New Job: Juilliard Admissions Blogger!
I'm quite happy with this new thing I'm doing outside the craft of acting. My writing "practice" has expanded from private journalling to having my own blog and now additionally - blogging for the Juilliard Admissions blog. It is very amusing to see things evolve this way and only realizing it once things have fallen into place. Prior to this I've applied to a number of different jobs within the school. Most of my choices had something to do with the amount of money I'd be earning and my ideas about the kind of work that were "respectable." I got turned down from those more "respectable" jobs (i.e. teaching fellowships, student leadership positions, resident assistant, etc.). In the end what opened up was more writing - which was more in line with who I already was and what I have already been practicing that has made sense to me for a long time.
The Shitty side of New York City
Last September 26 (Monday), the last of three bed bug extermination treatments finally concluded in my first apartment. I didn't want to write about it until it was over because it was a very distressing experience. In the Philippines, when one got bed bugs the usual procedure was to place one's mattress under the heat of the sun to kill the "surots." In New York City, when one gets those pests one has to place all curtains, bedding, clothes, and belongings in plastic bags and keep them there until the entire fumigation process has been completed. In my case, the pest control company under contract with my landlord had an SOP of having three treatments spread out with 7 days in between. This meant me and my roommates had to have all our belongings in plastic bags for three weeks. This overlapped with showings week as well as the first two weeks of second year. You can imagine what September has been like for me.
There was no question about the pain and trauma of having to wake up with red welts in various parts of my body, not knowing where they've come from. The strain of investigating and moving back and forth between health appointments, the restless nights, the trauma of seeing myself in the mirror, the stress of dealing with the landlord, the pest control company and my roommates, and having to lose my haven and safe space as I embark on the beginning of the school year - all these are not to be discredited.
What is more difficult to ignore, however, was that I did manage to navigate my way through this traumatic experience. I lost my safe space and the view from my window where I sought solace and yet, I got things done. I was on top of my work (at least most of the time). I managed all of that without the usual places I turned to for happiness and security. As I slowly reclaim my haven, I discover that there are numerous other sources of happiness that I can draw from apart from the usual things I clung to for security.
Tribute to Jim Houghton
Last August, I wrote a Tribute to Jim Houghton to honor the man who created the space and the community that is continuing to change and transform the way I approach the work, my relationships and my life. The Juilliard community gathered at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater last Monday, September 26 (the same day of my last bed bug treatment!) to remember and honor a man who has taught us how to live.
I came to the community in 2015 with wounds that I thought I had left behind. I had my own unaddressed feelings of inadequacy as a human being and as a woman. With a year into the program and having witnessed and experienced the depth of human love ingrained within this community, I have cultivated a deeper sense of worth without even pursuing it directly. With Jim's passing, and hearing the members of the community speak about how he has touched their lives, I left the Peter Jay Sharp Theater that afternoon with a deeper resolve to love myself as a human being, and to bring my humanity deeper into my work and craft.
This has been a FULL week. The faculty are no longer treating us like babies. We came in with scenes memorized, rehearsed and ready to work. We have tons of homework already. It's only been a week and I'm learning so much. It feels like a month has already passed. My apartment is still a mess but it's been great. My colleagues appear larger. I feel larger. We're gonna get out of here as beasts.
This has been a particularly challenging week due to my apartment problems. I've been juggling that with school work beginning to pile on even before classes have officially started. It's taking a while to dawn on me that I would have live and spend the next and first three weeks of my second year of studies with all my belongings in plastic bags.
This week was mostly "orientation" and "rituals." At the beginning of each new school year, the Juilliard Drama Division has "Showings." Showings is our annual ritual in which all drama students in all year levels get to share a monologue, poem, song, or anything they want in front of the entire Drama community. This is also the week of the Playwright's Festival, where we see the work of Juilliard Playwrights "staged," with mostly graduating actors as part of the cast.
I've been juggling all of that with calling my landlord, the pest control company, my roommates, waking up to the site of garbage bags and a slightly painful neck due to the air mattress that I'm sleeping on slowly deflating through the night. I love order and all things in place, so what is happening to me now is putting me in a very uncomfortable space. In the midst of all this, I have colleagues in the Juilliard Drama community I can talk and cry to especially in the ladies' dressing rooms. I know that I've got people behind my back. It is interesting and new to me to sense that while I do feel that I am now in a place where I am responsible for myself, there are also people on the periphery who are ready to help when I ask for it.
Participating and witnessing these rituals made me feel gratitude. The world can be unsafe, and life can be ruthless and unpredictable. In spite of this, we have the opportunity to take part in something that allows us to touch upon something "divine," yet rooted in what makes us the human beings that we are. In spite of my apartment situation, I am in the midst of beauty. I get to investigate what it means to be human amongst outstanding and talented human beings. At the end of the graduating seniors' (Group 46) showings, they took out balloons hidden in (*surprise *surprise) garbage bags and released them on the performing area and invited people to dance.
I stood there, holding a balloon and looking all around: beautiful people, dancing, sharing, loving. And I felt grateful to be here.
Btw here is the poem I shared for Showings:
A Brief For the Defense by Jack Gilbert
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Last weeks of Summer 2016 in New York City
I have not been able to post an entry for nearly 3 weeks because I have been dealing with medical nuisances and apartment issues which have been overwhelming. I am choosing to wrap up my summer entries with what I have learned in spite of what is happening.
What I have learned (Summer 2016):
1) Give myself SPACE
I do not have to play the "hero" every day, nor have to accomplish everything at once, or even stick to a "plan." When I give myself space, I feel bigger and I allow myself to breathe.
2) Walking FORWARD
Choosing to walk forward every day is enough. Again, I do not have to tick everything off my to-do list in a given day.
3) "Life is not an object. It is a process." - John Cage
I observed that I like things neat and clean cut. I also observed that I like to work hard to grow and try new things in order to one day be able to "set" them. Meaning, to come up with an "ideal" set of tools, principles, systems to live by.
I have learned that life will continue to break those "rules," introduce new and more elements as well as put in some inforeseen (or unasked for) factors to "contend" with. Life continues to be interesting this way because it is constantly moving and evolving. In this way, life could be a "mess," but it can be a "good" mess, as long as you keep listening.
Notes to Self Moving Forward:
1) Don't be afraid to be INVISIBLE
This is different from "keeping silent" when something within you compels you to speak. What I mean by "INVISIBLE," is to allow your life and your growth to blossom regardless of whether people notice it or "like" it on social media. The day-to-day logbook of your growth is independent from praise or compliments. You are cultivating your inner life, spirituality, the quality of your relationships. thoughts, habits, sources of sustenance and LIVING - not your ego.
You truly, in the greater scheme of things, do not need to prove anything to anyone.
2) Focus on what truly MATTERS to you:
"What you are will show, ultimately. Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things." - Anna Deavere Smith
I'd like to end this with a quote from Steve Almond whose podcast with Cheryl Strayed (Dear Sugar) has been a source of affirmation for me during more challenging times:
"Please stop using as a criteria for your worth and stop as a daily practice consuming the fucking shitty products coming your way that partake in the idea that something matters more than your spiritual life, your ability to love well and truly, c'mon that's what it's about." - Steve Almond
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.