State of Things

Though I’ve mentioned it before, I don’t often talk about having depression. For one thing, why feed the beast with attention? For another, I still feel the social stigma of having “something wrong” with me. Also, I’m very proud and want to be seen as “ok” and self-sufficient.

The past few weeks have made it abundantly clear that I’m not nearly as self-sufficient as I think I ought to be. In case you don’t keep up with me on other social networks, I got a small scholarship to go to the New York Film Academy. I applied for financial aid, prayed a bunch, and flew up to NYC at the beginning of the month. I left a few days later in tears and absolute dejection because I did not get the financial aid and could not stay.

The crushing defeat more than slightly broke my mind. I was sure I’d misinterpreted something, done something wrong. Could I trust myself? Could I trust God? My world was gone, and no amount of platitudes, Scripture, or advice would bring it back. This, friends and neighbors, was raw emotion. I had no intellect left.

No, I was not suicidal. No, I was not in any danger of hurting myself. Please don’t worry about that.

I’ve always prided myself on being smart. Smart is all I had to be proud of. Any other skill or talent I had was incidental and not really worth much; smarts was where my value lay. Now, my intellect had betrayed me. I had examined the matter from every angle, applied every lesson on faith and trust I’d ever learned, asked God for guidance and listened carefully, and none of it had worked. What I thought was affirmation that the money would be there did not make the money appear.

Did God betray me? Did He lie to me? Was He once again pulling my chain so that He could laugh at me? These were just some of the thoughts running through my mind. Well, stampeding at light speed through my mind. What was left of my mind.

Nothing made sense. All I could do was cry and be angry and broken. I had no logical explanation other than I was an utter IDIOT for thinking that I could do something so STUPID. There was no logic, no reason, in flying up to NYC on a hope and a prayer. What made me think that I could do any better than the tens of thousands who never make it in entertainment? How dare I waste money and good will and time and effort on something so PATHETIC and POINTLESS?

The flights back were terrible because of delays due to equipment and weather. All my luggage went ahead of me while I got stuck overnight in Dallas, still miserable, still crying, still heaping so much hate on myself that I could barely breathe. I did make it back to my parent’s house and collapsed into bed. I’ve spent a lot of time there in the weeks since.

I haven’t been completely idle since this fiasco. That overnight in Dallas resulted in me meeting a couple of women in town for a business conference, and I spent over an hour explaining how science fiction does not contradict the Bible or God. Ah, irony; there I was, bleeding to death inside, giving words of life to a drunk woman. The next week, I spent several days as an extra for a movie being shot in the area. I attended church and Bible study and gave Scriptural advice to some friends who needed it.

I’ve gotten good at pretending to be ok. I’m an actor, after all. But this time, I couldn’t make myself fake it. I had to admit to everyone, including myself, that I’m not ok. I don’t know what happened or why. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I don’t know. That is my stock answer for everything these days. Any question you can think to ask me, the answer is, “I don’t know.”

I’ve avoided and suppressed my emotions all my life. It’s family tradition, after all. Emotions are bad and should never been shown in public. Public consists of any time any person can observe you. Which means that you can never be certain you’re in private, so don’t ever bother having emotions. Someone might walk in at the wrong moment and catch you at it, you naughty, wretched thing you.

This breaking of my mind meant that I couldn’t hide there any longer. All I’ve had are my emotions, and I don’t have a damn idea what to do with them. They’re there. So?

A word of advice: if someone is going through an extreme emotional time, DO NOT offer them logical advice. That is entirely inappropriate, offensive, and insulting. Offering up logic to someone whose emotions are in control effectually devalues those emotions and tells the person that their emotions are invalid. Emotions are not logical. Applying logic to emotions will only serve to damage your relationship with the person who’s dealing with them so intensely.

I’m letting myself learn to accept my emotions. I’m working, day by day, moment by moment, to give them a proper place in my life. Humans are meant to have both mind and heart, and each have their place. It’s a mess to sort out when you haven’t been doing proper maintenance all along.

Where am I today? Still not knowing. I’m going to take a few weeks off from writing to give my mind time to heal. I may apply for a part-time job somewhere to give myself something outside the house to do. I’m going to start an exercise class this week, if the weather permits driving to and from. I’ve got a counselor I trust and I’m taking some supplements that really do help balance out the brain chemicals.

I don’t know why things happened the way they did or what I’m going to do going forward. All I can do is go forward and see what happens.


MB EXPO 2013: part 3

(The post with gratuitous parenthetical comments.)

