The changing of seasons always makes space for reflection, at least for me. Today it's thirty degrees and Spring was here a week ago. But today Winter popped back in to say, "Not yet. Slow down." I've been thinking a lot about how I want to get my shit together, whatever that means. After a winter of deconstruction, of things falling apart, it comes time to rebuild. This time stronger. This time carrying lessons, experience.
I've been reading lots of Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver. If I could choose a lady to adopt as, like, a guru or something, she would be it. I keep worrying about time. About how I want to be in a certain place and feel like I'm grasping and seeing it but not quite knowing where to reach. So I go to good old Mary and open her latest collection. She begins with this:
Things take the time they take. Don’t
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?
And just like that I get a little nervous because it seems like Mary is in my head but she gives me the words I need. The universe does that a lot, and sometimes it freaks me out, but in a good way. And I realize, yet again, that nothing is under our control and that’s okay. We do what we do. We work hard at something. We practice. And then we let go. I struggle with that…all…the…time…Maybe that’s why that one time I got a massage the man actually yelled at me, sweat dripping down his forehead, “Why are your shoulders so tight? You do something about that!!!!” Hmm…Yes. Letting go.
Tonight I walked in the cold from the East Village down Mott Street to Chinatown to meet my warm friends for dim sum. One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs came on, 59th Street Bridge Song, and it was one of those times when you’re walking and full of energy because, look around you and look at all the different parts of this city I’m going through and isn’t that awesome, and then Simon sings (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Garfunkel), “Slow down, you move too fast/ You got to make the morning last/Just kicking down the cobblestones/Looking for fun and feeling groovy/Ba da-da da-da da-da, feeling groovy.” And, really, that’s all there is to it. Life is groovy. Let’s be here.
I auditioned for Graduate school for my MFA in acting for the third year in a row. I wrote this essay. I'm learning every day.
I get distracted by answers…by the need to attain a certain outcome.
For the past two years I auditioned for graduate school because I was convinced that it was the answer to all of my career goals. I poured everything into the applications, practiced my monologues with diligence, and lived with the desperate need to be accepted. Consequently, batting away life’s daily intrusions. This past year I have felt a shift in how I view my experiences and my career. I discovered the importance of daily presence. I was taught that the support of those around you makes you limitless. And once you begin to listen to the questions without worrying about the answers, the path toward what you want becomes much, much clearer. “Live the question,” my dear friend repeated, reminding me not to continue fretting over what’s beyond our control.
It was announced that the restaurant that I worked at for the past three years, Union Square Café, was going to close at the end of the year. At first the restaurant was an enemy to me, something that took me away from my career. Over time it became my home, and as the end drew near the texture of experience became more pronounced. The daily grievances and grueling hours suddenly became something to bond over rather than battle. I began to dive into the small moments that occur throughout a shift: the creak of the kitchen door and the salty bites of pork at the end of a particularly long night that the chef sneaked my way, our secret. The way I could catch Anna’s eye across the dining room while a guest yelled about a medium rare steak that seemed to be closer to rare and know that we could snicker about it in a moment of respite. I found that the love and support of a team of friends can get you through anything. The world we built within those walls was one of compassion and integrity. We worked together, we fought, we prepared for the future, and were under pressure to perform moment to moment. We held each other up. In embracing this part of my life, the part of my life that I had once so desperately wanted to distance myself from, I began to discover who I am. I became more confident in that. I dared to tell the man I’ve loved since I stepped foot in that restaurant that I loved him, and it was the hardest thing I’ve done. But in the discomfort of this process, I’ve never felt more alive. It has carried over into how I view my career and how I am going after it.
In the cracks of time I had between my day job, my experiences began to color my career goals. I have always found joy in making things myself. I love making pie from scratch, but the crust is one of the most frustrating steps. But I go back and do it again. I’ve gotten good, the process rewarding and informative. The best part is sharing it with my friends, harsh critics they may be. I began co-hosting a podcast without knowing what I was getting into and have found that I love talking with people on the air, unscripted. I was pushed to discover my voice by those around me and finally started to say “yes” without worrying about whether or not I was ready or knew what the outcome would be. By living in this unknown I’ve begun to carve out a path that feels true to me. This year I decided to write a screenplay. I don’t even remember how I came to this decision. I wanted to make something myself from beginning to end and have always found the process of writing invigorating. I didn’t know how to do it. But I wrote a draft of a feature film and have found collaborators along the way who believe in me and believe in the story. We’re figuring it out. I’m going to be acting in it. I don’t have any money. I have no clue what I’m doing.
I have been training my entire life for a specific outcome—to be an actor. I’ve been afraid of not knowing where something will lead, but in taking the leaps of faith I’ve had to take, I’m discovering that the answers slowly begin to appear. I want to go to graduate school to be in a space where I am challenged and supported by an ensemble. I want to be a better actor and I want to add to the foundation of the career I am beginning to build. My art is now my priority. By allowing myself the space and in letting my daily life inform me and exist as it is, I can now say with confidence that I am ready for the next step. I realize in order to get better my craft now requires my full attention.
