Conversations with My Future-Self

Things have been really up in the air lately, you guys. And by that I mean, no they’re not actually up in the air at all.

But my perception is that everything is an absolute shambles and the world is ending today. Right now. Start Prayin’.

This morning, I started writing this list looking for “Pros” but ended up landing on mostly “Cons”:

  • I switched to a Sat-Mon 30 hr/wk nanny job that pays only a tiny bit less than my last 5 day/50 hr job:
    • Faced with the 20 hours of “extra time”, I’m lacking motivation to do anything with it. Writing is harder now that the added pressure of “producing all the time” is now placed on my shoulders (placed by me and only me, mind you). YOU HAVE EXTRA TIME WHY ARE YOU WASTING IT WITH SPENDING HOURS LAMENTING THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE SO MUCH TIME BUT YOU’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING OF WORTH BECAUSE YOU’RE BUSY WORRYING ABOUT PUTTING OUT QUALITY WORK BECAUSE YOU HAVE SO MUCH TIME NOW–ad finitum,
    • Now all of my friends seem to want to get together on the weekends when before I felt like I was at home twiddling my thumbs and I miss them,
    • I’m open to audition on weekdays, but without an agent, landing legit auditions is pretty hard. Most of the accessible breakdowns are for “sex kittens”, “VERY attractive women” (emphasis always placed on the “very”), “women ok with partial nudity” (hah!), or…you know… “sexy, tall women in general”,
  • So much is riding on–

“Wait,” I gently commanded myself.

“Go back into the annals of this blog and find this post where things WERE actually a shamble-y mess.

So I did just that.

And holy crap.

Last November, I was not in a good place in any way, shape, or form. My life was consumed by a job that I wasn’t enjoying and was taking up too much of my time. I was, admittedly, in the throes of a fairly relentless bout of depression. I was trying so hard to pursue writing and acting but was coming up short because of my exhaustion and time constraints.

The end of that post challenged me to try looking at my situation another way:

“You’re going to go home, blog, eat some tortilla chips, sleep, and pray that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that makes all of the bullshit worth it. Because you don’t hate the city, you hate your circumstances and it’s up to you to change them.”

At the moment of writing that post, I realized that I was in control (at least a little bit). I could figure out a way to transition to a day job that allowed more freedom to pursue my creative career. It was as if my “Future-Self” had popped in through my writing to let me know that, as much as I felt I was dealt a crappy hand, I still had cards to work with.

Flash forward to this week and a conversation with my friend, Marina. “Remember back when you thought finding and securing weekend work was absolutely impossible? And now you’ve done it! That’s huge.”

I have done it and honestly, that is huge. I set a goal. The stars were aligned and a job just so happened to pop up.

This is all to say that I need to constantly keep in mind that this isn’t going to happen overnight. That slow and steady wins the race. That Rome wasn’t built in a day. That the ball is in my court.  That idioms are God’s Love Language to us. Wait…what?

And even though I don’t this I’m currently using my allotted time to its fullest potential, I recently took that leap of faith and it certainly paid off. I need to do less griping and more leaping.

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On Being Scared Sh*tless

There isn’t a lot that gets me shaking in my boots. I’ve got some amazing confidence and self-esteem (that I suspect, unfortunately, presents as arrogance sometimes) and I like to think of myself as being fairly brave.

Backpack in Europe alone? Check.

Move across country? Check.

Drink milk a day after its sell by date? Hell no.

But you get the idea.

However, when there’s uncertainty or even a hint of feeling out of control, I lose it.

And GUESS WHAT.

It’s about to get real uncertain up in this piece.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching and re-watching my all-time favorite movie: “You’ve Got Mail.” I can feel you judging me for loving a Norah Ephron film, but I’m not ashamed. One of my favorite quotes from Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly, a small business owner, is dripping with existentialism and is something I ask myself about every six months:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Earlier this month, I asked myself my own version of this question on the blog with a little more vagueness than I usually allow myself to type. I was in the throes of deciding whether or not I’d be brave enough to leave my cushy nanny job and go back to piecing together several paychecks in order to have the flexibility I need to pursue acting and writing in LA.

And then I remembered that I came out here for a reason, and it wasn’t to wipe tiny tushies and noses. It wasn’t to walk to and from playdates, and it certainly wasn’t to dedicate my time and energy to helping someone else achieve the exact same goals that I moved out here to achieve.

I moved Out West in 2012, but finances had me “off ramp” in 2013 to full-time employment and I’m (weirdly) thankful it happened. In the last 1.5 years, I’ve paid off my credit card debt, smashed through a majority of my student loans, and completed several outstanding courses in improv and sketch writing (which I wouldn’t have been able to afford, otherwise). I’m not at all rich, and I’m certain I’ll have bills to pay for the rest of my life (duh) but I’ve also learned that–

there will never be a “perfect” time to start living the life I want.

There will always be a logical reason to hold myself back, to not take risks, to not make myself available for something truly magnificent to happen. There will always be someone good-heartedly acting as “The Voice of Reason” trying to get me to see that I should play it safe forever.

