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Acting Reflections: BELIEVE in Yourself

Well, here we are. If you're reading this, there's less than 24 hours left to 2021. It's crazy how time seems to fly, doesn't it? Even with a virus that doesn't seem to let up. We came into this year with so much hope and the promise of things getting better, and once again, we were told at how slowly things can go. Or even how we can sometimes go two steps backward when we do our best to go one step forward. That seems to be the theme of much of 2021. We took one step forward with a new presidency, but two steps backward with an insurrection that is having lasting traumatizing effects on everyone who was close to getting injured or killed by the perpetrators. We took one step forward with guilty verdicts for the murderers of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Duante Wright, but two steps backward with an acquittal for Kyle Rittenhouse and the many other white supremacists rampaging across the country. We took one step forward to implementing Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools to educate students about the lasting effects of racism on our country, but two steps back from white, middle to upper class parents who believe that CRT shouldn't be taught to their children out of fear of being seen as the villains to the minority & underrepresented. Or even books written by authors of color. We took one step forward with reopening some of our favorite places and lifting mask mandates when cases started to lower, but two steps back when the cases started going back up again & the mandates were either reinstated or pushed back by stubborn lawmakers. We took one step forward with effective vaccines created to protect us from being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms and being given to individuals who are healthy, immunocompromised, and vulnerable, but one step backward with resistance from individuals who don't believe in vaccines due to misinformation, religious beliefs, and hesitancy. There's lots more where this came from that I could mention... But need I say more? It isn't just world news or current events that have us at one step forward, two steps backward. This is occurring in the arts, too. Theatre companies and organizations took one step forward in safely opening up physical buildings and sites to resume their seasons, but two steps backward with COVID breakthrough cases within cast and crew members that caused shows to cancel, postpone, or even close all together due to lack of information and guidance from leaders and presidents of large performing arts organizations. Artists of each discipline took one step forward in getting vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves and their loved ones, but some individuals took two steps backward when some people verbally asserted their refusal to get vaccinated due to being misinformed about how the vaccine doses impacting their overall health and livelihoods (i.e. vaccines impacting conceiving children). New films being released took one step forward in being seen in cinemas all over the world, but unfortunately took two steps backward due to streaming services taking a chunk of the pie from the box office along with the variants keeping people from going to the movie theaters to experience seeing a film in person. It seems like the arts can't catch a break. It seems like nobody can catch a break. Even yours truly. I took one step forward to submitting to Equity/professional companies and organizations in DC/MD/VA & NYC I want to perform with for the projects that pique my interest the greatest, but faced two steps backward when I received rejections (or silence) from many of them that's making me ask: "what now?" I took one step forward in consistently performing in virtual readings and shows to flex and hone my acting skills, but currently facing two steps backward when I haven't had a chance to perform in person before a live audience of more than 10-12 people & experience laughter, applause, and even gasps that is normally silenced on Zoom due to the pandemic. I even took one step forward to learning more about joining Actors Equity Association (AEA) through the Open Access membership program, but am facing two steps backward when those plans may happen later than anticipated, even by the time the program is supposed to end in 2023. See what I mean? And once again, there's lots more where that came from. Here's the thing about the "one step forward, two steps backward" idea: We tend to focus on the steps backward more than the step forward. In other words, we shift our focus and thinking on the negative things that happened as opposed to the one positive thing that happened to us. It's sad to think about the times we fell off of the weight loss/healthy lifestyle wagon after a rough patch and think we're a failure, or not do well with studies after an unexpected emergency came up, or even have to use up all of our savings to cover a surprising expense that came out of nowhere. First of all, life happens. You might know it better as s***. But blaming yourself and focusing on the bad things that