Aaaaand We’re Back

Man.  Well that was something.

In a nutshell, we did indeed walk from St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostella.  After a pesky foot injury, I came very, very close to skipping a stage by bus, but somehow it just never happened.  I’m not sure I’m proud of ignoring my body’s message, but my foot does seem to be healing, so there’s that.  It took 34 days, spanned 799 kilometers, and required one roll of kinesthetic tape, several boxes of bandaids, one container of compede, almost a full container of an ancient salve for pilgrim joints and skin problems, an unknown number of bottles of wine and plates of patatas bravas, several midday beers, approximately four emotional meltdowns, and a lot of pep talks.  Compared to my last Camino?  The word that keeps coming to mind is: harder.  My body, mind, and life is significantly different.  Processing all the moments of beauty and all the days of endless difficulties is something I am only, slowing beginning to tackle.  And writing it down feels a bit farther away. I can say for certain that the miraculous world of the Camino still provides all the love, protection, and support that anyone needs to get through the mountains of self-doubt and endlessly developing blisters the morning hours bring.  But more on that later. For now, my emotional brain needs a snooze.

After many years of waiting, obsessive planning, and borderline-neurotic budgeting, I am finally a freelancer.  On my first morning over here, I am currently one- for-one with showering, eating a proper breakfast, and putting on real-people clothing.  Ben bought me a sweet little bird statue and I have decided that he is my freelancing mascot.  I have yet to name him/her.  Perhaps Carmella II–after my Camino walking stick that I had to leave behind in Santiago. She will be missed.  Anyway, though I’m handling my panic quite well, this is all a bit terrifying–this whole “getting what you want and hoping it works out” thing. Three nights ago, I landed at JFK, bleary-eyed, confused, and crotchety after a full 24 hours of travel to get from a hotel room in Santiago de Compostella to the apartment I have dreamed of laying my eyes on for the past six weeks.

At the moment, I still feel odd even adjusting my eyes to the look of a computer screen. My brain has not required this type of focus since late June, and I’m shocked at how strange it feels to stare at one white square while trying to type this out.

So instead of totally freaking out at the freelancing task ahead of me, I’m starting with small, controllable steps.  And when I reach the day (hopefully very soon) when I can genuinely begin to piece together the stories from my second Camino, this will be its immediate home.

Until then, this is where I’m at logistically:

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Do Not Let Me Entertain You

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This is in response to today’s Daily Post, entitled “Invitation.”

If you go to the theatre, turn on a movie, stand in front of a work of art, switch on the radio–do not let me entertain you.  If you do, you are being tricked, you are missing the point, you are closing off a part of you due to fear, misunderstanding, the anxiety of truly looking at yourself.  Each piece of art–from the loud, frivolous musical to the subtle, abstract painting–evokes something in you that wasn’t there before, it creates.  It creates joy, nostalgia, anger, confusion, wonder, and perhaps even inspiration to change.  And whether the art pleases or angers you, it makes no difference.  What matters is that you went from feeling nothing–from moving along in a neutral day, from following the rhythm of the world, to distracting yourself by your own inner world—to stopping, to looking at the mirror that art provides for one moment, and challenging yourself to listen, to look.

With all the confusing anger around Meryl Streep’s speech and Hamilton providing a “safe space” and other misrepresentations of my field, I see the opportunity not to quiet these incorrect views of art, but to challenge them.  If these people, the ones who believe that art and artists are literally only meant to delight them, to make them feel more comfortable in their already comfortable states, well then I say, great!  I dare to you come to something truly challenging and try to leave simply, “entertained.”  I dare you to listen to an artist’s “unwelcome” opinion and walk around with it for one day before responding.

I keep reading,  “We go to see theatre for an escape, do your job.” But I ask you, if you only see art as an escape, what are you escaping?  Even asking yourself that question means that art has proved your thesis as incorrect.

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Tell Your Story. I Will Listen.

I started writing publicly about seven years ago.  And occasionally, there are dry spells that keep me from blogging.  I’m too busy, too distracted, or sometimes simply uninspired.  I whine and procrastinate, and come back to blogging eventually, toting apologies and resolutions.  However, this hiatus, the dry spell that was sparked by the election, has been more painful than anything I’ve experienced so far.  It wasn’t my determination or creativity that was questioned, but rather, my purpose–this blog’s purpose.

Up until yesterday afternoon, I honestly felt that creating anything new or trying to reach out to an audience was pointless.  I began this blog discussing how to stay creatively healthy in a field that often offers little to no financial stability.  It has evolved into a place to discuss Buddhism, personal stories, and even my experience with health problems.  And yet on the morning of November 9th, all I could think was, “Who cares?”  Why focus on building ourselves as empathetic, motivated beings, when the country is filled with such anger and chosen ignorance?

