Around January, it hit me. I realized that some things needed to change, and this change needed to be permanent. I was on the brink of adulthood without any sort of claim to real life to speak of. I was terrified that I was going to reach the end of the semester without any sort of security or plan whatsoever. I was in a constant state of panic. It wore on me. But I kept it to myself.
As the semester continued, I felt my self-control go. I watched it fly out the fucking window like a 747 headed for Thailand. Instead of just seeing the good in what was happening, I hyperfocused on the bad. I had been rejected from 5 graduate schools, leaving me with no post-grad plan. I had no money saved, meaning I was moving home whether I wanted to or not unless some miracle of God occurred and I inherited thousands of dollars (SPOILER ALERT: I’m in New Hampshire as I write this). I was a wreck. I was miserable, and I had never felt more low. I just needed something to go right. Just ONE thing to pull me out of this seemingly endless abyss of depression and despair.
And then, it changed. In a major way. On 26 April 2014, after two intense auditions, I was accepted into the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. Most people are more familiar with ASDS as Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio. I vividly remember the Dean of Graduate Admissions telling me in the hallway. “Alright,” she whispered. “We have a few more auditioners left today, so ya can’t really react, but we’re gonna let you in!” And then, the floodgates opened. I was sobbing and convulsing with joy, right there on the 5th floor of One Pace Plaza. So much for not reacting. My scene partner and I stood there in the hallway smiling and embracing and jumping up and down for what felt like hours. I did it. I achieved one of my biggest, most daunting, most exciting life goals. I am going to one of the most prestigious and intense acting programs in the world.
This cosmic shift in my future reminded me that I have something that sets me apart from countless others: passion. And that passion isn’t confined to my career goals. It bleeds into all aspects of my life. And this force is the single most important factor in getting to where I am. One thing that can’t ever be taken away from me is that I’ve done all of what I’ve done in my adult life for myself and by myself. Sure, I’ve gotten little boosts from professors and my parents and friends. But I ultimately followed my instinct and got to where I wanted to be. And grad school is no exception.
So, this is the part where I set some ground rules for myself. I’ve realized exactly how intense this program will be. I won’t have all the free time that I did, which is good and bad. I know I will have experiences that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else. I am certain of the growth and change that are literally on the other side of the door that is summer. I will emerge after the next 3 years feeling completely confident in my choice to follow my one true calling. But I can’t expect to control every aspect. I have to be completely open. So that’s the first vow: openness. I will stay open in heart and mind to what is coming. I won’t maintain this vice grip I’ve had on life for 23 years. After all, where has it gotten me emotionally? In one small, manageable package: nowhere.
In looking back on the past year, I’ve also noticed a pattern in the people I’ve brought into my circle. Most were good. They were naturally driven and talented people with a great outlook and clear direction. But others weren’t as great. I’ve realized that when I get back to New York I can’t just keep anyone around. I’m tired of being marginalized and taken for granted. Beginning now, I will only be making time for people are willing to make time for me. There are a few people I need to keep around, always. As for the others, I have to create a team of yaysayers. So, if someone wants to claim a space in the lineup, they have to do so. I can’t hold a place for someone who might want to join later. This means not waiting around for people who claim to care and yet provide no evidence. I don’t have time to waste on people who don’t aren’t supportive and around. I’m setting the bar above convenience for every relationship, friends or otherwise. If you can’t make time for me or always have an excuse, then I don’t need you. If anyone wants to really be a friend, they have to prove it. I’m not waiting. For anyone. (That being said, applications now accepted for those who want a thank you in my Tony speech.)
My third promise to myself is authenticity. My personality has come under scrutiny in recent months. I’ve been called too quiet by some, too loud by others, too artsy, too energetic, too gay, too ambiguous, too tall, too skinny, too fat, too dull, too much of anything to be dealt with. And the thing is I always believed it. There was never something that I told myself I was enough of, and I certainly never told myself I was “good” enough. For anything or anyone. Getting into this program was an eye-opener. I was something : talented enough. Which got me thinking. Maybe it wasn’t that I wasn’t too much or too little of something for anyone else. I wasn’t allowing myself to be myself. When I’m in my element, I am calm and collected and engaged. When I’m nervous about anything, it shows in a BIG way. Either I withdraw and take things far too seriously or I overcompensate. I get sensitive to a point that I’m intolerable, even to myself. And I’m sick of it. I am who I am. I have places to go, people to see, and things to do. I’m not changing for anyone else’s benefit. Consider this the middle finger to anyone who’s ever told me I wasn’t worth it. Because the fact of the matter is I’m worth way more than second string. So, fuck anyone who wouldn’t actually give me a fighting chance.
I have a little over 6 weeks before my next journey really begins. In that time, I have to secure a place to live, a job, and the rest of my tuition dollars (Hello, Sallie Mae?). I still have some linger sense of fear, but not like I used to. It is in no way the fear that used to hold me back from living my own life. It’s the good fear. Actually, fear is probably the wrong word. So, I’ll use excitement. I’m beyond thrilled to take this next step. It’s huge, it’s definitive, it’s progress. Milestone-sized progress. I only have one person to look out for: myself.
So, no more bullshit, no more passivity. I’m doing what I need to do for me. Because I’m going to do this. And I’ll do it right. And I’ll do it for me.