In 2015, my dad and I got phoenix tattoos for my birthday. His is this bright green color and has a flowing shape. Mine is a black outline and symmetrical. We had them designed to match our personalities. My dad had chosen a phoenix for us each to get because he related to it’s mystical powers and thought it would be appropriate for us as we’ve molded into different versions of ourselves throughout the years.
But at the year anniversary of getting my tattoo, I found myself heartbroken. I had thought that upon having my skin soak up the ink, my life would immediately become more gratifying. There were all these changes I expected to happen. There was this ideal version of myself that I had hoped to become, but in the summer of 2016, I found myself in therapy, not writing, and felt victimized for how life’s game had played out for me. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to get the tattoo and life was going to get magically better. As I was voicing these thoughts to my partner, he reminded me that I was forgetting the most important trait the phoenix represents: rebirth. A phoenix must burn and rise from the ashes to become a new version of it.
2016 was definitely a year of burning for many of us. Beginning primarily with the election and all the celebrity deaths we felt so connected to; we were also witness to so many terrors that made us feel that our world was in fact coming to an end. I know I’m not alone in feeling that 2017 does represent a year of rebirth, now that we’ve finally closed the chapter on 2016. But we need to keep in mind that there are greater challenges facing us as we find our way in this new world. I for one am continuing to find my role in society as a woman, a white privileged woman, who wants to use her voice to help better our society.
The day after the election was one of the roughest days of the year. I remember putting on my makeup like I was preparing for battle; unsure of the world I was walking into. I questioned my idea of feminism and wondered if I was part of the “white feminist movement” ignoring others around me, drinking the “male tears” Kool-Aid and complaining about everything wrong with society instead of doing something about it. I was depressed for a long time. I tried writing about it, but couldn’t put the feeling into words. I attempted to push forward and put the call to action for politicians, and found hope among friends doing the same.
The greatest struggle I had towards the end of 2016 was the balance of staying up to date with all the news but not letting it weigh me down. I wanted to be informed, but found myself having a nightmare of Steve Bannon transforming himself into a shark and feasting on a Muslim family in front my eyes. It is an image I will never be able to get rid of. So I found myself wondering how to care about everything, but not too much so it didn’t cause sleep deprivation. I wish I could tell you that I found an answer to achieving this balance, but it continues to be something to work on. It continues to be a part of this person I have created in my mind, this ideal version of myself I want to be.
After Carrie Fisher’s death last month, I was journaling and wrote down the following: “She is a woman I am continuing to admire and want to live my life a little more like her: with zest and sass, not taking every damn thing so seriously, and tearing down a fascist.” That is what I strive to be more of in 2017. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines, saying how unfair life can be. I’m tired of not believing in magic and the good in people. I’ve decided I’m going into this year with strength and hope.
Yes, there is this version of me I want to live up to, this version of this woman with the phoenix tattoo I’ve been scared of for far too long. And there is nothing more limiting than doubt. So I pledge right here, right now, to live up to the person I’m meant to be. And I ask that you do the same. Instead of making resolutions this year, let’s make a pact to live up to our full potential. Let’s stand united instead of against each other, and open up the dialogue instead of shutting it down. A new chapter has opened for us and the pages are blank. We have the power to make it anything we want. So let’s not burn the pages of 2017, but hold it up as a symbol for all that we can and will be.
This script first came into fruition for five in ASYLUM, Theater in Asylum's experimental night of ten minute performances in 2011 and 2012. There were five lead artists and five rules to follow when writing. We must include: a misused object, a phrase repeated five times, a non-verbal conversation, an excess of silence, a five-word alliterative phrase. Upon the news of the election this week, I was reminded of Unruly Women and decided to rework it a bit. It doesn't follow the original five rules anymore (see if you can notice which ones), but it's definitely something I want to develop further. For more information about Theater in Asylum, check out their site here. They're a pretty dope company based in New York.
This evening, I got home around 9 p.m. I sat down at my desk, opened up my laptop, and without hesitation I began journaling. Three pages into my thoughts, I stopped, saved the document, and began scrolling through stories on NPR. I found a blog piece regarding Beyonce's cover for Time's "100 Most Influential" that instantly ignited some sort of fire within me. I started writing a response - which I was going to post to my own blog, but for now it will have to wait. While jotting down some notes, and for a reason unbeknownst to me, I started to think about a play that I wrote back in college. I thought of the story line and the women I wrote about, and wondered whatever happened to them. Then, something just clicked. I began writing a monologue for one of the main characters. I completely and utterly lost myself for a moment in her mind and realized that The Secret Seduction of Little Girls was never truly complete. I opened up YouTube to find a video referencing it, and paused as I saw the video copied below appear in front of my eyes. It was the first one on my subscription feed, and I couldn't help but feel a moment of pure connectivity with everything that led me to see it exactly in that moment.
