Asking for Help

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, it’s not news that life after graduation has been really, really hard for me. Some of it has just been adjusting to being an adult: getting jobs, having jobs, paying bills, cooking for myself, and in general just being more self-sufficient. But a larger part of it, which occasionally stemmed from and influenced all of those other things, was my social life and the loneliness and anxiety that came from being on my own. At first, I was comforted by all the people telling me that what I was feeling was completely normal. But as I passed the six-month mark of feeling fairly miserable for much of the time, I knew that what was going on was, for me, not at all normal.

I’ve been a very active person my entire life, as well as a very Type-A person, and that has filled my life with a lot of probably unneeded stress. And even though I don’t consider myself a social person (see this entry and this one to know what I’m talking about), I always had plenty of friends that I loved because, through activities and school, we discovered that in addition to being on the team or in the class together, we actually liked each other and wanted to spend time together outside of those things.

Once I graduated though, something that I had always joked about was revealed to be very, very true: I didn’t know how to meet people or make friends. As I said, all of my to-this-day good friends are people I met through some sort of activity, or because another close friend would hang out with them while also with me. There was no pressure or time limit to get to know each other because, hey, we’re going to be in History 101 together for an entire semester. And then after working on a project with them or enjoying their witty remarks (or them enjoying mine), we would slowly become friends. I never realized how easy school and theatre made it to meet potential friends, without even really trying.

But then came graduation, a time after which classes were pulled from my life and acting opportunities were scarce. It’s not that I didn’t have any friends, but many of them are in different states for grad school, others were working like me, and the friends that were still at my alma mater seemed to be creating a whole new life, with new friends, without me. The latter group wasn’t ignoring me- we still met up and texted occasionally- but after seeing them pretty much every day whether I wanted to or not, it seemed a sudden drop and it left me miserable and crying a lot of the time. While I was living in my first apartment (room), I was always alone, being too shy to insert myself into my landlord’s life, and I thought it would be so much better when I moved in with people my own age. And in some ways, it has been much better: though I’m still too awkward to even join my roommates in the living room very often, at least I have people around. But the combination of me being too shy to talk to them and feeling slightly out of place due to our different interests (they’re all kind of into the same basic stuff. I’m not), as well as their sexual relationships with the significant others they have over a lot, just make me really awkward and feeling like I force my presence on them. All of this added up to me being really really lonely and more constantly miserable than I’ve ever been in my life.

The sadness started to affect me really badly this month. For the fifth year, I joined the ranks of writers who compose a 50,000 word novel in a month. For the past three years, I’ve made that goal, using every free second I had (even though I didn’t have many of those) to word towards completing the challenge. This year, and especially this month, I had ample free time, and as of this moment, I have completely stopped writing the novel. I just don’t have the self-motivation anymore, and it’s not because I don’t want to write the story. I didn’t want to do anything, didn’t even really want to leave my room, let alone my apartment. While I’m a crier, for situations good and ill, I was crying all the time because I was so sad, sadder for longer than I’d ever been in my entire life without a clear cause. My panic attacks got more frequent, and it was just in general hard to motivate myself to do anything. And then this week, I started having really bad and dangerous thoughts (and I don’t use those labels lightly), and I knew that it wasn’t a “maybe” thing anymore- I had to get help.

I’d been considering going back to therapy since the middle of the summer, but never really did anything about it besides casual research. I really really wanted to find one that was free, since, though I’m still on my parents’ insurance (thanks, Obama!), it’s not their fault my brain and emotions are a mess. But it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to find a free one, and so over the break, I summoned up the courage to ask them for help. I had told my mom before that I was thinking of going, but my recent behavior made it imperative to speak to them about it. Thankfully, my mom said yes right away, which was really relieving (not that I ever really doubted she would, but technically I should be getting closer to being more independent.) I’m starting therapy on Monday, and I’m full of trepidation. During my last bout of therapy, I went in unwillingly and hated every second of it, but afterward, not only did I notice a positive change in myself, so did a lot of other people. This time around, I’m hoping that since I’m going into it by choice, I’ll be a lot more open and forthcoming in the process. Either way, I know it will help me, and I do know that, hard as it is to admit, I do need help.