I know you’re anxious to hear about all my awards and stuff (?), but I have to tell you about something even more amazing before I get to that. One of the best parts of this Expo was the people there.

I took classes with my agency for a couple of months before the Expo, but I didn’t really have the chance to sit and chat with any of my fellow talents during those lessons, and we all had things to do afterwards that precluded us hanging out and chewing the fat. The drive down to Dallas was the first time I had to get to know some of the other people from my agency.

Contrary to popular opinion, I’m an introvert. A dyed-in-the-wool introvert. I like living alone under my rock, where I don’t have to listen to anyone breathing. I like it quiet. I despise small talk. I don’t enjoy walking up to people I don’t know and inventing a reason to speak with them. I consider schmoozing the worst sort of fakery. In short, I’m not a people person.

So when I loaded up three near-strangers in my vehicle and pulled out of town, I had to figure out what to say and how to create conversation that would put all of us at ease. Considering that we were embarking on an adventure that could make or break our dreams, feeling at ease was no easy state to achieve. Sheryl had told us to support one another and help each other, and I knew how much we’d need each other during this stressful weekend.

But dangit, I hate small talk. I let them chatter amongst themselves for about ten or fifteen minutes and tried to get a feel for them, their personalities. Two of them would be my roommates, so I really wanted to determine if I could stand them for the next four days. At first, I wasn’t too sure; the chatter was rather inane. Boyfriends and that sort of silliness. Looking back, I’m sure it was just jitters on everyone’s part.

After that fifteen-ish minute span, I decided to try something risky. Shoot, this entire venture was a mad risk, so why not go whole-hog? I’d heard a few sideways comments from the ladies that made me think they might be amenable to a tradition my family has when beginning a long road trip: we say a prayer over the drive.

Religion starts more wars than politics, and I didn’t know these girls well enough to know how they’d react to this suggestion. If they came from a different faith background, they might be offended. They might get angry. They might consider me a sanctimonious prig. They might decide to write me off and make the weekend really, really awkward as a result. I went ahead and asked them.

They all replied with enthusiastic agreement. Whatever your beliefs, it’s always a huge comfort to discover others who believe (or don’t) the way you do. Finding someone who thinks the way you do creates an instant bond that helps break down those ridiculous barriers we put up. (Such as not liking strangers.) I said a prayer over the trip, and we continued chattering.

How wonderful each of those ladies turned out to be. We found common ground, shared our hopes for the Expo, traded jokes, and built one another up. The trip was great because of the companionship we developed. I knew I’d have no trouble bunking with my roomies.


We arrived, checked in, and went to our agency’s assigned meeting room for pre-Expo instructions. This was the first time I got to meet everyone; half our group lives in another part of the state, attending the agency’s satellite campus. I was among the oldest of the talents, sure, but I wasn’t the odd one out. We were all excited, and our energy became synergy. (According to my number, I’m a jumbo jet.)

The next flight to Awesome Town!

In the main room of the Expo, we had assigned seating based on the numbers we got. (It’s easier to call numbers than names, and easier for the judges, who can’t possible spell every name). They guys sitting behind my row were hilarious and very good-natured. The girls three seats over from me were so sweet and fun. They made the hours we spent waiting for our turn most enjoyable.

All snuggled up together like two birds of a feather …

At the first party, we all dressed like we were going to the Oscars. Several guys dressed as the Oscar statues, covering their upper bodies with gold paint and posing in the pictures with Mike Beaty. A group from my agency wanted a picture with Mike, and the look the photographer gave us when we piled on the stage was priceless. Still, he didn’t yell at us. I hope the picture turned out alright; there were a lot of us crammed into it. Mike, of course, was very sweet about it. (The “Oscars” were happy to show off pose with everyone.)

I swear, I wasn’t groping them; my hands just landed in the wrong spots.

Thursday morning, I went to the first seminar on the list, which ended up being the only one I got to attend (due to sleeping off my infections and what have you). I’m so glad I got to go to that one, because I learned that I had all the wrong ideas about commercial modeling. Aaron Marcus gave a great presentation that made me far more comfortable with the idea of modeling. When I spoke with him later, he was very personable. When I explained that I’d spent all my extra money of medicine, he allowed me to pay him later and gave me a copy of his book.

One of my roommates told me about meeting a fashion designer in the elevator, and when we went to Thursday night’s party, we found that very lady and her associate, one of the “mother agents“. She turned out to be a hoot! We talked with her for almost an hour and parted ways with an invitation to join her for a fashion show in the upcoming year. I pointed out the obvious (I’m not high fashion model material), and she replied pertly that neither was she, and big girls like having high fashion, too. So there will apparently be haute couture on my generous figure sometime next year.

