Of Overthinking Advice

In your lifetime, you’ll get hundreds of pieces of advice. Most of them you’ll ignore, just for the sake of making your own mistakes, so you can learn from them. But some will stick and some will come back to you when you least expect them.

In my case, I’m still not sure if the words my grandpa would repeat each day like a mantra, count as advice. But the more I live and experience, the more I find myself pondering those words. They seemed so obvious, when I used to hear them all the time. He said „You have a heart and a brain. Use them.”

What could be more obvious then that? Of course I have a heart and a brain, I’m a human am I not? My teenage self would shake her head, kiss him on the cheek (or not) laugh and say „I know, I know” and be on her way. But as life goes on it seems like it’s harder to see it as something so clear and easy. Not because I don’t believe I have a heart or a brain, but more because I’m having a harder and harder time using them both. It’s almost like these two are constantly competing with each other, trying to decide which one is more right then the other. And perhaps there are matters in life that are only matters of the heart and things that only brain needs to concern itself with, but when it comes to making decisions it would be rather nice if they could agree on something. If something could be good and wise, rather than good, but stupid. I know I’m not making any special discovery when I talk about this, everybody seems to be pretty aware of the differences between the heart and the brain. Or, as  some pragmatic would call it, the left and the right brain.

So you see, I spend my time trying to figure out what he meant. I never asked him, because I thought I knew. I could ask him now, but the way he is, I’m not sure if he could give me an answer. And maybe the question would be stupid, because it’s so obvious and I’m trying to read too much into it?

Maybe it’s in the way he lived his own life? He was kind yet smart. And he was known for his kindness and intelligence. I was told so, at least. I believe it. I think we all need to keep believing in our childhood heroes, no matter how much we learn about life in the process of living, and how improbable some of those stories seem, as we grow up.

As I’m writing this, I’m not even sure if this is the kind of inspiration the daily post was looking for. I’m sure people received some amazing advice in their life they can follow, instead of trying to figure the meaning out. Then again, a known fact about myself is that I think too much, so perhaps it’s nothing that needs thought, but just something simple? Maybe it’s… Follow your heart and be kind, but always apply logic and remember to trust your knowledge of the world, to guide you through life’s challenges? That kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

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In case it doesn’t, there’s always this advice my grandpa gave me. Pretty straight forward: „careful at the crosswalks!”

Of Small Steps

More like tiny steps.

It is a fairly common thing to hear. Take small steps instead of big leaps if you want to get to your destination. Trouble is, and I see it in most people my age, we want to get where we want to be… Fast. We don’t want to waste our time working, or rather we’re willing to work, as long as the work has immediate effects and brings us quickly towards our goal. Unfortunately for most people, myself included, life doesn’t work that way. It is almost unnatural to find immediate success in the thing you want to do or the passion you wish to pursue. It takes time and patience and sometimes it’s hard not to get frustrated. Especially since we do live in such a cynical world. I recently was having a conversation with a friend about my blog. I mentioned that I had just started writing it, and that I feel fairly happy about it. And I do. Not because it’s largely successful, not even because it’s good. I mean, I enjoy it, but quality of work is a very objective thing and I can’t be a judge of that. Sometimes I love it, sometimes not so much, through that I practice and learn. The point  is: I’m doing it. I’m doing it a little and I’m making myself do it regularly. Next step being writing every day. I’m not there yet. I will be.

