written for SCHOOL PUBLICATION


when first asked to write this piece i was…hesitant. of the little i remember of my time at school, i regret much. my story is is certainly not one of juilliard's great successes. and yet. it is mine. for all its faults and flaws and that's worth sharing, no?

the white blank page before me disagrees. i've been unable to piece together...anything--about any of it. how does one sum up school or the subsequent three years in a nice and tidy pile of words? if the story is fragmented and messy how does one do it justice on the page? 

i lost myself at school. that's the long and the short of it. i came to new york at the tender age of eighteen and while others marveled at skyscrapers and central park i acquainted myself with an unnamable sadness. in fact, sadness became my sole companion. perhaps i was too young. perhaps i should have attended a basic liberal arts college. perhaps, perhaps....truth be told it's remarkable i survived at all. but when graduation day finally came it was not a marker of success but a desperate gasp for air. i had failed. deeply, i had failed. and i had lost that little kernel of faith in my ability to act, and as it turns out, myself. 


so i stopped. acting, that is. four years studying the thing and i couldn't stomach it. i know, i know, just what anyone wants to hear as they prepare to leave school or continue on in their education.

but here's the thing failure, as it turns out, proves fertile ground. and in the absence of acting i began to write.  i simply meant to document. to put pen to paper to help me remember or preserve a period of my life for the future. but those words became a solace that slowly unfurled me--revealed me to myself. the great roadmap of the journey inward. and i found that all that i had learned at school in terms of sounds and shapes of vowels and the discrepancy between what is thought and what is known leant itself beautifully towards writing. 


and writing, as it turns out, gave me back my life. does that sound terribly dramatic? well, it is. and it was.  
there are moments i wish i could go back and do school all over again. as the person i am now. perhaps this time i'd be ready. perhaps this time i'd get it right. perhaps, perhaps. but i have to remind myself that few stories are truly linear. we twist around, circle back on ourselves, and when we're lucky, move forward. and that's okay. my story is not done. i left acting but whether or not i will return  is a part of the story i've yet to write. 


what i mean to say is this. if things don't go as planned, that's okay. (i know, i know, everyone says that.) how to tell you--to make you understand.

how about this: failure is essential. fail as much and as gloriously as you can. fail in little, seemingly inconsequential ways when no one is looking. or fail on a stage under the lights. the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might actually reveal itself as something else. because when the failure fades or passes or wears another mask it gives way to a joy so profound, it lies beyond imagination--even that special brand of imagination that juilliard encourages.

and joy, more than anything else i've ever known,  is essential to art. (yes, joy).



sometimes i wonder how i'll look back on this period in my life--as a pause in the story? as a precursor to the next great plot twist? a time when i was tied to nothing, living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment, way high north on the island of manhattan next to the train tracks and nestled against the river--and i think i'll be a better actor because of these days, a better person, if nothing else. 

this morning.

in going through last year's posts to come up with some sort of year-end review there was a thing that became alarmingly clear.

i hadn't written much--i couldn't find the words to accurately chart what a compelling year it was for me. where were those posts i was sure i had written?

i've become a lazy writer. i'll cop to that. not that i've ever been terribly disciplined. but as of late...well, it's been harder to get the words out. and the fear of that reality has kept me from even trying.

so i woke this morning, determined.

i sat down, pounded some very poor words onto paper.

gave up halfway through and pulled out a book instead.




reading is imperative for writers. {that was my excuse this morning}.

on figuring out what to do in this life.

i get an idea. something to write about. and i let it gestate. move it around a bit. allow it to breathe.  think about it. don't. expose it to light. and then, when the the need of it becomes so immediate, when the pocket of space in which it lives, calls out, i answer. pen to paper. and through me it moves.

the thing is, that sliver of time--that sliver in which the moment is right, well, it doesn't often last long. and it certainly doesn't wait. doesn't allow me time to move through my own pockets of apathy or sadness.