caused the two steps backward isn't going to change things. Sure, you're allowed to cry, scream, get angry, and do all of the things that lets it out of your system (in a safe and legal way, that is). The important thing is not to stay down for the rest of your life, but to get back up again. It doesn't matter how many times you've experienced the two steps backward that knocks you down. It's using the one step forward to propel and inspire you to not give up, even when things are not going your way. I think it's time I shared with you my word for 2022, and it's quite an important one for me. Thanks to a course I took with Think Bigger Tribe, led by actor DaJuan Johnson (TV's Bosch), I discovered what 2022 has in store for me, thanks to the word I found that's going to be central for my life. For the past 10 years, I've been doing a lot of transforming, becoming, and settling. From graduating from Mizzou in December 2011, packing my bags and leaving Chicago behind to come to the DMV, getting into therapy for the mental, emotional, & physical abuse from within my family, auditioning for my first show out of college (not before auditioning for the national tour of The Lion King to build confidence), letting go of people, places, & things that no longer serve me, losing over 70 pounds, solo day trips to NYC, working with professional theatre & film companies, lessening medication doses, being taken off medication, performing virtual theatre & readings during a pandemic, playing the lead roles in two shows for the first time, being offered a spot with a repertory theatre company, speaking up about my emotions, wants, & needs, and finding a supportive community... It's a lot to take in, and all the while, I'm starting to love myself more and more. But the one thing people say when I admit my worries and insecurities that I carried for over 10 years... "Believe in yourself." Believe. Believe. BELIEVE. This word can be applied to more than just my career. It's going to be applied to every aspect of my life. Even in the things I cannot see in front of me. As we count down the hours, minutes, and seconds to 2022, let's dive into how we can use my word for 2022 and how we can inspire others to do the same.

Let's start at the top. What exactly does "believe" mean? Well, the verb meaning can be described as this: *Accept something as true; feel sure of the truth of. Or... *Hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose. Or... *To have a firm or wholehearted religious conviction or persuasion. Or... *To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something. Or... *To be astounded at. So you see, believe has quite a strong meaning, if you catch my drift. ACCEPT. HOLD FIRM. WHOLEHEARTED. CONVICTION. I guess that's why BELIEVE is going to be my word for 2022. I've accomplished and did so much throughout the 10 years of my becoming, and I'm reaching a crossroads of sorts to finally put what I've learned, experienced, and discovered to practice. But it's not the only thing I'm looking forward to. I'm gearing up to remind myself whenever I encounter a challenge, rough patch, or conundrum of some sort, I am truly enough and I have what it takes. Perhaps that's the biggest thing to take with me into 2022 with BELIEVE. ACCEPTING, HOLDING FIRM in my CONVICTIONS WHOLEHEARTEDLY that I am enough, and I'm at my best when I get to be myself. Even with the imperfections and struggles I go through. It's something we all tend to forget when we face the darkest periods of our lives. We may not always be liked by everyone due to our spirits and light irritating another's soul or how hard we work or where we come from, but that shouldn't stop us from believing in ourselves and the gifts & capabilities we can offer to others. In fact, I think we should all use BELIEVE as our word for next year. And that's because in times like these - a global pandemic, political gridlock, racism at an all-time high, the arts being under appreciated, tensions reaching a boiling point, important celebrations like weddings, birthdays, graduations, & reunions being put on hold, and especially uncertainty - we need to look at ourselves for the light we can bring to the world by remembering our worth and we are truly enough. Yes, things are hard. Yes, we're not in control of every little detail of our lives. Yes, we're not sure what tomorrow brings, especially if we don't have a job, have enough food to last for 1-2 more days, or even a roof over our heads. Yes, we're not in the same place as we were in years past. Yes, we can't always agree on everything. Yes, we need more information. Yes, change doesn't happen overnight, no matter how hard we wish for it. But that still doesn't mean we can't stop BELIEVING in the possibilities. "Everything is possible. Even the IMPOSSIBLE." Mary Poppins said that. It's true that we often think of hard times as the things we can never get out of, but if we hold onto the hope that we will and actually BELIEVE in better days coming, we may have the chance to look for the good in tough times, even if it's as small as the sun shining or catching the right bus/train back home or even an act of kindness to brighten