Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 In Retrospect

I rang in the new year in another country this year. That's right, I got to celebrate and count down a few hours before most of the people reading my blog, because I was in London with my study abroad program. I can look back on the trip and say that I had a lot of fun, but the fact of the matter is, I spent a good deal of time being miserable while I was there. However, I don't regret it for an instant, and I think it was one of the most important things I've ever done in my life. 

I went to Oxford while I was there, and in spite of all the traveling I did in the past year, it remains to this day the most beautiful place I've ever seen in my entire life. I would pack up and move there in an instant if it wasn't for the fact that I'd be immediately rendered destitute because of the miserable exchange rate. Instead, I've covered the walls of my apartment with framed photos of my trip, so that I can always take a moment, and appreciate the memories. 

I turned 21 this year, and began to exercise my legal right to drink myself silly. I still have yet to drink myself so silly that I've thrown up, and I'm quite proud of myself for that. For those of you wondering when this story is going to get as interesting and dramatic as my life has the tendency to be, fear not, for my love life kicked up sometime in February, when I reconnected with an old friend...

After a few conversations that pointed in a hopeful direction, I headed off to Ohio, home of the Browns, the Bengals, many cornfields, and the now-burned-down Touchdown Jesus. There, I met up with my amazing friend Robbie, who lead me to reconnect with my long lost crush who would, in the coming months, become my boyfriend. The irony of the term cannot be properly understood without the information that he was, in fact, twice my age. Those of you who have known me for a while are not at all surprised. After a night of drinks, gossip and catching up in Ohio, we set our first real date for the following week, back in New York City. 

Thanks to the wonderful invention of Skype, the relationship clicked, and made it through until April. (Ironically, it was also this month that I met the man who would later be dubbed "Prince Charming", though I have no memory of the day we met.) In April, I packed myself, and my friends Danielle and Megan into my father's car, and drove us all down to North Carolina. For me, the trip was to visit my boyfriend. For them, the trip was to see a performer they really liked. Fun times were had by all, and we visited a plantation that was supposedly haunted, and continued our road trip tradition of ordering Dominoes for dinner. 

May kicked softball season into full swing (pun intended), and I spent much of my spring and summer just as I had every other year for the past five years - with my butt parked on a dusty bleacher and my camera in my hand. One of my favorite photography projects has been the photos I've taken of my friends and their teammates. Though I do also play, this year I didn't because I was completing my final semester of college, and had to sprint from school to get to the games, and couldn't always be on time. My friend Greg, in the photo above, played his last season (for the time being anyway) before moving to the west coast, but he knocked a few great home runs into the next field before he left! 

Ah, June. The photo above is the only photo on the fact of the planet that exists of myself and the infamous That Man. It is a blurry cell phone photo from a bar where we both drank too much tequila, and it has never been shared online. It is, however, tacked to my bulletin board to this day. I went home with him that evening, and we fell asleep in bed together. In the morning, I kissed him on the forehead as I left, he was too hungover to say goodbye. It was the last time I ever saw him, and the last time I ever will. 

I celebrated the Fourth of July with my family at our house in Cape May. I've decided that in the future, fireworks are something that most definitely require a tripod. I also completed college the week after, though it will likely be 2011 before I hold the physical degree in my hand. After graduating, I spent most of the month job hunting, and secured work on two shows, as well as a volunteer position in a costume shop. I also finalized plans to visit my boyfriend in August. He never heard about tequila night. Some things are just best left unsaid. "I'm still in love with the man who broke my heart" is one of them. 

August was an eventful month - jobs, parties, traveling, and a rather tumultuous time in my love life. (As if my love life is ever stable) In August, I visited my boyfriend in Milwaukee. Let me tell you, the only thing more uncomfortable than ending a long distance relationship is ending a long distance relationship while you're visiting. Especially when you've still got two days left. After a mix of sightseeing, sex, tearful arguments, and silence, we agreed that we'd remain friends, and I returned home, where I ran promptly into the arms of the man henceforth known as Prince Charming. 

