First off, I want to apologize for skipping a week. It was much needed and perhaps down the line I'll double up and balance this out. Sometimes I put too much on my plate and though I had an outline for a post- that subject is best served for another week. Anyway, this week I wanted to talk about a bit of how I've trained my "hustle muscle".
When I first moved to NYC, I had no specific desires for my career but I needed to survive. Besides finding a roommate online (I quickly learned how wrong that was.) The only plan I had was to take up a transfer from an old retail job. As things didn't work out right away, I took up a job selling watches in Queens Center Mall. I wasn't there long but in my time there I began to see the necessary toughness of a salesman. So, I jumped into my initial job transfer and began working for a well known skincare brand. There I was surrounded by women from all types of career ambitions. They just needed this for now. I worked and worked. I had a 50% employee discount which ,of course, spelled trouble. I had no ambitions outside the day to day. And when I was abruptly kicked out of my first apartment, all it took was my manager asking "are you okay?" for me to fall apart. A blubbering mess. I was asked to "walk it off." Shortly after I was intimidated out of keeping my job and I was officially jobless, briefly even homeless.
I moved into an interesting living situation. (I'll save that story for another day.) This gave me a moment to breathe and reassess my reason for being here in New York City. There were times that I even managed to fit in self tapes for major projects during this transition. Still no specific goals. Just focused on basic survival. I eventually worked a couple other retail jobs and landed on my feet a bit as a tourism photographer for a Television Network. I was surrounded by some of the glamour that could lead me to be inspired but I couldn't connect it to any higher purpose than a paycheck.
I would wake up five days a week at 4am and be done with my shift at 1pm. The promise was that it would leave me open for auditions and anything else. I had audition invites. I was called in. Most of the time, I chickened out and decided to go back home and rest. I was burned out. It wasn't until a friend at work asked me what I had acted in recently that I had even realized how off track I was. Remedy this I would; I enrolled in Improv classes and began to open my network up. I began to ask questions of my dreams. I booked my first role in a film. The first time I ever really gave it a chance. I left my day to day job with the promise it was still mine if I needed it when I came back. Indie Film. Of course I did.
After the charm of that job wore off, and fast forward a brief time working at a museum---I worked at a Juice Bar for a couple years. It was stressful. It was crowded. It was cut throat. The customers were divas. My coworkers were crazy. I got a free smoothie every shift. It was perfect, for awhile. I maintained a bizarre work schedule 6am-1pm. This allowed me to be at will to the promotion of my first feature film as well as other projects. In my time there I learned to develop a tougher skin. I learned to negotiate favors. I saw what a difference a smile makes and I saw the power of anticipating needs. When I got engaged and my second feature film role called, I left this job and began to search for a new balance.
When I came back from filming, I realized I could no longer commit to any one job. I had tended to devote my energy for fear of losing stability so much that I kept pushing back my dreams. It was then that I focused purely on freelance work for two years. Oh boy, that was a stress ball. The odd jobs galore. I worked flyering jobs. I mastered the passing out of useless expired coupons. Sometimes by simply saying "Here, take a flyer." If I could get three people to-- everyone else would follow suit. Some jobs took me to trade shows repping companies for 15 hours a day. Other jobs had me in lil tight black dresses and stilettos handing out free booze to overgrown frat boys. Sometimes I had to go to some far away supermarket and convince people to sample questionable health food snacks. It was a weird time. Living off of some true karmic lead after another. My attitude mattered. My charm mattered. My ability to go above and beyond mattered. Though scary at first, this lifestyle began to work me out. Helplessness grew to a true understanding of the romantic nature of uncertainty. That is the biz. The girl who cried became steel when she learned it wasn't personal.
In a turn of events, I started to make my creative endeavors personal. Using my newly buff "hustle muscle" I began to find ways to talk about my film and find leads for assembling information & even crew. Jumping from job to job and producing my own work led me to begin to braid the two. In the midst of all this I found a stable moment as a server at Videology Bar and Cinema. Those years never felt like a job but a place to develop routine and connect the dots. Having become opportunistic from my freelance life, I saw the place as a means of networking, filming and showcasing my creative projects. It was then that it occurred to me to not think of just survival in my jobs but think of thriving in my career. How can I get my "work" to inform my work?
Each gig became a role. It became a place to inform my soul to new experiences. These opportunities to get valuable face to face time with people from all walks of life. And on at least two occasions, I could test an accent I've been working on. Pursuing this, now a helluva lot more specific, dream of mine has made me realize how building a hustle muscle was key. As my dad has always told me, "You're in a tournament profession. Only the best of the best make it". He's right. This dream means knowing every way the game is played. Every type of player. Every strategy. This unique type of strength training means being okay with failures as they are learning experiences. It means jumping on to the next weightlessly and unburdened. It means embracing uncertainty like the first dive into a pool--it's cold at first but your body begins to adjust.
A big part of what's driven me to write on "this here blog" has been the desire to constructively air out my experiences and feelings. Part memoir, part guidebook to life as I've seen it---the wish to be of some significant influence in the lives of those who "see" me.
So how does a person who has decided to focus her energy as a film actress survive in the age of social media? First you have to know about the person and THIS person is still figuring that out. I've certainly been prepared for this era to some extent. From my early days on dial up excitedly probing complete strangers in chat rooms and learning how creepy creepers could be. To MySpace and the early rise of Facebook discovering how many people were my "friends" but more so my new hive mind. I'd even say I am part of the first generation to come up through being so immensely photographed and oh so very seen.
For better or worse, my BFA program by design had a very rigid structure. As an example, my freshman year we were required to wear black at all times--be a blank slate and avoid distraction. We were also not supposed to pursue performance work outside of the training for a number of years for the same reason. One part of the program that deviated was "Free play". The first part of your spring semester your senior year was yours to claim. You could do a one person play, a film, make a music video, you name it! After much contemplation I decided to blog and use it as an intensely serious account for researching love. No joke. I used it as an effort to get to know myself and examine from a scientific point of view what love was. The subject led to a range of topics- I made videos about hemp shakes, discussed madonna/whore complex, and wrote about a visit to a psychic. While I was judged by some of my peers for being too self involved, I see now how crucial that time was.
Without sounding too critical, some of those same peers have since taken to their own platforms and perhaps see how there is suddenly value in public self reflection. To see others going through something and to relate or be inspired goes a long way. There is a magic in finding a way of framing our experiences to start conversations. I know I've found strength from such musings especially in regards to destigmatization of mental health issues.
It's a slippery slope though, because the more people that chime in--the more it becomes cacophonous. So here we are now in an age where people can share and now self edit left and right. We are weighing our opinions and feelings to the perception and comparison of others before uttering a single word. Or we are exclaiming controversy in order to rise above the noise to feel heard. That goes for words, images, and even re-shares.
In the midst of this, I think that I find solace in reaching further than the people in my close circle. Instead of drowning in the sea of obvious connections, I've been enjoying learning about people who have nothing to do with my immediate needs in the industry. I navigate through what is shared and presented as a means of understanding my craft and self.
I watch your videos because I desire the ability to knit yarn. I love cheering on your artwork. I love learning your fierce makeup techniques just 'cause-- hell maybe I'll make reasons to be so bold. Did you know that without an ounce of irony-- you inspire me? You even join my catalogue of "characters to be".
That's how I survive. You feed my humanity and the ability to portray it.
So, yea, love you. Mean it.