Failure is Not Fatal Part 2

In the first post bearing this title, I talked about how my play had been cut from a short play festival. As I wrote, I was pretty upset, but not at all angry at the company. In fact, I thought I might even still go to the festival, because I read the other scripts and really liked them. The festival happened last night, and I almost didn’t go, not because I didn’t want to, but because November has been really, really emotionally bad for me and it’s been hard for me to force myself to leave my apartment at all (more about that in a few days.) In the end, though, I really did want to see the other plays, so I pulled myself away from my computer, put myself on a train, and went to the pub where the show was.

I thought it might be hard or awkward to find where to sit for the show, but an entire half of the place had been converted into a pseudo-stage/audience area. I went over to the bar and ordered some food and a drink, and as I was waiting for them, I decided that I’d go introduce myself to the producer/literary manager of the festival. I knew who she was because, besides her play being the first one I auditioned for post-graduation (on the day of graduation), I’ve also seen her at a million auditions. So I went over her and extended my hand, saying, “Hi, I’m Rachel-” “Hi! I know who you are! I’ve seen you at every EPA in Philadelphia! I’m giving you a hug! Hi!”

I was pleasantly stunned by this greeting. As I said, I knew who she was, but never expected her to remember me, and every time someone in the theatre world says they know who I am (usually from shows I’ve done), it just makes me feel awesome. She said how disappointed she was that they couldn’t do my play “because I just love it” and told me how the festival, which was supposed to be two days of two different line-ups of plays, ended up being one very scaled-down night because of losing actors and also, all but two of the 35+ plays were too awful to be presented. I could tell she was kind of embarrassed that the festival had taken such a turn, but as I stated in the sister entry, it’s better that she and the company chose to present four of the best prepared scenes instead of eight hurriedly-rehearsed or terribly written plays. The way they did it is a much smarter choice to keep up their fledgling company’s reputation.

After telling me all of this, she waved over a few people. “This is Rachel, playwright of Counterfactuals.” To be introduced as a playwright… there are no words for how great that felt. Even better was when one of the guys (whom I recognized from that audition) said, “Oh, God. I love your play. It’s so sad!” I also met the girl who was supposed to direct my play, who was super nice. As my food came up, the manager said, “Oh, and of course, you’re seeing the show for free, and you’re on our tab, so please, get drunk.”

Though I did not get drunk (my drink was ginger ale, and also, I was there alone and I think drinking alone is kind of sad), I did really enjoy the plays. Funnily enough, one of my favorites was a play that I didn’t like when I read it because I couldn’t picture it done any other way except with the two actors lying on the floor, saying their lines like they were completely stoned. But the way it was directed and acted made the play super funny and great, which goes to show that you never know.

I stayed at the pub for a bit after the show, sitting awkwardly at the table to myself. My mother’s instructions to make myself approachable were not to take out a book, or sit with my arms crossed, but sitting there sans books trying to figure out how to hold my arms just made me look sadder. And everyone- EVERYONE- had a significant other there. It’s not even that I was going there to pick up a guy (mostly because I don’t know how.) It’s that everyone had someone, and I was alone. So I did go home pretty soon after. Overall, though, the night was great, and seeing how nice the people were makes me think that maybe they will do my play someday.

Thanksgiving!

Though I am no longer in school and therefore do not get an official Thanksgiving break, I was determined to spend some time with my family and friends this holiday. At it happens, I was feeling very loved with the amount of people who were asking me a few times a week for most of November what my Thanksgiving week plans were.

Due to getting my work schedule but seven days ahead of time, though, I had to wait. Two days before the holiday, I drove home and that night, met up with my high school buddies Megan and Lindsay. Lindsay and I, along with our lovely high school French teacher, were helping Megan with her project for grad school. The project-helping itself was really fun and included fancy microphones, pictures of our voices, and finding out that I am a really impressive aspirator. The recordings didn’t take long, so for a few hours, we just hung out, which was great. Afterward, Megan, Lindsay, and I went to this bar/restaurant in town, where I taught the bartender about the Bechdel test (and how the three of us were at that moment failing it), had my first martini (the least gross alcoholic beverage I’ve had, but still barely drinkable), and we only saw one person from our high school who didn’t recognize us anyway.

