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Bon Voyage, 2023 (AND DON'T COME BACK!!!!!!!!!!!)

Hello, everyone. It's been a hot minute since I've written to all of you. More like half of 2023. And I'm sorry for the deafening silence from yours truly. It's just that 2023 was not a good year for me, and it looks like it wasn't a good year for many of you either. Just for the record, if any of you reading this had a fantastic 2023, I hate you all because I would've given anything to have a phenomenal year like you did. (Now that I've gotten that out of my system, please forgive me for saying "I hate you." I really don't hate you; I'm just frustrated and weary.) I had so much hopes and dreams and plans for 2023, and I was literally looking forward to it when the clock struck 12:00:

But what happened? I didn't get into any shows as a union member, I had two panic attacks, one of which landed me in urgent care, I was verbally abused, guilt-tripped, and shamed into making a payment for a class by being told things like "you mistook niceness for weakness," "you dug your own grave," "your reputation is ruined," and "you ruined this for everyone else," I went to my friends' wedding the following day very fragile and very close to falling apart, I experienced two back-t0-back rejections, I couldn't be a reader for many theatre organizations due to being virtually unknown, I was hearing and discovering things about the theatre community that's gotten me thinking that I'm not sure if I belong here, my annual birthday trip to NYC turned out to be a disaster due to my train being delayed for over two hours with no communications and I broke down crying after I came back home, and I got exposed to COVD the last week before this godforsaken year was over (thankfully, I tested negative, but it was quite the ordeal for me). So yeah, 2023 was one of the worst years I've ever had. Which may explain this when the clock struck 12:00 on 01 January 2024:

What a difference a New Year's Eve makes a year apart... As much as those should've been tears of relief after getting through such a challenging year, they were instead tears of sorrow and anger. I had so much planned for 2023. I had dreams, wishes, and goals I wanted to accomplish. And none of them came true, and everything fell apart. It was so bad that I gave up on the year in June. I couldn't find it in me to have any hope for the rest of 2023 when there were so many things that went wrong for me and everything fell apart. I barely made it to 2024, and I arrived in this new year, battered, bruised, uncertain, weary, and a little bit scared. 2023 was a lot, folks. And now that I've made it to 2024 (thank the Lord for that!), it's a new chance to start over again, put out some much-needed positive vibes in the universe for a better year than the last, make new (and some much improved) goals that are relatively easy to achieve, and even be a bit more adventurous. But what are some of my goals, hopes, dreams, and deepest desires for 2024? And is it okay to mourn what you've lost in 2023, even lash out, in order to hopefully move forward in 2024? There's only one way to find out... Read on!

