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So Much Thanks

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. When you get right down to it, the vast majority of us in the world have a WHOLE lot to be thankful for, and with the world as whacked out as it is, I think it’s important to vocalize our thanks. Focus on the good. Be… excellent… to each other. ‘Tis the season.

This year I want to participate in the 30 days of thanks challenge. Is it a challenge? I’m not sure. I may have made that up. 30 days of thanks… extravaganza? Or maybe it’s just 30 Days of Thanks. That sounds more like it. Either way, I want to do that thing where you vocalize, literally or electronically, something you are thankful for each day.

Most people do this through a Facebook post or a tweet, but being the long-winded writer that I am I’m anticipating wanting to elaborate a bit more so I’ll use the ol’ blog to get the word out. This will also give me a true challenge, to write every day for 30 days.

Join me on a 30 day journey of reflection and deep-hearted thanks. I encourage you to join in the extravaganza!

(I’m a few days behind, so I’m going to spitfire Days 1-4 and get on track with one post per day starting tomorrow).

Day 1

This face/person/soul:

 

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Brad Light. I don’t know what I did to find him. Whatever celestial magic that brought him my way, to “you” I say thank you. I am thankful for his spirit, his silliness, his sense of humor, his tenderness, his gentleness, his handsomeness, his goodness, his curly brown hair, his horned-rim glasses, his love of the sea, his quest for adventure, his love of his family, his love of cats, his delicious stir-frys, his understanding, and more than anything I’m thankful that he loves me. Again, celestial magic. It’s a thing. I love you to the moon and back Brad.

Day 2

These squishy fluffy faces:

Kitties

 

It is an excellent idea to live with cuddly animals. They teach you about unconditional love. They challenge you to take care of something precious other than yourself. They encourage you to embrace empathy for non-human creatures, which then translates to empathy for human creatures too. These are truths for me. I am so grateful for my two kitties, Sharky and Mr. Wizard. Now if only they loved each other as much as we love them. Maybe next year.

Day 3

My running route:

Last night Brad and I finished a glorious 10 mile run along the beach. Around mile 4 the sun was setting over the Pacific and Brad says to me “if anyone told me when I was a kid that one day I’d get to run along the beach next to my fiance as the sun sets over the ocean, I’d have been able to suffer through a lot more pain with a smile on my face knowing where I’d eventually end up.” Isn’t that the lesson we all need. First of all, when life sucks, as it often does, you are never without the tiny kernel of knowledge that somehow it will get better. It just will. And that maybe all of the hard times are necessary, as they are leading to something more wonderful than you could imagine. So today I am grateful for where those hard times and wrong turns have landed us. In a little apartment on the Pacific with the most glorious running path two runners could ask for.

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Day 4

I am grateful for the fall.

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Today I woke up and I knew it would feel like fall (as much as it CAN feel like fall in Los Angeles). Brisk autumn days are something I miss so terribly living in L.A. Some people get bummed out by a lack of sunshine. I get bummed out by too much. I like the seasons to obey the seasons and Southern California is the land of eternal summer. Bummer. Today I have a scarf around my neck, and I wore a jacket to work. I noticed some leaves falling off trees, and the shadows are extra long. Today, it feels like California fall and it may only last until about 3:00 pm, but I’ll take it. I’ll savor it.

 

Sometimes I worry that acknowledging all that I’m grateful for will jinx me, and it will all fall apart. This comes from the part of my brain that is convinced I don’t deserve to be happy. Hogwash. We all deserve to be happy. But we gotta thank the universe once in a while. She won’t bite.

 

See ya tomorrow.

 

 

You Never Forget Your First Time

The buzz and excitement continues for the upcoming Disneyland Half Marathon. I’ve been following all of the tweets and Facebook Group posts about it and at this point it’s pretty much all I can think about! Such is always the case a month or so before race weekend. I turn into a giddy little child counting down to Christmas. Today I can’t help but feel nostalgic. The reason I’m so giddy year after year (and so willing to fork over the dough for registration fees) is because my first year at the Disneyland Half Marathon was so special. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? Just a short one. I promise. I know you all have runs to get in 😉

The year was 2010. I really can’t remember the month but let’s say it was March. This was back in the old days before runDisney. I know, hard to believe there was a time before runDisney, but it’s true! This was in the time when each park, the Land or the World, organized racing events on their own.  Sometime in the early part of the year (we decided on March, yes?) I came across a pamphlet in a coffee shop for the Disneyland Half Marathon. (This was also back in the days when the races didn’t sell out in 48 hours and you learned about local events from pamphlets in coffee shops). I really couldn’t believe my eyes. How did I not know about this? Running at Disneyland? That sounded like the coolest thing ever. Turned out it was 🙂