And then my house almost blew up…

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WE DID IT!! FUNDRAISER GOAL REACHED!!

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You are all amazing people!!  As of today, we have gone BEYOND the goal to raise $900 for Zara Aina.  And the best part?  There’s still a whole week to see how far we can get.  I am so blown away by this experience, I had no expectations of reaching the total, especially before the end of the 30 days.  You have all given such a beautiful gift to me and this organization.  Go team.

THANK YOU ROBYN AND ALEX!!!

The amazing couple that put us over the fundraiser’s edge were my cousins, Robyn and Alex.  These are some of the most generous people you will ever meet.  When I was getting to know Ben, the welcoming energy of the family was overwhelming, and came full force from these two lovely people.  I couldn’t be more grateful to call them family.

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Day 24: Beginning at the End

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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During the six weeks leading up to our move from Plainfield, I kept a countdown both on my bedroom calendar and in my butterfly-adorned diary.  Even back then I was a passionate journaler, but I held back in what I wrote.  A few years earlier, my older sister ripped all the pages out of my diary and posted them on the refrigerator to get me in trouble (I said some not-so-nice things about my mother).  Years later, when I started blogging, I though of it as a form of “posting my own diary on the refrigerator,” but this time about the thoughts I chose to share–and not ones about lamenting the daily life of a 5th grader.  It’s the harder stories, the ones that I fear will somehow come back to get me, that I hesitate before writing.  And yet, if this birthday challenge has taught  me one thing, it’s that these are just stories.  They are not my current reality.  Still, our pasts can drive our decisions and mold our views of the world in ways we don’t even recognize.  When I finally started seeing a therapist in college, it was like wearing glasses for the first time.

My issue now is that I don’t have the words to tell these stories, to really do them justice.  So where do you start?

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Day 21: The Infamous Rome Story from Hell

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

This story does not have any related photographs…nor does it deserve any.  Good luck reading, friends.

Part 1: Murphy’s Law

If there is one thing I learned during my early years as a young traveler, it’s that listening to your body can make the difference between a disappointment and a complete disaster.  A week before traveling to Rome during my semester abroad, my body was telling me that something was wrong, and I did not listen.  Instead, I figured pushing through the impending flu-like symptoms was the smartest way to make them go away.  At 21, you think that one good night sleep and a good dose of ignoring the problem is all that it takes to carry on.

Three quarters of the way through my London semester, with one of our longer holiday breaks on the horizon, my friend Helen and I planned to head over to Rome for a few days, our second unguided trip of the semester (and our lives, really).  But that weary, woozy, heavy feeling began to hover as the trip approached.  In my head, the Ryan Air flight–which was probably only like 30 Euro–should not be wasted over a mere fever.  We were going to make this trip happen.

The night before the trip, a stabbing pain developed in the back of my throat, which was quickly followed up with a heavy resonant hack to go with it.  But no, this was going to happen.  We had Italian dreams, and again, the money shouldn’t be wasted!  I figured a solid nap once we reached Italy would push me back into Healthy Land.

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Day 18: The Day I Freed the Horses

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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I have to begin this story by telling you that I am eating one of the best breakfast wraps of my life.  A deli in Upper Montclair has gluten-free wraps, and so my painful hiatus away from savory, cheesy, Jersey-worthy breakfast combinations can finally come to a close.  The other reason it’s so delicious is because I’m in a pretty good mood today.  At several times in my life, I’ve found that after a long stretch of bad luck or extreme battles with anxiety, I emerge into a period of great gratitude and peace.  It’s like that feeling when you are so exhausted but can’t sleep for days, and then you finally take an amazing unexpected nap and wake up with a new lease on life.  Because of this, my chorizo, egg white, spinach, and cheese wrap is one of my favorite meals so far this month.

The fall weather this morning, and this general feeling of serenity, reminds me of a very odd time during my teenage years when my family’s struggles from my childhood began to truly set in.  We had only been living in Vernon for a few years, and the threatening presence of our past life in Plainfield still left a trail of destruction in our daily lives.  But I was finally getting to an age where I was mature enough to realize how close we came to never moving at all, and how lucky I was to be standing in the beautiful countryside of Sussex county–safe, with friends, with a clear head.  Unfortunately, gratitude for making it through a different experience is often not enough to erase the physical and psychological aftermath that inevitably follows.  And in a way, during high school, I knew that a storm was not far off, that at some point soon I would have to begin working through the stress it caused all of us.