Friday, I wandered from event to event, saying hello to the people I had already met and pretending I wasn’t avoiding the ones I hadn’t met. (I’m not anti-social; I’m selectively social.) During the two-person scene auditions, the group I went with was awesome. We weren’t together long, but they were great people. The youngest boy gave a truly hysterical performance that made me want to cry with laughter and hug him to pieces.

I would be remiss not to mention the staff members working tirelessly behind the scenes. These ladies and gents not only wrangled the herd of talents, they soothed our fears, lifted our spirits, and brought much-needed laughter to the high-tension atmosphere. I can’t thank them enough for not letting us get away with strung-out nerves. I wish I could remember the name of the fellow who read my two-person with me; he did a phenomenal job. (Alas for poor name retention!)

Due to my illness, my agent got me shoehorned into the second round of singing auditions. The staff member working that sign-in table could have refused me. He would have been justified, since I wasn’t on any official list. He only had my word to go on that my agent had gotten this permission for me, and how many talents have tried to weasel their way into places they didn’t belong? (No, I’m not a suspicious person; not at all.) However, he was gracious to me and let me go in. Thank you, thank you.

Saturday, I met David Vando from NYFA. David is the cutest little old man from the Old Country I’ve ever met. (Seriously, I need to find out where he’s from because his accent is adorable.) He was so nice to me. Given the number of divas he’s surely dealt with in his career, any standoffishness would be completely understandable. But he was warm, funny, and offered me acting coaching free of charge.

I spent more time with my agency-fellows, dining and hanging out. What a fun group! We had awesome conversations that made us feel like family. We talked shop as easily as we teased each other. I’m rather amazed at how well we got along; we had so little trouble confessing our fears and comforting one another, asking for and receiving feedback on performances, and helping each other with preparation for upcoming auditions. We were so strong together. (I think we’re a hawt group.)

Me with the exotic bois.

The only non-nice person I met was a single agent during the one-on-ones. No, I won’t name names because I’m not mean (or stupid). However, the important thing to take away from this was that I only met one person who was less than cordial. Of all the people assembled, of all the segments of the industry represented, only one, lone person was sour. I met so many wonderful agents and scouts who were friendly even when I didn’t fit their demographic.

A couple of agents said they remembered my cold read or monologue, which I found hugely flattering. With so many talents stepping up to the mic, I expected to be lost in the shuffle. These scouts remembered me in a good way, and they were generous with their comments and feedback. Again, they surely deal with lots of self-important fools, so I would understand if they had a wall up to protect themselves (though I wouldn’t have enjoyed hitting that wall). Despite the cattle-call nature of the event, they remained professional and amiable.

During the callbacks, I sat with David for a few moments while he decided whether give me the scholarship. I treasure the faith that he put in me. He could offer the grants to anyone he chose, and he chose me. He saw something in me that he wanted to bring out, to grow, to put his personal stamp of approval on. Even if, for whatever strange reason, I’m not able to attend NYFA, I will always be beyond grateful that someone believed in me.

While in line for other callbacks, I met several more incredible people, including a woman originally from South Africa. I love that accent (Ima learn it eventually), and one day I plan to write a story with a South African main character, so I peppered her with questions about “life back home.” She was sweet and funny and glad to help me understand her country. What are the odds, eh? Boya lekker!

Sunday morning was the awards ceremony. Mike told us his story, which was both inspiring and uplifting. He might have been telling me my own story. The past three years have been incredibly hard for me; I’ve wondered if I should give up more times that I can count. Hearing that someone else pushed through the tough times gives me inspiration to do the same. Thanks, Mike, for enduring all the trials so that I could one day attend your Expo. You make dreams come true, sir, and I so greatly appreciate that.

Then came the drive home. Even if I’d been healthy, this would be a daunting trip because 1) I was exhausted after an exhilarating weekend and 2) the weather was horrible. We knew several inches of snow had fallen back home and sleet was due in the Metroplex at any moment. How bad would the roads be? Another of my agency sisters asked to team up to make a caravan on the highway, so neither vehicle would be alone should weather force a stop. With this show of solidarity, we braved the highways and headed out. (Also: I suck at selfies.)

Eh, you’ve seen enough of me already.

Fortunately, the roads were completely clear, and we had no delays (other than a couple of missed turns; thank you, GPS). When I needed to yield the wheel due to fatigue, one of my carpoolers instantly volunteered to drive. From start to finish, these ladies had been my lifeline. We’d spent many hours talking and encouraging each other, calming nerves and offering insights. They made this weekend not just bearable, but fun.