I had never run more than 9 miles but I figured, what’s 4 more? I can do it! I decided I wanted to raise money for a good cause while training and that’s exactly how I got into blogging. I launched The Happiest Runner on Earth to reach out to donors and share my training progress. The Disneyland Half Marathon is responsible for many things. It’s responsible for getting me back in shape, getting me running consistently again, and getting my writing out there. Although first-person narrative non-fiction isn’t my writing career target, it gets me writing, and it keeps me connected with all of the other thousands of running freaks and Disney nerds out there. Raise your hands people.

That first race was magical. Running through the parks early in the morning with Paradise Bay all lit up, the fog still sitting low on the ground, and the surprise of cheerful characters around every corner; it was a perfect run. The surprise of how many runners were in attendance (I would’ve never dreamed to see 14,000!), and the joyful gratitude I held for each and every volunteer there to either hand out water, or simply hold up a sign to cheer on strangers crazy enough to run 13.1 miles; it was a perfect run. The experience of running a RACE for the first time ever, getting a little bit competitive with that other girl with Tinker Bell wings who I haven’t managed to pass for the past 4 miles, hitting the wall at mile 11 and figuring out how to dig up true willpower to finish, crossing a finish line for the first time: it was a perfect run. I’ve written before about how you can never quite recapture the magic of the first time, and how there’s something inherently sad about that, but every year that I run this race I get a glimmer of the first year’s excitement; and no it’s not quite the same, but it’s worth it. And it’s worth it for all of the NEW memories we create every single year. Like falling down the rabbit hole at mile 9, or discovering the magic of gummy bears. Every race holds some new lesson buried within it. In running the race you dig up the lesson and you move on to the next exciting event wiser, faster, stronger. It’s a pleasant addiction. 

Your first day at school, first trip to Disneyland, first time seeing the Grand Canyon, first love, first kiss. Firsts are just plain awesome. You only get them once for a fleeting moment yet they leave a lifelong impact. You really never forget your first time. Thankfully my first half marathon was at Disneyland, and I’ll honor that joyful memory by running it every year until my legs (or my pocketbook) give out. 

Here are the videos of our first Disneyland Half Marathon to complete the stroll down memory lane. Ahh, memories 🙂

Balancing Act: Running vs. Friends

Today I’m struggling with balancing priorities of equal importance. My days are full. I work a 40 hour work week (sometimes more), and I come home and have approximately 4 or 5 hours to do the following: have dinner, clean the apartment, feed the cats, make and process Whimsy Do orders, write, spend quality time with the man who will be my husband, socialize with friends, do the dishes, do the laundry, and run. Somewhere in there I would like to be able to squeeze in some relaxation, when I can. I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. My life is full, but it’s full of goodness. I love my life. I pinch myself daily. The problem is that there really are limited hours in the day to accomplish such massive quantities of goodness, and usually something falls by the wayside.

Lately it’s been running. Who am I kidding, also cleaning. Our apartment sometimes looks like a few empty pizza boxes away from an episode of Hoarders.

But I can’t let running fall by the wayside. It brings me too much joy, helps me feel sane, and most important of all, gets us to Tahiti! Running must be mandatory from this point out. When struggling with how to squeeze in a mandatory activity there really is only one option. Do it. If that means you have to NOT do something else, then that’s what it means. Today that something else involves friends and it’s making me wish there were two of me.

There’s a fundraiser at Theatre of NOTE tonight called “Stand Up for NOTE.” It’s an evening of stand-up featuring several friends of mine, and all of the proceeds benefit an upcoming production at the theatre. You should go! ;). BUT, we are behind on this week’s mileage and today’s run is crucial to keep us on track for the longer run this weekend. I couldn’t run this morning because I had an 8:00 am dentist appointment and I just can’t get out of bed to run before 7:00. I’m like a robot. I don’t switch on until usually 7:30.

In his book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” Haruki Murakami pretty succinctly describes the struggle of balancing life’s priorities:

It’s a lifestyle, though, that doesn’t allow for much nightlife, and sometimes your relationships with other people become problematic. Some people even get mad at you, because they invite you to go somewhere or do something with them and you keep turning them down. I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance. I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all other people around me.

