Tuesday, December 30, 2014

14 Things I Learned in 2014

The year 2014 is drawing to an end, and if I can say I have done anything this year, it's learning these 14 valuable lessons:

1. Friends come & go, but true friends bring wine.

2. Everyone and their mother is an artist/blogger - thanks, Pinterest.

3. It is possible to finish an entire series in 3 days on Netflix if you try hard enough and believe in yourself.

4. There's a big difference between booty calling and butt dialing.

5. Nothing good ever happens after 2am.

6. Mindy Kaling is the Spirit Animal of every woman... ever.

7. Nothing tastes as good as being horizontal after a huge meal feels.

8. Drag Queens influence like, 89% of Gen Y & Z's jargon.

9. We have really shitty taste in music.

10. There are women out there who take sides with other women.

11. There are women out there who don't take sides with other women.

12. The year 2014 proved the world is still very unkind to those who aren't white men.

13. For every horrible person and every terrible incident, there are hundreds of wonderful humans who are already working to find a permanent solution.

14. "Adulting" isn't nearly as bad as I had originally thought... and it can only get better in 2015.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Moving FIVEward

Good morning! Last night I jotted down my 5 year plan, and though it's not set in stone, it's still the concrete proof I needed to remind myself that I am still young enough to make these kinds of choices.  I am at the point in my life where I can absolutely choose what comes next. That's invigorating. 

I often get discouraged and anxious that I need to be somewhere else right this second, and that breeds an unnecessary stress that I should be packing my bags as we speak, so that I can set out on a journey to find myself somewhere across the universe. 

All I really needed was a cup of tea, my aspirations and a time frame.

This week, I encourage you to sit down and plan your next steps! Whether it's a 2 year, 5 year, or 10 year plan... park yourself in front of a piece of paper, and reflect on what you want. Decide how you're going to get there and get there.

You don't have to tell me what your aspirations are but if you feel up for the challenge, let me know in the comments below if you've done it with a simple "Planning in progress."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good Friends Are Hard to Find

I am not one to post about failed relationships or friendships. My personal business should not be everyone else's. However, it has appeared to me that the older we get, the more close connections seem to falter and even the tightest of ties are cut. Why does this happen? Why do two people who used to spend every waking moment together, just completely fall apart?

I'd say part of it is friendvy - when you become so envious of your friends life that you literally began to despise them and question their value. Yet, you shouldn't let your covetousness of their life ruin your relationship. Instead, congratulate them and continue to support them throughout their successes. Yours are coming someday.

Sometimes friendships fall apart because of distance. When one friend moves across the state or country, it's hard to see them as often as you'd like. Especially when finances become an issue. To me, this is one of the worst ways a friendship can end. Someone dropping you simply because they moved away is basically a representation of what your friendship was to them - convenient.

Though these are the most comment of reasons relationships fail, in my personal experience, I blame a lot of broken friendship on clearer vision. That is, I opened my eyes and realized what type of people these 'friends' are - and most importantly, what type of person I am.

In the past year, I lost two friends via clarity. These were friends I pictured of having around in my life forever. These were friends I wanted in my wedding, to have my children refer to as "Auntie" or "Uncle", to go on fabulous vacations to Europe with, and to grow old laughing with. In the last 3 months alone, I realized I will never be able to live out those dreams with these people... and here's why - these are selfish, genuinely unhappy people.

I had a friend who I would have done - and did - anything for. I traveled to this person at their beckon call any time they needed me. I took the time to listen to their problems whenever they had any, even those times I was battling my own, in hopes that they would be there for me should I need them. However, this was a one sided relationship. I learned this quickly after shelling out well over $1,000 for a visit and a concert that never happened. A concert that I will never get to see now. A trip that I will never get to take now. Apparently my friendship wasn't comparable in value to another relationship they were invested in at that time, and someone else's needs were chosen over mine.

Another friendship fell apart when a friend moved across the country for an internship. Though the internship left something to be desired, this friend felt it was their star calling, and thus everyone should have been on the same level as them. I was proud of them, but felt my wants and needs didn't match up to theirs. Eventually, they started making me feel bad about myself; that I didn't drop everything to move, or that I was in the wrong, working a 9-5 and going out with friends on the weekends.

It took some time for me to realize that real friends aren't like that. Real friends don't leave their friends stranded across the country because of some guy. Real friends don't make you feel bad because you're living your life differently than they are living theirs. Real friends do the opposite.

In fact, because I didn't get to go to said concert, my other friends planned a night of movies, music, and wine for me. We laughed, cried, and drank until the sun came up. They have never once made me feel bad for the way I live my life, or for raging during the weekend. Nine times out of 10 they are raging with me. Those are the people you keep around.

Stop and smell the roses. Take the time to evaluate your relationships. If someone is bringing you down, regardless of how they once made you feel... drop the weight. After all, a friendship that can end, never truly began.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Don't be Like the Rest of Them, Darling.

"Be who you are and say what you feel..."
"You're one of a kind!"

