My Credo

I believe in the power, the value, the importance of art.

I believe in the worth of a thought. Things that aren’t commodifiable are still valuable. Engaging a person’s mind is a success, even if it’s just one person. There’s beauty in the small, the seemingly insignificant, the ephemeral. There’s beauty everywhere you look. And beauty, another intangible thing, is one of the most valuable.

I believe that just one person can change the world around them. Living an honest life, leading by example, has a ripple effect. Kindness, real kindness, in both thought and action is one of our greatest challenges—and yet this is the only goal. It is more than money. It is more than church. It is our guiding path. I believe in generosity and compassion. Toward others and myself.

I believe in good food. I believe in the power of things. I believe in coffee, eye contact, and the healing power of human connection. I believe that romantic comedies are not the downfall of cinema. I believe in music, in musicals, in dancing with abandon. I believe that drag performance is something my heart was searching for without knowing where to look. I believe in critical thought. And I believe in frivolous thoughts. I believe that climate change is happening, and I believe in the selfishness of those who deny it. I believe in the joys of travel. And I believe you can travel as far through a book as in flight.

I believe that it’s not easy. I believe that it’s worth it. I believe that I’m not alone. Amen.

Wednesday

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Dear God

Dear God,

I know I haven’t prayed to you throughout my entire life, but it seems these days I talk to you more and more. What I’m praying for is a miracle. I’m tired and sometimes I don’t know where in this world I want to be or what I should be doing with myself. But I do know that something has to give. The lack of money and greedy focus towards it is stressful. And I try to not live for money, but this world makes it difficult not too. I pray to be free of this stress and I pray to be able to use my creative skills for more hours of the day than less. I pray for this opportunity. I pray to forgo wanting even though part of me believes that the wanting is what makes us human. The better part of me craves satisfaction and contentment. Please quiet the voice inside my head that is on repeat “What next? What now? I want this… I need that.” Something inside me is imbalanced and it scares me. I pray to not be envious and to understand that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I pray to be thankful of my skills and not wish I were someone that I’m not. Allow me to stop comparing, judging, spying. I am praying for a miracle. Of contentment. Allow me to find a way to be an artist full-time and stress less. Please God reveal a 40-hour art-week to me so that I can enjoy my family and friends, exercise, cook healthy meals, volunteer, read, and have more time to laugh and less to cry and complain about how exhausted I am from working 50+ hours on top of artwork. Please reveal this to me and show me the way.

Amen,

Monday

“Let them eat [cannoli]”

Along with the business of babies, I also work at a restaurant in Little Italy.  I admit in the mist of the pressure of graduate school, I often romanticized the idea of working in a restaurant, getting to talk to new people, having restaurant friends to grab a drink with after work, wearing a cute apron.  I did know of course that it would be hard work but I thought it could also be nice to have a job I could go home from and not think about. This is true, but now that I work in a restaurant in reality and not in the friendly 1950’s diner of my imagination; some of the charm from my previous romanticized notion of the job has died.

 I wanted to be a server but because I am a woman and have limited experience I had to start out as an under paid, over worked hostess. Mind you, I saw men who also did not have any experience go straight to serving (example number 543,561 of the patriarchy).  As a hostess I stood at the door for about eight hours straight and escorted people to seats that were clearly available; I felt a bit unnecessary at times.  While I stood at the door, the floor manager stood next to me and partook in his favorite pass time, piggishly commenting on the physical attributes of the women who walk by.  When I tried to get my apartment mate a hostess job at the restaurant, while listing all of her qualification I was interrupted by the said manager’s inquiry, “Is she hot?”.  It is the twenty-first century and female employment is still reduced to ‘tits and ass’.  Considering the fact that I am under five foot and over one hundred pounds, I’m guessing that my cousin’s husband being a cook at the restaurant played a role in the decision to hire me.