His question to me was: „How many views do you have?” views being the only direct way to measure a blogs’ success. I blinked my eyes a couple of times, experiencing a flashback. It isn’t anything surprising, but people love to verify what you claim to be, in measuring your popularity. Granted, at the end of the day, one way of figuring out how well you’ve done, is when you see other people having use for it and appreciating it. But when I told people I came out to LA to be an actress, one of the first questions asked was „What have I seen you in?” and then the traditional „Well, you know, someday I’ll be telling stories about how I gave this actress a ride”. And you scoff and leave because you have to deal with the reality, that despite the efforts you put into it, you don’t feel any closer to accomplishing your goal. Which is to be able to say „I’ve been in this and that, my next project I’m not supposed to talk about” but it’s really a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, directed maybe by Martin Scorsese and then you’ll finally be one of those people that the cab drivers brag about. But until that dream becomes a reality, you have to hustle and grind, and nowhere is it promised, that it will actually come true. And it’s the same thing with writers. Whatever it is you’re doing. There will always be ways by which society is going to try to measure your success, but the truth is: only you know what success means to you and if you’re getting closer to it, or not.

This as a whole makes me realize, whatever it is you’re trying to do, there are many moments in which you won’t feel like you’re making enough progress or as if you’re moving at all, but the truth is, with every action you take, you make a step forward to whatever destination it is you’re chasing. It’s when you let questions like that stop you, or your own fears and doubts resonate in your thoughts for a little too long, that’s when you first start putting your journey to a halt. Here’s what I firmly believe in. Doing is the best practice. If you can do, whatever it is that you love, every day, do your best to do it every day. Trust me, I’m still figuring this step out because there’s always all sorts of things that distract you, life just loves messing with us, and sometimes we make choices that pull us a little farther from the goal but make our experience as humans richer. It’s when you don’t do it because you’d rather just do something that you already know doesn’t benefit you in any way… That’s when you should pause and rethink your approach to passion, I believe. And frankly that’s how I found that acting wasn’t really that big of a passion of mine. Because after a couple of months I couldn’t get myself to do the most basic things actors need to do, which is submitting myself for projects, trying to find jobs and developing the craft. Here’s to another attempt at finding a passion. And hoping it will stick. If this fear resonates with anybody, please let me know. Either way, for some reason with writing the whole practice stage seems a lot more accessible. You can always do it, and if you can’t, learn about it. Setting realistic goals, doesn’t mean you’re not shooting for the stars, it means that instead of shooting blindly, you’re actually building a path to reach them.

Here’s another thing that people like to say to young artists. „Just do it, that is the best way to do it”. I even said so myself, a second ago. But what I think is being left out in the process is learning more about that thing that you are trying to do. Granted, practice is the best teacher, but if you don’t know where to begin, it is good to have guidance and some form of structure to know when you’re making a point and when you’re completely lost in your own actions. It’s a little like throwing punches while being blindfolded. You know you’re trying to hit something or do something, but you just can’t seem to figure out the direction it’s supposed to go.

Speaking from personal experience, I attempted writing a stream of consciousness story, that was myself, looking upon myself from the outside perspective and writing about what I was experiencing as well as who I was perceiving, as I looked into my written reflection. Interesting idea, I thought to myself, but I got to a point where I had to stop. The thoughts became unruly and the story I was trying to tell became something different. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s the hand of God, or inspiration, or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it’s just a mess. The more you know about the art or craft or passion you’re pursuing, the better you are at recognizing the difference and knowing how to structure what you’re taking on. Essentially, it’s like a person who wants to be a runner, participating in a marathon with hopes to win, without any training. Or an artist trying to paint a masterpiece equal to Mona Lisa, without ever studying the basic techniques.

To sum up. Know that even if the steps you’re taking are very tiny, with a combination of working and studying whatever you’re doing, you are moving forward. The road might not end up taking you where you expect, however. And don’t let your own doubts and critics in your mind tell you, you’re not good enough, just because you don’t have enough followers. All in due time.

And If you could’t tell, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Whenever I write those things, it  makes it easier for myself to process. I’m still going through all that struggle myself. I’m sharing my observations. I’m hoping it might be easier to relate to someone who’s going through the same thing. I find it hard to listen to mentors. I do listen, because I want to learn, but when they give you those mantras and pieces of wisdom, sometimes it feels like it’s coming from a different planet. Like they’re already where I wish to be and they’re trying to let me know how to get there, but all they know is the path that they have taken and I’m over here building my own path. Can’t really relate, even though I try to. So here’s hoping that there’s people out there, on that same journey, fighting their own battles and building their stairway to stardust.