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Day 14: That Terrible Time I Tried to Be a Hip-Hop Dancer

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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2010 was the year of applying to everything. Every audition or job opportunity that remotely fit my abilities was a chance for me to at least give it the old college try.  Many times, this landed me in auditions and interviews that were significantly over my head.  One of these times, I was called to audition for a hip-hop flash mob to take place in Times Square for the launch of a new video game console

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am not a hip hop dancer.  Up until that that time, I had studied ballet, jazz, modern and tap on and off since childhood, and to be fair, I wasn’t half bad.  But when I tried to attempt any type of dance that required you to relax your body (as hip hop often does), I struggled. I really really struggled.  I’d look like a broken tin man trying to dance.  But hey!  This casting director called me directly to tell me about this massive cattle call.  What could go wrong?

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Day 12: Who Owns a Story?

So after two long, but very nice, days, I was thinking of writing a quick, non-emotional story for the next day of this challenge.  I figured it was a throwaway day–it’s a Saturday night, and maybe no one will be up for reading a blog post.  However, something has been weighing on my mind since I began this project.  It’s a bigger issue–one that I’m sure a trained writer has worked through either in a school program or just through experience.  Or who knows?  Maybe no one has a true answer to this and I’m just realizing the biggest dilemma of all for myself for the first time.  My question is: who “owns” a story?  Let me elaborate:

At the beginning of this project, I brainstormed a list of stories that come to mind when I think about interesting, enlightening, or stressful times in my life that are worth working into the narrative of this representation of 30 years.  At the bottom of the list, past the area of actual possibilities, I created a second list–the “these will never go online” lists.  They are the stories that I deemed inappropriate for an innocent, yet public, forum such as this blog.  I’ve been realizing as I go that I’m unclear about whether these stories at the bottom of the page should ever be told.  What purpose would I be serving by sharing them?  You all have them–stories about past relationships, about being wronged, about mistakes, about fights, or about personal or family hardships that significantly shifted your life.  They are ones that may or may not put you in a good light.  But what’s more important–is that many of these do not put others in a good light, and that’s the issue here.  And other than the possibility of actually getting in trouble for hurting someone’s character, who are you to decide if a story should be told without the other person to defend their side of things?

I’m  being vague because this applies to so many stories I’ve come across on my list.  This blog (as much as I respect it) is not worthy of these stories that most strongly affect me. But that sparks the question–if they mean so much to me, where and when do I tell them?  How does a writer decide when and where a personally significant or deeply influential story is meant to be told?  I think this can be asked of theatre as well.  Do you put your life on the stage if it risks marring the message of something that altered you and your loved ones’ lives?  Or does it serve you more to keep them for yourself?

I find myself skimming the surface with these 30 days of tales.  And at times, I worry they make it look like my “hardships” or journey are anecdotes about travel woes or brushes with frustrating jobs.  But the real ones, the ones that truly make me who I am, involve so many other characters that they cannot be told in this manner.  So what do you do?

Thoughts?  I am open, and thankful, for any advice.

Have a safe a happy night, everyone!

Day 11: That Time I Worked at Abercrombie

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post. 

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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By the end of high school, I cared very little about trying to mesh with the popular or stylish crowd. It was freeing really, I saw college on the horizon and had no qualms about keeping to my trusty and supportive group of theatre friends. At the end of the day, I just wanted to graduate, lay low, and get out of there.

Nevertheless, I accompanied a friend to the Rockaway Mall one afternoon so she could interview for a position at Abercrombie.  I’m pretty sure I had never bought anything from, or even walked into an Abercrombie before this, but wanted to be supportive (Abercrombie is the younger version of Abercrombie and Fitch–less shirtless models, more angsty pre-teens).  But as we entered the store that day, the manager said we were all welcome to join in on the group interview if we wanted to–even me.  And so I thought, I have nothing to lose!  Why the hell not?  I needed money and a job.

And so several young blonde girls and a manager named Fanta walked us outside the store, ponytails and an perfectly “distressed” flare jeans and all. It was relief to find respite from the overwhelming odor of men’s cologne that they spritzed around the store every half hour.  The interview consisted of several spunky questions like, “If you could be any fruit or vegetable, what would you be?”  When it came to my turn, I said that I would be a potato, because they can be cooked in so many versatile ways and have the ability to conduct electricity.  To this, the manager said, with a squeal, “Oh yes!  You can like, stick them in electrical sockets, right?”  To which I responded, “Oh, no, please don’t try that.”

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