What a Girl Wants

by Kendra Augustin

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Artist Credit: Lucas Werneck. As a kid Sailor Mars was my favorite. Or was it Sailor Mercury? Sailor Gals were out of this world and transformative and maybe I am too.

For most of this year I’ve been trying to figure out what I want more in life than being involved in the arts and I haven’t found it yet: except maybe to go to Berlin (probably because of its rumored wonderful artistic culture). In my desire to let go of the arts more opportunities have come my way. I was cast in three shows back to back and none I had to properly audition for. I said yes because it’s nice to be asked. For the first time I had to learn lines, but for more than one project and within short (for me!) periods of time and I had to act and I realized in all the years I’ve been pursuing this dream I haven’t really had this much opportunity to perform this consistently. I had to learn lines, I had to deal with disagreements, anxiety, frustration, or limited rehearsalsand I wanted to quit many times, but I didn’t because this is what actors do. They deal with all the nonsenseand the confusion and they do their job. For the first time (or at least in a new way) I understood what it meant to be an actor. And I now have respect for them. It’s a lot of work to take something on a piece of paper and make it work, make it funny, make it interesting, whatever. The director does their thing. The writer writes the thing, but it is the actor that brings the thing to life. There’s so much power in that, and also so much excitement. I understood that whether my director directed me or not it was up to me and my partner to make it work! Whether the script made sense or not it was up to me and my partner to make it clear and I felt like a true storyteller.

For one of my projects we had 8 performances! I used to hate having tons of shows but this time I got to see the beauty of it. I got to play each night: work on something I didn’t like the previous performance, work on different techniques each performance, work on diction, decide if the character was moregroin or or more airy,yada yada yada.. What a privilege it is to perform several times! I almost feel like it’s kind of disrespectful to give actors only one night to perform (which I do often when I curate shows but hey!).

Performing is becoming my new acting class. I’ve spent many years trying to be good. Taking classes left and right in the hopes that I could gain some understanding. And now when I’m on stage (or on camera) I get to do the work. I always feel dumb when I’m acting because I’m slow to grasp things and I don’t think I impress anyone on first impression or 15th but I eventually get it. I’m the “most improved” which I hate, but I guess for the people I work with it’s a relief because they no longer feel like they’ve made a mistake in casting me. This is not insecurity my friends, these are vibes!

Anyhoo, what I’m trying to say in all this is that life is strange. You try to run away from things and they come to you in abundance. I want to be clear that even though I was wishy washy about the arts I still worked at it. So, it’s not like I dropped everything to live in the woods (although I did do a four day residency in the middle of nowhere) and opps just fell into my lap. It’s just that I was uncertain and blue,  but the universe threw opportunity after opportunity my way and I took them all. To quote Christina Aguilera quoting someone else in her song, What A Girl Wants:

 They say, "If you love something let it go.
If it comes back it's yours, and that's how you know.
It's for keeps, yeah, it's for sure."

Maybe the arts are for keeps! Maybe this is where I belong! I wonder if I decide to not care about money anymore will consistent amounts come my way next?  Stay tuned.

The Wins of a Lifetime

by Sadie Portman

Twenty-one broke the American League record, but they didn't stop there. Cleveland went on to rally 22 wins in a row. Although they did not break the Major League record of 26 consecutive wins, they did bring triumph back to Northeast Ohio. A city once known to have nothing to offer but a burning river and rundown factory towns, came together to watch a game that is many times overshadowed by football and other fast paced sports. 

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The first thing I did after my college graduation was attend a Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees game with my diehard Yankee fan best friend. It took us days to construct these signs.

The crack of the bat is the sound of my childhood. From the days of watching my brothers play, to when I would eventually take a swing myself, the game means something beyond me. As a child in the eastern farmlands of Cleveland, Ohio, I dreamed of becoming the first girl in the majors. 

Those from the Cleveland area understand the importance of hometown pride. We stand in the cold rooting for teams that may only have a few token wins the whole season. We cheer on in the direct heat of the sun as humidity steams off Lake Erie. We are the Webster definition of the underdog and possibly hometown hubris. We wear hope on our sleeves from the first pitch to the last out of the season. 

We gave our salutes to the Municipal Stadium as we watched it crumble to the wrecking ball. The stadium laid in ruins, but it once sheltered a girl in her youth. I sat in those seats and took mental pictures of a structure that stood the test of time. I imagined my great grandmother sitting next to me and felt her excitement as my great grandfather got on one knee. He placed a ring on her finger, and asked her that age old question,  while the sounds of baseball echoed in the background.

A true Cleveland fan still refers to our new stadium as The Jake, and not the corporate sellout name plastered to its walls today. We remember opening day on April 2, 1994 as Jacobs Field ushered in a new era of fans. We stood and cheered them on in 1995 and 1997, hoping for a World Series win, a win we haven't seen since 1948. 

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Photo Courtesy of USA Online News. Cleveland fans come out to support the team on Thursday September 14. They would gain their 22nd win after playing through 10 innings.

There is history in this game, in this city I continue to love, even after my move to New York. There is a pride baseball fans take, and it connects us to our roots. A paupers’ game for years, it was considering a place for drunks, indecency, and the hangout spot of the common man. Although many a "proper" gentleman of the early 1900s didn't understand that it was an escape. It was a place to come together and connect with your neighbors. Families huddled around radios to listen in anticipation for the catch of a fly ball, or the crack of a grand slam. Young boys, too poor to purchase a ticket, waited outside stadiums to catch foul balls. Later, these same boys would gather for a rousing game of stickball in the streets. 

Baseball is a mental game. Tension rises between pitcher, batter and catcher. The pauses that cause some to yawn, are filled with excitement and build up for others. One base hit can turn a game around. Extra innings, two outs and full count is the highlight of any game as you wait for the factors of fate to ring through.

In the end, I know baseball is simply a game. However, can it be something more? Can it display injustice as Jackie Robinson faced blatant hatred when breaking the color barrier years before the Civil Rights movement hit the streets? Does the emotion packed picture of Bob Feller and Larry Doby hugging after a World Series win melt hearts even amid racial tensions? Can the legends of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Satchel Paige bridge generations together in the recalling of folklore? Is light and optimism released onto a small Midwestern city still redefining itself after industry has left?

Human connection is powerful. The energy shared on and off the field is one of euphoria for me. After all these years, I still take out my lucky number five Lou Boudreau jersey for those all-important Cleveland Indians post season games. This year my hometown is finding hope and pride once again in the sound the bat, the smell of hotdogs and the beating of John Adam's drum (if you do not know of this Cleveland icon, I encourage you to look him up). A winning streak of epic and record breaking momentum seeped into Ohio and the journey into the post-season will continue to gain crowds.

Yes, baseball is simply a game, and a game I hear more negatives comments and jeers about the older I get. However, these same skeptics were glued to the television rooting for a team that had a whole movie franchise created over their failure to win. 

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A picture I took at the last Cleveland Indians game I attended in 2015.

The Tribe proved you do not need all the money of the Yankees to maintain a successful team. Cleveland cultivates young men in farm leagues from countries as far away as Japan and the Dominican Republic. Together they have the fortitude to go the distance, to win the pennant and make history. 

Yes, I proudly display my love of this game, of my hometown and a history of connecting generations through a longstanding tradition of baseball. Years from now, Clevelanders will share the legacy of the 2017 season. A retelling of cheers, laughter and tears will be heard alongside tales of embracing the stranger next to you, and carry signs of encouragement with friends. It will be another dot on the timeline of Major League Baseball, a notation filled with the aspirations of a city, a state and a nation looking for something to believe in, even if just for a small dot of a moment. 

If You Feel Crazy, Eat a Potato

by Emily Comisar

Health is not something I write often about. I find it to be the well-trod territory of fashion magazines and WebMD. BUT, the truth is that it fascinates me to no end. Admittedly, I skew hypochondriac. Unfortunately, this has made me more reactive than proactive about my health (three times in my life I have been dismissed from an Emergency Room with little more than a prescription for Advil). I’ve tried over the years, but helpful routines to keep my health in check have never been my forte. In my defense, I did start running last summer, but found that healthy habit difficult to maintain through the winter (when I needed it most) as my work-life balance spun out of control and I started working nearly 80-hour weeks. I’ve started running and even biking again this summer, but the ritual has been difficult to maintain.