And so the month continued, with the sting of the breakup passing quickly into oblivion as I fell fast and hard for another guy who would toss my heart into a blender. I took him out to Six Flags for his birthday, and it was the first time I could remember that a guy would hold my hand in public. 

I continued work at my first real wardrobe job, on two Shakespeare plays in a park in Brooklyn. We performed Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar, and it was baptism by fire. I was thrown into the park with no tools, no resources, and a hell of a lot of obstacles, but I'm proud to say that I did my best, came out on top, and have been working more or less consistently in wardrobe jobs ever since. The photo above was taken when we had to punch new holes in belts half an hour before a performance with no tools besides our seam rippers, prop daggers, scissors, and keys. Just one of many interesting tasks I performed, along with washing costumes in the stream that ran behind the backstage area, and throwing crashboxes for sound cues. 

I closed off the month of August with all my friends from my retail job, as we gathered at a party to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the closing of the show we used to work for. Though I generally neglect to mention who I work for because I wouldn't want them to catch me saying anything bad about them, I'm sure from this photo, it's rather clear. 

In spite of entering September jobless (except of course, for my retail job which it seems I will never leave), Prince Charming and I took what turned into a week-long vacation to my family's house in Cape May. As we speak, I'm awaiting an angry phone call from my younger sister who is visiting the house this week. We played a bit of a trick on her, and I'm sure she isn't going to be pleased at all. Shortly after returning to the city, I landed myself another job on a NYMF show, where I worked through October. 

October, of course, means Halloween, which means that I was left with the task of coming up with an extremely badass Halloween costume. Whether or not I succeeded is up to you. I'm pictured above in my costume, a "sexy" replica of one worn in the show I used to work for, alongside my boss from that show, who is dressed as one of his bosses. 

November opened in Florida with my family, and right before I left I secured my next job, subbing on the wardrobe crew at The 39 Steps, where I work now until the show closes next month. My sisters and I had a blast as we took Harry Potter World, and Disney World by storm. 

We visited our favorite face characters, and said hello to my friends Mandy and Courtney, and just generally had a blast. My mom even used one of our photos for our Christmas card this year. (Though not this one with Alice, which I would have picked had it been my decision.) 

I also exercised my right to be a complete and total alcoholic, and tackle the task of drinking around the world in Epcot. The Epcot World Showcase features 11 countries, and each of them has its own variety of delicious alcoholic beverages. I survived without throwing up, or even being stuck with a serious hangover. 

I also got to spend the following day drinking beer at the ESPN Club and watching football all day! Every team I cheered for won that Sunday. (I know, not a photo of me at ESPN Club, but it proves two things: I wore my jersey that day, and I am at least as pretty as the chick dressed up as Belle, so my desires to be a princess one day are not entirely in vain!) 

I returned home to get dumped for a Rockette in a text message, a story which most of you have already heard or read. I proceeded to drink myself silly for a couple of weeks, and cry on my shrink's couch for hours over this, hurt and angry, and often feeling like the dummy from the show I work for, who apparently was very depressed, as we see above. However, I survive, as I always do.

After a sufficient period of moping, crying, and feeling sorry for myself, I toss myself head first into my new job at The 39 Steps, endure a multitude of frustrating hazing rituals, and eventually settle in to enjoy myself at my new job. I enjoy the company of a friend of Prince Charming, which I can safely say is the only positive thing that came out of that relationship. I also work on the costume crew of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, which was truly a unique experience... though I'm not so sure I'll need to repeat it any time soon! I had a fantastic Thanksgiving with Stacey, Mick and his friends, and Clay and all the other folks down at House of Brews. (At least, I think it was Clay that night... my memory is a bit foggy!)