I’ve come to the decision that, barring homelessness, those deterrents aren’t good enough to side-line me anymore.

It’s time to make moves.

Bring it, 2015.


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Feed the Birds—Tuppence a Bag.

*This blog post was written Saturday November 15, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the 2nd post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat. Here is the first.*

I knew that furiously writing for 12 hours every day, holed up in a cabin, wasn’t likely going to happen. It was my goal, when booking this trip, to insert a little more optimism into my process than I am used to while simultaneously “keepin’ it real”.

The owners of the cabin we stayed in went above and beyond on the hospitality front: we had instructions laid out on how to open up and close down the property, plenty of firewood and matches, complimentary luxury bath products and, best of all: a plethora of birdseed stashed in the fridge.

photo 3-2I haven’t fed birds in nature, like, ever. I’ve given bread to pond ducks (apparently a no-no) but never made the effort to lure unsuspecting birds into my enthusiastic orb of energy through legitimate bird food.

You will understand, then, why I had a hard time figuring out just what to do.

There’s no real yard to the cabin, per se, at least not in front. There’s just a shared driveway and a front porch. I saw some birds hanging on the telephone wire across the street and decided they looked a little peckish (get it?!) and wanted to focus my avian culinary attentions on them.

Naturally, I walked out onto the driveway, took a pinch of the bird seed, and scattered it on the asphalt.

SURPRISE! Didn’t work.

Then, I took a fistful and tossed it in their general direction.

Also not effective—the birds sat perched on the wire staring at me.

“Is she some kind of amateur?” they must’ve chirped to one another.

I walked away from the driveway and back onto the front porch. A light bulb flickered dimly in my brain and I decided to line the porch railing with a couple of handfuls of seeds. Then, I hightailed it back through the front door.

My gnome buddy and I laid in wait, wondering if any of the birds would land in my (harmless) food snare.photo 4-1

BINGO.

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They’d come down, snag a seed or two, and then fly off. I can only assume they have deep emotional issues with bird seed voyeurism from humans and need privacy to eat.

Feeling incredibly proud of myself, I returned to the kitchen and placed the bag of seed back on the shelf. I looked down to see detailed instructions (hooray for my hosts) on how to load the seeds into the designated feeders. You know…that tiny little house NEXT to all of my birdseed?

If I had just slowed down and read the signs (literally), my task would have been much easier. Someone had already told me what I needed to do to attract my desired goal. I just wasn’t really great at paying attention.

Lots of people will give you advice, and not all of it will be the direction that you need to take. But couple it together with your intuition, and make something happen. Choose the right way for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my birds.

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“Retreating into Nature” -OR- “Cabin Writing? Hell yeeeez”

*This blog post was written last Friday November 14, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the first post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat.*

For the past couple of months, until really recently, Id been suffering from some intense writer’s block. My blog lay dormant and unloved. My screenwriting projects sat solemnly piled on my coffee table, silently begging me to edit them. I ignored them and watched more Netflix than I care to admit to on so public a forum as this.

(Are we noticing a theme in my life, yet? Netflix may be one of the greatest Technological Wonders of the World, but addiction to it can honestly be crippling.)

I tried to get down to the heart of the matter and find out why my creative machine stopped clanking. In the end, I determined that it was equal parts exhaustion, distraction, and lack of willpower—all three also equal parts depressing. Hoping to cure all three by honing in on one, I focused my attention on escaping from distraction.

Fast forward to this weekend and a cabin in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead. I needed cheap, yet safe and comfortable, and two of my friends were willing to accompany me on my journey. Using the website AirBnB, we were able to locate a one bedroom cabin with a sleeper sofa and two inflatable mattresses (which we don’t intend to use) for just over $100/person TOTAL: 3 extended days (we are allowed to check in early and leave later because no one booked before or after us). All we needed to do was bring food (or plan to eat out at one of the many local places). Best of all, there’s no wifi in the cabin so there will be minimal surfing of the internet while trying to type.

We made the two hour trek outside of Los Angeles and found ourselves at the foot of a gigantic mountain. Silly geography-ignorant me had no idea that Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead was at the top of a horrendously tall peak (over 5,000 feet above sea level). This does not bode well for a driver who doesn’t “really do heights”.

This is courtesy of the internets–no snow is currently on the peaks.

5,000 miles above sea level later, I found myself trying to navigate curly winding roads at the edge of a cliff while also trying to catch my breath in the thinning air. I was second guessing my decision until we encountered our sweet new digs.

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Holy moly. Talk about quaint, and welcoming, and picturesque.

Check out these sweet pics!

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(CLEAN!) Bathroom!

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Sweet California King Bed!

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Well-stocked kitchen!

After unpacking a bit, we made a trip into “town” for some groceries, moscato wine, and blueberry beer (Lord, please never let me become diabetic because then I’d have to quit alcohol altogether).

The people in the store were more than friendly and incredibly helpful—especially Rob in the wine section and a handsome young gentleman that helped us with the beer.

Back at the cabin, we decided to tackle the fireplace. We wanted a roaring fire in which to toast our marshmallows for s’mores and because I needed ambiance to write. Two out of three of us were Girl Scouts with only one of us actually learning any camping skills (me) so I set about starting everything up.