It’s a bit harsh, and many may say selfish, but there’s truth there wouldn’t you agree? There are only so many hours in the day and I have to preserve as many as I can to allocate to my personal goals. It’s the only way they’ll get accomplished. But my personal relationships are also very important to me. I don’t want them to be diminished by my aspirations.

One solution is to kill two birds, or as many birds as possible, with one stone. (I really hate that a metaphor about killing birds is so useful.) I’m grateful that Brad enjoys running with me because then I can check running and spending quality time with my man off the list at the same time. Maybe I should start a running club with my friends and bring my social life and running life together. What say you friends? Would you go for it?  I suppose combining priorities is one way to solve this problem of mine.

In the meantime, you should go to this in case I can’t. Check out that line-up! And hosted by the one and only Kirsten Vangsness. It really is going to be incredibly hilariously awesome.

How about you? Do you have trouble balancing your personal goals with other obligations? I’d love to hear what you do to get it all done.

RTT Book Club: Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

Welcome to the Running to Tahiti Book Club! I don’t intend to actually start a book club. I’m already trying my damnedest to get momentum going on a book club in the physical world. Lord knows I don’t have time to start one in the internet world. So I suppose this is more of a Book Corner. A corner of my blog dedicated to books pertaining to the journey of running. There are so many great ones out there! I will read them. Hopefully some of you will either have read them and start a dialogue in the comments section, or you will be so inspired by my brilliant reviews that you will dash out to the library and get a copy for yourself. I wrote about this idea several months ago, and I’m picking up the mantle, as I just finished one of the books on the list. 

I recently went through a literary drought. It was awful. The problem was, I started to read a book that, truth be told, did not captivate. I love the author so much that I couldn’t bring myself to quit the book. I felt I owed it to him to stick with it and give the book a chance to measure up to the author’s previous brilliant works. It never did; and it took me almost 6 months to finish! So awful. I just didn’t want to read, but I also didn’t want to start a new book until I finished the current one. Long story short, I finally finished this book that shall remain nameless, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally I could get started on my running book list!

I decided to start the RTT Book Club (or corner) off with a bang and picked up a copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I have so many things to say about it, the most important being that it was fantastic and you should read it.

Murakami I believe Haruki Murakami might quickly become one of my favorite writers. I say “believe” and “might” because I’ve only read one of his novels, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and this memoir. His writing is whimsical, yet concise. His ideas are fantastical, yet stark. There is a sub-conscious to his writing; an underbelly like a nihilistic wonderland. I could not say that I “liked” The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, because I don’t particularly like to feel unsettled and morose; but it made me feel those things in such an understated, subtle, and inviting way that I felt compelled to investigate the darkness it welled up in me.

But this isn’t a review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I only give that back story so you have a little bit of an idea as to what kind of writer Murakami is. He’s not generally a first-person memoirist. Certainly not in the traditional sense.

Let me start you off with the biggest selling point. This book is short. I read it in one day. I believe it’s only 180 pages (not exactly sure of the printed count as I read it on my Kindle), and it’s a quick read to boot. 

Murakami is honest. He begins the book by stating that he doesn’t really know exactly what he wants to say or how it will manifest, but he feels compelled to write down his thoughts about running. Running has been a huge part of the author’s life for 30+ years and he feels he can’t really talk about himself without talking about running. How many runners out there feel this way? Raise your hand. Am I right?

If you’re looking for a time-lined account of the author’s life, this isn’t it. This is a lovely patchwork quilt of running anecdotes and musings on the greater implications of endurance sports. Murakami runs 6 days a week, usually 6 miles a pop. He has done so for decades. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how he illustrates his running discipline as an active metaphor for his accomplishments as a novelist. He points out how people always ask him, how does he keep up that running schedule when he gets so busy? His response is so simple and true, it hits me in the gut. He points out that if he used being busy as an excuse not to run, he would never run. He requires the same discipline as a writer. He has to write everyday. Even on the days he doesn’t feel like it. Even if he just sits in front of his computer and doesn’t type a thing. He has to sit there. He has to be present. He learned that discipline from long-distance running.

How many of us can relate to that? How many goals in my life could I substitute for running in that sentence? If I used being busy as an excuse not to paint, as an excuse not to write, as an excuse not to eat healthy, as an excuse not to be creative. If you let being “busy” get in the way, you will excuse yourself right out of living. It’s not a valid excuse. There will always be obstacles that get in the way of the things you love in life, the things you want to do. You have to jump over them, or run through them. Being disciplined enough to run everyday (or run to Tahiti) is not easy, and some days I don’t want to do it. But you must, and if you do, you will reap the jewel-encrusted rewards of your hard efforts some day. 

