headshots and the mistakes she made when choosing the right one to print and send out to agents, casting directors, etc.  So I thought I would do the same:

I’m no more than thirteen in these photos and absolutely used them the entirety of my high school years.  What is happening?  I look like a small child.  I am a small child.  I also seemingly have auburn hair when in actuality it was dark blonde.  S.O.S.

Cut to the college years, when my theatre program required us to get headshots done by the photography department at the beginning of each school year.

2009 vs 2011.  Talk about an awkward first-day-of-college photo disguised as a “headshot.”  They weren’t great, but at least I looked my age.  They were also a far cry from the small child straddling the white chair above circa 2005.  Even so, I shamelessly sent these shots along with a barebones, unimpressive resume to professional casting directors and producers in New York while I was in school.  What on earth was I thinking?

In 2012, my senior year of college, my school was blessed with a miracle named Julio Agustin Matos, who served as the first head of our Musical Theatre program and completely changed my life.  Fresh off the Broadway stage, Julio created an intensive called The Transition Workshop — a guiding light for college seniors and recent graduates who were making their move from an educational setting to the “real world”.  Many of his teachings mirror everything Jenna discusses in her book; Julio’s background is just more rooted in stage work.  He too published a book entitled The Professional Actors Handbook: From Casting Call To Curtain Call  (which I strongly recommend if you are actively pursuing a career on stage — it’s worth every penny).

Julio rapidly shut down the free school headshots we were getting and rattled off a list of professional New York headshot photographers we needed to schedule shoots with.  I found a local headshot photographer (Julia Gerace Photography) in Connecticut who turned out some pretty comparable work.  Here’s what I came to him with:

Not too shabby for a couple hundred dollars, huh?  My hair still looks auburn, but these were my post-red-head days as I was transitioning back into my blonde locks.  So as in love with these shots as I was, they were only going to last me about a year or so as I continued the journey back to blonde; but I finally found something that worked.

And you know what?  I used these for three years.  THREE WHOLE YEARS.  Six months after these photos were taken, my hair was longer and blonder and my energy was completely different.  So you can only imagine how mistaken most casting directors were when I walked into a room two years later and placed these photos in front of them.  I was a completely different person, with a completely different look, and a completely different mindset.

Just before audition season approached in 2016, I wised-up and went to Curtis & Cort Photography in New York.

Hallelujah!  I finally looked like myself.  Let’s do a little side-by-side, shall we?

How did I go this long without new headshots?  How did I pass around a shot from early 2013 almost three years later?  HOW?!  These are two completely different women.  The one on the right is confident about what she’s selling.  She’s got energy, she’s self-assured, she’s wise.  She is ready to take the audition season by storm.

And you know what?  2016 was my best audition season to date.  I didn’t book anything, but I was getting appointments and callbacks and more callbacks (oh my!).  Rebranding myself was a giant step in the right direction towards getting in the room with the people who needed to see me.

Even the best actors need seasoning and time to grow into their potential.  View this period as your time to grow and gain experience. 

S   E   L   F   –  C   A   R   E    &                             T   R   U   S   T    I   N   G          T   H   E                   J   O   U   R   N   E   Y

Your body is your instrument.  You need to treat it kindly.  People come in all shapes and sizes, and so do characters.  Embrace a healthy size that feels easy to maintain and go from there.

Too easily in this business, we fall into a pit of comparison on many levels — career-wise, success-wise, and most commonly — the physical comparison.  Eating disorders develop, thoughts of plastic surgery ensue, and Planet Fitness is tired of seeing you three times a day.  When did becoming a carbon-copy of someone else start manifesting success?  Sure, there are many women I compare myself to, admittedly, on a daily basis — especially actresses.  She’s in better shape than I am.  Her hair is styled perfectly every day.  She’s got everything I want.  But, does she?  Does anybody?  Why do we think that having what someone else has will fulfill our own needs?  We are all so unbelievably unique with a completely different set of goals and skill sets to bring into this business.  And that can, in turn, be the hardest logic to maintain in an industry where everyone is competing with one another for their next big break.

First, I needed to accept that things weren’t going to happen quickly.  A lot of my anxiety was coming from my belief that I was failing because things were “taking so long.”  I needed to stop comparing myself to other people and commit to an actors life, with all its ups and downs.