and so sometimes the ideas--the very things that once lined my skin--move up and out. and i am left. alone. that's when loneliness really settles in. not when the words fail, but when they pass through unacknowledged. when i fail the words.

the terrain is shifting. the terrain of my life is shifting. and it's terrifying. terrifying because it's suddenly upon me and terrifying because it's been so long in coming. but mostly terrifying because there's a sense that if i'm not careful i'll miss this moment--this glorious sliver of time--and the ground will settle and i'll be left. standing still. same spot. my feet tethered to a place i can no longer call my own.

i've never been able to lie to myself. that's one thing i've just not been able to do.

i have spent the three years since juilliard searching for meaning. trying to figure out why i went to a school for four years to study a thing i couldn't bring myself to do after graduation. looking for a reason as to why others went on to success when i could barely get out of bed in the morning.

i have wasted hours upon hours trying to connect unconnectable dots. reading the morse code of the moles on my arms and hands. attempting meaning in a void. i have stood in restaurants and department stores and wondered when was it--when was the exact moment that i veered off course. where was the first hint of failure. at what point did i fail the expectations of others? of myself?

why was i given a talent, a gift and then unable to use it?

i am not a terribly religious person. well, that's not entirely true of course, but my religion is no longer that of my childhood. the manner in which i pray has changed, it is more impromptu, off the cuff, in the middle and on the move.

and the most consistent prayer, the most demanding wish i have arced up to the heavens these three years has been this: show me the path. please, just illuminate the way.

and now as i sit here and write this (write) i can laugh and say of course it was unfolding! and of course it continues! how silly was i to doubt.  but, you see, i am human.

it took illumination after illumination for me to stop and listen. i can trace the first one back two years. but it is only now, in the past few months, that it seem so clear, the message so abundant--little pieces of it abutting each other.  so crystallized.

now i can almost look back and pin-point, oh yes, that makes sense and oh, yes, that had to happen that way, and oh, well, that'll be terribly helpful.

the thing is, this thing that i feel i'm meant to do--this thing pressing up against my gut, i've never done it before and i'm quite certain, there's a good chance, i won't know how to do it. and this push and pull between absolute certainty and absolute doubt has me standing still, afraid to dive into the sliver. afraid the sliver will pass.

but the push and pull is also the belief in the divine versus my own, small and pitying self-doubt.

and who am i do deny that something larger is at play? and i use that verb--play--carefully, because isn't that much of what this life is--what it's meant to be? aren't we meant to play and explore and do the very things we think we cannot?

variants and tentacles.

i like this one

people keep asking the same two questions.

or, variants of the same two questions:

there's the first regarding acting and whether or not i'm auditioning and will i ever give it a go?

the second involves men, always, men.

am i dating? why not? do i want to date? would i like to go out with this person's brother's ex-girlfriend's cousin, twice-removed.

let me address the latter: of course i'm open to dating. but the thing is...i like (love) being single. never have i liked (loved) it more.

so i'm not worried. about acting or men. those two questions remain happily unanswered. because the long and short of it is, i don't know.

what i do know is this:

i love the feel of the heavy camera around my neck. and the scent of the sunscreen i put on my face each morning. i love watching late-spring-storms roll in across the hudson from my window.

i love that life is not easy or predictable and that each day brings new and unexpected strangeness.

this is not to say life is easy or i'm always all-together in love with it.

life has been tricky lately. there is not enough time. not enough courage in my well. i fail with words when words i most need.

but there is a sense that now--this now--is somehow sacred. that everything is on the cusp. i find i'm growing tentacles. moving outwardly with both thought and word and so living my way into innumerable answers.

i suppose what i'm saying is...i'm not worried about those two--those two questions that everyone else wants to answer.

because if i live life fully--if i live it outwardly. if i answer all the other questions, they will come along, no? sort themselves out. reveal their answers in their own time. on their own terms.

