Why I Survived LA
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Good Mornin' everybody!
Black Dog opened yesterday and it felt so good to be on that stage again, let me tell ya. My favorite part about acting on stage is most definitely the moments where something that is not supposed to happen, happens, and it feels like the whole play might crash and burn. Then you have to act on your feet, you have to improv a line, or an action, or a cue, or a monologue, or anything...you have to do and try anything to get that play back on track and make sure the audience doesn't notice.
These times of improv are perhaps the gem in every play. You act quick on your feet and the audience may applaud you, or laugh, or cry, and everything is in the most genuine state it a play can possibly be in.
So, last night... that happened. Twice. The first time was all my fault. It was between scene changes, when we have a black out (no lights are on). Please keep in my mind that I ran out of contacts, so I did this play half blind. Well anyway, yes it's a black out, therefore I can not see, no one can see, I can extra not see. Between scene changes, I have to move this box. Well I guess I moved the box a little too far because I knocked over this whole container of milk we had on stage, and the milk just went all over the place. Well, no time to fix this! So I exited off stage before the next scene as blocked. Of course, the audience heard the milk splatter, so there's really no hiding that it was a mistake. Well... lights up!
Lights up to a container of milk splattered all over the stage. My scene partner, Liz, enters on stage and sees this mess of milk and thinks to herself, "Well, how do we fix this." Meanwhile, I have about three seconds before I have to arrive on stage. And, I have a quick change (I have to quickly change costumes before arriving back onstage). So I throw on my clothes, and I'm thinking "Well, how do I fix this." Looking for towels, but having no time, I heard my cue to enter on stage. So I grabbed my cardigan. Yes my cardigan. That I wore in the last scene. I ran out on stage and frantically cleaned the mess. Doing this gave this scene a whole different feel. This emotional and melancholy scene suddenly turned into a frustrated emotional scene with tears and aggravation. But... it worked! The audience forgot it was mistake, they were in on the whole thing. Not only did my scene partner and I work hard enough to make this situation work with the script, but we worked hard enough to make it work for each other. That is what I love about theatre, the moments of true emotion, true words, not holding anything back. The beauty of collaboration. So yeah, I saved the day. No big deal.
Yeah, so, faith...
In that moment I had to put all my faith into my own feelings, my scene partner's feelings, the script. I had to put faith in me and her and it and know that we all can handle it.
Before each show, I let my castmates know that if something goes down, if we lose a line, if we lose a whole scene, that I will work hard with them to get us back on track. I let them know they can have complete faith in me. I am not fearful for things to go wrong. I love failure. I love the unknown. I love confusion. Because, eventually, no matter what the situation, you will leave that failure, that unknown, that confusion, behind. You will learn unbelievably from it. You will learn how to succeed, you will learn things you never did before, you will be so grounded in your surroundings. You will leave all of that behind and one day you'll look back and you'll see how much of an important lesson all of that was for you. So, it takes faith. It takes faith to know that if you fall, people will catch you. But you've got to have faith in yourself too. If someone takes a fall so heavy you're not sure you'll be able to catch them, you've got to be there. Your faith alone will be their little trampoline catcher thing that the firemen use to rescue people. Are we on the same page here...?
Just a quick disclaimer before I go into this blog: Yes, I will talk about religion. And, well, if you don't want to read about faith or religion then ya don't have to. And I'm cool with that. I will talk about our amazing and ever-loving God, but if you don't agree with me, that's cool too. I don't expect everyone to have the same views. I'm not going to be offending anyone here, these are my views, my opinions, my thoughts, my blog... and I think this is something super cool to be talking about. The darkest pits of my life and how I found a ladder to climb out! So yeah, just a disclaimer, I love Jesus. I love Him a lot. He's my secret weapon. So essentially, I'm letting you all in on a little secret of mine.
My Little Secret
I think the format of my blogs is to start from the beginning and make my way to the end. So here it goes, the beginning.
I was raised Roman Catholic in a family of seven. I have three older brothers, an older sister, two loving parents, and an awesome dog. Us kids went to Catholic school. My brothers went for the majority of their schooling, whereas my sister and I went for just about two years. (My parents noticed just how expensive it can get.) Being in a religious environment growing up was very imperative in my parents' parenting styles. We had crucifixes everywhere, we never ate meat on Friday's, we made sure to pray before every meal and before bedtime. Anytime something is lost, you pray to Saint Anthony, anytime something good happens, you thank Our Lord. The Ten Commandments was printed by our family computer so we could learn them.
