The other day I got really excited about having garbage bags. I needed to switch out the garbage and became, perhaps irrationally, thankful that we had our act together to own…garbage bags. So at some point recently, we had the money to buy something in bulk before we moved. And it reminds me that the days of: “Oh nuts, we’re out of garbage bags, and OH CRAP we have $17 in our account and since the corner store has a $10 minimum on credit cards, I have to buy a candy bar with the bags to make the minimum, which at least I can eat while feeling sorry for myself since I now only have $7 in my account” are over. So you see, having garbage bags means we don’t have to deal with that noise anymore.
Since it was a sunny day and I was feeling particularly on top of the world, I pranced over to Ben to tell him about my realization. I have been noticing more and more how many little things are slowly falling into place. And if I hadn’t had gone without them in the past, I may no be overlooking them now. As another example: clean towels! A clean towel when I was little was just a clean towel. I threw it in the corner of my bedroom after I got out of the shower like an obnoxious teenager, and it eventually magically made its way to the washing machine downstairs. But move to NYC as an artist on a dime, and that towel is going to stay dirty until you have 3 hours to kill while it isn’t monsooning to drag that towel, and the rest of your clothing, down the block to the laundromat, where you hopefully have enough quarters hidden in the couch seats and old coat pockets to wash your clothes.
I tried really hard to watch Broad City. I didn’t make it very far. I think one of the biggest issues they faced in the episode was not having enough money to buy drugs or go to a concert…or something, I mainly blocked it out and filled that space with pasta recipes. But all I could think was, “Am I missing the point?” and more importantly, “Is this how anyone my age lives in the NYC?”
If I was to make a show about struggling NYC girls trying to live on little money, triumphs would include adding the leftover goat cheese from your protein box at Starbucks (one of the cheapest last minute dinners you can grab while running around) to pasta sauce and make it taste really fancy. Or that if you suggest a random happy hour special to a particularly empty bar after work (pretending you don’t know if they “still offer it”), they will usually give you that special anyway so that you don’t leave (half-price bottles of wine is the key). I don’t think anyone would watch a show of my life, but at least it would be closer to reality and include many less hipster-scowls. These little tid-bits of experiential knowledge have changed the way I live, they make me feel like I don’t need a trust fund to live better than the tv-twenty somethings.
These little triumphs add up. All of our ducks might not be in line, but seeing these small progressions remind me that I am at least not going backwards. A few days before I moved, I started to get that familiar panicky feeling in my throat. Maybe I am wrong about leaving Jersey City! I change my mind! We’re keeping the apartment. Unpack everything! And for the first time, a little voice inside my head (uh oh) said “Oh just cool it.” I was a little taken aback by my judge-y inner monologue. But it was right, perhaps this is all part of how everything is meant to pan out, and constantly pushing against that is wasted energy. Perhaps I will look back and say,”Thank goodness we moved, it made everything else fall into place.” or “If I hadn’t worked those 55 temp jobs, maybe I wouldn’t have landed that national commercial that ran for 25 years.” It’s similar to when I wouldn’t get cast in a show when I was tiny and my dad would give me a pep talk about how it was simply making room for a better role.
An old bottle of Vermouth and a snarky picture of Shakespeare
When I started to write this post last night I was drinking a Manhattan in my living room thanks to a bottle of Vermouth someone brought to one of our parties about 4 years go (it doesn’t go bad..right?). The whisky has come and gone but whenever I am feeling frumpy about my evening, I have this one extra ingredient to throw together something that makes me feel fancy. Even if it’s a week when my laundry is hanging from the ceiling fans and the cats are bouncing off the walls, I can clear my spot, have a Manhattan, and write. I will remember these little moments of joy much more than the freakout “everything is out of control” moments. I believe this is what shows like Girls and Broad City were trying to do- showcase the little day to day idiosyncrasies of young people living in NYC. And perhaps I haven’t given them enough of a chance, but these shows are about as close to reality as a perfectly decorated living room on Pinterest. It ain’t gonna happen.
Last Saturday, Ben and I went to the STNJ gala and had the chance to sit at a table with not one, BUT TWO former governors, and feel mega-snazzy about our strange lives. Oooh look at us! We mutually shared a “what is our life” moment when we sat down at the table off the corner of the stage. After having a day thrilled about garbage bags, this was really blowing my mind.
Oh and I had drunk about 4 glasses of wine. Halfway through the cabaret, I looked down at the odd but striking picture of Shakespeare they are using on their season program this year. At any other time, I would have thought, “Huh, really? That’s the picture you go with?” But there he was, looking a little grumpy and persistent, staring at me from Tom Kean’s plate. Call me completely insane (or drunk), but in the moment I felt like Shakespeare was judging me, my excuses not to write, and all the anxiety that has been standing in my way of not only being an actor, but also whatever else in the future I fight against. I have had opportunities come my way, but often, because they are not specifically an acting role, I have been less than enthused about them. That is dumb. I have a play that needs to be written, producing opportunities I can get underway, and chances to take classes. I felt like ugly Shakespeare was saying, “Stop bitching and get to it.”
I don’t know quite how these two realizations are connected other than that my moments of clarity often coincide with my moments of gratitude. I recently read about a psychological trend known as “learned helplessness.” After something bad happens to you over and over, you learn to accept it instead of trying to change it. I’ve felt myself slide into this many times, and have watched many people fall into as well. But these little glints of improvement break me out of it. So though I have had about 20 or so “unsuccessful” auditions in a row, have ignored my play time and time again, and seem to just can’t figure out what makes me sick when I dance (case of the dizzies), it does not mean I accept that this is “just how things are now” and hide under my desk.
We had garbage bags. And two years ago we didn’t. Sometimes that does it.