 

Of Double-Standards part. 2

Of Dating Dangerously

I’ve been single most of my life. Let’s be honest, my longest relationship has been…            2 months. And it was messed up. At this point I’ve decided it’s time to take a deep look at the way I approach relationships and dating. I’ve decided to share this because I deeply believe that I’m not the only girl dealing with this. And it relates to something I said in the previous post. „Women only chase after assholes, they don’t want nice guys” I said that this statement wasn’t entirely true. And it isn’t. But it also is to some extent. I notice it in my dating life and that of others. We as girls, more often then not, bestow our love on somebody who doesn’t really care much for it and when we’re faced with someone who does pursue us, we take it for granted.

This might be a very specific personal coincidence, but what I have noticed in my life is that the „good guy” always seems to pop up, before I manage to fully recover from the bad guy. He shows up when I’m in the mindset of not wanting to trust anybody, or ever need anybody in my life. I don’t want to care anymore, because I have cared and it didn’t work out. And here he is, giving me all he has. Expressing love in all the ways he knows how to, yet I’m still behind this wall, that I have built to protect myself from the blow I received from another guy. It’s like I’ve been sucker-punched and now I expect everyone out there to be attempting to hit me. And that’s false. Because as hard as I find it to believe sometimes, not all men are bad. Not all men want to use you for their pleasure and then toss you away like you’re nothing. Some are caring, loving and sweet. The problem is – after experiencing the „bad guys” all the time, I know their game. When I deal with fuckboys I know their moves and I know their objective. In that I can make my choices and decide to either play along or shut it down, depending on the current mood. With the „nice guys” it’s tricky. I almost don’t trust the niceness. It’s like I don’t know what it is, it’s unfamiliar, so it scares and it’s difficult to trust it. Like, what do you want from me? If the fact that I feel that someone wants all of me wasn’t scary enough, there’s enough horror stories I’ve heard or experienced to get my imagination going. The smiles and the kindness make me think that there is something deeper and darker hiding behind it. Something I don’t want to have to face. It’s the same monster that lived under my bed. It’s not real. But unlike the monster – it could be. Because all the real monsters are human, and they would hide behind sweetness and kindness.

She put on her nice dress. She put on her make up and did her hair. She wanted to feel beautiful. Was it for him? Or for herself? She glanced at the mirror and asked that very question. Of course it was for herself! She was just going to have fun with this guy. He was good looking. Tall, pale, dark hair and deep brown eyes. She fantasized: he might be a little like the vampire from the books. Mysterious but passionate, reserved but caring, strong but vulnerable… She sighed. She tried not to get her hopes up. They only went out once after all. It was great, amazing even. And right after she knew, he wanted to see her again. 

He showed up with flowers and opened the door for her. He was gentle and kind, the conversation was polite. They were going to have a game night with his buddies. She felt a little intimidated by the fact that he would introduce her to his friends already, but she took that as a good omen. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t take her seriously. They got to their destination. Walked into the room, where the guys were already drinking and having fun. She felt strangely disturbed when she walked in, but she disregarded that as nerves. She grabbed a drink that was handed to her and sat down on the couch, where he introduced her as his girl. She thought it was a little too fast, but she felt like it was a conversation for later… And it was also somewhat proof of the fact that he was, indeed, serious about her. They talked about mutual interests and so on and so forth. Before she knew it, her head grew heavy, things started getting blurry. She knew what was happening, but she had no control of her body. She couldn’t move or speak. She watched from outside of herself as they took turns with her. Bruising her arms and legs, tearing her insides apart. After they were done, they shoved her back to the car and got rid of her in the middle of some road. 