This is the kind of metaphorical-speak that Murakami does SO much better in his memoir than I am doing right now. I think the best thing about this memoir is that it’s not flowery. He’s so conservative and blunt with his prose. This book inspired me deeply, and yet is the farthest thing from self-help or motivational speaker type fare. It’s a practical no-nonsense love letter to the sport of running, and to the value of setting aside time for yourself to reflect and to make plans that will take you in the direction of your destiny.

Highlights of the memoir stick with me, like the time he ran a 62-mile ultra-marathon in the very northern tip of Japan. Imagine running for 12 hours straight! His experience was transcendental and not altogether inspirational. Another highlight was when he decided to run a solo marathon in the place where marathons were born, the road from Athens to the town of Marathon. We all dream of such a trip to “Mecca.” However, my favorite images from the memoir have to be his stories of running along the Charles River in Boston. A month ago I would have said that this was simply a personal treat; a nostalgic jog along the running path of the dirty dirty Charles that I frequented so often; but after what happened last month I think we could all appreciate his passages about running in historic Beantown. This book was published several years ago, long before runners had to worry about explosives going off during a race. Murakami resides in Boston when he’s in the states, and talks a great deal about the city and its running paths. He talks briefly about the Boston Marathon specifically and what a carrot it is for so many runners all over the world. I read this book very shortly after the Boston bombings and my heart broke to read his comments about what the marathon means to that city. It made me want to fly back there and run from the Boston Harbor all the way to Brookline, via Boylston Street, like I used to do 7 years ago. It’s a privilege to run in such a beautiful city. 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running gets 5 out of 5 running sneakers. If you’re a long-distance runner, and if running means more to you than just exercise, if it’s a part of your DNA, your fabric, I highly recommend this book. I’ll finish by sharing a few of my favorite passages:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”

“So the fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets.” 

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

“Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive–or at least a partial sense of it.”

“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

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the man himself

 

Have you read Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below! Also feel free to share recommendations for the next book we should read in the RTT Book Club (or corner :))!

life, and all its changes

I’ve been terrified to write this post because I know it will make what I’m feeling and saying real, which is why I need to write it. Every time I sit down to type I feel my heart start to race and my palms sweat. Here we go…

Let’s be honest, change pretty much sucks. Even when change is a good thing (which most of the time it is), it’s still scary as hell to venture into uncharted territory. But how do we grow unless we fiercely march into the unknown? It’s so comfortable to remain complacent. So cozy just to think and dream about doing things without having to actually do them. There’s no risk of failure in a daydream. With all its comforts stagnation is unsatisfying. Life periodically gives us reality checks that force us to confront the path we’re on and either trudge forward, or change the path.

My reality check came in the form of a gorgeous diamond ring. On October 11, 2012 my boyfriend of 5 years asked me to be his wife, and I said yes; but this post is not about our engagement. It’s about what our engagement has done to help me take a more honest look at my life. I’ve been dreaming about getting engaged to and marrying Brad for at least a year and probably longer. (Truth be told I felt that he was the one within the first 3 months of dating.) They have been lovely dreams. Dreams are lovely. Now those dreams are a reality and reality is, well, real! I catapulted into the transition of dreaming about a thing to actually living a thing and however magical, when dreams come true they can also be jarring. But as I said, this post is not about our engagement. My relationship with Brad is precious to me and I don’t divulge too much about it publicly. I’ll just say this. I’m madly in love with Brad and look forward to planning our future together. I’m grateful for him every day. No we haven’t set a date and no I haven’t started planning the wedding yet, so you can stop asking for now :). This post is about other changes in my life. The dream of marrying Brad becoming real invited me to take a good look at everything I’d been dreaming about, including my acting career.

Marilyn Monroe was quoted as saying “Dreaming about being an actor is much more fun than actually being one.” I know exactly why she felt that way.

Dreams are important but they must be based in reality and they must be realized through action. I wanted to marry Brad so I moved in with him, I adopted a cat with him, I shared my life with him, and I altogether entranced him with my female charms. I even joined AT&T for him! We took action to nurture our life together.

I wanted to go to Tahiti so I started this blog. I created a running and money savings plan to get us there. I ran a half marathon every year to keep my mileage on track. I opened a savings account specifically for this goal. I’m making it happen, and I LOVE every step of the way.