Then came the heartburn. Not metaphorical aching heartburn, but very literal, sear-me-from-the-inside heartburn. I wasn’t necessarily eating any worse than I had been (especially during those 80-hour work weeks), but I was suddenly FEELING it. I had a bottle of Zantac at home, one at my office, and one at my other office. Sometimes I even carried a fourth in my purse. That’s not normal. I tried to pay attention to my eating to identify what was causing it, but was never able to effectively parlay that into prevention.

That’s when my pizza-and-potato-chip-eating boyfriend suggested we do Whole 30 together (yes, it was that dire). If you’re not familiar with the eating plan, all you really have to know is that it calls for the elimination of sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 days, after which you run a series of reintroduction tests to get an accurate sense of how each food category makes your body feel.

The first week was easy and fun. We spent hours in grocery stores blowing our minds just reading food labels. We tried new recipes. We definitely lost weight. It was awesome. And best of all, I had NO HEARTBURN (of any kind!).

Then the second and third weeks got tough. I started experiencing extreme energy dips in the middle of the day. I was sleeping more than usual and often barely unable to get through the afternoon. I did my fair share of googling and WebMD-ing to figure out what was going on and my boyfriend resorted to eating pizza again in his alone time.

That’s when I got the simplest, and best, advice I’ve gotten in a long time: If you feel crazy, eat a potato. In other words, there are plain and healthy ways to take care of yourself if you feel like you’ve gone off the deep end. Go back to basics.

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My potato stash for this week.

In the month of August, I ate more potatoes than I’d care to admit, and by the time I’d passed to week four, I’d never felt better. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. And sometimes when you feel crazy, you just need to eat a potato.

Preserving History: One Step of Love and Hope at a Time

by Sadie Portman

It's the year 2169. For over a hundred years, we have been driving down former Route 66. In 2051, it was renamed the Osama Bin Laden Interstate. Along the way memorials and statues dedicated to Taliban leaders and the 9/11 hijackers are dotted throughout the country. Between 50 - 60 years after September 11, 2001, high schools were dedicated to Bin Laden, Mohammad Atta and others in their kin. After all, this is how we rightfully preserve our nation’s history.

I know, America allowing such monuments and symbols idolizing terrorism and hatred seems crazy, and would clearly never happen. Why is it then we continue to allow Confederate statues to remain standing and dedicate infrastructures to soldiers who fought against the U.S.? Is this how we keep American history alive?

Does it convey the 3,446 recorded Black Americans lynched between 1882 - 1968? Do they depict the separate water fountains, and position in the back of the bus? How about the over 100,000 heroic slaves who successfully escaped and risked their lives to find freedom through the Underground Railroad? Where are the words and monuments dedicated to William Jackson, Robert Smalls, Miles James, and Andre Cailloux? How many of you even know one of these African American Civil War heroes? 

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Captain Andre Cailloux was one of the first black Union officers to die in the Civil War. During an interview with Octavia V. Rogers Albert, Colonel Douglass Wilson is quoted as saying, "If ever patriotic heroism deserved to be honored in stately marble or in brass that of Captain Caillioux deserves to be, and the American people will have never redeemed their gratitude to genuine patriotism until that debt is paid."

I am the first to argue the importance of history. But what part of history do we want to commemorate? What side of history do you want your children, your grandchildren, your nieces, nephews and future generations to learn? Just as you would be angered at the thought of constantly being reminded of the horror of September 11, 2001 by pro-Taliban memorabilia being scattered across the country, we should not now, nor ever, glorify The Confederacy. 

I would like to note, I hold no issue with general memorials to the loss of Confederate soldiers. You can find similar World War II memorials in Germany. What you will not find in Germany is specific stone moldings of Third Reich leaders.

The Confederates leaders are the opposite of patriots. They literally seceded from The Union in the name of slavery. You can argue states’ rights all you want, but in the end, it was for their right to own and keep humans like common livestock. Every Confederate who fought was by the very definition, a traitor and enemy of The United States of America. These monuments belong in museums where curators can offer appropriate background information. 

As Americans, in a post-9/11 world, we choose to bring light to the victims of September 11. We etched their names on stone and placed them amongst the calm and healing powers of falling water. Nowhere near the 9/11 monument will you see the names of the hijackers or images of planes. You will find them in the museum shown in proper context. The memorial allows us to mourn and remember those who perished. In doing so, we remember life. We remember people who lived, loved and died all too soon. This is how we keep history alive. Yes, the memorial is tragic, but it also offers hope. 

When you learn about the Confederate statues, you realize they were not erected until the early 1900s and into the 1930s. They were built during the era of Jim Crow Laws to remind minorities of where they stood in society. They are racist and derogatory in every sense of the word. These statues showcase Southern “heroes” and enforce the ideas of a segregated world. Let us not forget pre and post-Civil War society included rape, burning of crosses, lynching, criminal accusations based on color not evidence, “separate but equal”, church bombings and dogs unleashed upon children. Now tell me, is this not homegrown terrorism?

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Sojourner Truth was not only an abolitionist, but a woman's rights activist. Her 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman”, continues to offer inspiration.

Do we forget this history? No, but we do not move on by continually showcasing the persecutors. Instead, we remind the victims of their triumph. We show them despite our differences and transgressions of yesteryear, today we stand beside them as brothers and sisters of America. We say no to hatred. We listen to their struggles, and we choose a better future. A future where Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, James Daniel Gardner and Powhatan Beaty are household names. Let us commemorate the fallen, those who fought to vote, to have a voice in a public forum, to live beyond a plantation, and dreamed of a prosperous life. Let us idolize the heroes who stood their ground and said no more. 

Yes, let us remember the past, but not through symbols of hate and oppression. Remember the past through symbols of hope and love. This does not mean we do not recognize the pain. There is pain when you see the struggle through the eyes of those who suffered. There is an unadulterated grief in the number of people who lost their life in the name of freedom. It is here, in the blood and grit, where we can find common ground. We look past the perspective of the oppressors and bring focus to the power of those who overcame. We realize we all want basic rights, a feeling of security and a desire to be cradled in warmth. When we capture the history of love and hope in the face adversity, in the midst of pain, only then will we find the same hope and love in our future. 

 

Planned Parenthood Can Benefit Us All

by Sadie Portman

The Affordable Care Act has dodged another bullet. We can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but there are sections of the proposed dead bill that will most certainly come back in other forms. Parts will be disguised under the belly of pork legislation, or in new budget plans. In particular, the defunding of Planned Parenthood will more than likely continue to be debated in the halls of Congress. 

Planned Parenthood has been around for over 100 years, and shrouded under controversy since it’s conception. The idea of slashing its cash flow has been a topic for years, but the organization serves American citizens on both sides of the aisles. How would the defunding affect you or your family? Would a domino effect ensue if such a plan were to be passed? Even those who stand outside, signs of protest in hand, are indirectly benefiting from Planned Parenthood. As they give affordable options for your neighbors, our government continually receives financial savings.

Those who adamantly oppose Planned Parenthood tend to voice their anti-abortion views. It is useful to note, only 3% of their government funding goes towards abortion. Most funds are from Medicaid and Title X. Title X forbids the use federal dollars for abortion. Medicaid since 1977, allows the allocation of funds in very specific and rare cases. The Hyde Amendment states Medicaid dollars can be used in cases involving rape, incest or the protection of the mother’s life. 

The Women's March in January called forth a variety of women's issues, including the importance of Planned Parenthood.

So where does a majority of the money go and where does this leave us? A majority goes towards the prevention and testing of STDs. The second highest percentage is used to provide contraception. Meaning, 34% prevents the need for abortions or unwanted pregnancy, and 42% limits the spread of disease. 