All too often, we compare ourselves to the results we see in other artists without the knowledge of the full journey it took to achieve those results.

Listen, it’s going to seem easier for other people than it is for you.  That’s the harsh reality of this business.  I cannot count on New York City’s fingers and toes how many times I have looked at someone else’s career and thought, “Wow, how has it been so much easier for them than it’s been for me?”  But this is what we signed up for.  We signed on to face rejection and comparison because that is part of what makes this business a business.  Sometimes you get the part, sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you work for months, years even; sometimes you rest in the drought for just as long. Facing that truth is so crucial; because it’s easier to take out the frustrations of the inner workings of this industry on other artists who are reaping the benefits of a seemingly “successful career” rather than using the rejection to propel us forward so that we may share in the success one day too.

Every artist has a different journey, and you’ll have to figure out yours — you’ll have to determine how much you can endure.  Because the roadblocks, doubts, and insecurity are all part of living an artistic life.

Resist the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, and negative about your fellow artists.  Most importantly, don’t be judgmental about what you need to thrive as an artist either.  Don’t be afraid to be a little self-indulgent.  It’s okay to have rituals,  It’s okay to have needs.  The important thing is that we find a way to create a mutually satisfying environment.

C   R   E   A   T    I   N   G     T   H   E                    W   O   R   K

If you want to be an actor, you must live an artistic life.  You must find ways to express your artistic life with others.  Artistic lives are full of risk.

Being able to generate work for yourself is an essential part of the process of becoming a working actor.

Sustaining work as an actor starts with the relationships you make with other artists…Building a successful career is not about getting in good with the people who are already established.  It’s about creating the next big thing with people just like you.

In 2014, I met an actress by the name of Emm O’Connor doing a poorly-run production of Grease here in New York.  I was playing Marty, she played Jan. Emm was goofy, wonderful, talented, hilarious — the total package.  Shortly before the run of our show, she shared that she was considering straying from acting to pursue screenwriting and asked me join a table read for a pilot she wrote called Capital Advice.  It was a laugh-out-loud series about a quirky overnight radio host named Gwen who tries to “Delilah” her way through a conversation with a caller who dials the wrong number looking for her cheating boyfriend at the local pizza joint. Gwen awakes the following morning to learn that her words of encouragement inadvertently inspired the caller to burn down said pizza joint. Thinking that these unfortunate events will ruin her career, Gwen’s show starts getting more traction and attention than any other segment, and she defies her boss’s orders to refrain from taking calls beyond song requests and turns her late-night playlist into a talk-back called Capital Advice.  It was certainly impressive to read something so cleverly crafted, filled to the brim with massive potential from someone as young as Emm. And wouldn’t you know, eleven months later, we filmed the damn thing.

The single best thing an actor can do, both professionally and personally, is to create their own work.  Whatever you do, I promise it will create momentum.

Every project you finish has value.  Whether it’s the one-woman show you wrote, the web series with only twenty-four views, the pilot you wrote with your friend, all are important and will pay off somehow.

Shooting the pilot of Capital Advice inspired me in many ways to create more work of my own.  Watching Emm fearlessly pursue her desire to be a screenwriter inspired me to create work of my own.  Two months later, Emm and I began collaborating on a new series called Technical Difficulties.  It was the first time I had written a finished product that I was proud of.  Six months after that, I wrote my first one-woman show, and performed it twice over the course of the following year.  Since then, my mind has been overflowing with new ideas and ways to create my own work — and it started by meeting someone who showed me that you can go out there and make it happen for yourself.

It’s completely normal to want others to see something special enough in your talent to create opportunities for you.  But if we’re not simultaneously creating opportunities for ourselves, we’ll just be sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.  Be the call you’re hoping for and put your talent into the ether.  You never know if your idea could be the next sensation.

The very best way to advance your career is to be seen.  Nobody will see you in your kitchen, expect your creepy neighbor!  Student films, short films, showcases, improv shows, web series, standup, YouTube videos, play readings, street performing — you never know where they’re going to lead.  The more work you do, the more people see you, the more likely the right people are to find you.

Establishing good luck isn’t just about being in the right place at the right time.  It’s about making the kinds of choices that put you in the right place at the right time.

