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Actor's Equity: The Hurry-Up-And-Wait Game (AKA The Roller Coaster Ride), Pt. II

Hey, all. It's been approximately two weeks since I last bore my heart out on how things are going. I wasn't expecting my previous blog post to get so much traffic, nor did I expect many close friends and acquaintances to reach out to me out of concern and encouragement. First, I want to thank all of you for letting me know that I'm not alone, for how inspired you all were by my vulnerability and courage, and for being encouraging and comforting. I know it's difficult to bear it out on a blog post and share the absolute truth about being in this business, especially as a new member of Actor's Equity. But how else can we be REAL instead of PERFECT if we don't share the bad with the good? There are only so many glimpses of "perfection" you can take before it gets into your psyche that your life isn't as glamorous as the others before you decide you can't take it anymore and put something real that shows just how much you value authenticity over the perfect life. Sometimes, the idea of perfection often means all smiles and glammed-up looks and awards, and more. Me, I crave authenticity, even if it means being vulnerable. I may not reach my millions of followers this way, but at this point, I don't care about growing my account followers. I care about connection and ensuring others know they're not alone. Even if it means reminding myself that I'm not alone with the most vulnerable posts. Particularly this week when I follow up with how I'm doing and how I had to go to urgent care earlier this week. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Because the beginning's often the best place to start.

Since leaving you several weeks ago, I have had plenty of discussions, crying spells, and everything. Whether with my engagement buddy in Actor's Equtiy or with good friends, we were all trying to find answers about what was going wrong with my career. Or, in my case, what's wrong with ME, and why I'm not getting as much of a nibble from casting directors? Two people had the best answers for what was going wrong, though I'm unsure if it made me feel better. They both told me that I joined the union too soon and that the 2.5 years of virtual theatre meant nothing to the casting directors in the DMV. (And they said this out of their best intentions of love and support.) They told me I could only get the big bites by taking classes, networking, and even considering attending graduate school. I thanked them for their advice and decided to mull over their suggestions. But as much as I desired advice and suggestions to get things moving, it wasn't what I needed. What I needed was encouragement. What I needed was comfort. What I needed was SUPPORT. Somewhere down the road, I knew I could implement what was suggested, just not right now. Not when I'm hurting so much. In some ways, I have already started to do what I know I could do to make some slight difference in my career. Like update my resume:

