Age is just a number…

This week in a rehearsal for an acting class, a fellow classmate asked me my age, out of the blue. I told her, and she proceeded to say “Ugh. Go fuck yourself.” I thought I understood why she said this, but challenged her words asking what the purpose was. She claimed to be “so old” and so sick of being “so old” in Hollywood. This woman was 2 1/2 years older than I am. I told her that she was beautiful (she is) and that she should not let anything that anyone has told her make her value herself any less, love herself any less, or wish to be anyone other than herself, especially over a number. She said I was young and naive, and didn’t understand the reality of Hollywood, and that one day I would also face this debate of age in show business. I respect her opinion, but I will say this: I may be young and new to this place and this business, but one thing I will never do is let anyone question the love I have for myself. I am not vain, I am not selfish, but I was brought up to value who I am in this world and love myself unconditionally. I find people of ALL ages in this life to be stunning, and I think one of the most beautiful things someone can do is really own who they are, in the moment, and be willing to be vulnerable and share that with the world. I know sometimes the pressure in the business can be overwhelming, and make this a difficult task, but that is no reason to make others feel inadequate as we deal with our own insecurities. So do me a favor this year? Help me spread the LOVE for one another. When someone is beautiful, and you are thinking this in your head, TELL THEM. Because apparently Hollywood is not saying this enough. I refuse to be bitter today, and choose to embrace the age I am and the age that YOU are, today, tomorrow, and forever.

Second City : 2 years of Friendships and LOLs

   I hope that everyone is having a great start to MY favorite season, FALL!  While I am not able to indulge in my favorite seasonal beverage, (Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte), I was excited to start the season off with Second City Hollywood’s Labor Day Picnic in Griffith Park last week. The picnic was designed to be a bonding experience for the Second City community in Los Angeles; students, graduates, alumni, teachers and staff came together for a day of fun!

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As classes, shows, and rehearsals are constantly happening at Second City, it is rare that the community is able to come together as a group, at one time and location.  Our staff worked extremely hard at organizing and preparing for the event, and it was such a success!

  Throughout the day, I would look around the park at everyone playing, chatting, eating, and LAUGHING, and I was filled with joy and love.  It was almost two years ago this week (time flies!), that I joined the Second City Hollywood community.  My mother and I made the drive from Quincy, IL, and after taking a day to settle in and be tourists, the next thing on my list was “improv” (at this point I did not have a job either, but it is about PRIORITIES, people.).  After having been heavily involved in improv communities since the age of 12, it was extremely important that I find another community to dive into.  Mother and I went to all of the major improv schools in LA (Second City, Groundlings, UCB, and iOWest), and the question that came out of my mouth was “Can I start today?.”  Second City was the closest to fulfill this request, as I could audition in two days for the Second City Hollywood Conservatory Program.  I did, and that was the best thing to happen to me in Los Angeles to this day.

   I have been fully immersed in the Second City community for an entire two years now.  I am happiest when in the Second City building, surrounded by people I call “friends”, but who truly fill the role of “family”.  I think back on all of the opportunities that have happened at Second City for me in two years, and I become overwhelmed with humility and gratitude: House Manager, Box Office Intern, January 2012 Intern of The Month, Second City Conservatory Graduate, Second City Long Form Program Graduate, Producer of Second City Shorts, Host of Gradfest, Understudy for “Fakers”, Understudy for “Undateable”, Assistant Director for “Undateable”, Second City House Team Ensemble member.  Yes, I have been kept busy, and in the best way possible!

Even better than the opportunities coming from Second City, are the people I am surrounded by every day. I still think back to the first day of my internship, walking into the Second City office to a room full of smiles and laughter that I so badly wanted to be a part of. Coming into contact with a group of people that were so enthusiastic about comedy, and equally enthusiastic about supporting each other, made me completely fall in love.

I think I have become addicted to the happiness that IS Second City Hollywood.  I have made friends that I know will last a lifetime, and I continue to look forward to see what everyone will do through their love of improv and comedy in this city.  I love you, Second City.  Thanks for an awesome two years, and many more to come!Image

^The first morning of my internship at Second City Hollywood, two years ago^

Perspective

Perspective is everything. Having a positive perspective of a situation can truly change the situation.  Things have been pretty great lately, but we all have difficult days that we can attempt to learn from.

As far as my allergies go, things are becoming much easier; I know my staple foods and restaurants I can frequent without being hesitant about possible allergic reactions.  I have experimented with many new recipes, and I continue to be in “scavenger hunt mode” for more new foods (and Gluten Free Beers, duh!).

However, some days, man…it can be hard.  If I really sit and think about all the foods that I cannot have, and wallow in my misery, that is when it is the worst.  I used to be so passionate about new restaurants, and craft beers, and the most delicious aspects of life, but much of this was stripped from me. 