I knew I would be working Thanksgiving day (everyone who didn’t have a really, REALLY good excuse had to), but I got lucky by getting the late lunch shift. I was hoping to get a lot of tips, since the last time I worked a holiday, customers were shoving money into my hand and thanking me for working on their vacation day. Sadly, I didn’t make a single dime. Though I wish I could have gotten to the family dinner earlier, I made it to my aunt’s house by seven on the dot to find that my family had waited to eat until I arrived. I was so incredibly happy that I got to eat dinner with everyone, especially because it proved to be the good time that is normal for my crazy, uber-Irish family.

The funniest part of the evening was sitting next to one of my cousins who was talking about the awesome concert he saw at the Beacon Theatre in NYC on October 25th. “Wait,” I said. “Regina Spektor?” He confirmed that it was that concert. “You were there?! I was there!” Turns out, he works for her manager and was backstage. It was just a fun, fun night, and afterward I went back to my parents’ house to meet up with my friends the next day.

The meet-up was really fun, but also added to the stress over being romantically alone that I’ve been feeling for awhile. I went out to dinner with Stuart and his girlfriend Courtney, and while we were there, we saw three couples from high school, one of whom is recently married and one that is recently engaged. Of course, it wasn’t just seeing the couples in general- it was the fact that my sister had also brought her boyfriend home for the holiday and in my apartment, two of out my three roommates are constantly having sex. It makes a girl feel pretty alone.

But anyway. The dinner was fun even though none of us really had an appetite. We returned to Stuart’s house where we played a board game until I had to leave to work the next day. While the holiday was sporadic and involved a lot of driving, I’m really happy I was able to spend not only the holiday, but some extra time with my family as well as seeing some of my friends 🙂

Failure is Not Fatal, So They Say

Today has been quite, quite awful.

I got up this morning very excited- at four this afternoon, I was planning to go to the first rehearsal for my play, and I could not wait. After I got ready to go to the gym, I figured I’d check my e-mail while I ate breakfast. That’s when I saw the message:

“It is with a heavy heart I must tell you that we can no longer accommodate your play in our festival. In the past two days we’ve lost 5 actors, 2 replacements, and a director. Due to scheduling conflicts, we found no way to cast your show in time with a director who could take on the piece. I’m so sorry about this.”

I was shocked and really, really upset by this e-mail. I was also embarrassed. I’d told so, so many people that I was being produced, from my parents to my professors to my college friends to my friends that are themselves very successful playwrights. They were all excited for me and a handful of them were even going to come to see the play. And now I had to un-tell them.

I think the worst part of this whole thing is that I can’t blame the theatre company. As you can see in the message above, what happened was completely out of their control. Even as I was driving to the gym to work off my frustration and desperately thinking, “But I know a ton of actors and directors. I am an actor! I can make this happen!” I realized that the writer of the e-mail was right. The festival is in ten days, and that’s not enough time to cast the right people in the roles with a director who is enthusiastic or at least appropriate for the piece. And, I decided after this realization, I would rather wait and have the piece produced with care then demand, or try myself, to have it produced so quickly. It would probably be worse for a half-baked piece to go up than to wait for the right time for this play to be done.

And it could be done. The company has asked to hold on to not only this play, but another one I sent them for the same festival. They said they really like them and “will definitely be in touch.” I’m taking this all with a grain of salt; in theatre, there are no promises. I may never hear from these people again. But I hope I do.

I sent out an e-mail to everyone (well, almost everyone) that I had invited to the festival, telling them that if they came, they would not see my piece onstage. It was really painful. But I did get an encouraging message from my playwriting mentor, who told me that these things happen (it’s happened to him four times, he wrote, and on a much bigger scale) and that it was not a small thing for my play to be considered ready to present publicly by a theatre company who knew nothing about me. This, more than anything else, made me feel a lot better.

But my day was not over yet. Oh, no. When I got home from the gym, I looked around my messy side of the room and decided to be productive and clean it. I threw all the stuff off my bed to make it and picked up my phone to see if my mom or anyone else had texted me, since I was in the middle of two conversations. What I found were two messages, from two different people, with information about my tourguide job. Oh, yes. It was 1:10 and apparently, I was supposed to be leading a tour that started at 12:45.