As I mentioned, I wrote Secret Seduction back in college. I have written many plays since then; many of which have been failures, but I have (and always will) keep writing despite that. Elizabeth Gilbert served as a healthy reminder for me tonight: whether we succeed or fail, it is important (no matter what) that we come home to whatever makes us truly happy. Which for me, and for her, is writing.
We're driving towards the Griffith Observatory with Frank Sinatra serenading us along the way. Tiffany is sitting behind me, Josh is driving, and I'm dressed like Audrey Hepburn in the passenger's seat. There's a large black hat on my head and my Grandma's costume jewelry is draped around me. It's a beautiful day in Los Angeles, and the three of us are talking about our hopes and dreams. None of it seems real. It doesn't seem possible to be this happy.
Exactly a week ago, the three of us went on an adventure through Griffith Park as part of a photo shoot concept that Josh and I had collaborated on together. He is an up and coming photographer, experimenting with the concept of portraiture, and I (usually behind the camera) decided to step outside my comfort zone and attempt to pose. When we first came up with the idea, Josh asked me what type of photography would I like to explore. Usually if I'm working with photographers, I like to have them capture me in everyday moments. I like to focus on my quirkiness and the fact that I'm a creative person. I have not (at least since college) participated in a themed photographic adventure.
So when he asked me what I'm drawn to, I had to go with vintage 1940's style. I grew up on films such as Casablanca, It's A Wonderful Life, and The Philadelphia Story. Women like Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Rita Hayworth were all role models to me. I admired their gumption, style, and wit. Especially Katherine, mostly because she reminded me of my Grandma - a woman who never backed down from anything and spoke her mind freely. Also, both of them had their own unique style and wore it with the greatest of confidence that you couldn't help but be slightly intimidated by them when they walked into the room. Have I never mentioned that my Grandma bought matching silver shoes and a silver purse to go with her silver mustang at the prime age of 75? Yeah, she was a bad ass.
In the end, it was a culmination of 1940's to 1960's style. We visited the Observatory, the Merry-Go-Round, and the Train Museum throughout Griffith Park. While sitting side saddle on one of the ponies around on the Merry-Go-Round, I couldn't help but feel like Mary Poppins with my large hat, diamond earrings, and cotton candy wrapped around my black silk gloves. It reminded me how much I love to play pretend. To step out of reality and into a different character - one of the reasons I was always drawn to acting, and continue to write about people in their various lives. This day was escapism at it's finest.
There were so many ideas we had originally discussed that we never got around to, but we aim at working collectively on several more photographic projects together. I couldn't be happier with how these select images turned out though. With the amazing help of my best friend, I don't know if I would look as confident as I do in these. God knows I can't take myself seriously as a "model" because the whole idea is just ridiculous to me. I am so much more comfortable hanging out in the background (as a photographer and writer, it just makes sense to me), but I am pushing myself to try new things and experience various creative aspects that I don't usually partake in. Needless to say though, there were many inappropriate jokes and fart noises that occurred during the day to lighten the mood. Oh, and there were several rules we broke along the way at each location. I would share those details, but I don't want to leave a paper trail.
Unfortunately, Josh does not have a website to which I can direct you to, but he will have one soon - I promise. Until then, you can admire his work here and on Instagram (if you have one) @joshyadon.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch. (Horribly cliche, but necessary with the photo)
Based on my previous article and my current situation, it would appear that I either need to be on a plane or sick in bed to write something for my blog. Either way, I'll kind of encompass that in this entry.
I’ve never been very good at taking care of myself. If you were to ask my close friends, they’d tell you my favorite meal would be a large Guinness with a basket of onion rings. Lately though (despite this current illness) I have been doing a pretty kick ass job at it. I start my mornings out with a smoothie, work a ten to twelve hour day in the office, practice yoga or go rock climbing in the evening, and am home by 11pm – where I continue to edit a couple films that I’m currently developing and editing. On the weekends I go hiking, kayaking, and host business meetings in my studio. I manage an apartment building and pay all my bills on time. I even paid off a giant credit card and cut that thing into pieces- that's right! After not taking care of myself for so long, I finally feel like I have it all - a healthy working life balanced with an active social life. Who could ask for anything more? Well, of course, I am.
Okay, yes, looking at my life from the outside, it would appear that it’s pretty damn awesome (which, don’t get me wrong, it is) but what a lot people don't see is this emptiness dwelling deep within me. While I’m out there posting these photos to Instagram and Twitter, I am in fact covering up a giant heartbreak that has slowly been eating away at my soul for some time now. Damn. That sounded a little grim, didn’t it? Let me see if I can explain it better.