Planned Parenthood is a vital organization with an estimated 2.5 million people visiting their facilities every year, defunding would have a clear impact. Statistics show around 80% of their patients are from low income families. They are looking to stay healthy. They are seeking vaccines, cancer screenings, pelvic exams, general healthcare, HIV services, PAP tests, fertility and pregnancy services.

With so much focus on abortion, the fact Planned Parenthood also provides affordable maternity care is often lost in the chatter. Women across the nation are using the organization to increase their odds of a healthy baby. To call them “anti-life” is defamatory. Their goal is not to push for abortion. Their goal is to provide options. A woman can find adoption services, prenatal services, birthing classes, postpartum help and fertility education. A read through their list of pregnancy assistance depicts the betterment of life.

Sometimes it is noted, you can receive care from other sources other than Planned Parenthood. This is true. So why do so many place their health into the hands of their organization? Women and men are not just choosing Planned Parenthood for their abortion services. They are choosing a provider they trust, a provided that offers same day appointments, extended hours and are open on weekends so the everyday worker can maintain their health. 

One in five women have turned to Planned Parenthood for care in their lifetime. Closing the doors of Planned Parenthood could have dire consequences. Those who can no longer afford basic care, would turn to emergency rooms and high cost hospitals. These costs are substantial and many times, it is your tax dollar at work. Even if you could care less about the services provided by Planned Parenthood, or the people’s lives they save every year, the almighty dollar speaks volumes. Planned Parenthood is saving you money. In 2015 the U.S. Congressional Budget Office concluded, without their aid, government spending would increase an estimated $130 million over the next 10 years. 

January 21, 2017, women took to the street around the world to express the importance of women's issues. One of the organizers was Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. 

It is easy to demonize the things we do not understand, the things that scare us. However, I have found once I gain an understanding, for the most part, the things we are told to fear, are not so scary after all. Planned Parenthood has a long history of both good and bad, but it has become a vital institution for this country and the many citizens it serves. 

I Am My Own Wonder Woman

by Nilsa Reyna

Left: Nilsa Reyna and Geoff Barnes, friend and colleague, after the infamous circus skills showing. Right: Nilsa Reyna dressed as Wonder Woman at Halloween. 

One of the many lyrics that would stay in my head for days upon viewing another Wonder Woman episode was, "All the world is waiting for you and the power you possess..." 

Wonder Woman was the first comic book hero I related to. I've been a fan since I first wore Wonder Woman underoos at five years old. I wish my mom would have taken a picture of me wearing them but those were not the days of smart phones and we didn't own a camera. It was bonus when I found out Linda Carter was also Latina. 

I believed if I made the choices she made, all would be well. I secretly wished for an invisible plane when I needed a break from people or life. My childhood was rough and I often lived in dream worlds through books and entertainment. 

My sister and I would spin as many times as we could tolerate with our hand made bracelets of toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil, and try to spin just one more time. Perhaps the extra spin would transform us. It only made us dizzy or nauseous but we laughed a lot. 

Once the show was gone from syndication, I didn't think much of her until sophomore year at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. We were brainstorming a theme for our circus skills showing for the faculty. We decided on a 1970s/1980s TV show theme and I would perform my solo trapeze act as Wonder Woman. 

We were about to re-audition to continue on to the third and fourth year of the program. It was rumored that if you were a female actor and did trapeze, you were more likely to get cut. I knew I was on the cusp but since I was actually good at trapeze and enjoyed doing it, I would be bold. Maybe if I had a sense of humor I could avoid the worst. 

Wonder Woman didn't save me from being cut but I'm a survivor. I struggle and thrive and find a way to make things work in almost every situation. I continued on and decided I would remain a theatre major and transferred colleges. I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween and finally put the costume away. 

Fast forward to about ten years later. I'm happily married. Actually I'm not. I think I am. I won't realize this until two years later when we separate for a second time and decide to divorce. 

My ex-husband is going through an early mid-life crisis and doesn't know if he loves me anymore. He's questioning everything and having a hard time reconciling why he isn't happy despite having a beautiful wife, great job and a nice condo. I find similar words written on a piece of paper when I'm putting away laundry. 

I'm aggressively pursuing an acting career in Chicago, except there are no real prospects of creating a sustainable career. I will keep telling myself I'm still okay with this because my relationship is more important. At that time it was. It takes another failed relationship post divorce and a stroke to jolt me back into reality and remind me life is too short and I still want more. 

When I think about my married life, I compare it to the Rebecca Gilman Dollhouse adaptation. The Goodman Theatre in Chicago produced a wonderful production of it around 2005. It was also the first time I saw my life on stage. I think it influenced me to work on my marriage because Nora stayed in that version. I stayed too and I have no regrets because it was the right thing for me at the time. 

So what is this blog post really about? Developing a sense of self worth. If I could give my younger self advice I would say. "Foster a strong sense of self worth. It will help you get through almost anything. It is different than self esteem, which is more tied to how we measure ourselves against others. A strong sense of self worth is your anchor and you need to be your own anchor. It is how you act towards the value of your self. You need to be your own Wonder Woman." 

I didn't remember how strongly I related to Wonder Woman until I saw the movie last month. I teared up several times throughout the movie, especially during fight sequences and major realizations about the world. I believe Wonder Woman has a strong sense of self and I am my own Wonder Woman. It has taken me years to realize this and I'm grateful I can express these thoughts and feelings now. 

#wonderwoman #selfworth

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”- Sylvia Plath

by Kendra Augustin

Bissan Rafe's Clerambault

If you ask me what I want to do with my life I’ll say, “I want to be an actress, playwright, college professor, artistic director, film director/cinematographer/editor, archaeologist, astronomer, explorer, Aziz Ansari. A renaissance woman if you will. I’ll even add painter, graphic novelist, super rich, and a PhD while we’re at it. Some may call this ambitious! And I am! I dream impossible things. I want it all!!!

Or at least I thought I did." I started taking a 6 week life coaching course with the intention of leaving with tools to become a working TV actor at the end of it all. I began the group, told the coach what I wanted, but then I also told her I did not want to audition anymore and I did not want to do the trendy pay for play workshopsthat it took to get into TV. “If you want to act, but don’t want to audition then what do you really want?” She asked. And it hit me that maybe this was not the career I wanted. That maybe I didn’t want to be in the arts. After all, I was quite involved but, there was no joy for me in what I did, and I felt very alone, and overwhelmed by much of it. So, I had to face that maybe I only wanted this dream because I put so much energy in it and not because I actually desired it. The way other people talked about it (Excited. Happy.) I didn’t relate to. I didn’t want to keep putting all my energy into hours of rehearsal for a show that didn’t pay me enough to survive. So, I thought if I was only goal oriented then what am I doing with my life! I tried really hard to think if there was something else that I could be interested in, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t know who I was outside of someone who wanted to be in the industry. And that’s scary. It’s like raising a kid for 18 years, and that being your sole purpose. Then the kid goes away and you have to discover who you are outside of this person you put all yourself into. 

In having to focus on what I wanted, I had to realize that maybe there were some things I didn’t want to be a part of anymore. That maybe it’s not that I want to quit the arts, but that everything I am doing is not serving me. It’s actually draining me. So, I came to the decision that I had to cut some things out of my life and I had to say no more often. I’m not sure I genuinely want to do any of this still, but I am working on not being tired (the kind of tired sleep can’t fix. –The Adjustment Bureau reference. Remember? I know you all watched it).

For so long, I feared having a job because I was worried that it would stifle my spontaneity and my ability to be ready for any opportunity, but when I think about it this is no way for me to live. Sometimes, this industry flings you around, and wants you to put your whole life on hold for a “maybe”, but that’s not cool. Who says that we can’t have stability? After all, the people who are running the studios probably live their lives the way they want while the rest of us work hours in the name of “art”. It’s a sort of abuse and I’m starting to understand that self flagellation is no longer my jam. Sort of. In fact, I learned that the most important thing for me to get out of this group was not to become a TV actor, but to be kinder to myself. In being kinder to myself, I could choose happiness. 