up your day. Who knows? Those little things may make the impossible seem more POSSIBLE than you initially thought previously. And maybe, just maybe, we can actually start to assert what we BELIEVE will happen (not if, but WILL) each day as an inspiration to keep going. It may be out loud, or it may be on sheets of paper we pull out of a jar at random to help us make it through the week. Or it could be mentally whispered each day as you go about your life. But it is important to BELIEVE and to shout it out into the universe so that the dreams, ideas, and goals can truly manifest in some way, even if it's not exactly how we planned. Why don't I start? I BELIEVE we will get out of this pandemic together. I BELIEVE there will be healing from the pain of lost lives to the virus, racial attacks, political gridlock, job burnout, and more. I BELIEVE we will all find what we're looking for, whether that's a career, a home, enough food to eat, and a dream to keep us going, as long as we share it with others who believe in us. I BELIEVE there will be positive and sweeping changes for unions and jobs that will be beneficial for both sides, especially for those working hard to provide for their loved ones and continue doing what they love. I BELIEVE we can learn to be kind to one another, take the time to listen to each without having to prove we're right or wrong, understand where we come from, and even love each other for who we are & the gifts we can share with the world. I BELIEVE we can reteach others love as opposed to hatred, compassion as opposed to selfishness, and open-mindedness as opposed to closed-mindedness. I BELIEVE we can save our environment and our future if we all work together, even compromise for a brighter future without destroying our planet further. I BELIEVE we can help everyone be welcome and have a place in this country - immigrants, veterans, disabled, LGBTQ+, black, Latinx, Jewish, Muslim, Indian, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, mixed racial backgrounds, and more. I BELIEVE everyone deserves a living wage to afford the basic necessities - a roof over their heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, healthcare, and a good education (whether that's in the classroom or in their respective trade school). I BELIEVE the arts do matter, and there needs to be more funding in schools and programs in order for theatre, music, visual arts, dance, and creative writing to continue enrich children's lives and help them be a more empathetic and creative society for the future. I BELIEVE all of the unions will move away from being a business to being more of an actual union, where it includes not only protection for the members & contract negotiations, but guaranteed healthcare, a living wage, opportunities to work on paid non-union projects & opportunities that follow union guidelines and procedures, and encourage non-union performers to join without any restrictions. I BELIEVE all of the unions will have a universal form of joining, with no gatekeepers or limitations to hinder their progress. I BELIEVE all union members can be kind, insightful, and humble about their union status, with no elitism included in their membership. I BELIEVE all union members will be given a livable wage for their performance opportunities, with housing, food, and transportation included for out of state performers. I BELIEVE understudies, standbys, alternates, and swings will have a chance to perform in their shows on a more frequent basis to showcase their talents and grow their careers. I BELIEVE there will be more diversity in theaters across the U.S., which includes showing a current reflection of the rich diversity in our culture on the production team, board members, and casting. I BELIEVE everyone who did terrible things behind the scenes and got away with it will be held accountable and receive their deserved punishment, as well as help the victims heal and bring the performing arts into the 21st century. I BELIEVE there will be more stories centered around black, Latinx, AAPI, Native American, and underrepresented communities that celebrates their culture in a positive way, while also maintaining the call for change and transformation from stereotypical stories being told. I BELIEVE minority performers will be considered for the lead roles in shows and stories that are usually played by white individuals as a way to stretch their imaginations and flex their talent in a whole new way. Well, I said some of my dreams that I will allow to manifest in my lifetime for our world and the arts community I've come to love in the past five years of my career. But what about my own PERSONAL hopes and dreams? And who I am as a person? I'm glad you asked... I BELIEVE I am a beautiful young woman. I BELIEVE I am an intelligent young woman, who's always ready and eager to learn something new. I BELIEVE I am not my abusive father or sister. I BELIEVE I am strong and energetic. I BELIEVE I am a loving human being. I BELIEVE I am a sensitive person, and I BELIEVE am okay with this. I BELIEVE I am brave, even when I'm afraid. I BELIEVE I am enough. I BELIEVE I am confident in what I do and what I offer