I know now, growing up, that they weren't forcing religion down our throat, but rather, they were just teaching us to be good people. We never had to extensively read the Bible, although that's something I try to do now and did in college... but we were always taken to church on Sunday mornings and had family dinners every night. By teaching us through faith, as young kids, we quickly learned the value of family. How important it is to stay close with one another, to love your neighbor as yourself, to remain honest with one another, and to truly care about one another. We learned the importance of spending time with each other and listening to someone when they speak. We learned that it is not only bad to kill someone (reference the Fifth Commandment) but not to gossip as well, which both exist in that same commandment. In that sense, at a young age we learned that there is not one way to kill someone. Many people go towards the gruesome side of killing when thinking of that commandment, but you can kill someone's soul, you can kill someone's heart, you can kill their mind. Gossip is a great way to do that.
We learned to Ask, to Thank, to Give, and to Love.
We are not orthodox Catholics. A lot of us in the family are reformed. As we grew up, my sister and I in public schooling, we were exposed to the world of non-catholics, atheists, and those who did not Thank, Give, Ask, or Love. My parent's relaxed on their own parenting and religion wasn't as visually prevalent. We got busy, my brother's went on into their careers, but my sister and I, we were still going through times in our lives that we probably needed to know God was there, the most. Looking around in our environment, in the chaos of work and shortened money... the crucifixes disappeared from the walls of every bedroom, the Ten Commandments came off the wall, the family dinners stopped, and sometimes, so did the prayer. However, we know we didn't lose Him. There was no way we could. From such a young age, we always knew He was watching over us, and with a quick dial and prayer, He'd hear us out. So, we hung on to him, but instead of externally, he remained internally.
Looking back, forgetting Him externally, this was a difficult time for this to happen.
Middle school happened. Oh, great middle school. The most awkward time of anyone's life. For some reason, I had lost all joy I had in me. I'd lock myself in a room and write, write, write, and talk to Him. I did not want to see the outside world, I did not want to be in it, I didn't even want to be around my family. I was growing, I was readjusting to this outside world, the new move my family just took, and lots was out of the picture. Hanging on to God, this was the first time I experienced true sadness. But, He was my way out. I asked him for happiness, for friends, for confidence... He came to me. He stuck with me. He loved me. He helped me. Before, I did not understand what this sadness was, how it crept up on me, but I reevaluated my blessings and hit the road to a full joy.
I crashed again. It was freshman year of high school and I was readjusting all over again. The friends God blessed me with in middle school were about to leave to go to a new high school, I was meeting all these kids from other schools, I was awkward and outgoing all at once. However, I had dated this boy, my first boyfriend!
When I entered high school, I was so lost in the popularity, the friends, the happiness... that my grades started to fall, and so did my relationship with God. When I entered this relationship, I definitely put myself first before God. To this date, this little relationship I had with this fourteen-year old boy was the worst one I have experienced. It was unhealthy in every sense of the word and it pushed me back into this sadness I had forgotten. I'm not going to blame the boy I was dating, I mean we were fourteen and saying we loved each other, could any more go wrong? My friends around me were doing things against my religion, and wanting to stay relevant and cool, I did them too. My boyfriend at the time asked me to do things against my religion and being scared out of my mind, I fell. I didn't understand why doing these things were bad, if everyone else does them. If my friends are doing this and this and this, then it can't be bad if I do just this one thing, right? Guilt filled me more than ever. The relationship became abusive and I was beginning to lose myself. I was so busy focusing on the people around me and who I wanted to be, that I lost who I really was. I fell deep into this pit of darkness, and having forgotten God, I sulked in it. I did worldly things and kept falling into this fear that I am not good enough. Confidence fell. After a while, me as a little fourteen-year old realized, thanks to a school assembly, that I am in an abusive relationship. I didn't know how to get out. I asked friends, I asked family, no one could help. So I went to my last resort at the time, I went to God. I asked Him for help. And, in prayer, I cried.
For many years, I would say just until about recently, I was quite scarred from that relationship. Nightmares would come to me constantly, and even thinking about kissing another boy made me feel terribly unsafe. It took years to recover and to trust someone again. The first step, was to put trust in Him.