And that brings us to about... now. I'm working 2 jobs, one being my retail job, the other being my off-Broadway wardrobe job, I'm casually dating a really nice guy, and I'm enjoying my Christmas gifts, even though I'm atrociously bad at Black Ops. I've got plans for the upcoming year... but that's going to be a whole different story to tell, isn't it?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Taking Responsibility

"I'm not good for you." 

How many times have we heard those words at some point in a relationship? How many times have we then proceeded to get involved anyway? 

I'm not judging you for that - far from it. There's a variety of reasons why people say these words. They're scared, they're not actually available, they're not emotionally available, they have no interest in actually committing, they're unsure of their feelings, they fully intend to cheat on you, they don't plan to care about you, they're not ready for a relationship, they have a terrible track record, and many more in the stories I'm sure you've all lived. Sometimes they mean these words, sometimes they don't. Sometimes we're aware of the reason they're saying them, sometimes we're not. 

What I'm sick of, though, is people using those words as a means to deflect responsibility when they've inflicted deep emotional wounds on another person. I'm sorry, but "I told you I'm not good for you" isn't good enough. Not by a long shot. 

It's an old adage that actions speak louder than words. And a simple statement that perhaps this isn't such a good idea holds little weight when paired with stolen kisses, romantic dinners, and loving caresses. How are we supposed to believe you when you say you're no good when your behavior doesn't stand behind your words? When you're two sides of the same coin, are we supposed to simply toss it in the air and hope it lands on the right answer? 

The person who is most at risk is left to determine how much of a risk there really is. And yet, when you stand unscathed over a wounded heart after striking the last blow, you manage to shirk all blame. "But I told you I'm not good enough for you."

If you truly mean those words when you say them, than I beseech you, have the courage and the dignity to leave no question about your meaning. Have the decency to remove yourself from the situation, instead of succumbing to whatever weakness it is that drives you forward with false smiles and comforting arms. If you speak those words to someone, and then proceed in spite of them, either the words, or your actions, are a lie. And when the smoke clears, you should have the balls to stand behind them, and take responsibility for what you've done instead of trying to shrug it off as being the other person's fault, or misunderstanding. It isn't right, and it isn't fair, and it makes you nothing more than a coward. 

Am I trying to say that we deserve no blame when we stay in situations after a warning that it will not end well? Not at all. It takes two to tango. I'm merely saying that we should not be forced to shoulder the blame on our own, or be made to feel as though it's entirely our own fault that we've been hurt, and most importantly, that because of the fact that we stayed, we are undeserving of comfort when we are hurting.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

O Holy Night

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining...

I'm not religious. That being said, I love a lot of things associated with religion. I think churches, temples, mosques, and other religious buildings exhibit some of the most beautiful architecture I've ever seen, and there is a lot of really spectacular religious artwork that I just love. I love singing masses, and religious music, I think it's really gorgeous.

And I love Christmas carols.

The video above is probably my favorite rendition of "O Holy Night", which is probably my favorite Christmas carol. When I listen to it, I totally forget for a second to nitpick that Jesus wasn't actually born on Christmas, and just enjoy the music. There's one verse in particular that really gets me every time...

Truly he taught us to love one another...

A couple of months back, I did a post entitled Follow The Way Of Love. Basically, I was really angry and worked up that there had been a series of posts about homosexuality being a sin, and they were so full of hate, and cruelty. I'm not a good Christian, but I think that I can safely say that Jesus wouldn't be okay with that. Instead of ranting and raving back in anger, I yanked a bunch of Bible verses that preach love. Because I'm pretty sure that the Bible tells us that we should love each other a lot more times than it tells us that the gays are going to hell. And so often, I feel like that message got lost somewhere along the way. I'm not religious, and I disagree with a LOT of the things that the church says, but I think preaching love is a fantastic message.

His law is love, and his gospel is peace...