I wanted a creative outlet that would bring me some extra cash so I started Whimsy Do. I invented Bun Belts. I opened an Etsy shop. I created a marketing plan. I made a ton of new inventory. I made it happen and my little business has grown more and more with each passing month. I have sold whimsical hair accessories to customers in 15 different countries.

I wanted to be an actor. I have not pursued getting an agent. I do not go to casting director workshops. I haven’t gotten new headshots in 5 years. I haven’t put my reel together and I’ve had all of the material sitting on my shelf for 3 years. I don’t submit myself for projects. I don’t make myself look a certain way. I don’t market myself. I’m no longer in an acting class. Why haven’t I done any of these things that one is required to do if one wants to be a working actor? I’ve been ignoring that question since I moved to L.A. The answer is because I don’t want to.  

I love to act. I will always love to act. I think I’m pretty good at it. I will never completely turn my back on acting. I am honored to be an active member of Theatre of NOTE. Theatre is where it’s at for me. I love it. I feel alive when I do it. However it’s hard as hell to make a living doing theatre. I fear saying that may come across the wrong way. I don’t mean to sound like one of those people who discourages the pursuit of an artistic career because it’s “not practical” or “unrealistic.” I don’t believe that. It IS possible to make a living doing theatre and it is honorable. However, there are certain things it entails. It entails being willing to travel around taking jobs in regional theatre. It entails perhaps taking a job teaching or doing some such other thing to supplement your income as a theatre actor. It entails relocating to a place like Ashland or Stratford to become a permanent resident of a theatre festival. These are all wonderful and viable ways to pursue a living in the theatre. They just aren’t for me. I have a life in L.A. I don’t want to travel around from job to job not knowing where the next job will take me or if it will come at all. I don’t feel called to teach theatre, though I greatly admire those who do. I don’t want to move to a little town like Ashland for as much as I love the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I don’t see that as a long-term life for me. I love doing theatre when I can here in L.A. I am so in love with my theatre company, Theatre of NOTE, and my fellow ensemble members. I was revitalized doing The Crucible. I got paid tuppence, essentially gas money, for these things and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with acting for love and not for money. 

I began to ask myself, why didn’t I want to do film & television? That’s where you could make money, and that’s what I thought I wanted to do for so long. The answer felt simple in my heart but took more complexity to put into words.

I believe there are two sides of us that dream. The dreams of our true self and the dreams of our ego self. The true self is the voice in our heart that drives us down the right path. Brad describes this as a “God voice.” Joseph Campbell calls it “following your bliss.” In The Alchemist it’s described as finding your “personal legend.” Then there are the ego dreams. The dreams that are about gratification, about attention, about working through and satisfying neuroses, about complying with societal expectations. My ego wanted to be a movie star, my heart did not. I wanted the attention. I wanted to be the winner. I’ve never much felt like “the winner” in my life. I always wanted to be popular but wasn’t particularly. I always wanted to be the pretty girl but wasn’t particularly. I always wanted to be things that I didn’t think I was. Successful actors are winners, they are glamorous, they are the definition of popular. My ego longed for this because it would have been the final triumph over my insecurities and my neuroses. I have only now realized that there never was a battle to be won, only an ego to quiet. 

It’s painful to admit all of this. I have to emphasize that this is MY personal experience with the entertainment industry. I in no way think that the reasons I’ve stated above are the reasons that people want to become successful actors. I know that’s not the case. They are just the reasons that I wanted to become one and they weren’t healthy for me. I’m ready to say goodbye to them. I’m ready to listen to my God voice, which has little to do with Hollywood. If financial success as an actor ever does come my way it will not be because my ego drove me there. It will be because I did what I passionately loved and happened to be lucky enough to, as Jason Alexander once said to my acting class, “step in the right puddle of mud.” In the meantime, I now asked myself…

So what do I want to do with my life? This is the new question that has spiraled me into several anxiety attacks over the past month. Interestingly enough, the answer to that question popped into my head almost immediately once I admitted that I didn’t want to pursue a professional acting career anymore. It just took me awhile to accept the screaming answer in my head.