Or taking virtual classes with NYC-based organizations and individuals. Or even slowly auditioning with companies and organizations in the DMV and beyond to get me out there. But what was the biggest thing I took away from my conversations with friends and acquaintances? Sometimes, you don't have to give a damn about your audition or even what others think. Hold up. If you know me, I care deeply, and I feel deeply. So, of course, that doesn't make sense to someone with intense feelings and an even more sensitive heart. But in this case, while I can't stop caring about an audition and the opportunity to perform in front of the casting team, I can stop appearing desperate and needy to everyone I encounter. And even that's not an easy thing to do. But in the case of my most recent auditions, I was emotionally and mentally drained to the point where I could only give at least 50% of what I usually give, but also find a way to have fun and brighten someone else's day. In other words... I find and rediscover my center. When I don't focus on impressing the casting team and focus on my love of performing and being a storyteller, everything else, like the pressure and stress, flutters away. Sometimes not caring as much about perfection and only focusing on authenticity, which includes letting go, can make just as much of a difference in the audition room. Even if you can only give up to 50% of what you usually can do in the given circumstances. And boy, I don't know how I pushed through my recent auditions and submissions with only giving up to 50%. I'm not sure many of you know this, but I suffer from three mental health illnesses, one of which is a generalized anxiety disorder. It took a massive toll on me these past few months. Let me explain what living with an anxiety disorder as an actor is like. You second guess the credits on your resume, even though you've edited it a million times to show the best version of yourself. You worry about the number of phone calls coming into the theatre at your day job and the people asking questions left and right, and expect you to know all the answers. You feel your virtual theatre credits aren't good enough for the industry and wonder if they should do a news story to spill out the dirty laundry in the DMV theatre community. You feel like every mistake you make at your day job is your fault, and the world will fall off its axis. You constantly second guess and stress over someone's displeasure at a policy or an answer they didn't like, and it falls on your shoulders to make it right. You complain about being unable to submit virtually to projects outside your area. You wonder if they should do a news story to spill the dirty laundry in the DMV theatre community. You feel like a burden to your mom, who's providing extra financial assistance. You wonder if you're doing anything right when the funds dry up due to subscriptions, bills, and groceries being taken out faster than usual. You worry that your work shift will be stressful when you come right into work and are thrown into action right away without time to take a breath, and you are disappointed when it's not as stressful as it is. You struggle with being cast in roles in the DMV theatre community because they cast the same actors repeatedly, and you wonder if they should do a news story to spill the dirty laundry in the DMV theatre community. You worry about losing your day jobs after bumpy shifts that hit you especially hard. You wonder why so many people get on the bus and metro at this time of day and worry about catching COVID, flu, or stomach flu. You wonder why you can't get any acting opportunities in the DMV and if they should do a news story to spill the dirty laundry in the DMV theatre community. Your right eye frequently twitches, even for a straight half-hour. You worry about missing your appointments. You worry about sleeping through your alarm. You worry about your homemade meals tasting terrible or even poisoning others. You worry about the silence casting teams give at auditions and wonder if you're any good for them or just wasting your time. And if they should do a news story to spill the dirty laundry in the DMV theatre community. You wonder if all the bad news and negativity harms your relationships with others. You worry about letting your loved ones down if you don't get cast in a show or project. You get jealous about others succeeding in the places you want to be and worry about whether or not you're good enough as an actor. Your right eye twitches some more. You wonder if you look too fat to be cast in any projects. Your right eye twitches some more. You wonder about the next day... just as you fall asleep. Your right eye twitches some more. You envy others winning awards and worry that you're not cut out to get a Helen Hayes or a WATCH award. Your right eye twitches some more. You push through in your auditions and classes and work shifts despite worrying about falling apart. Your right eye twitches some more. You worry you're not good enough for NYC theatre when you can't even get roles in the DMV theatre community. Your right eye twitches some more. You worry about losing your loved ones to COVID, suicide, or worse. Your right eye twitches some more. You worry about being a nuisance to others when you're just trying to help. Your right eye twitches some more. You worry you're not putting your best foot forward in how you dress. Your right eye twitches some more. You constantly check your email to see if any good news is worth reading. Your right eye twitches some more. You constantly check Instagram and Facebook up to five times a day to see if anyone is reading your posts or connecting with you. Your right eye twitches some more. Your muscles tense up. Your right eye twitches some more. You hold your breath, even when you don't realize it. Your right eye twitches some more. Your right eye twitches some more. Your right eye twitches some more. And then, it all culminates into a stressful four days in a row, with trying to make a payment for a class and then having to back out because the funds weren't coming together, and then breaking down in tears because the organizer tells you it makes their organization looks terrible even when you try to hold yourself accountable. It ends up working out to pay for the class the next day to buy yourself more time. Then comes a stressful work day when you're dealing with emails and phone calls, and questions from parents who are attending field trips and also trying to reason with your supervisor about not being able to stay longer than expected due to a prior commitment, while also emailing the people you commit with to explain the dilemma. This leads to a Google Meets session to explain what's happening and develop a solution that satisfies everyone. Then comes an even more stressful work day with three sold-out shows, the start of the second session of spring classes, and another show canceled due to an actor injury. And you have to deal with some families angry that they weren't notified about this sooner, despite being short-staffed and trying to help them understand what's going on in the best customer service way. You head home on the verge of tears, continue pushing on to your commitment on Zoom, and then go for a long walk afterward. And finally, you have a good time at church with your friends and then do the laundry with almost all of the machines taken, and the day ends with a virtual class where you're still recovering from the hectic few days from before. Well, things can't get any worse, can they? I just HAD to say that, didn't I? On Monday morning, I woke up with some upper left arm pain, and as I went about my day, my chest and neck started to hurt with some sharp pain, to the point where it was hard to breathe. I called my doctor's office to see if I could be seen for the pain and was told to go to urgent care when I couldn't get seen that day. This wasn't good. I went to urgent care and had an EKG and chest x-rays done for any physical problems. Thankfully, it wasn't any physical I had to worry about It turns out I had an anxiety attack, and my body and my brain were telling me, "ENOUGH!!!!!!" I couldn't find it in me to worry, let alone push ahead, stressed out, anymore. I was 100% emotionally and mentally drained. All I could do was get home and rest. And see my primary care doctor the next day to follow up on what happened in urgent care. And slow down. I had no other choice BUT to slow down. (This post is incredibly raw this week as much has happened since I last wrote, and I know some of what I've said may trigger feelings and symptoms. First, if you or someone you know is experiencing any mental health illness, do not hesitate or feel ashamed to seek medical help. Next, let me remind you that these are my observations and experiences; no one has the same experience. Not even me. Finally, I treat my blogs with care and consideration, which means setting boundaries on what I allow. I will not let offensive or disrespectful language towards me or anyone else. I will block you if you decide to go that route.) So, how am I doing since my anxiety attack on Monday? Even though I'm not functioning at 100%, I'm improving. I had to push through in the best way possible for a marketing workshop on Tuesday and an audition on Wednesday while letting people know I had an anxiety attack and was currently recuperating. I'm letting my mind and body rest with some much-needed fresh air, which includes a trip to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. I'm going at a slow pace of getting extra rest and not checking my emails as frequently as before. But most of all, I'm being open and vulnerable with others and asking those I know for a simple answer to all of this: Encouragement and prayers.

Maybe the best answer I needed most was encouragement, prayers, and being reminded that I'm never alone. No one truly is ever alone. As much as I needed concrete answers on why my career was not going as I wanted it to, I just needed some support and love to help keep me going. I know my emotionally and mentally drained self appreciates that the most right now. I honestly don't know what's next for me. At the moment, I'm still recovering and going at a much slower pace. But I do know this: I'm going to keep going. I have to love myself more and give myself grace and patience as a newbie member of the Actors Equity Association. I also have to allow myself to be authentic with who I am to others and myself. I can't say it'll be easy to do this, and I hope it doesn't take another anxiety attack to find that out the hard way again. I hope to continue learning, growing, and thriving in my career and allowing myself to let go. Before I go for this week, I want to say something important: THANK YOU. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, comforting messages, and support. It truly takes a village, and I don't know what I'd do without you. You inspire me to keep going, and I hope what I wrote over the past few weeks inspires you and reminds you that no one is alone. Now, if you'll excuse me... A cup of chamomile tea with my name on it is waiting for me.

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