This might be what retirement looks like...
I've been on a staycation since the beginning of June because my OPT/EAD Work Card was only approved on Friday, June 14 and I can't do any kind of work in the US without it. In a way, despite all the anxiety it caused, it did allow the space for me to rest. I had some money saved up. Knowing myself, if the approval notice and the physical work card came sooner, I would've started to work right away. I do truly, deeply, need a break and I'm glad I've taken advantage of it.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program Approval delays are real:
Read: "Visa Delays at Backlogged Immigration Service Strand International Students" - The New York Times.
This phenomenon has affected me and my other colleagues who were on similar VISA statuses. On the one hand, I was comforted at the fact that I wasn't alone. The constant refreshing of my Case Status online to see if anything has changed, the calls back and forth between my prospective employer and the Juilliard Office of International Advisement, checking in on other colleagues to see if they had heard anything from their end. Realising that this was a phenomenon across many educational institutions in the US this year, not just Juilliard, and not just me - validated my concerns. Apparently, I wasn't just some crazy paranoid person waiting for my work card to arrive.
On the other hand, I am furious. It astounds me that a group of people who had this much power to affect the lives of thousands of people can take their jobs this lightly. Don't they understand that their processing times affect the financial positions of graduating international students who rely on jobs and internships right after graduation to pay rent, buy food, and basically, live? Many graduating international students from different schools have either lost their jobs or their apartments because they couldn't do any kind of work in the US without their OPT/EAD work card.
In other matters:
Read: This is a comforting interview with Claire Foy about dealing with her anxiety.
Claire Foy, "My anxiety was a tool to survive."
I could definitely relate to this deep-seated anxiety. The inward spirals of "What if's" (What if things go wrong, what if my OPT card doesn't arrive in time, etc.), the constant monitoring of my body for bites or rashes (New York City can be a filthy place to live - I'm sorry to say), the constant monitoring of my apartment for weird insects, the frenzied attempts to keep things together - have all been survival tools to compensate for my feelings of fragility and at times, isolation. These are probably after-effects from a traumatic time when I felt that many things were falling apart all at once and I have felt deeply and miserably, alone.
I have been in therapy for the past four years and this has helped a lot. I've also let go of many toxic relationships and leaned towards healthier ones. I'm at a point in my life wherein I can feel a growing desire towards LIBERATION, to unburden myself from old stories, old narratives, and make space for new things.
And then, indeed, to new things:
The terrific news is, my OPT/EAD work card finally did come through this week and so I'm off to do a play somewhere out of town beginning July 1st. I am not yet allowed to make any online announcements, but I'll be sure to let you all know once I get the go signal!
MFA Training COMPLETED
Can you believe it? I graduated from Juilliard. I can't even believe I can put those words together. I. GRADUATED. FROM. JUILLIARD. I mean, a little over five years ago those words did not even cross my mind. It feels unreal and yet, it is.
I wrote something the morning after the commencement. I meant to post it on my blog but after reading it I realised that I'm not ready to post it.
So this is going to be a lot shorter than what I initially meant it to be. I'll simply post more pictures instead.
All photos by Melissa Crucillo
There are a couple of logistical things that I've been waiting on for a couple of weeks now. While it is true that it is giving me anxiety, it is also giving me permission to take a vacation. It's been so great to be out of school after four years. I've been taking care of my mind, body and spirit and allowing myself to do things that bring me joy, pleasure and tranquility. Finally I have time to listen to podcasts, read books, go thrift store shopping, visit The Met again, or stare into space with my roommate's cat.
Here are some (new) places I've been and stuff I've been listening to or reading. I put an asterisk on my favourites!
Also, I highly recommend Kelly Diel's article, "The Wealthy Feminist." I've been curious to reinvestigate my relationship with money and to heal the guilt of having money (I got a fellowship) when I've been conditioned to believe in the idea of the "struggling artist," or the belief that "I am an actor and therefore I should suffer." As I move towards expansion, I would also like to grow financially and to finally be able to support myself and account for my own needs and expenses.
It's going to be interesting to see how this blog evolves within the coming weeks. I started this blog for the donors of the #GoFundRegina campaign to honor my promise of completing this journey. Now that I've completed it, I'm not quite sure what this blog would be for. I don't know if I'm going to continue writing, or if I'm going to shift the framework of the content. Regardless, I would like to write more and I am hoping that I will be able to share some pretty meaningful content in the coming weeks.
Los Angeles Actor Presentations
I was in Los Angeles for the first time between April 20-May 1 for the annual Actor Presentations featuring the graduating students of Juilliard (Group 48). I didn't know what to expect from this trip, to be honest. I unfortunately had to spend what I saved up for on something apartment-related, so my budget for this trip wittled-down. I also wanted to manage my expectations regarding industry-response (don't worry, it's all turning out okay).