to others. I BELIEVE I am capable of speaking up for myself and having my own opinions, observations, and reflections. I BELIEVE I am in a much better place than I was over 10 years ago. I BELIEVE I am not the same person I was over 10 years ago. I BELIEVE I am a good cook. I BELIEVE I am a fighter. I BELIEVE I am kind. I BELIEVE I am humorous. I BELIEVE I am a good person. I BELIEVE I am a survivor. I BELIEVE I have a big heart. I BELIEVE I have a vivid and active imagination. I BELIEVE I am open-minded, and I BELIEVE I can use daily reminders to see the world in a unique way. I BELIEVE I am welcome to be vulnerable. I BELIEVE I am an old soul. I BELIEVE I am fashionable. I BELIEVE I am a good singer. I BELIEVE I am a great actor. I BELIEVE I am ambitious. I BELIEVE I am healthier than ever before, and I BELIEVE I can maintain my 70+ pound weight loss. I BELIEVE I am moving forward. I BELIEVE I am humble (even when I have to eat crow). I BELIEVE I will offer some form of positivity and support to others when they need it the most, even if I don't always know what to do or say. I BELIEVE I am healthy and will continue to maintain a wonderful lifestyle without starving myself or reverting back to old habits. I BELIEVE I am talented. I BELIEVE I am capable in my career and life. I BELIEVE I have the character and personality people are looking for. I BELIEVE I will learn to play the cello and be good at it. I BELIEVE I have the experience, determination, dedication, and light to go far in my acting career. I BELIEVE I will make it to Broadway someday. I BELIEVE I will perform at an Equity theatre. I BELIEVE I will perform in NYC on Off-Off-Broadway & Off-Broadway. I BELIEVE I will be a member of Actors Equity Association at the end of next year. I BELIEVE I will perform the classics by Shaw, Wilde, Isben, Chekhov, Moliére, and Marlowe. I BELIEVE there is a role for a black mezzo-soprano/alto like me in a Broadway musical. I BELIEVE there is a role in a play/play with music with a black woman who isn't stereotyped or in the background. I BELIEVE I will appear in a film or TV series as a major character. I BELIEVE I will voice a lead character in a Disney animated film. I BELIEVE I will be cast in a fantasy series or film. I BELIEVE I will perform in a national tour. I BELIEVE I will go to London in 2023 for a month long vacation. I BELIEVE I will live in NYC someday. I BELIEVE I will have the chance to live abroad for an extended period of time. I BELIEVE I will have my own place to live. I BELIEVE I will be in Broadway plays and musicals. I BELIEVE I will win awards for my acting. I BELIEVE I will play a variety of roles, and not be typecasted. I BELIEVE I will take the safety and well-being of myself and others very seriously. I BELIEVE I will be recognized for my writing in some shape or form. I BELIEVE I will work alongside some of my favorite actors and musicians. I BELIEVE I will perform in London in the West End. I BELIEVE I will perform in adaptations of the classics by Jane Austen in a prominent role. I BELIEVE I will be the Witch in Into the Woods. I BELIEVE I will touch my audience in a unique and uplifting way. I BELIEVE I will be the inspiration to the people who need it the most, without compromising my beliefs or who I am. I BELIEVE I will change the world by just being myself. I BELIEVE it will all be okay. I BELIEVE all things will come together for my good. I BELIEVE the right opportunities are on the way. I BELIEVE God is in control. not me. I BELIEVE the best is yet to come. I BELIEVE I am exactly where I need to be. I BELIEVE I don't have to change who I am just to please others. I BELIEVE I am an adult, and I can make my own decisions. I BELIEVE I can make a difference. I BELIEVE I can learn from my mistakes. I BELIEVE I will be careful and use discretion. I BELIEVE I can take risks. I BELIEVE I can listen to my gut when something doesn't feel right. I BELIEVE I have many more people to meet, even those from a different culture and lifestyle. I BELIEVE I will be the person "invited to lunch" quite frequently. I BELIEVE I give great hugs! I BELIEVE the right roles and stories are out there for me. I BELIEVE I will fall in love with the right person someday. I BELIEVE I will find what I'm looking for. I BELIEVE I will find joy in my life, even in the mundane and difficult instances. I BELIEVE I am becoming who I am meant to become. I BELIEVE I have a bright future ahead of me. I BELIEVE in the power of miracles. I BELIEVE in the power of love. I BELIEVE in angels, fairies, sprites, and magic. I BELIEVE in God. But most of all... I BELIEVE in ME. (As we're winding down 2021 and looking forward to 2022 with hope and optimism, I believe I will continue to share with you my reflections and observations about life and the world around me. And that's just what they are - observations and reflections. You are welcome to disagree with me on anything I say in my blog posts. But here's something to consider as a New Year's resolution: being kind to one another. That means leaving the disrespectful, offensive, and hurtful comments behind. If you feel the absolute need to do this, I will block you.)