You hear them all the time... the sayings, the quotes, the mantras - all directing you to just be yourself. Telling you to not be like everyone else, because...well, you're you and they're who they are. It's kind of redundant, isn't it? Everyone always preaching you to seek joy in yourself, forcing you to shove your uniqueness into the light so the rest of the world can either study and dissect you, or accept and embrace you. It's just so... real.

When I was a child, I was different than everyone else. Perhaps living through my parents divorce (and the countless hours of religious 'post-divorce' treatment) kind of put me there. I mean, I was a really weird kid. When I started school, I devoted my time and efforts to being the loudest and strangest girl in my class. I was always sucking my thumb, twirling my hair, verbalizing my opinions on everything - even when I wasn't asked - singing and dancing, and even talking in a British accent. Whenever my mom would go to Parent/Teacher Conferences, my teachers would always say, "Adele is doing great, but she needs to stop talking." Why? So I can tune out my creative thoughts that are 99.9024847% more interesting than anything you're about to say on The Kid Who Ran for President? Is my imaginative war between Snow White's fairy godmothers and the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys nowhere near as captivating and exciting as the Civil War? 

It's crazy that everyone is so passionate about forcing kids to be unique, yet they are the first to shut them down when they verbalize a fantastic idea. Well, I want to be the one to remind them - to remind you, that there is no criteria for who you should or should not be. Why should everyone be the quiet child that raises her hand to state the correct answer from the reading she did three days prior? Why should everyone lack creativity and nonsense and spend most of their time half-assing a project they found on Pinterest? Why should everyone follow the guidelines of being a completely boring and overrated human being? They shouldn't.
When I was a girl, I yearned for attention. I sought it everywhere I went. I was constantly singing in public, laughing really loud, or rocking a clashing outfit. And you know what? I was the cutest little clashing singing laugher in the whole room. Why? Because I embraced that weirdness at a young age. So what I was a little chubby and I had messy hair? I appreciated every little frizzy curl and every bite of pizza I didn't miss taking. I think this blossomed me into confidence a lot earlier than other girls my age. I grew up knowing I was different and had interests in everything, but my differences appealed to a variety of people and didn't limit me to just the "theater kids" or the "jocks" or "the cool kids."
I recently met a young woman who said something so completely off the charts that I had to step back for a moment and say to her, "you're weird..." The second I said it, though, she smiled and said, "I know. But I'm me and I love me." Folks, that is one cool child. To be called out on a trait that others would find insulting, and to truly appreciate oneself for embodying such a characteristic, is impressive. I believe I responded with a, "...I think I love you, too?"
You shouldn't feel bad if someone doesn't see things the way you do. You shouldn't feel neglected if some people aren't as passionate about what you're passionate about. There are other people out there just as crazy and strange and unique as you are. Find those people, love them, and let them love you. You'd be surprised what you can gain from a little appreciate of individuality.
So if you're unusual - embrace it. If you spend more time reading books or over-analyzing Pretty Little Liars theories instead of basketball scores - do it. If you sing the lyrics to "Pusher Love Girl" by Justin Timberlake out loud on your evening run - sing it. Just don't accept the "norm." If you're different, wave your freak flag high you big weirdo.
Just don't be like the rest of them, darling.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why We Tell the Story

Today I am approaching the closing show of Once on This Island, where I have had the privilege of playing Erzulie - the goddess of love. This has been unlike any role for me, as this has been unlike any other show for me.  The cast is made up of 14 African American male and females, and is one act long. From the dancing, the costumes, the calypso music, to the story ... it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever taken a part of. The story we tell in Once, has made me reflect on my own life and my own experiences. Where my passion originated from, why I took a break, and why I am back today.

When I was a little girl getting babysat with my best friend after school, our sitter would always let us choose a movie or television program to watch. My go to was a story about a redheaded orphan who found her way into a rich man's home and thus his heart, Annie. From the very first moment I watched this musical, I was captivated. Singing AND acting combined? What was this madness? I fell in love with the songs, singing them every chance I got - singing "Maybe" while roller blading in our unfinished basement, "Tomorrow" at recess, and (my favorite, and most accurate) "It's Hard Knock Life" while mopping the kitchen floor. When I found out my grade school would be putting on their own performance, I was thrilled. I knew it was finally time for me to fill the role I was born to play. However, when it came around to my actual audition, I stood there frozen as the music played behind me and the director sat smiling at me.  I knew I blew it & I would never be the little redhead I dreamt of playing. I got to sing in the Orphan Chorus - a group of us misfit girls who couldn't get cast, who got to sing "It's a Hard Knock Life" directly after intermission. Thought that counts, right?