Well, I have plenty of hopes and dreams for 2024, but I'm a bit scared of putting them out into the universe. But sometimes bravery is doing the thing that scares you, so I'll put these hopes and dreams out into the universe anyway. (exhales) Here we go. For starters, I hope to do more acting opportunities, and not just staged readings - even though those were fun to do - but full theatre productions, some commercials, and even voiceovers. Maybe it's just me or it's happening in your neck of the woods, but it has just been difficult finding acting opportunities here in theatre. And last year all I've gotten was staged readings. I was close to getting some juicy roles, but things fell apart at the last minute due to loss of funding and my schedule not lining up with the organization's show. And that disappointed me greatly. It would make me happy to have just one opportunity to be in a full theatre production. Just one. Maybe, just maybe, that one production could open the doors for more opportunities to act in my community, or even beyond. At one place where they are willing to take on a "newcomer" like me. One can dream, right? But that also leads me to something else that I hope doesn't happen to me like in 2023: I play the comparison game with others' successes and good fortune. Especially if it's on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. And that gets me to thinking that I'm not good enough or even wondering how they got the opportunities that I've been working hard to get for a long time, AKA envy. And that also gets me to thinking if I even belong in this theatre community or if it's time to move on to somewhere else. I think realizing that we're all human beings and that it's okay to have these feelings is the first step in admitting and acknowledging our emotions towards how hard things have been in our respective career paths. But something that requires just as much work and effort is not letting these feelings overwhelm and consume our hearts and souls. That takes a bit of practice and patience with ourselves. We can't do it overnight, and we have to do this daily. We practice so hard at our craft, and yet we have a hard time practicing grace, honesty, and acceptance to ourselves when we're struggling and trying not to play the comparison game. I think it's time we started to doing this, and even if you've been doing this, we need to keep going at this practice in order to feel better mentally and emotionally. And more importantly, it'll help us not feel bad for simply being human when we have feelings of envy and frustration over how our career is going (or not going). Something else I want to put out into the universe is my overall health - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I've been pretty diligent over exercising 4-5 days a week for 45 minutes a day, going out for long walks for fresh air, and utilizing my coping skills for when things get stressful and my anxiety is through the roof. Well, that fell by the wayside by June 2023, and I need to get back on the wagon. I already got a head start on working out during the holidays, and it's already making a difference. However, there's something big happening in February that may help my physical health even more, and when I say big, I mean BIG! I can't tell you much more than that, but I do ask for all of your prayers and well-wishes during the first full week of February for this big thing that's rapidly approaching. But in the meantime... I've been seeing how good it is to step away and acknowledge the stressors that are causing my anxiety, but what's also been helping me along the way is being vulnerable and honest with myself and all of you about how I'm doing. And maybe that's another wish I have for 2024: more authenticity and more vulnerability. We often times see the people having a wonderful time in their lives on social media, but that's only a small glimpse of how they're really doing. But when we often share what's really going on, no makeup, no filters, no canned responses, that's when the real magic begins. It's not easy being vulnerable and authentic, when there's so much comparison and judgment against each other. And the thing that makes it harder is when we're called out for being ourselves, with things like "you shouldn't be sharing that!" or "you're not trying hard enough," or even "grow up!" Perhaps it's time to block out the naysayers and the gnats that buzz in our ears with discontent and judgment, and push on with the vulnerability and authenticity. You may never know who may see your post and take the time to understand and be seen by what you share. Sometimes it makes a difference to be yourself to help encourage others to keep going and being themselves as well. You never know who may need that extra boost or that extra oomph to keep going just a little longer. It may lead them to where they're meant to be because of your authenticity and vulnerability. Better yet, your vulnerability and authenticity could lead you to where you're meant to be, too.