Though my interactions with customers were brief, they always managed to be quite despicable in the minute we’d spend together.  I understand why servers spit in food… give me another month at that restaurant and I may just start contributing a little saliva garnish of my own.  They would seat themselves and completely disregard me.  There were the middle aged business men with reseeding hair lines, no doubt writing their martinis off as a business expense, who would snap for me and call me princess.  And there were the two women who talked down to me and put themselves at a table for five because apparently their Tiffany’s shopping bag and name brand purses also need chairs of their own. I wanted to tell them to move to a table for two and maybe feed an impoverished family of six for a couple months instead of spending thousands of dollars on a symbol of privilege that they use to carry their gum and lipstick… but you know the customer is always right.  So I walked away and mumbled bourgeois bitch under my breath (I don’t typically use that word in a non reclaiming, feminist kind of way but I can’t resist the alliteration). Also, If you’ll allow me another moment to rant about restaurant patrons… who needs to look at a menu for twenty minutes in order to decide to get spaghetti or a margarita pizza?! My only comfort was the fact that there is a small step near the door and I would kindly tell the polite costumers to watch their step as they leave. The rude customers would receive no warning and I’d smile mischievously when they’d trip; it was like divine retribution, restaurant karma.  I thought I would be stuck at the hostess podium of doom for quite some time but I became a server a few weeks ago, and the people are just as rude but at least now they sometimes tip me.

I worked my ass off, covering shifts and pulling doubles all so I could get promoted to a server and have the opportunity to bring people food I can’t afford to buy for myself. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to knowledge of good food and wine.  My fine dinning experience while growing up was pretty much limited to Denny’s and places of that caliber.  And when it comes to wine, well the bottom two shelves are all I can reach and afford so it’s Two Buck Chuck and Sutter Home’s White Zin for me!  I didn’t really get trained so I’m pretty much just winging it.  Honestly, sometimes if I can’t pronounce one of our wines and I can’t handle the embarrassment I just lie and say we are out of it and recommend the Pinot Noir.  I have discovered my ability to bullshit my way through. Though I am horribly clumsy, a bit too sassy, and clearly a complainer, I do work hard and I am grateful for this job (as much as it may suck and not utilize my expensive masters degree).  Serving jobs in NY are hard to come by so I will serve rich people my poorly made, over priced cappuccinos with a smile on my face.  Hey, only about 600 more dinner shifts till I’m debt free! 

-Satuday

Refuge

One year ago, in October, at the halfway point of my Master’s degree program at NYU, I was experiencing quite the identity crisis. I had gone to NYU, the very definition of my dream school, to study theater. I had planned to spend the majority of my time in the Performance Studies department researching and learning more deeply about theater than I ever had before, with the intention of launching a long and happy career in show biz. Whether behind the scenes or on stage, or a combination of both, it didn’t matter. I wish I could tell you more specifically what I had intended to be the focus of my thesis, but the fact of the matter is that, before that time came, my identity crisis hit, and hit hard.

In a class called Memoir & Ethnography, our project for the semester was to write our own mini memoir, on any subject/event of our lives that we wanted. Mine, originally, was inspired by the question asked by Yale University on the application to their graduate Dramaturgy & Dramatic Criticism program, to which I applied (and was rejected): Why have you chosen a life in theater? Quite a question to answer, though before I had even written a word of it, before it had gotten out of the planning stages, I knew…my project was dead. I had no interest in it. And it wasn’t just this one, either. Every time I tried to look at my schoolwork through a theatrical lens, I felt bored, uninspired, uninterested. What I really wanted to work on, the project that excited me the most, more than any of my academic work, and what I was filtering every philosophy book through, was a work of fiction. It was (and still is) something more ambitious than anything else I’ve ever worked on, and I’m glad I decided to take the plunge and dedicate myself to it. But at the time I was terrified to make the shift in focus from theater to literature.  Why abandon what had gotten me to this point? Was I giving up on something I loved, leaving an old friend for the prospect of something new? Was I disappointing those who had supported me all this way? And if I made this change, if I pursued this new passion…what then? I was a stranger in that world. Choosing it felt like starting everything over again. My degree, my career, my life.

Starting over was scary. But it turned okay, at least so far.

Until this month. Another October, another identity crisis.

I’m not considering changing careers again. Instead I’m just trying to find a career. Something that will support me so that I can dive into writing, into the refuge that once saved me from academic mediocrity, that reignited my passion as an artist, the one thing that I could happily lose myself in when I felt intimidated and confused about the direction of my academic life. I’m not changing careers again, but I am in the midst of changing my life. And as I do that, I am facing another identity crisis. I am broke. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am tired. I am confused. I am weary. I am a whirl of emotions that are not me. I am restless and not myself.

