Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If Just One Persons Believes...

I've heard it said the hardest part of doing anything is starting. It's especially true when you are staring at a blank page, like what I'm faced with each time I attempt to write this blog. The past few weeks of writing weren't that difficult because I had experienced some sort of struggle almost daily, and so I had a lot to think about and express, and I guess learn; which makes writing easier, at least it does for me.  See, I think I'm having such a hard time with this post because what I've felt this past week wasn't an overwhelming sense of fear, but gratitude.  Pure gratitude, for where I am right now, for things that have led me here, for the future and for the people in my life who have supported me.   So the question is, can I be happy and write a meaningful blog post?  I don't know, but I'm going to try.  I mean this post is already late by my self imposed deadline anyway, so I'll struggle on.

Now, I'm well aware that you learn from your failures/negative experiences, and that means we shouldn't be afraid to fail, but I also think you can learn from the good things as well.  BUT just for old time's sake, let's start first with a disappointment. My Indiegogo campaign ended this past week and I didn't raise as much as I'd hoped. Heading into the last week of the campaign I felt angry.  Why does potato salad raise $55,000.00 and I'm having trouble raising more than a thousand?  Oh, and then things started to get really ugly when I began to list (a mental one, but still not pretty) all the people who didn't donate (people who I have given to and people who I knew could afford to give, but hadn't) and then thankfully I had an Oprah "A ha" moment.  I realized that no one owes me anything.  I had this dream, on my own and not one person (except for maybe my mom) was obligated to give me a dime. And when I contributed to anyone else's campaign, it was never because I expected a payback.  I gave to support my friends.  So I released the NEED to raise money, and I let it go (please don't sing). I also forgave all those people on my mental list, though they had done absolutely nothing wrong to be forgiven for, but I needed to do it for myself. And crazily enough, once I did that, I raised more money (maybe it's a coincidence because most people wait 'til the last minute to contribute, but I don't so).  And I continue to receive support now that the campaign is over.    

Yes, I failed!!!  I did not reach my goal on Indiegogo, but I have gained so much more (get ready, I'm going to get positive now).  The support I did receive was overwhelming, because I realized that those people who contributed to my film did so because they truly wanted to.  No one had to open their wallets and contribute any of their hard earned cash, but they did.  And as I thanked each person, I received notes back full of support.  When I yelled at someone for what they gave and asked "Are you crazy?" they simply responded "No, I just love you and believe in you".  And then I wept, at my desk, at work, and it was embarrassing.  I don't think I have ever actually heard those words said to me before. And if they were said, I either hadn't really listened or I just didn't believe them.

With all these people believing in me, I can't let them down by not believing in myself.  And as I move forward getting ready to go into the studio, and search for a cinematographer, there are moments of fear.  What if the songs don't sound like I want them to? What if I choose the wrong person?  What if what I've written isn't any good?  But, and here's the biggie, what if I truly believe in myself (like my friends do) and listen to my instincts, and trust my gut?  Imagine that!!  I have to believe that if I do that I'll be where I need to be.  I'm not saying it will be perfect, but I believe it will be the perfect place for me, in the perfect time.

And Lord knows I can ramble on and on with my non-perfect sentences, but honestly, I don't think I can say it better than Bernadette Peters and the Muppets. Special thanks to my dear friend Polly McKie for introducing me to this, and to all those friends and family members who believe in me.  You make it essential that I believe in myself, and with that, anything is possible:

UPDATE: Let's share the love.  I had this thought this morning (after posting very late last night), what if we all thought of one person that you believe in (they don't need to be in the performing arts) and you told them so.  Or maybe you tweet them with #Ibelieveinyou!  Or if you don't feel comfortable telling them personally, why not say a prayer for them or send them good thoughts and root for them that way.  You never know who needs to feel your belief right now! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Hero's Journey

A few years ago I had the incredible opportunity to perform in NYC Player's "Neutral Hero". Unbeknownst to me, the story was inspired by Joseph Campell's The Hero's Journey.  And no, I didn't play the hero, but I did play Karen Elliot, the Goddess (yes, I still laugh about it myself).  I never gave much thought to the hero's journey before I joined the cast, and I haven't thought about it much since, because well, I'm no hero. I've never saved a life or healed the sick, I'm just a girl from Long Island, who wants to entertain people through stories and music, and who would like to one day pay off her credit card debt, but that's another story for another day.  And honestly, I wasn't planning on writing this post, but the feelings I've been dealing with recently have dictated to me that I needed to talk about what I've just figured out.

Working on this film, trying to raise money for it, and writing this blog has given me the keys to open up my very own Pandora's box of fears.  You name it, I've experienced it in the past two weeks. Some fears are normal, like not raising enough money to make this project, to feeling like the work isn't good enough.  I say they're normal because I've experienced that type fear before. But other fears are just completely irrational.  It seems like one little negative thought leads to another one that's a little bit bigger, and before you know it I'm catching Ebola, being falsely imprisoned, and/or dying alone. It's been a rough week.

My fears had become so overwhelming that I began to feel physically ill, so when I saw Elizabeth Gilbert was on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, I sat my ass down on my couch and watched that sucker immediately OnDemand.  I was transformed in an hour.  See it was there, I was reminded of The Hero's journey but in a more personal way.  A very abbreviated explanation of the journey is the 'hero' answers the call not without self doubt, struggles on the path, then reaches a point of no return which leads to a battle, where Gilbert says that "every single one of those obstacles prepared you for the battle, then you lose your fear and then you become the hero".  Me. And you, if we answer the call.