So, I still don’t know what kind of career I want, but I do know I want to be a better friend, and I want to be more connected to my family, and I want to eat less crap, and I want to be more active, and I want to live fully. Because isn’t that what anxiety is? Being afraid to die because there is so much you haven’t done yet? Maybe everything will come into place. Or maybe it won’t. What I do know is that before I started this group coaching session I was in a pretty bleak state. These last few weeks, in attempting to see the good in each day, I’ve been…dare I say it????...kinda happy? Not sure if it will last, but maybe being unhappy all the time doesn’t have to be the only way to be either.

 

 

Too Much

by Emily Comisar

I cannot remember a time in my life that I was not an overachiever. My mom remembers that even as a little girl I was hard on myself. I’ve pushed and pushed and seen results, and because I saw that pushing myself worked, I just kept doing it. In the sixth and seventh grades, I beat myself up over what I’d felt were sub-par PSAT scores. In high school, I had to be talked out of taking AP Physics just for the sake of taking AP Physics.

In college, when I found that a school schedule could literally work you from dawn to midnight, that’s what I did, adding time-consuming extracurricular activities to my already full course load. The more work I did, however, the more validation I received, and nowhere have I found this to be more true than in the professional world. In my four years at my first job out of college, I was promoted three times, and eventually ran the organization’s national programming department. Nevermind that I had found myself in an industry that I didn’t want to spend my career in -- I was hiring staff, speaking at conferences, developing a reputation, a good one at that! Of course, at the end of the day, it was just one full time job. Even when I was doing other projects on the side, I could walk away from the office at 5pm and leave it there, without feeling any threat to that all-consuming sense of validation. 

But when I finished graduate school at the age of 31, everything changed. Much to my pleasure, I had cobbled together a career composed not of a single day job, but multiple part-time and freelance jobs. I was (and still am) the master of my own calendar, I can organize my day however I want and take and leave new projects as I deem them to be worth my time. I cannot sing the praises of this kind of lifestyle highly enough. For one thing, it allows me to work with the rhythms of my own body. At 10am when I’m at my most alert and productive, I’m at the office, but at 2pm when I’m at my slowest, I’m at the grocery store or the gym, and in the evening when I get my focus back, that’s when I’m back at it from home. 

As it turns out, the only major drawback besides the lack of employer provided health insurance, is my lack of self-control. One of the perks of being in my line of work is that you rarely get a job by just applying blind in response to an ad online. Jobs come your way through colleagues, friends, people you worked with that one time last year who are still thinking about how you slayed that project. Each new job offer I got came with a rush of that same old validation. I was being seen, I was being recognized for my talent, my intelligence, my ability. Sometimes multiple jobs were coming from the same people over and over again--to my mind, there were few compliments much bigger than that. 

True words written on the bathroom wall at Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam Avenue. Put this in the category of lessons I'm still learning.

I couldn’t say no, not to paying work, not to the real jobs that kept getting bigger and bigger, providing me with more experience, and access to a more professional network, more people who might want to hire me down the line. At first it was an incredible high. I was busy all the time, too busy for a social life, working sometimes from 9am to 11pm on a daily basis, but I felt important, and necessary, and that was what mattered. 

What I didn’t anticipate, and what came as the nastiest shock, was the day I would hit the wall. In my case it happened over a series of days in which it stopped being validating and started being too much. Pulled in too many directions, and drowning in to-dos, I felt angsty and angry, cynical and tired, and mostly importantly, not myself. The worst part was that there was no immediate way out, not without burning bridges, and not without seriously letting some people down. For maybe the first time in my life, I learned what it felt like to truly be...let’s call it flailing. And while that flail sucked, while I sincerely hope to never repeat it again, I know it was important because it was the kick in the pants I needed to say, “validation be damned!” Or maybe “work-related validation be damned!” It was the wake-up call that I needed to realize that maybe my worth didn't have to be exclusively tied to my work, that maybe there are other ways to feel purpose, to feel contentment, and to feel valid.

On The Table 2017 - Everyday Activism

by Nilsa Reyna

Inspired by artist/activists and feeling like I'm the poster child for the Generation X stereotype of disengagement, I recently hosted a lunchtime talk called "Everyday Activism" at my day job for The Chicago Community Trust. Now in its fourth year, On the Table is a forum to encourage conversation and take action on challenges being faced.

The Libra in me always wants balance and peace. During our talk, we came up with a set of ideas for creating a foundation for engaging in acts of daily activism.

***

1.) Stay informed. No matter how crazy the headlines get, try to read or listen to news. Podcasts now report the biggest stories in a shorter format.

The Daily

UpFirst 

2.) Approach things with loving kindness. Are you a loving person? Do you recognize when you are not? Do you apologize when you are not coming from a place of love? Do you wish others loving kindness when they hurt you? Actions have a ripple effect so why not approach life from a place of love. It feels better to smile than to frown. Laughter is also a great stress reliever. We need more laughter in the world.

The Power of Loving Kindness: Cultivating Metta

Stress Relief from Laughter? It's No Joke

3.) Make donations to organizations you support. Don't know where to start? These articles help give direction.

How to Find a Charity to Donate to That Supports the Causes You Care About the Most

Upset About the Results of the Election? These Charities Could Use Your Help.

4.) Attend events marked as rallies or celebrations. If protests aren't your thing or they trigger something negative for you, sign up for events that come from the perspective of being for something, instead of against it. Also, read up on the history of marches as it may inspire you or lead you to a better understanding.

History of Marches and Mass Actions

5.) Find ways to include others. Talk to someone different than yourself. Get to know the people in your neighborhood, especially if it is going through gentrification. Try to listen to others, even those that do not share your opinion, and engage in conversation. Do not make others feel guilty for not agreeing with you and instead aim for understanding. 

#everydayactivism #chicagocommunitytrust #onthetable2017 #lovingkindness

Moving Beyond the Cycle of Assault

by Sadie Portman

He followed me home from the subway. I gave him a quick smile and he pursued me, stalked me for two blocks before cornering me. He stuck his tongue down my throat and went up my dress to penetrate me with his fingers.

I screamed, "No!" 

I gave two tough pushes, and pulled him off. My legs took up speed, and I took one last look to see him gone, blended into the two a.m. shadows.

Photo by Sadie Portman

My assault took place a year ago this June. A night that had begun with a viewing of Finding Dory and friends, ended in a nightmare. Police asked me if I had wanted it, questioned whether I had given him signals to come close. They suggested because of his French accent, his customs and understanding of sexual cues might be different than my own. 

Assaults can happen in more than one way—I was physically assaulted in June and emotionally assaulted a few weeks later. Emotional assaults are sneaky. Unlike physical, they are not as apparent. They prey on you when you are looking directly into their eyes. They swoop up, and you invite them into your life to fill a void.

There was a guy I welcomed in because we had mutual friends. He instantly had a lust for me that was apparent as he waited outside the bathroom of a dimly lit Manhattan whiskey bar. He texted the next day and we began to vigorously write back and forth into the late hours of the night, sometimes leaving an open-ended thought to begin the next day with the comfort of each other's ideas. Then he told me he had a girlfriend, someone he was apparently unhappy with, but nonetheless attached to. 

I was always honest with this man. I told him I was upset, but we could not carry on like this. The texts ceased. I moved on, getting a new job and trying to play the field. Two weeks later another text. Perhaps he was bored. After being stuck at an airport in Kentucky for hours with each delay, one's thoughts begin to wander. So the charade began, but once again, after a few days he informed me that he was still in a relationship.

To say I was surprised would be a lie. I knew it in my heart, but was hoping beyond hope that the connection I felt so strongly—a connection he clearly felt too—was real. I longed for the reality of love, to be desired for who I was, not just for my blonde hair, big boobs, legs and ass. I sent a text of epic proportions detailing how I liked him, how he was clearly unhappy, and despite it all, I would not move forward in whatever it was that this had become. I said we could remain friends at a distance. I told him of my assault. I was upfront hoping that if I did not keep, secrets from him, he would follow my lead. It worked to some extent. I felt our dialogue was open and unadulterated. 