My mind has never been filled with more bad words, and I can’t believe they didn’t tumble out of my mouth when I called Beth and asked her what was going on and she said, “Aren’t you leading a tour right now?” I was practically convulsing on my bed as I said, “oh my God” over and over again as tears poured down my face. It only got worse when she told me that when someone misses a tour, they usually get fired. Awesome. So in addition to NOT being a produced, I was also going to have to tell people that I got fired from my job, and also deal with the monetary repercussions of losing said job. (The best part of this is, my mom texted me the other day and asked me to bring some chocolate home for her when I met up  with my family for Thanksgiving and I thought, ‘How sad that I don’t have a tour this week. That would have been so convenient.’) Beth assured me that she would talk to Jane and they would call me by tonight.

I spent a good portion of the day crying; my eyes are very, very dry right now. I was just getting over the embarrassment of suddenly not being produced and then this happened… and I couldn’t even blame it on anyone but myself and my dyscalculia. Because, just as I spent the entirety of every math class doing, I had written a number down wrong, and now I was going to be fired for it. Every time my phone made a noise, I would rush to check it. Finally, I got a message from Jane, saying that Beth had explained what had happened and everything was fine; I still had my job. THANK GOD.

However upset I was today- and still am, about the play- I constantly tried to put things into perspective. No, I wasn’t being produced. But I hadn’t lost any money on the play. It wasn’t rejected because of the quality of the writing or anything else that I did. There was no marquee that I was suddenly being taken off of. While I was in employment limbo, I told myself that I do have another job. And every time I was tempted to think or say, “THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVER,” I reminded myself that not only have I certainly had worse days, but that one of my friends lost her mother today, and that my situation could certainly not be called worse than hers; my mother was texting me encouraging words from work. And as if it was meant to be, I just happened upon the following quote, which gives me hope:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

Loneliness

On Monday, my college advisor called me with information about a job, as well as to ask me if I wanted to see a show in New York that night for free with the current theatre kids. Um, YES. He’s actually invited me on a similar trip a few weeks ago, but I had to work that night. But Monday night, I was free, and so was the trip, so I was definitely going to be there. It felt so great to have him say, “Then come home and come with us.”

But home wasn’t exactly as I imagined it. I got there early and had a nice chat with my advisor, but when I got on the bus, there was only one person there (out of the admitted few, at that time) that I knew. I started panicking- what if I had no one to eat dinner with? Obviously my advisor would let me eat with the faculty, but I didn’t want to be included by default. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before my friends showed up.

Because of the hurricane, the Holland Tunnel was closed, meaning that EVERYONE had to go through the Lincoln Tunnel, causing us to be stuck in traffic for hours. We had left at four, figuring, as usually happened when we took these trips, that we’d be in the city by six thirty at the latest and have time for dinner. This meant that, sitting in traffic at 7:15, we were all very, very hungry and it was pretty much guaranteed that we wouldn’t have time to get food.

We didn’t, really. We arrived at the theatre at 7:45 for an eight o’clock show, and there was a bar in the lobby where I bought an apple for a dollar and wolfed it down before going into the auditorium. The show we saw was called Wild With Happy, at the Public Theatre. What I love about the shows the department takes us to see is that they’re not ones any of us would ever take ourselves to see, but they’re always good. It wasn’t a perfect show, but it was really, really good and the acting was phenomenal. We met the actors afterward because my advisor knew two of the four actors (some of us had met one of them two years ago when we saw her on Broadway), which was cool; they were really nice. And then we piled on the bus back home, stopping at a rest stop on the way and making all the Burger King employees hate us because we all rushed in right as they were about to close and were the only ones still open.

It was on the bus ride home that I started to feel out of sorts. I wanted to cry. Actually, I guess it started in the lobby waiting for the actors to come out. Again it hit me how many of the people around me I didn’t know, and how my friends were now friends with these people and saw them more often than they saw me and so were most definitely creating memories with them every day while they saw me maybe once a month. This feeling carried over onto the bus, where, even though I was chatting with my friends and my advisor, I was constantly reminded just by being there that I was not one of them anymore, and that made me feel unbelievably sad. My advisor noticed me looking very downcast and asked what was up. I told him I was thinking about post-graduate life. “Hard?” he asked. “Yes.” He assured me, in the least condescending way possible, that this was the way it was supposed to be, or rather, the way it normally is. “The struggle is part of it.” He also added, for the acting side of it, that he wouldn’t teach it if he didn’t think there was hope of a career in it for his students. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