But just like then, I have a refuge. There is an eye at the center of this storm that grants me a kind of stillness and peace that I have yet to find anywhere else. And in the middle of all of this nothingness that I am facing right now, all of this stagnation that is the source of this identity crisis, I still have the essence of myself as an artist. And if that’s all that I have…

I guess I’m doing okay after all.

 

Unsteadily,

Thursday

P.S.

I felt I should include a segment of that Memoir project, which did end up incorporating both my theatrical and literary lives. The project became my way of writing myself out of crisis and into a state of peace with my decision. I think this section gives a better idea of what I was feeling than what I wrote above. So here’s a piece, if you’d like to read.

 

“I am here because of you.

I am here because of what you said to me that day.

I spent three years in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere trying to learn how to become an actress. In three years, you were the only one who made me believe I could do it. Maybe you were the only one who did believe I could do it, myself included. But you also believed I could do more. You told me one day that I had a gift, a unique way of seeing, of understanding, a way of writing about theater the way few, if any, of my classmates could. You told me I could teach. To help shape the minds of others. You, who nearly every student feared because your standards were so high. You, who admittedly never gave “full marks”  (as you’d say) on any homework assignment, yet still returned to me two difficult papers with blue “100”s written triumphantly across the top margin. You, who opened a door to me that changed my life. I am here because of you. I couldn’t bear to disappoint you.

Is that what would happen now, if you were here to see all that I’m doing?  If I sat down and told you how my dreams have changed, how my mind and my heart have changed, would you be disappointed? Would you feel I was throwing it all away, those gifts that you said I had, the gifts that got me here? Would you feel I was wasting my time and my talent? That I had wasted your time and talent, your investment and your confidence in me? Would you say you don’t understand why I would give up? Is that how you would see it, as I see it in my deepest fears – that I have given up yet again? That I’ve failed yet again? I said in my statement of purpose that I was a writer. You helped me realize that. Would you be angry now because I’m not the writer that we thought?

Or would you see it differently – would you be proud  that I’ve finally found firm ground to stand on? Would you be able to see the much bigger picture and know that this new dream does not need to entirely push the old one into the wings forever? And even if it did, would you still support me no matter what, tell me that this is good for me and that you expect great things, like you did years ago? Would you be able, again, to make me feel that I have the ability to make a dream into a reality?

I wish you could reassure me again, but for now the thought of disappointing you is too great a fear, too great a chance to take.

You brought me here. That hasn’t changed, although my path may have. Everything that you have done for me has brought me here, though this may not be the conclusion – or the start – we had originally intended. Without you I wouldn’t have had the courage to walk a different path, this one or any other. I am here because of you.”

 

Clean Slate: Trauma at the Apple store

I’ve never been a very sentimental person. I always tell people not to buy me nice things for presents. Rings, I lose them. Earrings, I always lose at least one of the set. Necklaces, I can’t keep track of. Birthday cards are usually recycled immediately after opening. Things get broken, things get lost. The intangibles, experiences, and memories preserved in photographs are more valuable to me than most things. I’ve moved around a lot in the past four years and every time I move, I bring less and less stuff. I donate, throw out or condense my necessities. Things left behind sit in storage in my parents attic. I even left most of my books behind on the most recent move.  

It’s freeing not to have many material things, but when my mac laptop crashed last week, so did that Buddhist mindset.

“I can fix it, but I have to wipe it clean and start over like it’s coming out of the box for the first time.”

My stomach dropped and I couldn’t help the swell of nausea that brought tears to my eyes thinking about the year and half of my life I had put into my laptop. Did I have everything backed up, the tech asked me. Some of it. My photos from my semester abroad were printed in a photo album, and on facebook. Most of my music and movies can be replaced. Hard copies of important documents existed.

As my mind reeled, the tech asked me the obvious solution, do you want to buy an external hard drive? She offered the slim possibility that she could fix it without deleting the memory, but once the diagnosis was underway there was no turning back.  I I took my chances and didn’t buy an external hard drive- I couldn’t afford it. I had just bought a bed and the rest was for upcoming rent. And my stubborn pride (as usual) got in the way of calling my parents and asking for the money to buy one.