Then one August evening, the words I waited for appeared on my phone. He was single, a free man. We spent our first night together at his place. He knew he was the first one I had let in since the attack. This fact left my lips very early in the night. He was patient and kind. Held in his arms, I felt safe for the first time in months. I felt appreciated for the Sadie I was, not only in the full vulnerable flesh, but inside as well. I laughed and joked on the way home, a weight lifted from my shoulders. I was somehow strong again, confident in the person I had become in the face of adversity. 

I have an incurable open heart. Once I like someone I like them to the fullest extent. I want to delve into their ins and outs. I want to know them on the deepest of levels, and I leave myself split open from head to toe. However, I am not a girl who falls easy. I believe in connection, in an energy that directs us all. If I can't feel the flow of electricity coming out of you and into me, you are quickly left by the wayside. I have only truly felt this and invited a man into my life a total of three times. He was the only mistake among them. 

I let him in, and there he stayed for six months weaving mixed signals and wavering back and forth. One night he would text me his intimate writings. We analyzed his fears, his thoughts of the future. Hours on end we would type out words of us, words of hope and encouragement, words of darkness and words of light. Then the next day he would build the highest of concrete walls, and cut me out as if those moments of before never occurred. He did not want a relationship, but he insisted on asking for advice or sending me sexually driven texts. Up and down the roller coaster went, and I stayed on the toxic ride. 

The night of my roommate and dearest friend's birthday arrived. He showed up, and still being his flirty self, we marched on as normal. Singing karaoke, drinking champagne, flashing selfies and group shots to commemorate our fellow friend's journey into his 30s. From singing Mariah Carey to Katy Perry and The Cranberries, it seemed like a normal night. 

My decision to go to the bar would become our undoing. What started in the lights of a hazy whiskey bar, would end in a crowded Irish pub in the early hours of Sunday morning. As we walked in, he made it apparent he was scoping the joint for his next kill. I was jealous, and confused by his behavior. Just a week before he was singing my praises, telling me I was always cute, and that the thought of me was turning him on. What had happened in the last seven days to spark such a distance? 

I tried to brush it off as too much alcohol. However, I could not ignore his next move. He began to make out with another girl as if I wasn't even there. The strength in my muscles fell to jelly. All I knew is that I needed to make my way to the bathroom so I could fall apart in the emptiness of the next available stall. The line stretched long in between tables. I was trying to hold myself together picking up any distractions I could. Inviting the attention of other males, but nothing worked and the long wait to the restroom was too much to bear. I left, no coat in hand, not a dime to my name. Every possession in a heap on the floor. I stormed out and broke down in every sense of the word. I was torn to pieces, ripped to shreds and my heart left barely beating on my exposed chest.

Photo by Sadie Portman

I was emotionally assaulted, and the guy I thought appreciated me had used me in a way that was akin to the stranger that stalked me on the streets. To both I had been just another notch on their belt, a conquest to be had. Post-traumatic stress creeped into the night and confirmed the thoughts of that foreign man from the murky depths of June. I felt used, dirty, and ultimately alone. Branded by the male race as a cheap piece of meat. When I finally went back to the bar to collect my things, I luckily had the support of two incredible friends to try and lift me up, to carry me home. 

The events leading up to this night were too much for me to comprehend all at once—two men, one woman, a twist of safety and a warped sense of reality. It took me a good month of reevaluating every word, every step taken to form this scenario before me. 

From the ashes of both assaults, I have grown taller. It has been a year since my physical assault, and six months since I was left hung out to dry by someone not worth my time, but I am not a prize to be won. I am worth more than any predator, and I choose to be of value to all those who deserve my respect and love. I choose to be a woman who plants her stop sign in the dried up mud, and halts to examine herself as well as the occurrences of the past. I continue to learn, and move to a brighter future, not because of what has happened, but in spite of it.

I know I am not the only woman who has a story, and together we can gather the shattered pieces of our past selves and create a prism of strength, love, and hope for the generations of tomorrow, because it is in the here and now when we need to say, "No more!"

 

Dates with Cool Girls: Episode 1

by Emily Comisar

And now we're trying something new, a podcast in which I, Emily Comisar, being of sound mind and body, take really cool girls on hopefully somewhat cool dates.

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Jacqui Rêgo: Victim...I mean, Cool Girl Date #1

I recently interviewed fellow LOST GIRLS PROJECT blogger Jacqui Rêgo about her work as a performer over drinks at Santos Anne in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here's what she had to say:

I Don't Know Where I'm Going, but I'm on My Way

by Kendra Augustin

Image by Bonnie.

This year, 2017, I have decided to quit auditioning. How can an actor who wants work not audition anymore you ask? Great question! The answer is insanity! Every year I like to play Russian roulette with my career.

I have auditioned millions of times and have gotten mostly nothing. Basically every acting gig I got last year was via connections I had made. So, this year, I decided to try something different:  get a day job. I haven’t gotten a day job yet, and I may never because I actually don’t want one, but I know that my financial woes are making any success I have feel empty. I have no idea if this stance is me being strategic, or self-destructive, but I’m not giving up the arts! I got into a play lab, I am in two sketch comedy groups, I’m going to take more sketch writing classes, I’m going to take acting classes again, and I’m going to go to workshops more.

Isn’t the true definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results? Maybe the choice I’m making seems impractical, and maybe it is, but all I know is I want to live a full life. One where I visit my family more, use the passport I got two years ago, get a one bedroom apartment in Park Slope (or The West Village), pay off student debts, and make my art in (mental) peace. Like the title of the old World War I era song: “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”

The Alt-MAJORITY calls each other by name

By Jacqui Rêgo

"We are one." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

"We are one." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

Surrounded by tens of thousands of people, fellow Lost Girl blogger Emily Comisar and I join a winding sea of bodies. So many men, women, and children are holding signs about love and dissent both. Emily and I are running late so we miss marching in Battery Park and it's full view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We slip into the rally while moving up Church Street. We are absorbed by the masses, not yet tired or huddled.

My favorite protest signs are a tie between a stern looking Lady Liberty with the words “She Mad,” and one baring the simple New York City truth “I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?????”

“I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?” Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

“I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?” Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

I mean, have you?

I glance around to take pictures and look to my left and see the Freedom Tower. The nearby footprints of the World Trade Center Memorial are obscured by another building. It doesn’t matter, I know what they look like and their image leaps into my mind’s eye. I have walked by them a hundred times.

I know this part of town very well. I have a tentative fist in the air and join the chanting. “No hate. No Fear. Refugees are welcome here.” My lips curl around the long “o” sound to bellow while I make eyes at the cute two-year old perched on her father’s shoulders marching in front of us. I notice the woman in the hijab behind me holding her daughter’s hand. Her chanting is quieter. I check that I haven’t lost Emily in this crowd the size of a small city marching. Then I read another protestor’s sign, “First they came for the Muslims, AND WE SPOKE UP.” It makes my heart stand at attention as I catch it’s invocation of the famous Martin Niemöller Holocaust poem. 

"First they came for the Muslims...AND WE SPOKE UP." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

"First they came for the Muslims...AND WE SPOKE UP." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

The parallels between this weekend’s immigrant ban, mismanagement of green card holders, back turning on allies of the U.S. army, and the denial of Syrian war refugees can’t help remind me of the authoritarian government that birthed WWII.

I’m the daughter of a Latin immigrant father from South America, but I am also the daughter of my German blue-eyed mother. My mother’s mother, Elisabeth Peller was twelve years old when she came through Ellis Island in 1928. Lisbet’s father was conscripted in the German army during WWI, he was killed when she two.

Only a year after emigrating, family left in Germany talked about eating the wallpaper glue to combat the far reaching hunger of the Great Depression. Years later after WWII ended, cousin Erika jumped out the window to keep from being raped by Russian soldiers. I don’t know what happened to Erika. I hope she survived the jump. During the war, I hope she resisted.

My mother’s mother – twelve year old, Elisabeth Peller listed on the passenger manifesto bound for Ellis Island in 1928. She would later swap out her German nickname “Lisbet” for the Americanized “Betty” and formally change the spelling of her name to “Elizabeth” with an American “Z.”