The next morning she could barely walk. She wanted to go to the police, but she knew they wouldn’t believe her. And partially she did blame herself. How could she be so stupid? She’s been warned so many times, why did she trust a stranger? She could have predicted that it would happen. She just didn’t want to. But why? Because she wanted to trust. She wanted to believe that happy endings could happen and that tall dark strangers could be amazing boyfriends. Now, could she ever trust again? He was so nice. So sweet. So charming… She walked on, in shame, analyzing every detail, trying to find something she had missed, something that could have warned her about this. She remembered that he initially made her feel uneasy, she ignored it, thinking it was her usual paranoia and social anxiety. She should have known then… It didn’t have to happen. But it did. And she let it… In some way, she allowed it. How could she forgive herself?

This is clearly one of the darkest possible scenarios. But it could happen, couldn’t it? There’s people out there who lived it. And that’s the terrifying truth about dating, and being open to other people. You never know, whose company you might end up in.

All warnings and fears aside, dating can also be really fun if you let it, and if you’re careful. Here’s a couple of things I recommend if you want to be a little adventurous and go out with strangers:

  1. Always make sure at least one friend knows where you’re going
  2. Make sure your phone is charged
  3. Watch out for red flags: if he disappears with your drink, if you don’t know where he’s taking you, if you’re going to be „outnumbered” etc.
  4. Stay alert. If you notice something is feeling weird, find a way to figure out what is happening and if necessary, call someone. Remember, most assaults happen because the assailant doesn’t think he’s going to be caught. A witness – even if only one on the other side of the phone line, might prevent them from taking any action.
  5. Be prepared – I chose pepper spray.

This post took a much darker turn then expected, but I guess it’s a good thing. Because you do have to be careful. Your heart will recover if you manage to go through dating just dealing with fuckboys. If you catch a life-long trauma that’s a bit of a more difficult thing to fix.

Stay safe!

To be continued… In the next post a little bit more about dating, a little less about horror stories. Stay tuned!

Of Trust & Passion

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to talk about in this post. I’ve been reading about the kind of stuff you should write, in order to get an audience. Getting an audience, of course, is the ultimate goal for any artist. In the age of noise we live in, you really have to reach out and find something to talk about that others can relate to. That’s according to Jeff Goins, who runs a very successful blog about writing. At first I thought to myself: I don’t have enough experience to talk about anything. What could I possibly give to people that they might need? I have some knowledge, I guess, in areas completely unrelated to one-another. At the same time I am very young so the fear is , I won’t be taken seriously. I mean, I have a hard time taking myself seriously sometimes. So, as I was pondering on this today I came to a conclusion, that what I do know is: what it’s like to be a creative person in search of their true passion. Yes. Because I’m not just only a writer and I know, that there’s plenty of people out there, like me, who have a lot of creative interests. I started out as an actress and singer and  only recently discovered that at the end of the day, writing is what gives me a true sense of accomplishment and makes me feel happy. Even if sometimes, like today, I have to force myself to sit down and type. Point being, I can tell you a little bit about what my journey has been like, in hopes that you will find it helpful and maybe a little inspiring. Here’s a story of how I found that writing is my passion, and the bumpy road I had to take to find it.