and i'll wake one morning and the response will fill me, prompting new questions--demanding new life.

juilliard.

do you all know molly yeh?

you should. she's marvelous. a marvelous foodie and percussionist (i imagine--i've not seen her, but, you know, word on the street...). and i'd very much like to know her in real life.

she started a student-run newspaper at juilliard (my alma mater) and asked if i'd contribute a retrospective piece. 

i hardly ever talk about school and i hardly ever talk about acting (mostly because both are tricky, unclear topics), but i thought i'd take the time to share what i wrote for the ragtimes...

juilliard (the spaceship)

when first asked to write this piece i was…hesitant. of the little i remember of my time at school, i regret much. my story is is certainly not one of juilliard's great successes. and yet, it is mine. and for all its faults and flaws that's worth sharing, no? 

the white, blank page before me disagrees. i've been unable to piece together...anything--about any of it. how does one sum up school or the subsequent three years in a nice and tidy plot of words? if the story is fragmented and messy how does one do it justice on the page? 

i lost myself at school. that's the long and the short of it. i came to new york at the tender age of eighteen and as others marveled at skyscrapers and central park, i acquainted myself with an unnamable, insurmountable sadness--a sadness that permeated those formidable four years. when graduation finally came, it did not feel like a marker of success but a desperate gasp for air. i felt as though i had failed. deeply. and as though i had lost that little kernel of faith in not only my ability to act, but myself. 

this is not to say the school failed me. it did not. i had remarkable teachers and even more remarkable opportunities. i was allowed to dive into some of the most enriching roles within the acting cannon. hard as it was, i am who i am because of those four years. the failings in my story are of me and therefore mine alone. 

following graduation and too many auditions walking into a room as a shadow of myself, i made the decision to pause. to step away from theatre.

and for a long time i struggled with the necessity of that action. because was it really a necessity or yet another misstep? 

well, here's what i'm learning: misstep or not, it doesn't really matter. there is value in missteps and failings. wrong turns reap great rewards. 

in the absence of acting i began to write.  i simply meant to document. to put pen to paper to help me remember or preserve a period of my life for the future. but those words became a solace that slowly unfurled me--revealed me to myself. the great roadmap of the journey inward. and i found that all that i had learned at school in terms of sounds and shapes of vowels and the discrepancy between what is thought and what is known leant itself beautifully towards writing. 

and writing, gave me back my life. does that sound terribly dramatic? well, it is. and it was.  

there are moments i wish i could go back and do it all over again--school, that is. do it as the person i am now. and in doing so, do justice to the teachers and the knowledge they so graciously and freely impart. perhaps this time i'd be ready? perhaps this time i'd get it right? perhaps, perhaps. but i have to remind myself that few stories are truly linear. we twist around, circle back on ourselves, and when we're lucky, move forward. and that's okay. my story is not done. i left acting, yes, but whether or not i will return is simply a part of the story i've yet to write. and that's the exciting bit.

what i mean to say is this: if things don't go as planned, so be it. 

 everyone says that, you say? okay. okay, how to tell you and make you understand?

how about this: failure is essential. fail as much and as gloriously as you can. fail in little, seemingly inconsequential ways when no one is looking. or fail on stage, under the lights, with thousands watching. it doesn't matter where or how so long as you allow yourself the chance. because, the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might reveal itself as something else. and when the failure fades or passes or wears another mask it gives way to a joy so profound, it lies beyond imagination (even that special brand of imagination that only a school like juilliard can encourage). 

and joy, more than anything else i've ever known,  is essential to art. 

there are times when i wonder how i'll look back on this period of my life--as a pause in the story? a precursor to the next, great plot twist? as a time in which i was tied to nothing--living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment way high north on the island of manhattan between train tracks and river?  whatever it is--whatever it turns out to be--however it works to drive the narrative this much i know: that i am a better person because of both my time at school and the time right now. and a better person makes for one damn, fine (better) actor.