My mother’s mother – twelve year old, Elisabeth Peller listed on the passenger manifesto bound for Ellis Island in 1928. She would later swap out her German nickname “Lisbet” for the Americanized “Betty” and formally change the spelling of her name to “Elizabeth” with an American “Z.”

During the 1930’s the U.S.A. was at war with an extremist madman and anti-German sentiment was rife. So much so that my grandma’s first fiancé left her when his family found out about her heritage. My grandmother was quite likely the most kindhearted person I will ever meet, but she isn’t unique. There are many good people out there, and the bias she faced was a drop in the bucket of the bigotry exploding in the world at that time. Desperate people look for scapegoats. Islamaphobia is the new anti-semitism is the new anti-Irish is the new anti-Pole is the new anti-Japanese is the new anti-Puerto Rican is the new don’t-even-get-me-started on the centuries of systematic discrimination of *Black Americans.

Emily’s family is Jewish and I am half German and here we are marching together in what feels like a Twilight Zone time warp to the 1930’s. **The alt-right rallying behind the G.O.P. is intentionally sprinkling words like “Lügenpresse,” into their rhetoric. It’s a Nazi phrase meaning lying press. I think about how bullies use taunts to create shame and threats of violence to encourage apathy. How words like “Snowflake” are spit out and meant to discredit so many people’s internal alarm bells, but why?

Bullies like to point the finger at others to distract from the bully’s own faults. The lies and photo stunts are so blatant I wonder if #45 secretly enjoys getting caught. Like how serial cheaters eventually so tire of the charade they stop covering up their tracks to their blinded partners. Unfamiliar lipstick on a shirt collar is hard to face. The facts sometimes are.

Photo of the Albert Ballin, the ship my grandmother took from Germany to Ellis Island on February 24, 1928, to become an American citizen. ***By September 14, 1930, the Nazi’s would rise to become the second largest political party in that country.

Photo of the Albert Ballin, the ship my grandmother took from Germany to Ellis Island on February 24, 1928, to become an American citizen. ***By September 14, 1930, the Nazi’s would rise to become the second largest political party in that country.

How did the Republican party of my tolerant German-American Methodist grandparents get hijacked with hate? With the current White House discrediting the free press and courting “Christian extremists” by omitting the mention of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day it is a clear message. I am far from the first person to say this, in both public office and in private lives, silence is consent. I feel like I’m living inside the 1915 supremacist propaganda film, The Birth of a Nation, but the only person I’m asking to be saved from are the men wearing white masks and calling themselves crusaders. What ever happened to thorough vetting and calling each other by name? Immigrants are people, and as an American you know this, because chances are someone in your family came from someplace else.

“Don’t get distracted by what they say, focus on what they don’t.”

Quote from Russian journalist Alexy Kovalev’s article giving advice how to cover the current U.S. administration based on his experience covering Putin. The Guardian – January 23, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/23/reported-putin-journalists-trump-media

Times are strange. I wake up each morning as if I’m balancing giant buckets labeled ‘hope’ and ‘heartbreak’ on each shoulder and walk around doing my best to keep each from sloshing out. This past week I’ve walked in multiple protests trying to keep this sense of weight from tipping over and drenching me. Very few Americans have experienced a terrorist attack in their city. I have seen people jump out of the towers to their death from two neighborhoods away, and unlike the uncertain fate of cousin Erika I know they didn’t make it.

If I, and so many others who witnessed terror first hand can separate blatant racism, from actual threats to our safety; I do not understand why people so far removed from any conceivable threat continue to hide behind bigotry. If you are not Native American or a descendant of an enslaved person, you are an immigrant. This country welcomed you. Now it's time to return the favor. 

That is the alt-MAJORITY, decent people who believe in the founding principles of the United States of America, and we’re everywhere. I am what an immigrant looks like, and so is your family, and your family, and your family. Mr. President, if you haven’t eaten Halal Cart yet, you should.

New Yorkers lined up around the corner to eat Halal Cart food. Put simply, it’s delicious.

New Yorkers lined up around the corner to eat Halal Cart food. Put simply, it’s delicious.

*If you have a chance check out the documentary “13th” which explores the connection between slavery and incarceration. Created by the Academy Award nominated documentarian Ava DuVernay. (She’s also the first Black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.)

**http://time.com/4544562/donald-trump-supporters-lugenpresse/

***Caption citation: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/elect.htm

I Have Something in Common with Viola Davis

by Nilsa Reyna

We-the-People-17x30-02-1 2.jpg

Shepard Fairey We the People Series to Protest Trump.

I've been thinking a lot about why I didn't march two weeks ago. I got the invitation early enough to attend the big one in DC but did nothing. I've been feeling depleted lately and chose to stay home. I've tried letting myself off the hook for not attending when almost everyone I know attended one of the many marches and the questions linger.

Recently, I watched a CBS Sunday Morning profile on Actress and Producer Viola Davis. When she told Lee Cowan “When you’re poor, you are invisible. Every poor person will tell you, nobody sees you. So being famous was me just wanting to be seen.” This broke my heart and resonated deep within me. It was like being punched in the stomach, passing out and then being shocked back into reality, picking myself back up again and standing tall.

I never wanted fame but I now realize I set my goals too low. When I was in college and began thinking of my career, I thought I would work with various theatre companies and make a living as an actor. I would direct and be a guest teacher when I got older to supplement my income. In my naive and optimistic heart I told myself it would be okay to make $28,000 a year! For a girl that comes from poverty, that's a lot of money! 

I lived the first 18 years of my life in a sky blue and white trailer. When my parents separated, my dad remained there until he passed away. I'd like to think he died happy in that trailer but I always wanted more.

I come from a long line of quiet women who don't call attention to ourselves. A few boisterous relatives are the exception. I was also raised in a conservative and religious household to work hard, keep a low profile and follow the rules. Differing voices and opinions were rare. Healthy discussions with opposing views never happened.

My saving grace was reading and theatre. I got lost in other worlds and lived other realities when I read books or acted in plays. I also benefited from having good mentors. Thus, I live in New York and work as an artist. Sometimes I get paid for it! Sometimes I get recognized! Sometimes people seek me out as a collaborator!

So, why do I still feel like I have no voice? I think it is linked to why I didn't march. I've been exhausted from moving at a fast pace and dealing with multiple doctor visits and tests (as a stroke survivor this is the norm). I'm also allowing myself to slow down and say no. If I'm honest and on a deeper level, I still feel like I have no voice. I still feel invisible. Sometimes the only time I don't feel invisible is when I write or act. I haven't quite made that transition in my personal life consistently.

I stayed home two Saturdays ago and watched the live stream of the DC march and was transfixed. I couldn't leave my apartment and felt empowered by the diverse women, artists, women's movement pioneers and especially by the first time activists. 

I want to do more. I want to march. I want to wear a pussy hat with pride. I will. I am ready for action and I do have a voice that matters.

#WomensMarchGlobal #protest #transitions #violadavis #shepardfairey #wethepeople

Baby's First Feminist Stance

by Emily Comisar

There's one VERY important fact about my life here in New York City that I don't believe has come up yet: I'm not the only Comisar in this town. My father lives here, too, and with him, his wife, and my absolutely delicious 4-year-old sister. This child has a level of sass and style that I came nowhere near as an 80s baby, and she constantly blows me away.

Evidence of my lack of sass and style, circa 1991. Photo credit: Mom.

One thing she does get from me, however, is the desire to play hostess. In fact, her favorite game is restaurant--you know, the one where she takes your order, pretends to cook, and then brings you fake food. Last week we were playing restaurant without the usual aid of the actual stolen restaurant menus she keeps among her toys at home. Left to her own devices, she designed a surprisingly gender-specific selection:

For girls: cookies and chocolate milk

For boys: salad and tap water

This, coming from the child who once told me that orange was a boy color...My dad thought it was unfair, and I thought: welcome to being a woman, let the boys feel the pressure to stick to greens for once.