First of all, I’ve always felt like I’m kind of good in many areas, but never felt like I was actually exceptional in something. There are some people, who are just  phenomenal in this one thing they do, and their struggle is completely different from the struggle of people like me. I liked doing creative things regardless of what they were. As a teen, I had a hard time making friends, so I spent a lot of time online, writing on RPG forums. For those of you, who don’t know what an RPG forum is: it’s an online forum which is transformed and used as a Role Playing Game platform. The conditions of the universe you play in are described, as well as various locations (much like maps in video games). You create your own character and then proceed to play by describing what this character is doing, interacting with other players and their characters. I absolutely loved doing that, I spent hours writing posts and making up stories for the characters I created. After a while I became involved as a builder of such forums and eventually a Game Master, which is the person that creates adventures and leads other players through them. Because it was just a hobby and something I did for fun, I never took it seriously. And none of my family members did either. I recall countless discussions I had with my parents about the amount of time I spend in front of the computer, writing/playing. Never was it even considered a way of developing a skill or a passion. It was considered, if not a waste of time, a dangerously addictive activity. It’s hard to blame them. It was very unclear to them what it was exactly that I was doing, and they were terrified that at some point I will meet a pedophile who will lure me out and kidnap me, or molest me… Something like that. Legitimate fears I actually shared, to some extent. You can never be too careful online, especially if you’re a kid.  Fortunately, the only people I ever met were really cool, creative types, who much like me, had a hard time finding common ground with their piers at school. Most of those friendships didn’t last, but I also met one of my best friends of all time through that writing playtime. Life goes on, and time comes to graduate from high-school and pick a degree to pursue. School was never my thing but, I wanted to do something ambitious, yet as easily as humanly possible. I decided to take on Japanese studies. I picked that because it was kind of impressive to get in, I loved Japanese culture (anime and manga to be more specific) and all that was required of me, was that I took advanced English, Polish and Spanish in my matriculation exams. Since I was already fluent in English and Spanish, I only really had to worry about passing my Polish exam well. It went… Ok. At the end of the day I got into Japanese Studies and that was all that mattered. After the first year, I failed almost all my final tests, which threw me into plunges of depression. First of all, I never actually failed in anything. I was used to just kind of trying and kind of succeeding. In addition to that, the failure made me realize, that I didn’t really want to be a Japanese translator for the rest of my life. I loved the Japanese culture but not enough to dedicate myself to it completely. That was the first time I actually took the time to ask myself: what is it that I want to do? And the answer wouldn’t come, making my depression even worse. I had to do something, I just didn’t know what. I wanted to take a year off, figure things out for myself and find solutions, but my parents didn’t want to hear about it. „There’s no time to waste in life. You have to hit the ground running and make something of yourself. Whatever that something is, just something, doesn’t matter that you don’t know what you want, you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out after all is said and done. But of course, we also want you to be happy.” Then, my mom suggested I went to an acting school. In the meantime I also considered going to a music school for voice but that idea was short-lived. I don’t even remember why, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with my grandmother being a musician and telling me how difficult music school is, and that I would never make it because it requires too much work. I don’t know if you’re noticing a pattern at this point, but can you see how family can try to be supportive and yet, at the same time, make you feel pressured into making choices you’re not ready to make? And when you’re stumbling in any sort of direction, that isn’t the safest way to go, they tell you you’re not good enough? They believe in you, but they don’t. Your family ever made you feel that way? Not that I didn’t give them reasons to act in this way. And of course I always knew that they really loved me, so all their reservations came from the fact that they wanted me to be successful, they just had little faith in my ability to do what needs to be done to get there. Moving on to: acting. Getting warmer. All my life, my mom has been telling me she saw an actress in me from the moment I was born. A conviction which only grew stronger as I started growing up: „I just knew it. You had the personality for it. I always thought you were gifted in that regard, you should do it!”I should probably mention at this point, that my mom went to an acting school herself. She did well at first, but gave up on her career later in life. After having two kids it’s kind of difficult to pursue this particular profession. She got an MBA and began to climb corporate ladders of various companies. Smart woman. Wonder how she would have survived the acting world. In my experience, intelligence is not your friend in this industry. Especially as a woman and a beginner. And so, with my mother’s blessing, I went off to an acting school. I loved acting. The more I learned about it, the more I loved it. But I hated everything else about the school. The teachers would constantly tell us we were worthless and didn’t have talent. There was one teacher in particular who regularly bullied me, calling me fat and accusing me of lack of empathy, both of which were supposed to make it impossible for me to ever have a career in this profession. Also, both untrue. But tell a young girl she’s fat and she will most definitely believe it. I decided to continue my education in the States. Where else? LA seemed like the best destination. Little did I know that after studying there, I would find that I love theater much more then TV and film and that I should have gone to New York. But the decision had already been made. Miraculously, we managed to get money to pay for it. The fact that I went through this school program and graduated, can only be credited to a tide of good fortune and extreme effort on behalf of my parents. See? They really do want me to be happy. Especially my dad, who thought that acting was a terrible idea from the beginning, yet still payed for my school. Now, here’s where things get ridiculously complicated. After my first year of college, I experienced and epiphany. Just a quick moment in time, where everything came together and a realization hit me: I should be a writer. That’s what I should be doing, I should write. You’d think that it’s great, right? I finally had the answer to the question I’ve been asking for the past 3 years, and it made perfect sense! It was the one thing that felt like it came from me and not someone else’s idea of me. However,  I felt like I had gone too far in my pursuit of acting to just change my mind like that. I mean, I had already asked my parents to suffer incredibly, so I could go to this school. They both gave it their all. How am I to tell them, that I changed my mind and that I actually wanted to do something else? And how could I trust myself? How could I be certain? So naturally, being the person that I am, I didn’t mention my doubts to anybody, trying to feel the waters. Seeing where the wind will blow. Having to struggle with that knowledge all throughout second year made me miserable and depressed. I didn’t find as much joy in acting as I used to, and I started to feel as if I wasn’t even good at it to begin with. Each time I was complimented on a performance I felt like I was being lied to. It may have all been in my head, but that experience was definitely not pleasant. I tried to push away my desire to write, though stories and ideas would come to me and I would begin to write them. But never with real commitment because I had resolved to commit to acting. That was a choice that I made and I had to stick with it. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to change my mind. I had to do this. But it soon became clear that you can’t force yourself to be something you’re not, even if you really want to. You can’t satisfy all the expectations your family has of you, because that way, you will never be happy. After over 2 years of inner battling between what I really wanted and what I felt was „right”, I gave in. I started by writing a show for Hollywood Fringe festival. And once I had done that, any doubt I had before was meaningless. I just wanted to do this, always. Write stories. Typing and seeing letters appear on a blank sheet in front of me fills me with happiness. It’s almost therapeutic.And who is to say that I can’t write plays and scripts and write the kind of roles I want to play? I was never meant to play a Bond girl. I’m too fat, as my wise teacher said.