I didn't do anymore shows for quite some time after that. As I got older though, I did realize that I still wanted to perform. I went to other auditions where I froze as well. I didn't get cast A LOT. It was disheartening, but I knew I was good, and I knew I had to prove it. Finally, I went to an audition for a summer production of Cinderella, where I essentially screamed out the lyrics to "Very Soft Shoes" from Once Upon a Mattress - a song I learned at an acting camp that same summer. It wasn't my greatest vocal performance of all time, but it got me cast in the ensemble. My first show! I was in tears. From then on, auditions became easier - I even got my first lead as the Witch in Into the Woods, Jr. It was an honor to finally be considered a mini local starlet, and without proper vocal training, too! I went on to perform in high school performances, as well. My high school music teacher then set me up with his old vocal teacher, and I became even better. I finally was able to learn notes and how to add a vibrato. My junior year I was honored to play the role of Joy, who's saddened personality did not live up to her name, in yet another production of Cinderella. I even got to play Reno Sweeney in a summer production of Anything Goes - a role in which I had to learn to tap dance. It was singlehandedly the greatest moment of my life, especially since two of my very best friends got to play alongside me as Reno's sidekicks, Billy Crocker and "Snake Eyes" Johnson.

When I went to college, I did perform in show choir one year, and I also had a monologue in The Vagina Monologues, but I wasn't as involved as I used to be. I knew I couldn't make a career out of acting. I wasn't nearly as passionate as my other friends were (so I thought), and I wasn't as good vocally as they were. It wasn't until the winter of last year that I decided I wanted to audition for Grease at the Erie Playhouse. I knew I wanted to get back into theater, and what better way than with the most familiar show in the world? I really wanted the role of Rizzo, but wrote that I would take anything as long as I could get into a Main Stage production at the Playhouse. When I went to see the cast list and saw I was cast as Jan, I nearly sobbed. I was ecstatic. I didn't really know my cast mates too well, but I was familiar with their talent and couldn't believe I was getting to share the stage with them.

I made some GREAT friends in Grease. My Pink Ladies became some of my closest friends, and I even spent many nights barhopping and getting tattoos with a few of the boys! The experience kind of developed me. It made me realize what I loved, what I didn't love, who my friends were, and who they weren't. It was truly a life changing opportunity for me. It let people in the community get familiar with me again. Most importantly, it let me get familiar with me again. I found my voice, quite literally, and discovered my passion once again.

At first I wasn't going to audition for Once on This Island. I didn't have a song picked out, although my friend kept insisting I sing "White Boys" from Hair. He thought it was accurate and would display my range for the part we thought I should be going for, Asaka, Mother of the Earth. Even though I had seen a production of Once before, I only knew Asaka's song "Mama Will Provide." I remember my cast mates in Grease telling me I would be perfect for that role as well. I decided at 4:30 pm the last day of auditions that I was going at 6pm to try out, but ONLY if the music store had the Hair sheet music. Well, I walked in and searched hard for the book, but no such luck. I sighed, I wasn't auditioning. As soon as I was about to walk out, something caught me eye. It was the accompaniment book for Beyoncé's album "4." It was kind of fate. I know every song in that album from front to back. I knew immediately I was auditioning that night, and I was going to sing "1+1" from my Beyoncé book.

As far as auditions go, I know I nailed it - even if the directors didn't think so. The way that song came out of my mouth didn't even feel or sound like my voice, but I took it. It was beautiful. I was finally cast as Ezrulie, who I wasn't quite familiar with but I was absolutely going to accept the role. Her big song, "Part of the Human Heart" is a love ballad - it was the perfect fit for someone who sang a slow Beyoncé song for her audition. I was cast by that song. A song I didn't even know I was going to sing until a few short hours before my audition!

I have enjoyed this show so much. The people are so talented and such an incredible asset to the
theater community. The woman who plays the lead, Ti Moune is beautiful and is the most naturally gifted person I have ever had the blessing of sharing a stage with. Asaka - if I had gotten that role, I would have never been able to live up to the way she plays it. Such grace, such talent, and she truly embodies the role of Mother. Our Agwe, God of Water, who wasn't in our original casting, took over the role with kindness, and I could not think of a better portrayal. He is strong, vibrant, and a leader. The Demon of Death, Papa Ge, is played by a young man who truly took a role and ran with it. He is also a natural talent, especially in his energetic and passionate dancing. Our Daniel and Andrea play their roles beautifully, too. Andrea is a beautiful dancer who I could watch all day and still not be able to put in half the love she does. Our Mama and Ton-Ton, though still young, play elderly and nurturing parents quite well. I have left the show many times convinced they were really Ti Moune's parents. We have four strong chorus girls who are incredible dancers. Many of them have never been in a show before, but could provide enough talent to put on their own production!

The most impressive cast member in this show however, is the beautiful 10 year old girl who plays the role of little Ti Moune. She plays the role with such grace. Backstage she is just another goofy girl, who sends our Stage Manager into a conniption every time she is seconds away from missing her cue. The second she gets on stage, she quickly becomes her character - a curious little girl, who studies the world and wants to know everything about it. She is the star I wanted to be when I was her age, and watching her has truly been one of my greatest privileges.

Though I will never play the role of Annie (unless someone someday does an all adult version, where geriatrics play a huge role for Daddy Warbucks, and Miss Hannigan sips gin on stage for the sole purpose of staying alive), I will always think of it as the show that got me started. It gave me a feel for singing and acting, and has quite literally set the stage for me to want to do something more with this talent. I have been given a gift from God, a gift I hope to use for many, many more years to come.