See I answered my call.  And it is a very different one from most people I know. No one else in my family, or friends for that matter, has received a similar call as I, and if they have then the have rejected it. They all went to school, got jobs with that degree, got married, had kids, because that is their call; but that's not mine. Sometimes when people see you making a different choice then the one they are accustomed to, they assume you must be unhappy.  But no worries, they're here to help!! They have all the advice in the world and know just how to fix you.  And even though I didn't know I needed to be fixed,  I began to doubt myself, and my call.  What if they're right?  Maybe I should  just forget this crazy dream of mine (it's really hard anyway), find a good paying job with health insurance (I too have a degree), get a man, a marriage license, and pop out a few kids (Lord knows that would make my mother very happy).  But honestly, I'm not unhappy without those things.  Yes, there are a few things I'd like to change about my current situation, but I'm happy on my journey.  Nothing makes me feel more alive and grateful than writing and performing, and nothing makes me feel more trapped then having to do something that takes me away from that.  This is the life I want to live.  And then, like a light bulb, I realized that I was feeling all this anxiety because I'd let the opinions of others affect my own.

Sure it's not without struggles or trials (this indiegogo campaign of mine is just the tip of the iceberg) but they are just obstacles on my path.  And I welcome them.  I don't enjoy them, but if they are prepping me for what's to come, I welcome them.  So now, I have officially chosen to become the Hero of my own story!  If I'm not, who will be?  That's what my film is about...characters who have received and accepted their call, no matter how difficult, no matter who doesn't understand, no matter who tells them "No", because I don't believe you will be truly happy unless you follow your own call. As Paulo Coelho author of The Alchemist says, our only obligation is to find our "personal legend" (or purpose), honor it and fulfill it.  And at the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card or an advertisement for OWN TV,  I hope I can continue to be brave enough to continue my journey.  I may not be a hero in terms of a summer blockbuster, but I see now that I am the hero of my life.  I can only hope you're the hero of yours.  You deserve that!  Hell, he world needs it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Asking for help SUCKS!

Asking for help is hard.  I'm not used to doing it and I don't like it.  As adults, and I think I'm supposed to be one of those, shouldn't we be self-sufficient?  Aren't we supposed to look like we're got it all together, even if we are raging messes inside?  Won't it look like we're weak if we ask for help?  It's funny though, whenever someone asks me for help, I never once look at it as a weakness, but somehow it's different for myself. It feels embarrassing for me to need assistance.  It's a blaring reminder that I am not perfect, I do not have it all together and I'm not sure I ever will.  It's also an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, to put yourself out there and say to the world, "Oh hey, excuse me everybody who seems to have their act together, I sorta cannot do this on my own, so can you maybe throw me a rope.  Only if it's not too much trouble"!

But I see now that it's essential.  I'm in that ask place right now, as I'm asking for help to bring this film to life.  I don't have an off-shore bank account or wads of cash in my mattress, nor do I have wealthy parents or a sugar daddy (and I'm totally ok with that).  So I started an indiegogo campaign and am asking for support. When I thought about doing it originally I had no qualms about it.  Many of my friends had done their own and I supported them.  It's not a big deal.  But when I put my campaign up, all of a sudden I felt not so great about it. It kinda felt dirty to me.  Who am I to ask my friends and family for money for something that I want to do.  Who do I think I am??  I would imagine people seeing my posts about my campaign and them saying to themselves "You want to make a film, good for you, go make it yourself".  Now as a disclaimer, no one has ever said that to me, but whenever I post something on FB or send an email about raising money, that is what I imagine people are thinking.

When I was doing research on budgets for film and raising money, I send an email to a friend who had just completed their own short film and I was asking about financing.  This person (who is an excellent human being, super smart and talented) said to me that they couldn't bring themselves to ask their friends to pay for their short .  Since there will be no return on it, it didn't feel right to them.  But they were making no judgement on anyone who went that route.  Part of me felt sick because I too agreed with them (partially anyway), but I also realized that without help this film would stay where it had been for a long time, on my computer and in my mind.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and a call for help.

It still bothers me when I write an email to a friend and ask them to check out my campaign and to consider supporting it.  Then when I get an email notification, instead of thinking I have a new contribution I just assume it's a nasty email saying "Please never contact me again about your stupid film, I have my own things to deal with".  I have yet to receive an email like that.

But you know what I have received?  Encouragement. And from surprising sources.  I have been so supremely touched by the generosity of people, some of which I barely know, but who have contributed and then sent messages like "I know what it's like to purse your dreams, and how tough it is at the beginning...I'm rooting for you."  How amazing is that?  Every time I get an notification that someone has contributed, I'm filled with so much gratitude I want to cry.  To feel any kind of support is absolutely amazing.  People do want to help you.  But you need to be brave and ask for it.  Have I reached my goal? No. Will I?  Probably not, but that's okay.  I'm not stopping.

I came upon an article in TIME Magazine (no, I'm not that intellectual, I saw it on Facebook) and in it, Ricky Gervais said this about hard work "I believe that if you didn't have to work for something, it can’t truly be considered success. Luck doesn't count. I think success is allowed a certain pride and you can’t be proud of luck or even of being born smart, artistic, or talented. It’s what you do with it that counts."  This thing is not going to come easily to me and that's okay.  For a little while I was thinking that if it doesn't happen quickly or easily it's not meant to be, but that my friends, is complete bullshit.  There are lessons in this journey, there are things I need to experience for me to grow and there are moments to be met, so I can get to the next moment.  I can't skip any steps.  And so I will work harder on this than anything else, so that when I have my first screening, I will know I have succeeded, but not without the help of some friends.  And for that I'll be forever grateful.  This is a journey that is opening me up, it's teaching me to be vulnerable, to ask for help and to trust that good intentions, hard work, dedication and a pure love will be rewarded in kind.