So, rather impulsively, I let the tech erase my computer. She looked at me like I was out of my mind. She reminded me that everything saved on the online server like emails and on icloud would be intact. I sat there for the next 20 minutes, as my computer underwent a lobotomy, remembering the things I was losing. And holding back tears. It was stupid, I know. But, I realized I wasn’t left with any other option than to embrace a clean slate. Or just mope about it.  After cathartically mourning my lost intangible possessions in a coffee shop bathroom, I made damn good use of wifi and started putting programs back into my laptop. It’s how I roll, I’m good at picking up and moving on. Call me callous, Buddhist, stupid. I’m looking at it as an intense cleanse and a chance to reevaluate what really matters to me. On the bright side, I have the newest operating system and for the first time in my life I am up to date with all my technology. Still, it was a high price to pay. 

This whole incident got me thinking about the intangibility of the art world, particularly the appeal of the theater. The Grace Period Blog’s performance on November 21st will be documented, but the experience can never be exactly replicated. People speak of the magic of the theater because it’s appeal is in the fleeting experience. You have to be present to appreciate it. I encourage you to value the experiences and keep conversation going. Even if something is not preserved forever, the ideas that spring forth from it are what matters more than the original.

 

With peace of mind,

Tuesday

 

Ps: please join us on November 21st for our performance, and check out our indiegogo if you feel our cause is worth supporting! 

A conversation with my roommate

My roommate has been very skeptic of this blog from the beginning of it all. Note that this is a person whom I believe (and I am sure) appreciates me (and admires me) as a person, as a friend, as an artist, as a being. This is a person who without hesitation collaborated and will continue to collaborate with me in my project titled I can’t afford this lifestyle. This is a person who lives under my roof. Another artist who lives under my roof. This is a person who up until this week didn’t really get why I was putting all this time into this project.

We finally reopened the conversation which we had started at the beginning of September but in which neither of us paid much attention or really listened to the other.

“I don’t really get it” said ____________.

 

There we stood, a foot away and miles away simultaneously.

1)Didn’t “we” (people at the blog and others in the same situation) know beforehand what we were getting into? Didn’t we know that there aren’t many career-related-jobs that could possibly pay for an education in the humanities or arts? Isn’t it our responsibility?

Of course we knew, and yes it is our responsibility to an extent. But isn’t it our right to study, to develop our minds, to want to create more than there is, to have an economy that allows for us to live in dignity? Furthermore, we took the risk of borrowing the money because we were investing in our future, which I am sure we all loved to do but now question the value of what we are getting in return.

2) The tone is just really pessimistic, it isn’t something that can be enjoyed.

Exactly. That is why we need to do it. Of course nobody wants to hear it but it is there, everywhere.

3) But doesn’t everybody know that? Everybody seems to know that the economy is bad, that there is some crisis in education. So why are you putting all this time into whatever it is that you are doing. I guess the question is, whether this is supposed to be informative, or is it supposed to change anything, or what, what is it really about?

We want to empower. To support. We also seek for sympathy, empathy.

4)Are you just criticizing education? But you love to study…

I was talking to Tuesday the other day, and Tuesday kept trying to pin down the one thing that this blog is criticizing. I don’t think that that is possible. We cannot criticize the economic crisis without criticizing the political crisis without criticizing the education crisis. And then of course, awareness doesn’t mean anything. “It isn’t obviously the case that knowledge of a situation entails a desire to change it,” says Ranciere, and we are artists, all we can do, and what we are “trained” and “educated” to do is…

Create. 

Create.

And of course education is a basic human right (or is it not?).

5) But creating about this…

We cannot do anything else. If I weren’t invested in this, I would have killed myself already. Working long underpaid hours just to pay rent gets old very quickly. What else are we supposed to do?

Create

Create.

I can’t help thinking that we’ve done something wrong with the blog. Our message isn’t clear. We have been assuming too many things. We’ve assumed everybody is already with us in this. We forget that awareness of a situation doesn’t mean there will be an effort put into changing it.

I don’t think my degree was worth tens of thousands of dollars, can I have my money back?