And I hope it's somewhere wonderful, especially for the sake of your overall health and well-being. It never hurt anyone to have good health, and not just physical health, either. Your mental, emotional, and even spiritual health matters, too, and it's important that we take care of all facets of the health that matters to us. What that looks like may be different for everyone, but nonetheless, we have to take care of it in a way that helps us grow strong, heal, and feel good about ourselves. Maybe that means limiting your social media to once a day, or not looking to Google for all of your health questions and answers, or following the latest fad diet. Whatever it is, please take care of yourselves. You really do matter to us. I'm sure all of you have been told this at the end of last year, and it's one of the hardest things to do to prepare for a new year. It's the thing that we're not sure we want to do, but it's worth noting that while we all struggle with this, it's valuable to put this into practice. And that's looking back at all of the accomplishments we've had in the old year, while we anticipate and look forward to a bright new year. I'm aware that many of you had a rough 2023, and it seems like there's not one thing that was good about the year since it seemed like many of you had heaps upon heaps of bad things happening to you at a nonstop pace without much time to breathe. And the hardest part of looking back at the past year? It brings up too many painful memories of how challenging things were and there's a bit of fear of what might happen this year. Things you don't want to have to constantly remember in your every waking moment. But you know what? It may be freeing to look back and find the positives, and it might also give you a chance to practice gratitude for the small victories that helped you get through the depressing and heartbreaking moments of the past year. Yours truly hasn't had a chance to do this recently, but I think it's time we took those baby steps together and see what those wins were in 2023 to help propel us forward in 2024. Ready? Here we go... *I auditioned for at least 8-10 companies as a member of AEA, and I got called back by one of those theaters for one of their shows in their season. *I got to audition for the first time in-person as an AEA member in over two years. *I made it to final callbacks for two shows with two local theatre companies! *I got to perform at the Kennedy Center with the VSA Playwrights Discovery Project. *I got to enjoy NYC five unforgettable times - one of which was for my birthday redo in October, and twice for the holidays. *I performed in six staged readings with talented artists, both onstage and behind the scenes. *I got to attend my friends' wedding and it was a lovely experience to be surrounded by people who were concerned for my well-being. *I got to see the touring production of Into the Woods at the Kennedy Center, and meet Stephanie J. Block (very quickly, I might add!). *I got to see the touring production of Come From Away during Easter weekend, and it was a wonderful time. *I got to connect with fellow AEA members in my community, and make connections and plans for future events together in 2024. *I got my headshots updated in Brooklyn with my favorite photographer, and they turned out beautifully. *I got to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the spring and have a fantastic spur-of-the-moment photo session. *I got to perform in an elevated stage reading, sparkles and music included! *I got to see the Rockettes for the very first time, and witness Christmas in NYC twice. *I enjoyed long walks that featured glimpses of flowers, street art, and beautiful weather. *I won Best Individual Costume at one of my job's Halloween party! *I had my very first hot fudge sundae (ever!), and I'm now hooked. *I got to see Earth, Wind, & Fire and Lionel Richie with my mother, and we had a blast! *I got to march in the Fourth of July Parade with a wonderful theatre organization. *I ate at my very first taqueria, and I'm in heaven! *I was able to consistently workout and eat healthy; while also maintaining my self-care and my sanity when it was needed (which was a lot). *I didn't give up in my acting career or at life, and that says a lot! Wow! There was a lot of good things that came out of the disaster that was 2023, even more than I realized. I think that's something we forget as we look back: We only look at the things that are challenging, depressing, or traumatizing because they seemed to make up the year more than the good. Or worse yet, they make up who we are as people. If we don't have anything bad to complain about or gripe or stress over, or even have the bad moments in our lives that crack us open, then who are we as people? Especially if these moments were quite painful and hard to overcome? Well, we're still people, but not 100% perfect or on cloud nine all of the time. Sometimes the bad things happen to us in order to test us and refine us, and even if we feel like we're failing, we somehow find a way to keep going. Even if it means gritting our teeth and going at it one day at a time. We just forget to do this when we're in a lot of pain and nothing seems to make sense. I know I have a tendency to do this quite a bit, especially after what happened to me in 2023. I also know I'm not alone in this and that somehow I've earned the admiration of others on the fact that I somehow kept going and pushed on in my career when I wanted to give up and just cry all of the time. You may have earned the admiration of others by how you somehow kept going and didn't give up. Or if you've pivoted and took on a new challenge or went on a new path. Or if you've ended a toxic and damaging relationship and moved on to healing yourself. Or if you've started fresh in a new town or new career unlike anything you've ever known. The point is this: You didn't stop, even when things were crumbling down and you're struggling to make sense of it all. Maybe that's what these past few years are teaching us. We can't stop and give up now. You've come so far to quit and just stop. It'll be okay if you have to take some time away for a while to reflect and grieve. Just keep going. Please keep going. (This is my first blog in over half a year, and I've missed writing and sharing my thoughts & observations with all of you. But the thing to remember about my blogs are they are just that: my thoughts and observations. I'm not a licensed professional in a medical sense, nor do I pretend to have good authority on these varied topics I share with all of you. You are welcome to disagree with me on anything I write or say, but I won't tolerate any hate speech or disrespectful language. What's in is compassion, kindness, understanding, respect, and patience. What's out is judgment, division, hate speech, rude comments, and ignorance. You're out (AKA blocked) if you can't do a simple thing as being kind to one another, especially on my blog.)

My biggest wish for this year is probably the same one all of you have. I just want 2024 to be a much better year than 2023 was to me. No disappointments, no setbacks, not traumatizing events, no bad things piled in heaps and coming at me nonstop. Just a better year. One that's filled with acting opportunities, opening of doors, healing, peace, direction, strength, connections, good times, laughter, and hope. Somehow, I've been discovering that taking it one day at a time can make all of the difference in the world. Even when things get to be a little bit overwhelming because of all of the hopes and dreams you have for this year. My advice? Don't make resolutions right away, or even at all. It's just best to take things a day at a time, and let the goals and plans come to you as they come each day. And if you're someone like me who likes to plan ahead of time, take the time to plan slowly and small. You won't get overwhelmed if you do this. And you don't have to do it all right away. Ease into 2024 with hopes and dreams, but also stay the course by going slowly and allowing what comes your way to teach you how to be in the moment and what you can learn from the many days this year will bring you. Hopefully, we'll have what the Barbra Streisand song says: "Happy days are here again." I hope 2024 is everything you want it to be this year, and above all, I hope you keep going at whatever you're called to do. Even if you're not an artist like yours truly, please don't quit. You may be closer to your goal and dreams than you realize. And don't be afraid! It'll all be okay. And never feel like you're alone. No one is truly alone. Happy new year, everyone.

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