I stacked the wood, found the matches, and went outside for kindling. That’s when I realized that it’s a lot damper 5,000 miles above sea level and most of the detritus I intended to use wouldn’t light, catch, and hold the fire. We tried, anyway, to very little success. And we were out of luck in finding something like a fire starter or lighter fluid, etc. People don’t really store that sort of thing in an area known for forest fires.

Then we noticed a small gas handle sticking out of the side of the fireplace. This was confusing for all of us as we had only previously seen a wood fireplace or a gas one (both of which I know how to operate). I quickly Googled this phenomenon with the limited cell reception I had on my phone and found out that some fireplaces have a gas pipe to help get a fire started. And then this happened.

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Glorious accomplishment.

And now, I’m sitting by the fire typing this, and other work, wondering why I didn’t make a reservation for the rest of my life.

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Think. Thank. Thunk.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I know I’ve skipped over the obligatory resolutions blog post, but don’t you worry, I’ll get to it.

First, I wanted to let you in on a little secret. One that’s taken me years to unravel and I’m  pretty proud to say its effects are already astounding.

Goal setting gets the job done. 

I’ve kind of known this for a while, I’m a planner and the promise of writing another hundred lists is what lures me out of bed in the morning.

But something happened recently to make me feel like I should be setting more short-term/weekly goals and, more importantly, putting in effort to make sure I achieve them.

This particular story begins, as many stories often do, with a picturesque landscape as our setting.

I do my best thinking while driving. I know, I know, I should be focusing all of my attention on the blaring car  horns blazing past me on the 405. And, truly, I am. But when that radio is turned up, and whatever song happens to be streaming through the speakers elicits an emotion or a memory, the cogs start a-turnin’.

Christmas Day this year started, for me, with a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway a.k.a. CA State Route 1. If you’ve never been to California, this magnificent stretch of road starts somewhere down in Orange County and travels up north all the way to Mendocino County–over 655 miles.

Whenever I have a visitor in LA, I try and make it my business to take them on a little jaunt down a small section of this road, not only for it’s cathartic aura, but for it’s pristine beauty: on one side–mountains, on the other–the glistening Pacific Ocean.

When my car tires wind through the ebb and flow of the curvy lanes, it’s as if a dam breaks and the water flows so monstrously fast it takes out everything in its wake…[Wait a minute. This was supposed to be a peaceful analogy. Try again.]

…it’s as if my brain blasts into hyperdrive and all my best musings spill out, ready to become personified in a physical manifestation of excellence [Better.].

One major problem: I’m driving, you guys.

I haven’t yet figured out a way to transfer all of my thoughts from my head to some sort of recording device while in the midst of travel. I feel like pen and paper may be a little dangerous to use while operating heavy machinery and talking into a tape recorder just seems all too cliché. I feel weird hearing my voice speak out loud to no one in particular and I’m sure I’d get more than a few stares from others on the road.

Christmas Day, though, I was doing some pondering that didn’t involve specific details and were easy to remember.

“Today, Short and Feisty, you’re going to learn a little bit about the powers of setting a short-term goal,” I remarked to myself.

“That sounds great, self. Did we shower this morning?”

“Stop trying to sidetrack us! You want to really get into screenwriting, you need to make time to do it. No excuses, pony up.”

“Pony up? Where are we getting these words from–have we been gambling?”

“Oh my gosh, YOU ARE ANNOYING.”

“You’re just learning that about yourself?”

“……….”

“Ok, continue.”

“When we get back home, we’re going to sit down in front of that computer and research. Pick an underlying theme or topic for our next work, and watch every documentary we can find. Read every article we can uncover.”

“Oh, yaaaaaay, we love documentaries!!”

“That’s the easy part. The hard part will be what we have to do next.”

“Ruh-roh.”

“Starting this Saturday, we’re going to write the first 20 pages of our newest script. By Sunday night, we should be up to page 50.”

“Is this going to require us to become a hermit, again?”

“You got it, sister. Over the course of the week, we’re going to write at least 10 pages a day. That means waking up at 5:30am to get to the coffee shop by 6:15am and then on to work by 7:30.”

“Can’t we just write at night?”

“No, you scallawag! You’ll be too tired from chasing babies all day. The following weekend, we hunker down, again. Get the take-out menus ready today. By next Sunday, January 5th, we will have at least 110 pages written–a full feature length script.”

“I dunnoooooo. This seems difficult. I’d much rather eat an entire pack of Milano cookies while watching a pirated version of BBC Sherlock’s latest episode.”

“Pirating is bad (right? I dunno…that’s a gray area. They should’ve released it in the US at the same time). BUT WE CAN DO THIS. We just have to really push our limits. Then you’ll have a completed script to enter into any one of the plethora of screenwriting competitions out there. So let’s stop making excuses, turn this car due east, and get started.”

“Can we dangle the promise of those cookies over our head each night? Or maybe an ice cream or 12 from 7-11?”

“I will allow it.”

Today is Monday, January 6th and my first draft of my latest script is finished and in the record books coming in at 111 pages.

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