Four years ago I started a blog called Peacock Stories. The very first entry in that blog sums up, well, what I want to be when I grow up. Here it is:

When I was a small thing, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it wasn’t an actor. Not to make a dig at my current ambition, but I think there are things left uncovered in childhood dreams. I bet you’re dying to know what it is I wanted to be aren’t you? Well, actually, I think I’ll keep you hanging for awhile and say more about the nature of the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s an interesting question isn’t it? As soon as kids are old enough to speak, someone promptly asks them the tell-tale question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m a babysitter, and I’ve done it myself plenty of times. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with asking that question but when you analyze it a bit further (which I always do), why do we ask it? Why are we so obsessed with rushing through the carefree unpredictability of childhood? The world where you wake up one day wanting to finger paint the bathroom and you wake up the next wanting to dig worms out of the garden. It’s almost as if, in asking that question, we are starting to focus our children’s minds on the world of “being something.” I’m a ‘doctor.’ I’m a ‘teacher.’ I’m an ‘archaeologist.’ We’re starting to tell our children, “you have to be ‘something’ you know? you have to BE something.” Kind of a shame.

I am now an actor. Well, sort of. I’m not paying the rent with it yet, but I am indeed an actor. When people ask “What do you do?” that’s what I say, “I’m an actor.” That’s the ‘something’ that I’m working to become. But it’s funny because some days I wake up and I think to myself, SHIT, what am I doing? I’m not making money as an actor yet, I’m working for a restaurant, I’m living paycheck to paycheck, SHIT. I don’t feel like I’m ‘something,’ and I know that I’m supposed to be ‘something.’ It’s better to be ‘something.’ But is it really? Is that what life is about? Big philosophical question which I will save for a future entry. But the point is, maybe I wouldn’t feel such angst if I hadn’t had adults grilling me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think I shall add that to the list of “ways grown-ups screwed me up as a child.”

Nonetheless, I’m happy on the path I have chosen. Being an actor is a crazy, tumultuous, rocky road; but I love it. I love the craziness. I love not knowing when something really exciting is going to come my way but knowing that it will indeed come. It’s somewhat manic, but extremely rewarding. Aside from the passion I have for theatre and acting, I have another desire that I have never been able to shake.

I have been haunted by my answer to that childhood question for much of my adult life.  The answer is, are you ready, it is… a writer. Tah dah! Really exciting, no? I know, it’s not the most unique answer to that question but I have to tell you, it felt unique to me. It felt unique because I wanted it with such fervor. I was so determined. So ambitious. So passionate. I used to write storiesconstantly. Ideas just flowed out of me. Sometimes they were pretty obscure, but that’s because I had no censor, no inhibitions, my imagination was completely unleashed. I loved it. And I was certain that I could become published by the time I was 10. I figured, it couldn’t be that hard. I remember thinking, when I was about 8 years old, that I could easily write a story, color the pictures myself, send it to an editor and be done with it. Voila! Caldecott medal here I come! I strive for such confidence these days.

I wrote a story in first grade. I honestly don’t remember what I titled it back then but I’ve come to call it “The Magic Mushroom.” Psychadelic, I know, but it really is an appropriate title. It was a wonderful story which I think spoke about certain themes on a level that I hadn’t actually matured to yet but perhaps I knew about intuitively. When I told my boyfriend the gist of the story, he said to me, “You know, that’s actually really good. You should definitely write that down.” He’s right. So that’s what I’m going to do. With this blog.

I miss writing. And I wrote children’s stories, perhaps because I was a child, or perhaps because I could be as inventive as I wanted. I’m starting this blog to get back to my roots. To put pen to paper again. Because, I am an actor. That’s the ‘something’ I strive to become. That’s also my passion. I’m lucky that passion and profession go hand in hand with me. But once upon a time, the child within answered that gosh-darn question without any sense of society or responsibility or expectation, and she said “writer.” So that’s in there somewhere and I’d like to share those stories again. Enjoy!

Going back and reading that entry is telling. I remember writing it. I remember writing about being an actor and feeling false but writing it anyway. I remember thinking “it’s NOT really what I want to do,” but I was so in denial that I wrote it anyway. Writing. Writing is what I want to do. It’s what I want to be when I grown up.

I have a loud mind. I over-analyze and over-complicate absolutely everything. Ideas are important to me so I don’t want to numb out the activity in my brain. I need a way to express it all and the best way for me to do that is to write stories. I’m passionate about it. I now have a million story ideas bouncing around in my head. I want to start with picture books for children and who knows, maybe one day write a novel. I’m not sure where the path will lead, but I believe that I have found my personal legend. Expect my first book to be published within 5 years 🙂

In truth, the road ahead is unknown to me. My life has basically been flipped upside down. I am in the process of figuring out how to become something new. How to get to know a new industry. How to get involved. I know that it won’t be easy and it won’t always feel like I’m on some sort of divine path, but I have faith that no matter what it is the right path.