Now, it should be evident to you by now that I am no child psychologist--I'm a writer with an interest in starting public conversations. That said, getting to hang with this kid on the regular means that I've generally observed her developmental trajectory up close and personal. I've seen as she's become more aware of sex and gender and watched as she's internalized what that means for her behaviors. The whole experience has made me think hard about what I would do if I ever had a daughter--what I would teach her, how I would educate her in the face of all that pink (for the record, I hate pink).

In some ways the question is moot. At this point I'm not actually counting on having kids myself. BUT I know that I will be lucky enough to spend much of my adult life around them, especially living in a city where the children of close friends often end up being your de facto nieces and nephews. As I unpack the pressure that I feel to find an maintain romantic relationships, I realize that some of it is what I'm putting on myself. My parents NEVER told me as a child or teenager that romantic relationships would be a vital part of my life. Even when I've been in long relationships, they've never asked when I was going to make it official.

So, if it didn't come from them, it had to have come from somewhere else. Movies? TV Shows? Magazines? Popular Opinion? Those are some tough cookies to chew on.

You Are Where You Need to Be

by Nilsa Reyna

I enjoy taking on challenges and thrive on being busy but it is also hard for me to unplug. The older I get, the more I find I need to unwind. Once I allow myself the gift, I feel calmer and more present. I also have more fun! 

Deadlines are necessary but sometimes they're detrimental. Perhaps if we took a moment to just breathe and recognize, "you are where you want to be," things would be less complicated. I'm currently practicing this.

I'll take on an assignment and get a clear deadline. If life and my day job begin to demand equal attention, I take a moment to breath and see where I can reprioritize. Sometimes this means taking an unplanned day off at work or being up front with when I can realistically deliver on a deadline. 

Lately, I keep coming back to the "you are where you want to be," quote. (See Stephanie Zamora's post.It resonates because it acknowledges my accomplishments and also helps keep me motivated.

I push myself hard because I want to achieve all my life and career goals. Now I'm checking in with myself and asking questions such as, "How can you be gentler with yourself and begin to see the progress you are making," as referenced in the article above. The answer...

Just breathe. The silence will speak to you. Things usually fall into place.

#justbreathe #stephaniezamora #transitions #stayinthemoment

Wild.

by Jacqui Rêgo

Some weeks ago I was texting with a man who likes “museums” and rom-com British sitcoms like “Coupling.”

"Huh," I thought but instead texted back “I like those too!” I promptly inserted a smiley face emoticon.

My brow furrowed.

Yes, I like museums. I liked them enough to have been two classes away from double-majoring in art history at NYU, but what do I like more? Being an artist. 

Real talk? My thoughts pivoted to a stop like blades on ice.

How charming this unsuspecting man must have thought, with visions, like so many of them do, of trotting me out as a walking prop at their once and future political functions. She’ll chat them up and talk about Hieronymus Bosch and Rothko. How shiny and placid.

Being a spectator of art is perfectly acceptable social function.

Making art is not.

Here lies the rub. Making art is how I move.

I fall in love - achingly with swarthy photographers and beautifully curled lip musicians. The men who chase me down like cattle, like Beatlemania, like a brass ring after six months of flinging darts in the dark are not these men. They have Mensa cards, ivy league degrees, or for the roguish ones stories of dropping out of school and taking the World Poker Championships. These men like my mind, unfazed and bouncing like a water skimmer on the pond of their canned first date stories. 

Skimming the surface, I'm an insect water dancer listening to stories with short breathed chortles punctuating the punch lines. I'm listening to the story about the New York City Debutantes ball (he was an escort "ten times!" he chortle chortle chortles to me). I'm listening to the story about the MIT fraternity rush with Asperger virgins getting black out drunk, to the wedding in Bali full of cultural appropriation. I listen.

 I take notes.

They like my vintage proportions. My waist to hip ratio. My T & A. They like that I laugh easily. When I smile I have dimples.

They don’t like me. 

I keep taking notes. They don’t like authenticity. They don’t like the sharing of themselves. Vulnerability makes them pee their pants. 

If one more guy I go out with tells me glassy eyed and power hungry he wants to run for office, I may spit out my rosé on his French cuffed button down and front pleated pants. (Side bar – if you weigh less than three hundred pounds I implore with urgency to burn any front pleated pants you may have in your possession.)

 “Coupling” guy thought of himself a great feminist but didn’t like it when I asked him to give me a heads up next time he expected me to drop a Benjamin to “split” the bottle of wine he ordered and the fancy restaurant he picked.

They like steamrolling.

They like the cult of selfishness. They like the fuzzy outlines of relationships, art, sex, and womanhood. Mostly though, they like themselves. Which is not just reserved for six figure incomes. There are plenty of hipster half adults #adulting on Tinder, or at your neighborhood Brooklyn yoga studio. A pot grower visiting from Oregon recently wooed me with the brilliant opening line – “Come drink with me. NOW.”

What do I like?

In the dead of night I do quirky private things like watch YouTube videos of Oprah interviewing Gary Zukov. My favorite is about spiritual partnership, and Zukov says “friendships are not spiritual partnerships…partnerships rock the boat…you will stay together as long as you grow together.”

As a woman, an artist, a writer, an actor that’s my brass ring, growth - and it’s uncomfortable. It can hurt until your toes want to curl all the way up to your clavicle, but it’s real. No fuzzy outlines, it’s fleshed out and colored in, and when you get it right? It's wonderful. 

So what's with the cult of selfishness?

Sociopathy occurs in C.E.O.’s at four times the rate of the population at large but extreme selfishness doesn’t follow party lines. I’ve been just as head shakingly disappointed in men who write me songs as men who want to take me horseback riding in Mongolia with their next commission check. (Yes, horseback riding in Mongolia was an actual conversation I had with an actual man at the three week dating mark.)

Real talk time: Of course I want to go horseback riding in Mongolia.

Full stop. Don't dangle that fucking carrot. 

Dropping status markers like crumbs in Hansel and Gretel doesn't light the path home but instead throws up hurdle after hurdle in a 400 meter dash to love. So how do I backlash? Do I moon over the nearest emotionally unavailable poet? 

No, not anymore. I'm grown. I wait.

Calling yourself an artist isn’t a panacea on the road to authenticity, but being vulnerable is. 

Being brave enough to have your boat tipped and swim in the ocean is a start. Having a wild heart is a very good one.

I own my heart.

Yes, it is wild

And yes it is calling

And it’s definitely rocking -

Yours.

The Checklist

by Emily Comisar

My greatest asset and my fatal flaw is that I am a planner, a born project manager. Most places I go, I quickly develop a reputation for being the one who "gets things done," a tool that lifted me into multiple promotions over the four years spent at my last job (asset), but has also inadvertently put the screws on some of the relationships in my personal life (fatal flaw).  I can be relied upon to keep lists, in various fashions, for everything.

The last time I had a checklist for something celebratory was when I was 17--I'm now knocking down the door of 31. When I was 17 I had applied to eight colleges and eagerly/anxiously awaited letters and emails telling me the status of each one (I'll never forget the image of my college counselor shaking his head and chiding "silly boys," upon hearing that I'd only been waitlisted at Tufts).

So in relief and celebration, every time I got an acceptance letter, I did the following:

1) Do a happy dance
2) Eat a berry tart

I'm not even kidding you a little bit about the berry tart. It came from Le Madeline and it tasted like victory. 

Lately, I've recognized that I've unconsciously put together a very different kind of checklist: a breakup checklist. Of the seven relationships I've been in, I've only ended one of them myself. It does feel like the universe is sending me some kind of signal, which I have yet to decode, but the one thing that it has taught me for sure is how to cope. Breakup #7 took place a mere two weeks ago, initiating the rollout of the checklist for the first time in 2016.

THE CHECKLIST:

1) Safeguard Facebook - After my 3-year relationship ended in early 2013, I insisted on remaining linked via social media, not because I wanted to see what he was up to, but because it felt petty to "un-friend" (de-friend?). A couple months later, pictures of the women he was dating started popping up everywhere. Seeing them made me physically ill, so I made a choice to protect myself, and cut myself off (at least in Facebook land) from him and his family and friends. Two years later, when I was ready to open up communication again, not being "friends" didn't prevent me from being in touch; I just used the phone.