Earlier today I saw this post on Facebook that was asking people to list female playwrights that they knew. I scanned the list and smiled as familiar names piled one top of the other. Then, this thought crossed my mind, one that has been haunting me for months. Do I still consider myself a playwright? Sure, I have a degree that states I studied the art of it in college, but what does that really mean? I can’t tell you the last time I sat in front of my laptop and wrote dialogue or even a character description. I can’t even grasp the title of the last play I read.
That’s when it hit me. While scanning those names, I realized that my heart is truly broken because it is the only thing I am not taking care of in my life. I’m not feeding my creative soul.
While I am working on several projects with groups of friends that are all inspiring me and pushing me towards new ideas, I can’t help but think back at the girl I used to be in college. The girl who came home drunk one night after telling a boy she liked him, only to have her two best friends put her to bed and set her alarm for 6 a.m. so that she could write forty pages of a script due to the next morning (which she did). The girl who lived the cliché of working at a coffee shop, and spent her summer in Prague taking writing and photography classes. She would have cringed at the thought of sitting behind a desk for the majority of her day. She would smack me across the face right now and ask me what I am doing with my life when there’s so much left of me to give. She would think that I've given up.
I believe that we are all blessed with certain passions or talents that direct us down the path we call life. Some of us are born to be dancers, performers, engineers, or astrophysicists. I was born with a pen in my hand (or that could have just been my umbilical cord). Okay, steering away from gross metaphor-ville, I believe that writing is an art. Even if it’s a comedic sketch about farting, it’s still art, because where does that idea originate? I have written several pieces that I could not tell you from where they were conceived. Suddenly, the words just started pouring out of my fingertips and there they were. I never felt that way with performing while growing up. I never felt that genius appear while being on stage. That simply just fed into my ego. Writing though? Writing fed me and I know it’s the gift I have been provided that can actually make a difference – as corny as that sounds.
What I’m going through, this creative depression if you will, is something that I have shared with a slew of friends across the board. We all want to pursue our dreams (whatever those might be to us) but we continue to work crazy long hour days and then spend our nights either in front of Netflix or with a solid drink in hand because our brains can’t handle much more information and we just need a moment to chill out. While doing so, we continue to beat ourselves up with resentment that there’s not enough hours in the day for us to do all that we want. We tell ourselves that maybe it would be better to just move to Europe and start retirement early; spending our days in bookstores and coffee shops. Living the dream. Maybe then we would feel like we finally made it in our lives. Maybe then we would be free.
Is this what it means to be in our twenties or thirties? Still grasping at this life we idealized for so long, and finding ourselves frustrated that we’re not there yet. It doesn’t help with social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Now we can visually compare ourselves to our peers and continue to beat ourselves up that others are living the dream we imagined. Where did we go wrong? How can I obtain their life? What am I doing differently?
Soapbox moment: We should all stop comparing ourselves to others through any social media or website, and just live our own fucking dreams.
Who put a time constraint on it all? Who said you have to have obtained this much by this age? It’s damn frustrating and can make someone just stand still because they’re too overwhelmed by either A) all the possibilities B) failure C) success. Personally, failure has never scared me. I’ve grown accustomed to looking like an idiot, because I’d rather look back and say: “at least I tried”. What in fact scares me is the idea of success. Even for someone who moves around and travels as much as I do, I get comfortable in my surroundings, and the idea that something could alter my way of living intimidates me. In all honesty, what worries me the most is that people will actually start to listen to what I have to say- yes, I realize that I’m stating this on my worldwide blog.
What it comes down to is this: writing completes me. It’s what gives me purpose and makes me feel like I’m contributing something to the world. Playwriting might only be one aspect of my creative juices, but it's a large component of what makes me the person I am. I've distanced myself from it for far too long, and it's due time that I step back into that realm. The truth of the matter is that I've found myself in this heartbroken/creatively-depressed state because I’ve allowed my own excuses, comparisons, and intimidations to override the yearning I have to write. I’ve spent my days doing anything and everything but writing because somewhere along the way I decided that I needed to get my life in order before aiming for the thing I want above all. Well, now everything else is in order, so what’s there left to do besides fulfill my dreams? Seriously though, what else is there left to do besides aim for what you want? To quote one of my favorite spiritual teachers: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some dialogue to tend to.
There is sand scattered across the wood floor in my apartment; the remains of what my yoga mat brought back from the beach yesterday. I am sipping on a glass of red wine and enjoying a slice of homemade cherry pie that I bought at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Silence fills the room, minus the sound of the keys clacking away on my laptop and the low hum of the refrigerator from the kitchen. I stare at my computer screen and back to my iPhone, constantly checking emails and messages from work and friends; always on the go, always moving at a whirlwind pace, even when attempting to relax on a Monday night.