I have no way of knowing whether this passion will stick. In 5 years I may wake up and hate writing and decide that what I really want to do is become a park ranger. That could happen. But today, today I want to write, and I have already been more pro-active about becoming a writer in just one month than I have in the past 5 years of trying to be a professional actor. That tells me something.

I won’t stop acting, I promise. You can see me in A Mulholland Christmas Carol coming up at Theatre of NOTE! I’m excited about the prospect of pursuing acting projects that I’m passionate about just because I want to create them, not because they’re going to make me money. I’m not throwing my headshots aways . I’ll probably leave my Actors Access account active. I think I may still pursue getting a commercial agent just because it sure would be nice for one national commercial to pay off my college debt. In other words,  I certainly won’t turn down work, but I’ve released myself from the pressure of succeeding in an industry that plays a game to which I don’t like the rules.

I’ll end by sharing a quote that Brad introduced me to, and that is hanging framed on the wall in our apartment. I could definitely learn some things about writing from Goethe. It’s ok, he’s got a few years experience on me. 

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. -Goethe-

I share all of this because it makes it real for me. Putting this out into the universe via the blogosphere is powerful. I also share it hoping that maybe I can inspire at least one other person to listen for the passions whispering in their heart. I believe the world would be a better place if we all did this. So get out there, and follow your bliss!

NaNoWriMo: childhood confessions

I sympathize with the thousands upon thousands of people out there to whom “writing a novel” is an expressly important line item on the old bucket list. Me however? I’m not one of them. I love to read. I devour novels. I am the wormiest of book worms. My Kindle is my most prized possession and when I thought I lost it last week I wept for 2 days nonstop. Seriously. Ask Brad. I never had the itch to write my own novel, though. Don’t know why. I certainly fit the description for the type of person I’m referencing in that first sentence. Creativity, intelligence, art, beauty, all huge priorities to me. Perhaps I always worried that trying to climb that mountain myself would destroy the joy I get out of reading. There’s a great line in a Billy Bragg song: “The temptation to take the precious things apart in life to see how they work, must be resisted for they never fit together again.” God I love that line. It’s like going backstage at Disneyland. You think you want to, but the second you see Mickey Mouse with his head off smoking a cigarette you regret the decision. I don’t know what it took for F. Scott Fitzgerald to write something so elegant, so brilliantly threaded together and evocative as The Great Gatsby and I’m not sure I want to know. I like to think it was magic. 

I am, however, a writer of children’s stories. Writing children’s books is something I’ve aspired to do since I was 7 years old. I loved to read at that age, and I had a vivid imagination of my own so writing stories seemed accessible, easy, something I could actually succeed in doing. I had plans to be published by my 8th birthday. Of course, I wasn’t. That plan fell into the trap of something one always *talks* about doing but never actually does. Allow me to quickly share with you the story of the The Little Red Toolbox:

I have very few crystal clear memories of my childhood. I don’t know why, I had a happy one, I just have an absolutely terrible memory. I do remember a small handful of moments incredibly vividly as if they just happened. One such moment was the day I realized it would be “easy” to be a children’s book author. I was 7 years old. My mom was driving me to school in the morning and I sat in the backseat quietly daydreaming to myself, as I was wont to do. I had already discovered my love of reading and writing but I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to be published by 8. It just seemed so easy. I had this great idea for a book about a toolbox, a little red toolbox to be exact. I practically had my pitch to Random House completely worked out. Each page would have a description and illustration about different things one can find in a toolbox. It would target the pre-K to Kindergarten age group and would be very simple, elegant, and educational. My little 7 year old brain thought to itself on this morning drive to school “This is going to be so easy. I’ll just write, draw the pictures, send it all off to a publisher and voila! I’ll be published by the time I’m 8!” I kid you not. I thought that. No fear of failure. No struggle. No bellyaching about how hard it would be to succeed. A sentiment that we adults seemed to be plagued by from our peers as well as ourselves. Pure, innocent, beautiful childhood delusion. 

I  never wrote The Little Red Toolbox. I suppose even as a child I had a penchant for becoming easily distracted. I’m sure as soon as Thaddeus from the 2nd grade class walked by I forgot all about my career goals and became consumed with whether he would sit next to me at lunch that day. I never wrote it, but I also never forgot it. I’ve conjured up that memory and thought about it constantly over the years. I never let the idea go. Somewhere in the back of my mind I figured someday I’d write The Little Red Toolbox. Someday.