Theater forces me to question, to be present, to reflect. To alter and be altered. It challenges me to work with all kinds of artists in pursuit of something we aren’t quite sure of. There is so much work to be done. I want to develop my voice that is bigger than I allow it to be. I want to discover new plays and work in the discomfort of the difficult questions, to grow with an ensemble and create exciting and bold new work. I want to continue being thrust into the present in bodies of art greater than myself. I don’t know what it is that I don’t know yet. Whereas that would terrify me in the past, I now welcome its essential role in the process. It’s a driving force in my pursuit of something greater. It’s where art happens, where life happens, and where stories form. I’m finally ready to tell my own.
The moon doesn’t cast its own light. It’s one of my favorite things on earth, or rather, not earth, but…you know. I never thought of it as not having its own light. I started reading Mary Ruefle’s collected lectures on Monday night. It happened to be a full moon and I was walking home from the bookstore where I’d picked up Madness, Rack, and Honey and I was eager to start something new after having just finished Karl Ove Knausgard’s My Struggle (which was, for me, a struggle. Not in getting through it, but the realness of it…but what does that say about me???). Whenever there’s a visible moon in Brooklyn, I look up and say, “Hi, Dad.” He used to drive us hurriedly from our house to the top of Route 11 when he got home from work. He’d caught a glimpse of the moon on his drive home and we just had to see it. So we’d sit in his truck and watch the moon come up over Mt. Kearsarge. That’s part of us. Sometimes we would just miss it. It came up so quickly.
This night, though, in Brooklyn, I also said hello to a man I love who is no longer in Brooklyn. That’s the first time I’ve done that. I got home after this walk and got into bed. I opened up Mary Ruefle, skimming the titles of her lectures. Number two, Poetry and the Moon. I had to laugh at the cliché of it. But I also loved the romanticism of this happenstance, and got a little weepy as I tend to do. Ruefle talks of a lunar holiday that is celebrated in China, an evening of food and drink that she was a part of during her time living there, “The Chinese look at the moon and think of some family member or loved one who is not present, and know that on this same evening the absent one is reflecting on them,” and I closed the book. It must be true.
The world reflects back onto you what you are, maybe. We don’t cast a single light; in fact, I’m not sure that’s possible. I want to take more care.
In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway recounts his time in Paris as happy and poor, but happy. A time when he was discovering his voice and what he really wanted. On this particular morning in one particular story he set out on his normal routine. He grabbed a newspaper. He ate a croissant, I think. He went back to his small apartment to his young wife after a day of adventure. And by nightfall he felt different, “But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
What is it about the moon?
I've been lazy with writing in this space. Here are things I'm digging right now, in no particular order:
The John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Met (is it weird that I was also attracted to his self-portrait??)
Noah Baumbach movies (badass women/awesome dialogue)
Alec Baldwin's podcast, Here's the Thing (his voice! His questions!)
Beirut's new album No No No (it just gets me where I need to be...and the instrumental stuff!)
Casablanca (because I just saw it for the first time, I know I know)
Biking (because I'm finally learning to navigate the mean streets of Brooklyn after letting my bike sit around for four years)
Ample Hills Ice Cream (even though my stomach can't handle it)
Season-change (and yes I'm one of those pumpkin-loving fools)
Daydreaming about flying to Australia (to see my favorite pals. And swim in that ocean)
Tonight I feel older than twenty-seven, but younger, too. It's strange when you feel the push-pull of energy and hear those voices saying, "You can do this," and then, "Who do you think you are?" And then you move on to the next moment.
It's already mid-June and the trees have blossomed and lost their petals. Now it's lush and fragrant and I love drifting up the subway steps after a thirteen hour day on my feet, smelling that earthy air, then whiffs of peoples' trash, and looking up to a changing moon. The stars are almost as visible as they were in my childhood summer sky.
Today I gave a man my phone number. I don't do this, but I was waiting tables and slightly delusional and there was a connection. Maybe there wasn't. I carefully folded a witty note around his credit card and dropped it off with his check. Then I ran away. Bold in one moment, six years old the next. Isn't that how it is? Isn't that more fun than staying the same?
Isn’t it crazy when things begin to align and you realize that, oh, that thing you did when you were eight and then kept doing until you were sixteen, and then stopped doing for a while, and then started again, wasn’t all for nothing? It’s like, all of a sudden a picture comes into focus but you realize that it’s really not all of a sudden. That it’s a plumage of time spent doing that thing and that thing was for a reason.
I’ve had a glass and a half of wine and have been working all day. It was the second mild day we’ve had since November and my neighbor across the street, Marie, emerged in her muumuu to sit on the stoop like she’s done for the past thirty-five years, I’m told. Marie tells us that there will be ice cream and kids and crickets soon enough.
So that’s how it is. The winter is long and then when Spring comes we forget that our bones were creaky and we swore we couldn’t spend another cold season here. We forget things easily. At least I do. And then there’s a waft of spice from the apartment below, or the musky cologne on that man you just walked by on the street. It hurls you back to that night in Seville when you yelled at the first man you loved because you hadn't told him yet that you loved him and didn’t quite know how to. It all seems to come out of nowhere. And then you remember that you have all of these things inside of you and all you need are gentle reminders to push you back, to realign.