For a lot of reasons, I've been hurting a lot in the last couple of months. People very close to me have hurt me in a variety of ways. Strangers have shocked me with their behavior. I've been disappointed in people. I've been let down. And it makes me sad. Because I look around and I see so much sadness, and selfishness, and negativity. I see all of us walking around acting like we're the center of the universe, or the most important person around. And while I understand that there is a natural instinct to take care of oneself, I hate that I see that being carried out at the expense of others. Is it such a hardship to be kind, and considerate, and loving to the people around you? Would it kill you to hold a door, or help someone carry something? Is it really so difficult to stop bullying people just because they're different from you?

And in his name, all oppression shall cease.

It's the holiday season, and regardless of which holiday you celebrate, I'm pretty sure there's some element of family, and kindness, and love involved. But I don't see that so much. I see people who are angry, self-involved, and often downright mean. I don't see people sticking up for one another, and being loving, or caring, or kind nearly as often as I'd like.

I wouldn't call myself Catholic anymore, despite that being how I raised. So I'm not trying to preach about how we should all be good Christians. I'm trying to say that we should all be good people.

I think that we all need to stop being so judgmental, self-centered, and cruel to one another.

There's a scene in the show that I'm working for right now that I watch from the wings every time I work, and I'd like to share some of the lines I really enjoy with you now:

"Real People! Doing the best they can! Yes! Doing the best they can in all the terrible situations the world throws at them! Suffering things no man or woman ought to suffer! And yet they carry on! They don't give up! They damn well keep going! And I'll tell you what else they do. They do the best the can for other people too. Whatever problems they've got, they damn well look after each other! Is that such an outmoded, sentimental notion? Is it? Well is it? ... Let's just all set ourselves to make this world a happier place! A decent world. A good world. A world where no nation plots against nation. Where no neighbor plots against neighbor, where there's no persecution or hunting down, where everybody gets a square deal and a sporting chance, and where people try to help and not to hinder. A world where suspicion and cruelty and fear have been forever banished! ... Is that the sort of world you want? Because that's the sort of world I want!"

I can't change anybody else, I know that. I can only change myself. So this holiday season, I am going to do my very best to put the pain and the hurt behind me, and be the best person that I can be. Because that's all I can do.

And I invite you all to do the same.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not My Story To Tell: A Question Of Ethics

I was thinking last week about how I'd like to write a book. Now, we should all bear in mind the fact that the remainder of this entry is pretty much irrelevant because I have neither the time nor the motivation to actually accomplish such a task, and even if by some miracle I did, it would never be of the quality that would be published, or read by anyone. 

So the rest of this is pretty hypothetical. 

I was thinking about how I'd like to write a book. And I'd like to base it on true events. It wouldn't actually be a true story, it would be a work of fiction, but it would be inspired by real people and real events. Part of this is because there are few things I know as well as the things I have experienced myself, and part of it is because, let's face it; I can't make up things half as entertaining as the shit that actually happens to me. 

But every time I think I'd like to do this, I come to an interesting stopping point. There are people in these stories who aren't me. And there are parts of these stories that are about them, and not me. Would it be right, or fair for me to tell these stories, even under the guise of fiction? Some of them are things that were told to me in confidence. Others are things that were told by friends of theirs, without their knowledge. I can't verify the truth of these things, and I can't ask most of these people how they'd feel about it.

But then, would they ever know? It's a work of fiction. They don't ever need to know that a character was inspired by them. They don't need to know that the reason the situation sounds so familiar is because it was, in fact, their situation that I was writing about. And as I said before, the odds that any of them would ever see it anyway are so, so low.

It shouldn't be a big deal - I talk about people on my blog all the time. I relate stories, and quote things that they've said to me. But I guess I never really talk about things that I feel they'd be uncomfortable with if they saw them. I don't think anyone who has been mentioned on my blog would be really angry or upset with me if they saw something I'd written about them. (With the exception, perhaps, of Prince Charming, but he has forfeited that right.) 

And yet, I'm still uncomfortable with it. I still feel as though it's not my story to tell. And is it? I'm not sure. So I don't write it. 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Being Our Own Heroes

Heroes sometimes seem like a thing of days gone by. An archetype of ancient Rome, or the star of our favorite comic books. Relics, from tales that happened sometime long ago, and somewhere far away. And certainly not anything like us. 