This path was filled with frustration, desperation and moments of joy, and let me tell you right now, I don’t regret a second of it. I’m saying this, because I know that you might be in that point of your journey where you feel like you’re wasting your time. You’re not. Every step brings you closer and provides you with something that you will need further along the way. Life is just like video games. And here’s a couple of guide-lines I made up, but they’re also pretty much common knowledge:

  1. Give yourself time – there’s no rush. Everyone is on their own journey, follow where it takes you and you will find yourself, where you need to be, trust this.
  2. Listen to yourself – for me, that was one of the hardest things to do. Everyone was telling me what they thought I should be doing with my life and in all that noise, my own voice was drowned and almost impossible to hear. But it always spoke and when I listened, I could hear it.
  3. Trust – passion isn’t something you can miss out on. Not if you really want it. You will find it because it’s already in you. Whatever it is. It’s there and it will find you.
  4. Explore – don’t be afraid to try different things. Sometimes you need to try a lot of different flavors before you find the one that suits you best.
  5. Don’t second-guess yourself: You will. That’s just the way it goes for most people. But you have to remember that you are enough. If you want to do something, just go for it and learn about it later. Learn by doing it. Let me tell you, I have allowed myself to stop my own growth too many times by telling myself: I don’t have enough experience, I don’t know anything about this… Who cares? The worst thing that can happen is you’ll make a mistake and learn from it. As Shia LaBeouf said… JUST DO IT! And don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you that „only special people can do that kind of stuff and I’m not special”. You decide what you are. So shut that voice up and do what you love.