Here's one more thing to consider about the word BELIEVE: It can be changed, or even adjusted as we go about our lives. If we meet someone who has a different lifestyle, occupation, or idea about topics or goings on in the world and offers us their perspectives that may cause you to question & even get more information, it's okay to take a look at your beliefs and alter them after reflection, asking questions, and getting more information. That can be for politics, religion, women's rights, sports, the weather, fashion, and more. We all should take the time to learn about the world around us and each other, especially since we come from different backgrounds and cultures, and all of us have stories to tell that may cause us to rethink what we were initially taught to BELIEVE and ACCEPT as true. But one thing you shouldn't have to change: The BELIEFS that YOU hold firm to who you are as an individual. Not the political ideologies you were taught at a young age, not the lies others told you about yourself based on what you looked like on the outside or where you've come from, or anything like that. But the CORE BELIEFS that you hold dear. Like being a good person. Like being kind to others. Like being a lovable person. Like being loved. Like being respectful to others. Like being confident. Like being divinely guided in all your ways. Like allowing others to be treated as people. Like allowing others to be afforded the right to be happy in their own way. Like allowing others to follow their dreams. Like allowing others the right to be loved. Like allowing others to have basic necessities - a roof over their heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, and medical care. And so much more. The sad thing about these CORE BELIEFS is that if you grow up in an unhealthy household, they may be put in a negative format that may cause you to question who you are and stumble frequently. When that happens, allow yourself time to explore the ways to seek a community of individuals who may help you discover who you are in a positive way that may inspire you to change your CORE BELIEFS to reflect the wonderful person you are. To add onto this point: You shouldn't have to stoop to anyone's level to give up the BELIEFS that represent who you are, but neither should you go about blindly BELIEVING the things and ideologies that may prove harmful and disadvantageous to a certain group of people for your own benefit just to fit in. Our eyes should be opened to the world around us so we can see how truly beautiful it can be. It can be scary, yes. But there's such a diverse fabric of cultures and people who can teach us so much about who we are in the grand scheme of things and even inspire us to look within and manifest the BELIEFS of our hopes and dreams to the universe in ways that may enlighten and enrich our lives greatly. We have FAITH in the beauty of our dreams. We are CONVICTED in what matters to us and how we can change the world around us. We WHOLEHEARTEDLY remain true to who we are and what we can offer to others and the world around us. We ACCEPT that we are enough and we have what it takes to succeed, learn, grow, & thrive, especially if it means taking the time to learn more about ourselves and each other. We HOLD FIRM to the possibilities of where our dreams and hopes can take us, even if it's not to where we thought we would go. In other words... We BELIEVE! I BELIEVE next year will be better for all of us... Even when we may not always see it right in front of us. As one character from a beloved film puts it: "Seeing is BELIEVING, but, sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can't see." Hold fast to the hopes and dreams that only you can see for 2022, esepcially when others have a hard time seeing where it may take you. It might just be the most real thing in life that may help you keep on living and reaching for what you BELIEVE. I BELIEVE in you. You can definitely BELIEVE that! Have a wonderful, safe, and prosperous 2022, everyone.

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