If you ask people about heroes now, you'll probably hear about men in uniform - police officers, fire fighters, soldiers. Or, of course, their parents, if they get along. You won't often hear people mention themselves. 

Because we're small and insignificant, in most cases. We're not supposed to be a part of the big story, we're supposed to keep our heads down and stay out of it, because the people in the stories aren't us. And besides, our own little universe constantly needs saving anyway, how are we supposed to go about saving anyone else? Half the time we're waiting for our own hero to stop the world from collapsing on our shoulders. And where are they? 

As I've moped around in the past couple weeks, bemoaning the abuse I take from people I'm just trying to help to be happy, one of my friends tried to get me to take solace in the fact that I am a good person. 

Not really comforting, at first. "Yes, he treated you like crap, but at least you know that you are a good person and you did the right thing." Wow. I feel so much better now. 

But in reality, it was a step in the right direction. I am a good person. The friend who was telling this to me? She's a good person too. There are good people in my life. Our conversation continued, and she pointed out that when it comes right down to it, sometimes the only people we can depend on are ourselves, and in that moment, we have to be our own hero. 

Being my own hero? Really? We're going to leave something that important in my hilariously emotionally unstable hands? 

On the one hand, it can be seen as a slightly depressing thought, that you have to be your own hero. It's sad to think that you can't always depend on the people you'd like to depend on, but I know from experience that you can not expect other people to save you. 

But on the other hand, isn't it just the slightest bit empowering? Isn't it exciting to think "I can take my life into my own hands, I can pick myself up, and I can save myself, I don't need to wait for someone else to do that for me."? 

I'll take empowering over depressing, for now...

"If you have your "one or two messes" up there, then why the hell are you still calling me? Explain to me why you're still expressing any need to see me. Do you expect me to continue to believe the lies you're telling me? How long am I supposed to put up with this? You don't have any respect for any of us, do you?" 

It was in that moment, that something snapped. It was like a veil was lifted and I finally saw clearly. I was calm, and zen. And I carried that feeling through much of my week. Straight through into yesterday morning when a simple "Hey" that once sent tears cascading down my cheeks, drifted towards my ears, and yet, it sounded so very far away. 

I wasn't angry at either of them. I wasn't even sad. I just felt... calm. Like the weight of it had gotten a little lighter, easier to bear. I'd known that I didn't need any of that in my life. But for the first time, I didn't want it either. 

I was being my own hero. I wasn't running to email you an apology for my outburst, or succumbing to the condescending hug you tended to offer me. I was walking away, and that is how I needed to save myself. And with it came a comforting realization. 

I don't need you to save me.

I'm a damsel. I'm in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Want To Hit Bottom

Or, Why I Should Not Be Allowed To Watch Or Read Fight Club

I'm sure that most of you have either seen or read Fight Club. And if you have, I'm sure you don't see it as something that should ever be taken seriously. However, every time I watch it, I get into a very strange mood. Because it makes sense to me. The idea of having to hit bottom. Being raised to believe you will be someone, or achieve something, and realizing it's a lie. Being trapped in the service industry, and undermining the system because that's all you can do. And perhaps, most of all...

It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything. 

The way in which those ideas spiral into something completely out of control is not something I agree with or approve of. I don't have any pressing desire to start an underground boxing club, or terrorist organization. 

But I do have the desire to buy a plane ticket and not look back.

The first time I walked into my shrink's office, what I wanted to talk about was my attachments. I wanted to talk about how I never feel free to do anything because I am always tied to things and to people, and how who I am is always so tangled up in who other people want me to be. I wanted to learn how to get away from those attachments, and sever those ties so that I would be free to leave whenever I wanted, instead of staying for something that shouldn't matter. Six months of counseling later, I'm perhaps a few baby steps closer to finally leaving, but for every two steps I take forward, I take one back. 