I appreciated this talk very much, but it didn’t really help me much. I appreciate that the struggle is part of it, but that doesn’t make it much easier. Especially since, to be honest, the whole acting thing isn’t really the big issue here. The big issue, as Jess helped me figure out on the ride up, is that I am lonely. I am intensely, desperately lonely. Now I know why Kara, who graduated a year earlier than I did, told me never to live alone as she did when she first left school. I live with three people and I still feel very alone most of the time. Part of it comes from the fact that I am not particularly close with any of my roommates. I like them all, no doubt about it, but I’m just getting to know two of them and the one that I do know well, I’m too shy to pursue a deeper relationship, and would have to be very cautious about doing so anyway because he has a girlfriend. I also have a very different schedule than they do, so I’m not much in the apartment will all of them, and again, I’m too shy to actually try to begin any sort of complex friendship with any of them (I fully believe that I have never made a friend in my entire life. They’ve always made me.)

I don’t know what to do about any of this, and I don’t know if anything can be done. I’m sure this is common and it will eventually run its course, but right now, when I am feeling lonely and angsty and emotional, it feels pretty permanent.

OBAMA!

I have never been terribly interested in politics until this election. This year, I was seriously invested in it because my basic human rights were being threatened. I can’t say how happy I am that Obama is still our president. No, he did not have a perfect first term. But I think he is a good man  with a soul who believes in the rights of all human beings, regardless of religion, race, sexuality, or gender.

I had no idea what I was going to do if Romney won. I was terrified. As a twenty-two year-old woman, to lose my rights simply because I am female was so, so threatening. Now, I will continue to be paid the same as my male co-workers. I will have access to birth control. And, God forbid, should I ever be raped, I will never be told whether it was “legitimate” or not.

Thank God. That is all I can say. I am still considered a human being.

Filming Day 2

Sunday was my second and final day on the student film shoot, and it couldn’t have been more different from the first day.

First of all, it was a night shoot, so I didn’t have to be onset until 5:30. When I finally got to the location, I saw that we were filming in a house rented by a bunch of students. I don’t know how the film crew managed to secure this house, because the residents did not seem terribly happy that we were there, but maybe that was just because the scene we were shooting there involved us opening the door constantly, and it was really, really cold outside. I felt that cold all the way down to my bones, because the entire scene took place outdoors and it took an hour and a half to film a page and a half of dialogue and WOW, was it cold.

My scene partner, Chris, was there when I arrived and he was really nice, so we chatted until it was time to stand in our places as they adjusted the lights. THe crew was great and let us go inside whenever we weren’t needed, and even though it was only in five minute increments, it made a lot of difference. I had been asked to wear an outfit that my character would wear to work, and though I picked out two skirts for them to choose from, I wasn’t willing even to drive while wearing one, it was so cold, and thankfully, my showing up in jeans made them change their mind about the skirt and I got to wear my pants while outside. I can’t even imagine how cold I would have been with bare legs. By the time we were finished, none of us could walk properly because our feet were numb.

We all headed to the next location, which was actually a diner that I eat at pretty frequently when I work doubles, it being across the highway from my workplace. There, I met my other two “lovers,” Carlos and another actor whose name, though we spent three hours in a diner together, I did not catch. They were all really great to work with, although they too gave directions to the director. Am I the only actor who thinks it’s none of my business? We shot  sequence of scenes at the diner, and I had to change my dress a lot for different shots so that they didn’t have to move the camera and lights from position to position to get me in the same outfit with different angles.

Shooting the scenes was really fun, and I was much less self-conscious, maybe because I had another actor to work off of who wasn’t giving me direction. Also, the scenes were a lot more active- I got to stab and slap one guy, get water spilled on me (over and over and over again), and eat food, which I’m sure distracted me from my own presence. All of these sequences together took about three hours to film, and when I wrapped at 11:30, they applauded me, as they had all the other actors when they wrapped. While I still think I’m a terrible film actor,  the director and producer liked my work, which is what counts. Eventually I’ll get the DVD, which I’ll never watch, but it’ll be a nice souvenir.

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