As actors, artists, and performers, we are undoubtedly going to face discouragement and obstacles.  But moreover, we will also experience triumphs and elation if we persevere.  Jenna’s words provided me with that reassurance and confidence, and I hope it can do the same for you. The Actors Life: A Survival Guide is a must-read, must-know, must-feel.

You’ve chosen an unpredictable life, but certainly a life worth living.  Go forward, embrace the journey head-on, with all of its ups and downs.  More than at any time in recent memory, we are in need of artists and stories to remind us of our shared humanity.  As you go forward, though you may get discouraged, please don’t hold back your gift.  Because the world needs actors.  The world needs you.

bravery

bravery

“Bravery is living life wide awake.  Bravery is feeling what you need to feel.  Bravery is dancing with your fear instead of avoiding it.”

-Dr. Rebecca Ray

I’m back to blogging in hopes of reigniting the self-reflective and open relationship I have with myself.  This past week, my world was inflated with many emotions — namely the cautious, blind, brave tip-toe towards embracing the unknown. Bravery to take a step in an uncomfortable direction will be an obstacle we continuously face at various moments in our lives; and most times we won’t know that the fear we feel is merely a fraction of the courage we have.

“It takes courage to come undone; there is so much vulnerability in the process of unraveling.  So much freedom, too.

I don’t know you, but I know there’s something you must do.  Maybe it’s to finally walk away from the person who isn’t your person anymore, even though you so badly want them to be.  Maybe it’s starting the blog that’s been weighing on your heart for years.  Maybe it’s going back to school when you’re afraid of being a beginner again, of standing out and looking awkward and feeling misplaced.  Maybe it’s leaving the job, or joining the gym, or making the phone call.”

A dear friend recently sent me Dr. Rebecca Ray’s Soul Sparks Newsletter entitled “10 Things That Happen When You Get Brave”; and I firmly believe that whether we’re feeling high or low, at some point, we’ll need a small nudge or hard shove towards the tough choices in our lives.  These words validated my emotions and gave me permission to commiserate with the unnerving reality that comes with the aftermath of a brave choice.  The most relieving realization is the reassurance that your feelings are normal.

Your breakthrough will feel exhilarating.  What happens next won’t.  
That initial rush proves that it’s all worth it…You needed this awakening…And after that first HELL YES moment, just be aware that you’re going to come down a bit and that’s okay, that’s normal…You’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable for a bit.  Feeling off or sad or scared doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice, it means you made a new choice.”

It’s so easy to feel like the choices we make are wrong when they don’t quite feel right.  Uncomfortably staring out into an abyss can be both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. But trusting that all feelings – both high and low – are temporary is also trusting that when the comfortability settles in, the reason for the abyss starts to become clear.  When feelings are constantly in flux, practicing patience with those emotions can be the biggest obstacle to conquer.

“You thought making the leap was the hard part.  Nope.  You’ve just shifted your reality and changed your expectations.  People who once fit perfectly into your world, back when you questioned your worthiness, no longer do…And so you’ll be asked to let go.  Letting go is a continuous choice, not this dramatic, one time only event where you officially release what’s been weighing you down.  No, you’ll have to choose to let go again and again and again until eventually love is your baseline.”

It’s amazing to me that we put this expectation on ourselves to immediately adjust to the new choices we’ve made – specifically the ones we know may take time to reveal their purpose.  Exuding confidence the moment we make a tough choice takes much more than feeling it the day we decide to step forward.  We are allowed to feel sad, we are allowed to feel lost, we are allowed to grieve over the parts of our lives that we once loved but are no longer serving a positive purpose.  But we must continue to re-choose ourselves each day until its practice becomes such an integral part of our lives that it’s no longer a choice but second nature.

“You’ve given the universe a green light to send you what you want…When you raise your vibration, you are magnetic.  This means new opportunities, new relationships, new attention, new everything…By accepting and allowing the good things coming into your life, you are showing others how it’s done.  You’re raising the bar.”