I guess my problem is that I don’t have any experience waiting tables so in the areas where I could potentially find a job that would afford me a slightly better life than what I have right now, I am not a strong candidate. I have a Masters degree? So what? I haven’t been waiting tables for over a year, please don’t apply. Or lie.

The truth is I can do anything. Except lying?

You  need to sell out and you know it. Art isn’t about you, is about what people want to see. Give it to them.

No. All you need is good luck. If you are lucky your debt will be gone in a heartbeat.

 

Financial Aid for a year = Potential  Burden for life or Potential Succes(?)

IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU! NOT THE SYSTEM. MAYBE YOU ARE  A BAD ARTIST.LIKE, YOUR ART ISN’T GOOD. MUST BE YOUR FAULT.

That was not the end of the conversation. And that is not exactly how it happened. This is how I remember it as I try to write about it and make sense of where we left off, and what needs to be discussed further, not only between my roommate and I, but between you and me. What is true is that at least we agree a little bit more, my roommate and I.

This is the premise of the questions which make me question. Why do we write the grace period blog? Why should everybody care? Why don’t I quit the blog and try my hardest to be the next Warhol?

Because we are prepared and willing to make this world a better place, who doesn’t want that?

There are more questions.

We need to work on answers, but also on actions.

I will be asking you soon,

until then, save the date: NOV 21st.

Sunday.

PERFORMANCE WILL BE: -PARTICIPATORY -CELEBRATORY -FREE
PERFORMANCE WILL BE:
-PARTICIPATORY
-CELEBRATORY
-FREE

Who? What? When? How?

Who? What? When? How?

November 21, 2013. A day that will live in infamy. Why you ask? The grace period for student loans is over. Repayment is upon us. We are only the latest wave of students to face the reality of their loan debt- and we won’t be the last.

The Grace Period Blog is first and foremost, a conversation. Seven anonymous artists share our thoughts, questions, hardships and celebrations. Sacrifices must be made, but not of our art. Instead, we’re making our art work for us. We write as a manifesto. Our society is littered with debt, but money is something we’ve been taught not to talk about. It’s “impolite.” We hide the truth, are embarrassed by that big negative number following us around. Let’s come out of the debt closet together!

We are faceless because we are everyone’s face. It is not just our story, but the story of all of those who are in debt. Please check out the link to see the blog that has been our creative outlet for the past few months. We are pulling raw material from the blog to create a participatory performance piece- and that’s where you come in.

After months of anonymous writing, we will come together in a collective performance, raising our voices and yours, to celebrate the death of the grace period, and the beginning of the unknown. Your support is an integral part of this project. We look to you, whether you are an artist, a supporter of the arts, or anything in between, to join in our conversation, and donate what you can.

Art is a service industry and in that way it is interaction, an exchange between the artist and the audience, and we are all up for active “emancipated” spectators. Here’s what were asking of you, our audience and our collaborators:

Your participation:

reading, sharing and talking about the blog and the subjects it covers

participation in our performance November 21st. What that means: your presence, and as many of your friends, family, community, etc. that you can bring.

Your financial support:

We are asking for your help in meeting our $3500 goal to make this project come to life. This money will cover the cost of publicity materials, equipment for the performance, and of course, as compensation for the hard work and time we have put into this project so far. The  seven of us at the Grace Period Blog are asking for minimum wage payment for our time. You can scroll down to see the breakdown of our costs. Transparency is a rare thing in today’s world and we want you to know exactly where your money is going.

Save the date: November 21, 2o13, as we raise a toast to the end of the grace period.

David Byrne’s Affirmation for My Tired Soul

I’m tired. I’m not immune to colds, I don’t possess any superpowers, and I’m not able to work all day every day. This is obvious you say? Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes it’s hard to admit. I want to be upbeat and energetic and empowered to battle it out in this crazy city, but sometimes I’m not.

But what’s more troublesome is that I’m emotionally tired. You can remedy physical exhaustion with sleep. But how can you remedy emotional exhaustion?