You can have the best audition of your life, the best interview, the best experience. But if you don’t have the best people around you, then I argue it wasn’t the best it could have been. We all need people, even get-off-my-lawn introverts like myself. My new friends made the Expo a cherished memory.

Bonus photo! (Awkward modeling pose FTW.)

Seriously, that green wall was the best background I could find.

MB Expo 2013: part 2

In which I discuss why I couldn’t do anything during the Expo.


Wednesday morning, I woke up with that taste in my mouth. A familiar taste. One I’ve come to dread.

Upper respiratory infection.

Within half an hour of being upright and mobile, I realized the problem was really bad. I had a double infection, in my sinuses as well as my lungs. I knew this because of how many times I’ve had URIs over the years. With my allergies and asthma, I expect to get sick a lot. I also know when I’ve encountered something that will make me sick.

It started on 1 November, when I was at my Side Job. A cleaning lady was tidying bathrooms, and when I walked past, the chemicals rugby-tackled my sinuses and dragged me through the histamine mud. In less than a minute. As a result, I caught whatever virus was going around town, and you can’t treat viruses with antibiotics. Or if you can, I don’t know about it.

So I sniffled and ached my way through the month, missing several days at the Side Job because I was in bed, coughing and hurting and not sleeping. The week before the Expo, I decided to take a round of antibiotics to hopefully stave off a bacterial infection, which is what I usually get. What I got was a side effect I won’t discuss here and a double infection on that Wednesday morning.

After all the setbacks from the last month, was this the final straw? The last nail? The ultimate sign that I didn’t need to be wasting my time on this foolish dream?

Whether it was or not, I had a carpool waiting on me. I couldn’t back out and leave them in the lurch! Plus, I didn’t feel that bad, for all the nasty gunk coming from two directions. I sounded a bit froggy, but it wasn’t so bad. I said a quick prayer, felt peace about going, and loaded up the vehicle. We drove down, checked in, and began the Expo.

Thursday morning, I woke up with even more gunk and even less voice. I also coughed up some blood. When I tried to sing, only air came out. I didn’t have a single note, not even in chest voice. Thursday was the first round of the singing competition. Singing had always been my greatest skill and talent.

Was this proof that I’d made a stupid decision? Here I was, unable to do the one thing I’m really good at, stuck at an Expo I’d paid too much for, and I had nothing to show for it. How could I impress agents or scouts with no voice? What good was any of this?

For whatever reason, I felt no despair. I felt no self-recrimination. I didn’t doubt that my being at the Expo was a good thing. Somehow, some way, I had an incredible lightness in my heart that said, “There’s no point in getting or staying upset about this. Do the best you can with what you have.”

I took a few hours in the middle of Thursday to find a Doc-in-the-box, get a couple of shots, and fill a script for antibiotics. The pocket money that had come at the last moment? Exactly the amount to pay for the visit and treatment. Within a few hours, I could feel the benefit of the shots. Back to the Expo I went.

By Friday morning, I had some chest voice back and felt a little more human. My wonderful agent had taken my resume, which consists of primarily singing roles in operas and musicals, and persuaded someone to let me into the second round despite my failure to show the day before. I took up the mic, croaked out my two verses, and marveled that the selection I’d chosen for round 2 used only my chest voice. Had I used my round 1 selection, I would have needed head voice.

Maybe this hadn’t been a complete fiasco. Sure, I wouldn’t win any awards for my barely-tolerable performance, but surely the music scouts out there were capable of detecting a trained voice under an illness. I was heard, and that was my goal. Worked for me.

As an added bonus, when I walked backstage to pass off the mic, I saw myself on the video screen and thought, “Hey, I don’t look hideously fat in that picture.” My confidence rose a little. Celebrate the small victories, my friends.

Events and seminars continued all day and night. I didn’t do as much trawling for hands to shake as I could have for two reasons. One, I needed extra sleep and took naps when I could to regain my health. Two, I had the darndest time figuring out who the scouts and agents were! Most of them were in the auditions and not wandering the hotel, so I gave up trying to corner them and slept instead.

Saturday morning came way too early; we had the cold-read audition at 730am. My chest voice was more solid, but I still had no head voice. I lived on cough drops; no sooner did one dissolve than I popped another in. Under my tongue, in my cheek, anywhere I could tuck it so that I could still talk. The inside of my mouth was raw and scraped from the hard edges of fresh lozenges. I discovered that we tend to leak a little saliva at the corners of our mouths when we talk, and the medicated spit inside my face quickly chapped the edges of my lips. Good thing I had a lot of lip balm with me! I refreshed it as often as I did the cough drops.