Bravery comes in all forms.  It can be large, small, unnerving, liberating, and most of all, questionable.  Most of the time, we don’t recognize how brave we are until we need it enough to make choices that will eventually pave the paths in our world.  I am a huge believer in trusting the universe to guide us towards where we need to go, but not unless we are willing to embrace that those jolts of directional change won’t always make sense right away.  Let’s be magnetic, let’s raise the bar, let’s allow the universe to show us why we needed to be pulled from our comfort zone.  Without bravery, we will forever be walking in circles, hoping that something will change for us rather than fearlessly moving through uncomfortable moments towards a world where the choices we make for ourselves will inevitably come to fruition and bring a life we deserve.

showering the bride

showering the bride

I know what I’m about to say will shock you, but weddings are stressful.  I’m not even getting married and it’s overwhelming!

il_570xN.1134975840_clh9

I’m the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding this upcoming October, which is a much more complicated job than meets the eye.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be such a special part of her day, but I’ve learned that the MOH title comes with many more responsibilities than simply holding the bride’s bouquet and planning a wild weekend in Vegas.

One of the biggest undertakings as Maid of Honor has been the planning of the Bridal Shower.  It’s always easier when you have help from your fellow bridesmaids.  But as a person who loves solitary planning and executing, I have spent months preparing and researching the best, and most cost effective, ways to go about popping my bridal-shower-planning cherry.

Before I dive into this, I just have to offer the best general advice I can to any first time MOH planning a shower:  It’s going to be what it’s going to be.  Planning a shower is a huge undertaking, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you’re only human!  You can plan every single detail down to a tee, but no matter what goes right or wrong, your bride will leave feeling showered with love simply by surrounding her with the people who love her (and maybe a cocktail).

I N V I T A T I O N S 

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 4.19.45 PM

I ended up going with VistaPrint for my invitations.  I got the best bank for my buck there, and the shower invitation options were endless.  However, I did shop around before settling on the invitation manufacturer.

Wedding Paper Divas was high on the list.  For just $1, they sent me a sample of the shower invitation I was considering so I could get a tangible idea of what exactly I was spending my time and money on.  While they tend to be a bit pricey, if WPD is running a great sale, it’s just about as much as VistaPrint.  Zazzle also had some beautiful options, and are also worth ordering from with a great sale.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 4.19.57 PM

Enclosed with each invitation, I decided to put these sweet recipe cards I ordered from Paper Sushi on Etsy (I did price them out on Vista Print, but with the difference of only a few dollars, I opted to go with these guys.  They were prettier and I would rather give my business to a small shop that sells handmade items like this one!).  I asked our guests to fill out this recipe card and bring it to the shower instead of a card.  This way, our bride can put these to good use rather than feeling obligated to keep a bunch of cards that will sit in a box until the end of time.

 

D E C O R A T I O N S

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

Okay, this is a big one.  The aesthetic of your shower is key.  It’s the first thing people see when they walk in and ultimately sets the tone for the day.  I am the very first to admit that I used Pinterest to storyboard my ideas (who doesn’t?).  Pinterest really helped me to bring those visions rolling around in my brain to fruition.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

I found this cute “Bride To Be” sign at TJMaxx for $4 and paired it with an ivory chair cover I purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops for $2.  By simply tacking the ends of this banner to the chair cover, I turned a simple folding chair into the head-of-the-table for our Bride-To-Be.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

The centerpieces were my biggest undertaking, and totally worth it because people made a huge fuss over them.  I got the glass vases from Goodwill during a super sticker sale for only $1 each and filled them with a ton of dollar store glass pebbles (Dollar Tree will truly only charge you $1 per bag).  I got the hydrangeas from Michaels by scouring the clearance/sale section for two months leading up to the big day.  Michaels will also provide a 40% Off coupon every day on their website for one regular price item, so that also saved me a good chunk of change.

The tables were lined with lace-detail plastic tablecloths I got at Michaels on clearance for $2/each, and I covered each food/beverage table with plastic table skirts to keep it all looking clean and organized (secret’s out — there were a ton of extra bags and thing we found we didn’t need hidden beautifully under those tables).