I recently went home to the Chicago area, and that provided some complications finding allergy-free options.  I was so thankful that my family was prepared for my arrival, having an allergy-free stocked fridge.  However, finding a restaurant in the city that was completely able to accommodate my needs was difficult to find and I became very frustrated.  After having gone into about seven different restaurants, I was about to give up when we happened across an Italian very “Chicago” restaurant; beer, pizza, pasta, you get the picture.  I sat down and took a deep breath, hoping to find even a little something to eat because I had not really eaten all day.  Then the storm passed, and I was confronted with a chef that was willing to come out to my table and design a special dish for me.  He would be making me salmon with artichokes, tomatoes, garlic and peas.  Not only that, but would be preparing completely different, overseeing the process and making sure the fish was baked because I was allergic to all the oils the restaurant had.  It was absolutely delicious! And LUCKY me, the restaurant just happened to carry the pear cider that I drink frequently in Los Angeles.

I also recently saw a tweet on Twitter that said, “Think of where you were one year ago… Two years ago. Think of how far you have come!” That is sometimes difficult to remember, especially in a city of actors where it is easy comparing yourself to other actor’s careers!  If I stop to really think about what I have accomplished in the last two years, it is truly astounding!  I try to record goals I have had, and reflect on the goals I have met.  I can be very rewarding to really sit and focus on the accomplishments you have made; not in a vein way, but it certainly promotes confidence and belief in yourself.

I get wrapped up in goals I currently have and am currently not accomplishing.  However, if I think of last year, all I wanted was to actually go out on auditions, and be able to chime into other actor’s conversations that related to audition experience.  Now I am going out so much more frequently, and what a blessing that is!  A chance to ACT; to perform in front of others and do what I love best!  I must stop focusing on the jobs I do not book, and focus on the auditions that really felt awesome, and celebrate that accomplishment! Especially celebrating my team as well, an agency that is truly passionate about working together.

It is important to keep the positive perspective, and to truly live in the moment RIGHT NOW :)

Lets be PRESENT and SUPPORTIVE

Life has certainly been interesting.  Just one month ago I became a “person” again.  After giving up all of the foods I was allergic to, I developed an insane sickness that kept me in bed for almost two weeks.  On top of being bed-ridden, not being able to work or make money because of it, and still discovering how to eat allergy-free, an intense sadness fell over me.  I think that it was inevitable in that situation to completely avoid sadness, but I truly found it hard to stay positive.  All of the support of people around me made it easier, and the fact that I got to watch movies and read books for hours and hours each day made me smile.

But then there were almost 12 hours a day where my head would just race, and think of things I never think of day to day.  It is interesting: In a society that is so fast-paced, we

rarely take time to think, or to actually be present in where we are and what we are doing. One of my favorite improvisers and teachers, Dave Razowsky, often talks about [being present where you are, both in life and while you are improvising.]

So I did just that. I sat and was present in my sickness.  But in all of this “thinking time”, I allowed myself to be present in what my life is, and where I am. 

And this is where the table turned.

A huge wave of joy and positivity consumed me; I am in such an awesome place in my life right now, with such amazing people around me.  There are two particular places that really exemplify this: Second City and The Groundlings, both part of the improv community, yet both very different schools.  However, what I love most about both of these places is the support and comfort of being with my fellow improvisers.  I have been at Second City for over a year now, and it has truly become my family in Los Angeles.  Every time I enter that building, I am greeted with genuine smiles, creativity and love.  There is no pressure to get anything “right”, because the process of improv is about the process of learning, not about product.

Having started to be a part of The Groundlings community in January, it is a much newer place to me.  But in my class, I am surrounded by some of the most fun and fantastic people I have ever met.  My teacher is one of the most passionate people I have ever met, and makes every single exercise we do absolutely thrilling.  My favorite part? Every single time someone is asked up on stage, and every single time someone leaves the stage after an exercise, everyone is required to applaud.  At first, this was hard to get used to, but I find it so wonderfully thrilling now.  Giving absolute support for each and every person, no matter what happens on stage.  Being there for each other no matter what happens, and applauding the act of getting on the stage and trying your best. What an amazing and positive action!

I began thinking about this, and why in Los Angeles this does not tend to happen with each other in every day life.  Perhaps in a city full of self-conscious actors, we find it vulnerable to go out of our way to applaud someone else, seeing as the attention is not on us.   But I think we should do the opposite.  Yes, we will always have competition between one another.  Yes, we will always be trying to get to the “top” (whatever the “top” means to you).  Yet, I think we need to be each other’s support systems, and applaud each other for being in this city, being in this business, and for working hard at our dreams every single day.

So I pledge to support my creative friends, by going to their shows, asking about their accomplishments, and sending positive energy their way for auditions and other steps in their careers. Think how much stronger we can be as a supportive group of artists!

New Years “Resolutions”

2013 certainly arrived quickly, and with quite a big discovery for me.  As everyone was exclaiming their New Year resolutions, I, too, was wanting to execute the most popular resolutions: eat healthier, cook more, and save money.  However, Life had a big surprise for me that was going to make all of these “resolutions” mandatory.  For most of my life I have had health issues; not drastic, but I have had a weak immune system and digestion issues. For anyone who knows me well, hearing that I am sick or seeking medical attention is never really a surprise.  A few years ago I underwent several tests to find out if I had Celiac’s disease, but I never got clear answers.  Doctors thought I “probably did not have Celiac’s” , but if I wanted to cut gluten out it may be a good idea.  Now, Celiac’s runs in my family, so I have always taken digestive health seriously, especially after losing my Grandfather (who had Celiac’s) to colon cancer.  After all of my testing, I cut out gluten for a while, but did not continue this for more than a few months.  I did feel better, but alas, my stubborn brain reminded me that I “probably did not have Celiac’s” (according to that particular doctor), and I reverted back to my gluten-filled ways. 