He never left me, but I knew I left Him, and with open arms He welcomed me back. He gave me the confidence I needed to leave the relationship, and to redefine myself. Any boy that had interest in me from then on I told them whatsup. I told them that they might be seeking out the wrong person, I'm not their gal, I can't let myself give you what you want. And they were surprisingly cool with it. I knew from then on that any guy who wanted something I didn't, just wasn't worth my time. No matter how cute he was or how well he could throw a football. If their morals didn't line up with mine, then they're simply not worth my time. I focused on my goal in this life of mine, the person I want to be, the person God wants me to be, and if your path isn't along my route, then sorry, I have no interest.
I did this with friends as well. Reading further into the Bible and trying to get closer to God, I realized the impact my friendships might have on me and my faith. In high school, peer pressure was sometimes way too strong. I realized I just can't put myself in that situation to begin with. Suddenly, the want to be "cool" or "have cool friends" escaped me. At like fifteen, I just starting doin' me and I really didn't care what people thought. I found people who truly made me laugh and have joy. And my heart opened, it opened wide. Because of my faith in God, I could put my faith into these new friends of mine, to trust them with anything and everything that might come our way.
Leaving For College
Throughout the rest of my years, I went seeking for God. And wow, I found Him everywhere. It probably wasn't until going into college where I found Him even more.
My senior year of high school was a big lesson in my life. In part, I was greeted with that sadness once again, but God gifted me with this extreme motivation and this all-powerful voice that told me I would be okay as long as I stuck to my goal. So I worked, and I worked hard. I made sure to work hard in school, getting all A's, and in my theatre life. I was involved in everything I could be, and when putting my faith in God, is where I accessed the deepest parts of my talent and let myself soar. God granted me with a best friend of a boyfriend who helped me along the way. He introduced me to chivalry and knowing how a guy should treat me, and he helped me, in part, get rid of some of my scars. Although we didn't last, he introduced me to an amazing group of friends I still talk to to this day. A group of friends who I write letters to, and have bonfires with, and have Mario Kart marathons with. The break-up was healthy, and the return on that relationship was great because it somehow lead me closer to God, and gave me these amazing, caring friends.
On the road to college, I knew I needed to maintain my closeness to God. I attended church every Sunday and tried to get involved in Young Life and Bible study groups before my time was up at Virginia Tech. I continued to pray and pray hard, in a time I needed God's answer the most. My relationship with Him grew stronger and stronger. As I know God wanted me to do, I kept that one goal in my mind and anything that tried to intercede it, got blocked.
Being in Los Angeles was the deepest pit of sadness I have ever experienced. This was a time of complete frustration, confusion, sadness, any bad feeling you wanna name, I probably experienced it. Things just weren't going well for me personally and there were times I broke down on the sidewalks of the LA streets. I lost everything it seemed that I had known. I felt like I had reached a dead-end. I was searching for all these answers but I couldn't find any. So I stay focused on my goal. I worked hard day in and day out but my sadness was growing deeper and deeper. I was searching for someone to grab my hand and pull me out.
In this time, God gifted me someone amazing. He has the title boyfriend now, so yeah, thank you God. Luke teamed up with my guardian angel it seems and through Luke, God gave me this hand to grab on to. Through all the days I would scream in my car, to the days so numb I felt nothing, all Luke had to do was give me a call, and I know it was God reaffirming me that He is there.
In Los Angeles, I experienced a pain and a suffering from a sadness so deep I can tell you in complete confidence that I am not the same person I was as the beginning of it. I lost part of me, I will never be able to find. There is a different feeling to me, a different maturity, a different outlook on life, and it took me a while to adjust to this saved self.
When all was going south, I was looking north, and without fail, God was there.
Before every performance, I ask God to give me the ability to put my complete faith in Him. I believe the relation to my profession and to God is uncanny. The empathy it requires, the open soul one needs to have, I don't even know the right words to give this feeling. When I get on that stage, I feel Him with me, telling a story that an audience member may need to hear. He is with me, as He is with you, everywhere and always.
Whether you believe in Him or not, I say give it a try. What's the worst that could happen?
Thanks for reading!
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(Christina: Ancient Greek, used to translate Hebrew. Anointed; follower of Christ; guard/guardian. Little Christ.)