The staff member handing out the slips of paper with our cold reads gave me what was perhaps the best possible script for a sick woman. As a friend of mine said, I was rocking the 1-900 voice, and the paragraph in my hand was perfect for the smokey, sultry timbre of my infection-addled speech. I doubt the staff member knew I was sick or that my voice sounded as bad as it did. He could have given me any of a dozen readings, and he handed me one that I could do well in my condition. Once again, chance that might just be providence.

After the cold reads, I went hunting for the little old man who had said the night before that he was auditioning for scholarships to acting school. I found him, introduced myself, and asked for an audition. Sheryl wandered by just then and greeted him. She’s sent many talents to his school, and she built me up to him. In moments, David Vando agreed to audition me and went in search of a quiet spot. All the rooms were locked, so we made use of the hallway. I presented my monologue, received some excellent coaching and feedback on it, and croaked out a verse of a song for him. I thought it went rather well, all things considered.

All through this, my attitude stayed lifted. I don’t know why or how. I had every reason to weep and wail, ample justification to give up and go home. It wasn’t hard to stay positive, to enjoy myself immensely, to encourage everyone I came in contact with. I can think of no other explanation than God was with me, giving me strength because I had none.

After another quick nap, it was time for the one-on-ones with the agents. I didn’t think any of them would summon me, so I decided to visit as many of them as I could in the short time I had. Well, the ones I might remotely be of interest to; I’m not high fashion model material, and that’s ok. I jumped from line to line, smiling and handing over resumes and comp cards, and trying not to cough on anyone. I wasn’t offended when one scout pulled out hand sanitizer and doused himself.

I then discovered that too many cough drops can mess with the nerves in your mouth, and my smile was really creepy because my entire jaw was twitching uncontrollably. I’m not surprised that few of the agents seemed entirely comfortable around me: I was sick, looked sick, sounded sick, and had a shaky, Ima-KEEL-yoo smile. Oy, vey.

To my delight, I did get three callbacks. Perhaps my singing hadn’t been as bad as I’d thought, because one callback was for musical performance. Lots of my fellows got more callbacks than I did, and I was able to honestly rejoice with them and not feel jealous or deprived. I could feel my energy lagging, my mental focus waning, but my hope stayed full. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, but I didn’t fall prey to misery.

If that is not God’s abundant grace in a time of need, I don’t know what qualifies.

Sunday morning, I had a third of my head voice back. By that I mean I could lightly sing the notes required for the song my agency had been preparing. This Expo was the 20th anniversary, and we’d been asked to perform special music. I’ll admit that I had been very arrogant during our rehearsal times. I knew I was the best singer in the group; I had training and performance experience.

Sunday morning, however, I had only deep gratitude that I would be able to help my agency perform the piece. I was the only one on my vocal part, and if I didn’t sing, the whole thing would suffer. I didn’t want to do that to them, not when this was just as much their chance to shine in front of the entire Expo as it was mine. I wasn’t going to sparkle, not with my situation, but dangit, I was going to make sure they got their chance. Praise God, I was able to.

After the awards ceremony (more on that in a future post), we drove back home. I did have to pull over and have one of my carpoolers drive for a while because my eyes were doing things that made the road double, but we made it without issue. I got home and passed out, and two weeks later, I’m still struggling with crud, congestion, and constricted singing.

The moral of this portion of the tale is simple: your circumstances neither define you nor set your boundaries. I made it through the Expo when I was one step from pneumonia. I stayed positive when I had no reason to be conscious. Through it all, I had hands under my arms, lifting me up.

Whatever your beliefs or experience, I cannot deny that I had supernatural help throughout the entire weekend. And I think that’s an amazing thing.

See, if everything had gone as hoped for, I really don’t think the Expo would have gone so well for me. If I’d had my full voice, I would have been crushed if I didn’t make the finals for singing. Had I not placed in the acting when I was at my best, I would have slunk back home and never attempted another audition. Had I not been so completely without any ability, any strength, I would have walked in arrogance that would turn everyone around me away.

This was probably the best exercise in humiliation I’ve ever gone through. I was humbled by my utter inability to do anything, deprived of the strength I’ve built my life on, and I was happy. Joyful, even. I had an amazing time, most likely because I knew that whatever happened was in God’s hands. I wasn’t responsible for anything but showing up. Like me, despise me, I didn’t care. I went to have fun and try something different.

Being sick isn’t as bad as we might think.