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

 

G A M E S  &  A C T I V I T I E S

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

What ended up simultaneously serving as a stellar backdrop for our Bride-To-Be to open her gifts was also a Photo Booth area.  I found a giant gold and white sheer curtain at Goodwill for $6 and tacked it to the wall (I picked a spot that already had a hanging photo to hide any tack holes from being seen once we cleaned up).  I then taped a few gold and white tissue pom-poms I had purchased at various places (BIG mistake I made: I first purchased these from Michaels and Amazon thinking I wouldn’t find them anywhere else and spent way too much money on them.  The best prices were at The Christmas Tree Shops and Dollar Tree…for $1 each).  But the tissue pom-poms ended up hiding the top of the curtain beautifully.  The banner was a Marshalls find in their paper good and stationary section for $7.99.  I also provided a few Photo Booth Props so people could take pictures with their phones.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

So, I cannot tell a lie — given everything I had already planned, I wasn’t into the idea of playing any tacky bridal shower games.  Sure, they’re a great ice breaker, but I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of buying prizes as incentives for the winners.  But the Bride-To-Be had her heart set on playing some games.  So at the 11th hour (and I do mean the 11th hour…I’m talking midnight the night before), I cut up some extra banner letters, recycled some blank envelopes and pulled a Jeopardy game out of my tush.

And I must admit, it was a really fun time.  I’m so glad we had this game to keep the energy of the party alive.  The guests got really into it and I even stumped them with a few questions (toss toss).  In addition to Jeopardy, we also played Bridal Shower Bingo and How Many Kisses?.

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

 

F O O D,  B E V E R A G E S,  &  D E S S E R T

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

Because I had planned a Sunday-Early-Afternoon-Shower, one word came to mind: brunch (duh).  So I wanted there to be as many brunch options as possible while still keeping people full for the day.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

There were two waffle irons going for DIY waffles accompanied by Nutella, whipped cream, butter and various syrup options.  Tons of bagels from Bagleman (best bagels in Connecticut) with spread options sat at the opposite end of the table.  And in the middle, there were three different quiche options for guests to enjoy.  I figured quiche satisfied the egg-breakfast craving without having to make trays of scrambled eggs.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

What’s a Bridal Shower Brunch without a little bubbly?  The following table held the Mimosa Bar and Fruit Platter for people to enjoy.  This giant stainless steel bucket that held the Prosecco over ice was found on clearance at Walgreens.  Both the carafes holding the OJ and the plastic champagne glasses were a steal from Dollar Tree.

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

The adjacent table to the food held other beverages like coffee, tea, water, iced tea, lemonade, and most of the desserts.  One of the bridesmaids made these amazing “eat me” cookies to accompany our Plastic Tea Cups that had little DIY tags reading “drink me” (our Bride-To-Be has always had a soft spot for Alice in Wonderland).

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

Other desserts included a variety of cookies, cupcakes, chocolate walnut banana bread, another fruit platter, and watermelon slices.  Needless to say, we sent a lot of food home with our guests.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

Weddings are stressful.  Showers can be equally as stressful if you don’t plan accordingly (and sometimes even if you do).  But it doesn’t have to cost you your first born child to put something beautiful together.  You just have to know what you’re looking for, set a budget, and ask for help from your fellow bridesmaids.

I will reiterate my best advice for any and all MOH’s getting themselves tangled up in bridal shower planning:  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before, trust the work you’ve done, and let it be what it’s going to be.  Your bride will love what you do because she loves you and your friendship, which is why you were chosen to be her Maid of Honor.

Oh, and put on some good music.  People love a party with good music.

seriously?

seriously?

I had a very rapid epiphany while drifting to sleep in an upstate hotel near Saratoga Springs earlier this week —

I need to stop taking myself so seriously.

I don't know how or why this thought sprung from from crevices of my mind, but I'm glad that it did. I am constantly wrapping myself up in the little things – from the comparison of my surroundings, to where I'm going to be in six months when my show closes, all the way down to that thing I said to a coworker the other day that may have been funnier in my mind than it was out loud. And I slowly started to laugh to myself because, at the end of the day, I have very little control over the timing of my life. God, the universe – whoever or whatever you believe in – has a finite plan that rarely lines up with when exactly we want things to go our way. So why am I putting so much pressure on myself at twenty-five to be the best at everything, or be at the height of my career, or have myself completely figured out?

Our twenties are about discovery. Hell, life at any age is about discovery. My interests, my beliefs, my expectations, and my world are all slowly evolving as I grow and learn each day. I need to start consistently practicing the philosophy I preach. I need to stop wondering and start wandering. I need to bring my ideas to fruition. I need to embrace new intrigue now, while I'm young and vivacious and living in the atmosphere of a wild city that is filled to the brim with possibility.

I will thank myself later.