Yesterday, I attended a yoga class with my friends that is held at a beach nearby. The first time I joined this class was when I moved to Los Angeles nearly two months ago. I had just met these amazing women in the office, and all of us quickly became more than just colleagues. We hold craft nights, go to brunch, and work within a certain square feet of each other five days a week. It’s pretty wonderful, and I feel very blessed to have them in my life.
Last week, I had three of my girlfriends from college over to my apartment for dinner. We drank wine, ate pasta, and talked about several creative ideas we are all working towards. Our conversation led to brainstorming, which led to several calendar dates being set, photography shoots being scheduled, and discussions of women in society today. There was also some jamming out to Spice Girls, TLC, and Whitney Houston.
I find these relationships between female friends to be so important in my life. It’s disheartening for me to see women tear each other up, or criticize those they read about online; all because of the insecurities we have had bottled up inside us since we were teenage girls. My theory is that the thirteen year old self we once knew never really dies within us. As we get older, some of us try to push that version of ourselves away and mold ourselves into something new. We grow, adapt, and make our way throughout the world; all while being shaped by those around us.
In high school, I never dated that much. I was addicted to homework, literature, and drama. On school nights, I would spend hours watching Gilmore Girls with my mom and 24 with my dad. They worried about my social life and that I was secluding myself purposefully because they thought that maybe I didn’t fit in. The friendships I did have in high school were mostly with girls because I didn’t feel secure within myself to be around guys. I was awkward and shy, and identified with Cher in Clueless who never wanted to date high school boys.
Throughout my senior year though, I started working a great deal at a feed store in town. Throughout those years there, I found myself more comfortable in my own skin and confident in myself as a woman. For my senior prom, I even asked out a guy that I worked with who was twenty-one. He denied the invitation, which wasn’t surprising. I was seventeen. It would have been a little odd for him I guess. Nevertheless, I continued to dream of the guys that I would meet in college; who would be sophisticated and intellectual. When I arrived, there were definitely some of those that I had envisioned, but also a great continuation of those I wanted to avoid in high school. Those that demeaned women or that I knew would only let me down in the long run. I remained mostly single throughout those years as well.
While attending college though, my interest peaked in studying the behaviors of gender and I started to pursue a minor in women’s studies. Over the years, I have continued to research and write about specific topics that I observe regarding this field of interest. Along with observing others, I continue to study my own behavior as a woman in today’s world. I observe how I treat other women and men, and how I am treated in return. While attempting to avoid most of the celebrity gossip, I watch women surf through the Hollywood scene and how we all continue to analyze every move they make - no matter if they're thirteen or forty. With that, my admiration for women such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler only grows, and I find it so important to have strong female role models for the next generation.
I watch myself on my iPhone, dealing with work emails while out with friends or walking along the beach. Completely void of what is going on around me, simply wanting to find balance among the disarray. Wanting to have it all; the accomplishments and the peacefulness. Wondering what's obtainable. I see how I behave in relationships, fearful of becoming a 1950’s housewife and equally as fearful of lying about who I am as a woman. Constantly feeling out of balance between love and career, afraid that I’ll have to decide between one or the other, and will feel a sense of regret either way. This could be why I’m single but have amazing writing material on this subject. Don’t worry; I'm not going to divulge relationship stories online. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw. (But I can’t make any promises about the screenplays I’m currently working on.)
The other day, while driving to Eaton Canyon for a hike, I even started writing a letter in my head to my imaginary younger sister. It began as a letter to my imaginary daughter, but the idea of having a child just freaked me out too much, so I created a make believe sibling instead. It ended up being a lengthy piece of relationship advice, and a series of references to When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones, and several John Hughes films. I told her to follow a bunch of those cliché sayings we hate to hear, but secretly believe to be true. I advised her not to be angry at those who hurt her, because it is those instances that will only make her stronger. For the guys that rip out her heart, know that it will mend and life will go on. There's always something better for her out there anyway. And for the girls that challenge her or try to tear her down, keep in mind that we are all in this together - and without material like that, Tina Fey would never have written Mean Girls.
I reach for the empty wine glass on my desk, and find myself staring at the book beside me: What Will It Take to Make a Women President? This time there is total silence in the room, as if the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what will happen. My feet graze the floor and I feel the sand rub against my skin. I exhale a sigh of relief and inhale this sense of determination circulating around me. Parks and Recreation turns on, and my brain continues to twist and turn around all these ideas I'm cultivating. There are some amazing things that are about to happen, not only for myself but for women universally. I can feel it in my bones, and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for us all.