 Since moving to Los Angeles a year ago, my allergies have gotten progressively worse. This past December, I had to leave work at least four times because they were so bad; my eyes get very watery, sinuses go into “full-flood” mode, and my skin becomes tight and itches (all of this is gross, I am aware.)  I also broke out in hives approximately five times in December.  After I realized my prescription allergy medication was not working anymore, I scheduled an appointment with an allergist.  We agreed to test me for environmental allergies, as well as food allergies.  We then created a list of foods that are regularly in my diet, and would be testing for those. 

Brace yourself, everyone.  The results are as follows:

Environmentally I am allergic to everything. EVERYTHING. Cool.

Food Allergies:

Gluten      Bananas           Broccoli

Dairy        All tree nuts     Carrots

Soy           Spinach           Celery

Eggs

ALL Citrus Fruit (this includes Citric Acid, which is in everything)

Grapes

All berries (except blueberries)

Apples

My immediate reaction was to cry my eyes out.  The doctor assured me that I would be fine, but would need to immediately cut all of these foods out of my diet. (Side Note: I went grocery shopping the day before to fill my pantry and fridge after having been home for Christmas. Cool.).  I called my best friend and I called my Mom.  I cried to both of them.But I knew this was not how I should be reacting! After years of fighting horrible allergies and stomach problems, all of the answers were finally revealed!

 So, my POSITIVE mind-set kicked in, and I started counting my blessings and getting proactive.

 Perhaps one of the biggest blessings out of all of this is that my best friend has the exact same allergies. (Not that I feel this is a blessing for either of us. I mean the mere fact that it is insane that two people so close could have the same allergies.) But seriously.  Other than some of my unusual vegetable and fruit allergies, she has the SAME allergies!  The second I called her, she embraced me with her support and absolute positivity, knowing that I COULD do this if I kept to my positive mind-set!  She immediately sent me several blogs and websites that offer support for these allergies as well.  And her mother (who has the same allergies as us!) has done the same in helping me find allergy-free recipe books and support systems.  Honestly, if I did not have them, this would have been so much more of a challenge; but I see how healthy they are, how good they feel being allergy-free, and I cannot help but be inspired to do the same.

 

This week, I gave away about $500 dollars worth of a stocked pantry full of my allergies, and I am never looking back!  I have started cooking every day, and am researching daily about allergy-free lifestyles.

 I feel empowered and have never been more excited about making such drastic changes in my life.  I know I will feel better, and I know I have an amazing family and support system around me who will continue to lift me up.

 So, next time I am determined to follow through with New Year “resolutions”, I guess I should be careful what I wish for; life just may force me to do them!

 Here is to LIFE changes for 2013.  I wish you all the best this year, and encourage you to see the positive in all that life brings…

Choose your Happiness

It is easy to focus on negative energy around us; it is ALL around us. Working in the service industry, this seems especially easy to come by; People not wanting to work in a restaurant, people who are jaded after having worked in a restaurant for years, customers who have had a bad day and wish to blame it on you.  Like I said, it can be easy to turn into “Negative Nancy”.   And lets face it: we are all human, and we all have bad days!  Positivity cannot change that, but I am constantly trying to fight the battle of negative thoughts.  Since moving to Los Angeles, I have met so many actors who let the fact that they have to have a “day job” hinder their happiness.  “I will only be happy once I am paid to do what I love.” I get it…that would make me extremely happy as well.  But here is the thing, what amount of money from acting will make you happy?  Or what project will make you the happiest?  Even the most highly paid actors in the industry talk about the uncertainty of where their next project will come from.  Heck, Adele kept her job at a record store after her album 19 was released, because she just was not sure if people would like it, and she did not want to lose her day job.  Here is what I say: I am an ACTOR who has to wait tables to pay my bills.  First and foremost, I am an actress.  In order to live this lifestyle, I have had to make sacrifices to get what I want, and to get to where I am today.  I choose to make the best of every situation, and waiting tables teaches me a lot.  It helps me learn how to deal with people, and how to build relationships (nothing is more heart-warming than having regulars come in to ask to sit in your section because they like you, or find you insanely hilarious J) It has helped me learn to not be frivolous with my money, and learn how to save for important things such as headshots, acting classes, workshops, and very important things like my future!  I have also met awesome people at my job, both fellow employees and customers; they constantly support me and encourage me, which is something we all need to keep pushing us!  Like I said, I have rough days too, but if we can really focus on choosing to be happy, happiness will surround us.  And yes, this is easier said than done, but practice and it does get so much easier! Do not let life determine your happiness. Be happy, and live your life!