I want to hit bottom, and I don't know how. Because I'm so scared of being alone that I tie myself up in relationship after relationship like a fucking security blanket to keep me warm. And all it does is provide a safety net for me that prevents me from ever really hitting bottom. I've mastered the art of overlapping relationships. Whenever a man drops me, I find a way to maneuver myself so that I fall squarely into someone else's lap. My shrink calls it "stocking my bench" to this day, from a joke I've made in the past - that you have to have a strong bench in case one of your starters is out of the picture. 

I told all of this to a friend earlier today.

He first asked if I was high, and then congratulated me on my realizations, and self awareness. 

These realizations aren't new. I am a remarkably self-aware person. But as I said to my friend, and as I will repeat here, knowing what my problems are does not provide a solution. Being aware of what I do wrong does not allow me to modify my behavior. Knowledge is not change, or progress. Knowledge is recognition. And these problems aren't black and white. I know what my problems are, I know where my behavior needs to be changed, and I know when I am doing something wrong. I am aware of myself and my actions. But I am also aware that there is no one right answer. 

And with that in mind, all I want is to walk away from everything. I want to hit bottom so that I can stand back up, brush myself off, and start over again. Because I don't know where to go from here.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Looking The Part

When I started my newest wardrobe job, there was a training process I went through before they threw me in on my own. On the first day, I followed the woman whose track I cover and she explained out loud everything she was doing as she did it. The second day, I did it with her following behind me telling me everything I had to do. The third day, I did it with her following me and prompting me only if I needed her to. On the fourth day, she followed me and said nothing at all. 

On the fifth day, I was on my own. And I was terrified. 

One of the reasons I was terrified is because there's a certain degree of teasing and shenanigans that go on backstage, because most of the people there have been working together for so long. One of the actors I am responsible for dressing likes to mess around, and goof off, which made me nervous because I was still frantically flipping through my notes between changes to make sure I'd done everything right. 

A couple people asked me if I was nervous before we started the show that evening, and I admitted that I really, really was. One of the stagehands looked me up and down and said "Well, you don't LOOK nervous." 

And sometimes, that's half the battle. 

Everyone had warned me to not let the goofy actor know that I was scared, because he'd just mess with me more. So when he launched into a bit of teasing about how if I mess up I'd never work in this town again, I planted my hands on my hips, stood up straight (and a little bit on my tiptoes... he's taller than me) and stared him down until he couldn't finish his sentence. Mostly because he was laughing at how ridiculous I looked trying to stare him down, but the point is, it snapped him out of it. 

You'd think that someone who helps people dress up to look the part for a living, I'd realize how far looking the part will get you. And I suppose I did, because I do it all the time, I just don't THINK about it. 

When I was having administrative battles in offices at my school a few months back, every time I had to go up to school to go to one of the offices, I put on a blouse and blazer with my jeans, nice earrings, and a little more makeup than I might normally wear. I pinned my hair back, and basically walked into the offices with a look of "I'm about to ask you to do something for me, and you're about to do it." I was as serious as I could be, because I wanted them to take me seriously and process my forms as quickly as possible. 

I think we all probably do this, to some degree. We all have outfits we'll wear for certain occasions, and not for others. I have a specific series of shirts that I save for days when I'm going to the bar to watch football, because they're sporty, but make me look cute enough that maybe a guy will buy me a drink. (Something I should stop wishing for, because the last few times that has happened it has involved jager and whiskey - not on the same night, thank god) 

I think to some degree, it's about dressing appropriate for whatever you're doing. But I think it's also about adopting the attitude to go along with it. I have to wear blacks when I'm working the show. So yea, I look like I'm supposed to be there whether I act like it or not, because I'm there in my blacks just like everybody else. But when I stand up straight and walk around like I know what I'm doing, and like I've got everything under control, I really look the part. It's as much about the attitude and confidence you're presenting.

Don't worry, I'm still flipping through my notes every few cues... just in case!