2) Never be alone - Yes, it is important to process grief and loss in all its forms, but being alone can get dangerous. Being alone leads to things like texting people you shouldn't be texting. Being with people increases the chances that something hilarious will happen and I will entirely forget, even for a moment, that I'm incredibly sad.

Photo taken by my dad, one day after the 2015 breakup that spurred my online dating habit. 

3) Drink (responsibly), but know your booze - I don't condone showing up drunk or hungover to work, but as long as I can manage it in a safe and healthy fashion (props to living in a city where I'm never behind the wheel) I am NOT opposed to drinking while grieving. But you have to be aware of what different beverages will do to you emotionally. Wine = crying. Every time. Without fail.

4) Make it funny - Now that I've "been dumped" (my preferred verbiage) four times in the last eighteen months I've started telling jokes about how I'm undateable, because I feel like I need to own it for it not to actually be true.

When J and I were moving out of our apartment, I actually took this photo and hash-tagged it #ifwelivedinastudio, because it was too sad to look at any other way.

5) Sit quietly and stare at something beautiful until you feel like yourself again - I discovered this one for the first time after my very first breakup. I was 22 and living in Florence, Italy. My first boyfriend (who subsequently asked me to take him back) had dumped me abruptly after about two months of dating. I still had eight months to go living and studying in Florence and knew that I couldn't avoid the bridge where we'd had our first kiss the entire rest of my time there. So I left my phone behind at home and went to the exact spot on Ponte Santa Trinita where the whole relationship had begun. I sat there on the ledge, staring at the river Arno rushing beneath me, until enough of my energy had oozed into the space for me to reclaim it as my own. Lacking a 500 year old bridge in my current hometown, I now favor a spot in central park that looks out over the pond behind the Boat House. The effect is essentially the same.

 

Dérive

by Nilsa Reyna

Three years ago, I moved to New York and naively thought I had mastered the art of balance. Ha! The only guarantee is that there will be change. Things are always in flux and I try not to take this for granted.

Before summer was upon us, I found myself in great need for downtime. My boyfriend encouraged me to take a dérive or an unplanned journey through an urban landscape in which architecture and geography subconsciously direct one where to go. Perfect!

I quickly learned selecting a Sunday afternoon is not ideal. Weekend schedules, construction and a failing MTA system kill spontaneity. If you're a Libra like me, you may feel equally compelled to go uptown and downtown. You weigh pros and cons and question everything. Do you want to go downtown because you find it more interesting or uptown because you'll be home sooner?

I choose uptown because I rarely go further north of my neighborhood. My gut told me to go to Washington Heights and practice my Spanish. I immediately stumbled upon a wonderful flower shop and felt excited to be out on a gorgeous day. 

My experience quickly soured when a man grabbed his crotch and looked me straight in the eye as he talked on his cell phone. Disgusted, I kept walking. I got called "angelita" too many times and my gut said to travel to Chinatown and headed towards a subway station.

A sign for the George Washington Bridge distracted me and I headed that way. I love bridges. I think they're beautiful. 

Aha! My web series #goinghomeless, takes place near the Washington Bridge and features the bridge prominently in an episode. 

George Washington Bridge.JPG

Later that afternoon as I walked through Chinatown, I encountered many people spitting on the street, which is a pet peeve of mine. I wanted to be somewhere more serene and ended up in an upscale Korean skin care store. 

A pushy saleswoman in a light version of geisha makeup proclaimed a jar of eye patches would help the bags and wrinkles under my eyes. All this time I thought my main problem was dark circles! Then she said I had enlarged pores and dry skin and recommended a facial sheet mask. 

At this point, I was feeling insecure and wanted to go home. I bought the eye patches because I've always liked putting cucumbers underneath my eyes but I get lazy about cutting fruit.

The dérive was not what I expected but I was grateful to have the time to wander the city. Next time I won't shut down so easily. I will stay in the moment. If I'm in a safe place, I will tell my harasser their behavior is not okay. I will not allow someone's opinion to influence how I feel about myself. My reaction is in my control. I am in control of how I feel about myself so why not feel good about me?!! Done!

#dérive #libra #transitions #goinghomeless #stayinthemoment

From Miss to Mrs.

by Meghan Gaur

The past year - my amazing 30th birthday year that I dubbed the year of Meghan - has been incredible and filled with many adventures and more love than I could have imagined. A few weeks ago the year of Meghan got even sweeter when I married the most kind, loving, silly, and amazing man - a man that I am now thrilled to call my husband. And just like that - I’m a wife. In a simple ceremony at City Hall I dropped the Miss and became a Mrs.

Our number at City Hall.

Our story started on Tinder last year and I am happy to report that among all of those Tinder nightmare stories there are definitely good guys and we are a true example of a Tinder success. (So don’t give up! Keep swiping. Only if you want to, of course.) Our decision to tie the knot came quickly and I have to say the process of getting from Miss to Mrs. was simple and straightforward. We both shy away from excess and like to keep things simple so the decision to get married at City Hall here in New York was an easy one. The total time from ring to marriage was just over two months. We both thought - why wait?

Even with a significantly reduced list of wedding to-do’s, I learned one very important less while wedding planning: do not listen to everyone else’s opinions and just do exactly what you want. (This applies to non-wedding life too.) And I didn’t have to dive deep into the planning to see that all the hype, soft-focused photos, and Pinterest-worthy color palettes can get overwhelming. In this internet age of oversharing it seems that wedding planning has become, to some, a way to one-up the next would-be bride. Even while sticking to our simple plan, I found myself making excuses and apologies for not having the big wedding. The expectation - manufactured by the wedding industry and perpetuated by society - is bigger equals better. The default response to the - “Oh, don’t you want a big ceremony and to walk down the aisle?” - was usually we don’t want to spend a lot of money and would rather save for a big trip. And while this was 100% true (we love to travel!) I also wanted to say this is my wedding and I’ll do what I want, thank you very much.

The wedding industry is just that - a big business and industry that makes money (a lot of it) from your special day. Just say the word “wedding” to a vendor and you’re bound to get sticker shock from the quotes. My normal hair salon charges 15% more for a bridal updo than it does for a classic updo. They are literally doing the same thing to my hair, but because it’s for my wedding, they charged more. I should have told them I was going to prom (ha!) - an equally important event worthy of a beautiful updo, but an event not listed on the upcharge section of the website. And don’t get me started on the dresses. I specifically went shopping at department stores and avoided any bridal section. (This Washington Post article covers a bit more of the increased retail prices for wedding-related dresses.) I plan to wear my dress again - maybe every year on our anniversary or maybe I’ll dye it pink (!), but I know that it won’t hang unworn in my closet collecting dust.

I call this one our paparazzi shot. Caught mid-exit from the City Clerk’s office (aka City Hall).

While planning can be overwhelming for some, I was reassured and encouraged to see that there are efforts made by many couples to have smaller weddings (just Google NYC City Hall weddings and you’ll get beautiful photos and lots of blog posts!), more intimate ceremonies, and make less really mean more. City Hall was packed when we went to get married which can be attributed to the millions of people living in New York City, but I’d like to think more couples are opting for this less is more approach. After the fact, I can’t tell you how many people have told me and my husband that they wish they would have done what we did.

I am so happy we took the simple route to wedding planning. I bought my dress from a department store, my mom went to her local florist to get the bouquet, and we celebrated with our immediate family at dinner in Central Park after saying “I do” at City Hall. I didn’t need the 150+ guest list, the open bar, cheesy wedding DJ, and registry gifts galore (that wouldn’t fit into our NYC apartment anyway).

I rode the subway in my dress! The family got the full NYC experience.

The most important part of my wedding day was me and my husband and our commitment and love.The sun was shining, we celebrated with family, and we had each other. It was simple and perfect. Just the way we wanted.  

Then it was time for cake! (The BEST pistachio cake from Magnolia Bakery.)

 

Seriously. Go get a piece of this cake now. :) YUM!