2 years ago I’m in a Barnes & Noble shopping for a gift for my little cousin Ian. I’m browsing through all of the children’s books. I turn a corner to look at the Pre-K reading level and, oh my god, what is that? Oh my god it’s impossible. It was a book called My Little Red Toolbox. And every page had a description and illustration about what one might find in a toolbox. I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped, my stomach turned and my heart broke. Someone did it. Someone stole my idea. Someone stole my childhood dream. In fact, he did not. I know for a fact that no one could have stolen the idea from me because I never told anyone about it. I kept it to myself. Someone just did what I was too lazy, too scared, too apathetic to do. In that moment of frustration and heartbreak, a cloud over my head cleared away and I had one of those whatchamacalits, those moments of clarity. The truth is, our ideas are not our own. They are gifts to be used and if we don’t use them, someone else will. Creative people are merely vessels for stories and ideas to flow through, but the stories existed long before us. If Herman Melville had not written Moby Dick I’m certain someone else would have come along and written, not the same novel, but a similar one that filled that same needed hole in the canon of great literature. No, an idea that’s just an idea does not belong to you until you claim it, and more importantly share it with the world. Then it becomes yours forever. I could say that I had the idea first, but who cares? That person discovered the same idea. The difference is that he had the guts to write it down. He had the guts to share it, and now it’s his forever. He didn’t steal it from me. I let it go. I know why I never wrote The Little Red Toolbox. I was afraid. As I got older I lost my sheen of childhood optimism and became afraid that, oh, maybe it was actually a stupid idea or, oh, maybe it would actually be kind of hard to get published. Maybe people would judge me. I was afraid and creativity has no patience for fear. The idea lost patience with me and left to go find someone who would have the guts to realize it. 

I realize we’re talking about a pre-school book about a toolbox. We’re not discussing the lost text of War & Peace here, I know. But god, that little red toolbox meant a lot to me. The profundity of the moment I discovered that book opened my eyes to the potential I was neglecting in myself. I have a million other ideas in my head to accompany The Little Red Toolbox. Better ideas. I made a promise to myself that day that I would not let anyone else take those ideas away from me simply by writing them down first. Standing in that bookstore amidst the likes of Dr. Seuss and R.L. Stine, I wanted to be there too and I knew that I could. I was right about everything when I was 7. I did have a great idea, I could have been published. I was right about everything except for one thing, the easy part. The truth is, it would not have been easy, and the day I realized that is the day I gave up. Such a shame. 

The moral of the story: All of the great ideas in the world are like fairies flying around in the air. Not everyone can see fairies. Special people can. Artists. Dreamers. The passionate ones know that fairies exist. But you have to figure out how to catch them, make them your own, and send them back into the world as something people will recognize, will see, and will believe in. If you don’t, someone else will. 

So what does this have to do with NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month)? Everything. If you don’t know what it is, click on that link. I’m not going to become a novelist and I’m pretty sure the novel I started yesterday is going to be an embarrassment to the English language, but I will write everyday. Writers have to write. Every. Single. Day. That much I’ve heard from the best, and I believe them. I look at the next 30 days (29 now) as writing boot camp. This month is going to discipline me beyond belief and whip my lazy Say Yes to the Dress/Roseanne/South Park-watching butt into creative shape. Come December 1st 2011, I will be so used to sitting down with a pen and paper everyday, the rest of those Little Red Toolboxes will finally start to flow out through my pen and into the world. And I will accomplish my childhood dream of being a published children’s book author. You just wait and see. I missed the 8 year old mark. Let’s aim for 30.

the great mind of a miniature becky

writing back-log: the suspense is killing me too!

I have so much to say! The past two weeks on the road to Tahiti have been busy, plentiful, and full of adventure. Half Marathon update, results of the Supergirl diet, news from Tahiti locals, the very nature of achieving our dreams! Yes OURS. Not just mine. Ours. These are the bubbles floating around in my head ready to pop.

However. Work, Theatre of NOTE, AMC duties, meetings, prepping for understudy performances of “Wonderlust” are all consuming my time. Actually they are consuming more than my time. They are consuming about 26 hours a day. I now exist in negative time. I have -2 hours of free time a day. Whew. Ok. Well after this week I should be able to hunker down and update you all on the the fabulous events of late. Here’s a sneak peak:

we did it