Fortunately, I was surprised to be welcomed by a supportive community of Filipinos who have been residing in LA for several years. Some of them treated me out to lunch/dinner, some of them cooked for me, another treated me to see The Avengers: End Game, some took me out disco-dancing (who me??). Even though I was on a very tight budget, I still got to enjoy LA more than I was anticipating thanks to these people.
So glad to take a break
This "liminal space" in between LA showcase and graduation is so great. I'm on a self-declared vacation for now. In my first few days back in New York, my roommate was out of town so I had the apartment all to myself. I bummed around for a while, binge-watching GLOW on Netflix, cooking, etc. I did get to wash all my sheets and pillows so I was also productive.
Finally have a closet
I finally have a closet in my room! It took me and my cousin around 6 hours to assemble it but we did it! Here's a before and after look:
My roommate is foster-caring a 7-week old kitten named, "Pickles." I have a new playmate for now and she actually likes humans!
Lucy and Maeby both like to sneak in my room when I accidentally leave it open and I discover them either on my bed or hiding under my bed. So I have to make sure I leave my door closed at all times.
Last April 6-8 we had our final Actor Presentations in New York City (aka "Showcase") mainly for potential agents, managers, and casting directors. We also had special open dress rehearsals for the Juilliard Drama Community as well as for friends and family. It's an exciting time and I hope that in these shows I have planted seeds for future projects and prolific relationships.
I'm leaving for Los Angeles next Saturday, April 20 for our Actor Presentations LA show. I'm staying with a Filipino friend of a friend. If you're a Filipino in LA do say hello!
I get excited whenever I see my picture and blog post featured on the Juilliard Instagram page. My blog about my rehearsal process in Mother Courage and Her Children is available here.
MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
So we finally wrapped up our production of Mother Courage and Her Children last February 24, 2019. I do admit that it's been a month since I have posted on my blog. However, I have been in extreme circumstances for the past month and I had to deal with multiple things all at once.
Sometime in the last week of December 2018, I felt a lump on my right breast. I had it checked at Juilliard's Office of Health Services in January 2019 and was recommended for an ultrasound. When I got to do an ultrasound (with a referral from Juilliard), they recommended that I do a "Guided Core Needle Biopsy." That really freaked me out especially since this was happening in the midst of rehearsals for Mother Courage and Her Children. I got a second opinion from a doctor at Weill Cornell Medical Center and in the end, the two women OB-GYN's that I consulted with recommended that I go forward with the biopsy. One of my closest friends accompanied me to the procedure on the week of the opening of Mother Courage. It was a successful procedure (no infections, etc.) and two days later I got the news that the results were "negative." So I'm okay!
On top of all that, the lease-owner of the apartment I was currently staying in got a letter from the building's management company saying that they will not be renewing her lease at the end of February - which is right around the time Mother Courage closes. I had to look for apartments with some potential roommates during the show-week of Mother Courage. We must have seen 23 apartments in a span of a week. It was exhausting. In the end, our main 2 apartment options didn't work out and I am now temporarily staying in my uncle's friend's spare room in the lower east side for a month until I figure out my housing situation.
MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
I did get to complete the whole run of Mother Courage on top of everything else that was happening in my life. It was a humbling lesson. I worked very hard at the summer of 2018 to plan and prepare for my fourth year life (housing, health check-ups, etc.) so that everything was set health and housing-wise (and then some) for my fourth year and life after Juilliard. How ironic it was that right when I am playing one of the most demanding roles of the Western canon, that all of these challenges will come to me all at the same time? It just goes to show that I can plan my life carefully to a T - and yet there will be things that I won't have any control of.
Many people who are very close to me might agree with me when I say that I can get quite intense. The thought, care and energy that I bring into my work and my process also applies to many areas in my life. When the universe does things like this that sort of jumbles everything, it can be very frustrating for me. I will protect and lay claim to what is important - I made sure that my work in Mother Courage took precedence. But when the universe continues to jumble things up after I have just carefully placed things in order, it can get me weary. Maybe I need to place a lighter hand on how I handle certain aspects of my life, knowing full well that nothing is forever.
There are indeed some exciting things that are cooking for me but it's too early to post about them. It is good to know that there are good things I can hold onto in the midst of some inconveniences.
Also, if you are a reader in New York City and know someone who has an available room in April do let me know!
I am a Filipino actress alternating between New York and Manila. I received my acting training at The Juilliard School. Take a look around!