I was recently asked the question, “how important is it for you that others agree with you?” The question was referring to other theater critics—I don’t care much on that front. Art is subjective, and I think art is even better if it inspires discussion based in something other than pure agreement. But I do care that others agree with me on some more important topics. Whether a piece of theater is to one’s taste or not is unimportant. Whether that theater, all theater, should exist at all is an entirely different question. And I am offended when others disagree with me on that.

I am offended when others disagree that the current state of our country is making it nearly impossible to be an artist. I seethe when someone says that student debt isn’t a problem. I fume when I’m told that the government was right to bail out the big banks. I should respond in an even, levelheaded tone, but lately, when I’m tired, I just want to cry.

I don’t bring this up to complain, but to give you perspective on why I felt such immense relief upon reading this article by David Byrne. Please just read it. I’m too tired to explain it all to you.

A post of mine a few weeks ago posited that the student debt crisis is everyone’s problem. There were other things in there that I don’t expect everyone to be onboard with. But the general theme of the debt crises affecting every member of this country is a little more important to me. Someone told me, “sorry—I just don’t buy it.” What I should say: We’re all entitled to our opinion. What really happens: I cry inside. To that person, read David Byrne’s thoughts.

“Unlike Iceland, where the government let misbehaving banks fail and talented kids became less interested in leaping into the cesspool of finance, in New York there has been no public rejection of the culture that led to the financial crisis. Instead, there has been tacit encouragement of the banking industry’s actions from figures like Mayor Bloomberg. The nation’s largest financial institutions are almost all still around, still “too big to fail” and as powerful as ever. One might hope that enlightened bankers might emulate the Medicis and fund culture-makers—both emerging artists and those still in school—as a way of ensuring a continued talent pool that would invent stuff and fill the world with ideas and inspiration, but other than buying blue-chip art for their walls and donating to some institutions what is, for them, small change, they don’t seem to be very much interested in replenishing the talent pool.”

David Byrne’s complaints about New York are not just about New York. New York is standing in for our country at large, for the change in values that is removing the arts from schools around the country and shutting the government down.

Thank you, David Byrne (for everything really—for your background with the Weathermen, for your killer “Love this Giant” album, for Here Lies Love at the Public Theater). Thank you for making me feel like I’m not a crazy person. And now, I’m going to go take a nap. Maybe I’ll grow a thicker skin while I’m sleeping.

November 21st, Indiegogo Campaign

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/november-21st–2/x/5070564

November 21, 2013. A day that will live in infamy. Why you ask? The grace period for student loans is over. Repayment is upon us. We are only the latest wave of students to face the reality of their loan debt- and we won’t be the last.

The Grace Period Blog is first and foremost, a conversation. Seven anonymous artists share our thoughts, questions, hardships and celebrations. Sacrifices must be made, but not of our art. Instead, we’re making our art work for us. We write as a manifesto. Our society is littered with debt, but money is something we’ve been taught not to talk about. It’s “impolite.” We hide the truth, are embarrassed by that big negative number following us around. Let’s come out of the debt closet together!

We are faceless because we are everyone’s face. It is not just our story, but the story of all of those who are in debt. Please check out the link to see the blog that has been our creative outlet for the past few months. We are pulling raw material from the blog to create a participatory performance piece- and that’s where you come in.

After months of anonymous writing, we will come together in a collective performance, raising our voices and yours, to celebrate the death of the grace period, and the beginning of the unknown. Your support is an integral part of this project. We look to you, whether you are an artist, a supporter of the arts, or anything in between, to join in our conversation, and donate what you can.

Art is a service industry and in that way it is interaction, an exchange between the artist and the audience, and we are all up for active “emancipated” spectators. Here’s what were asking of you, our audience and our collaborators:

Your participation:

reading, sharing and talking about the blog and the subjects it covers

participation in our performance November 21st. What that means: your presence, and as many of your friends, family, community, etc. that you can bring.

Your financial support:

We are asking for your help in meeting our $3500 goal to make this project come to life. This money will cover the cost of publicity materials, equipment for the performance, and of course, as compensation for the hard work and time we have put into this project so far. The  seven of us at the Grace Period Blog are asking for minimum wage payment for our time. You can scroll down to see the breakdown of our costs. Transparency is a rare thing in today’s world and we want you to know exactly where your money is going.

Save the date: November 21, 2o13, as we raise a toast to the end of the grace period.