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More on Living Fearlessly

View from Brooklyn

View from Brooklyn

I first visited New York my junior year of high school. My mom took me as part of an East Coast college scout, but we both knew this was a thinly veiled excuse for her to introduce me to the pleasures of the Big Apple. We attended Broadway shows, explored some of the world’s finest museums, delighted in culinary wonders (I tasted my first truffle – a happy accident whilst ordering parpadelle pasta). And of course, we checked out NYU. By the end of the three magical days, I was madly in love. I knew I needed to live in New York.

But not right then. As enchanted as I was by the skyscrapers and the theater and Greenwich Village, the city also frightened me. It was so far from my family, such a massive change from Portland, so big and fast and overwhelming. I could barely wrap my head around going to school there. Would I survive? Would I make friends? Would I keep up?

I applied to three schools: USC, UCLA, and Chapman. I chose USC, as they offered me the best financial aid package, and packed my bags with shorts and tank tops. Hollywood, here I come!! I kissed the Oregon rain goodbye, and never looked back.

Only east. While I never regretted my decision to move to California, I fantasized about New York often. Even though it had made more sense to go to Los Angeles, with my dreams of becoming a film and TV actress, New York always beckoned. That’s where the real artists live, I thought dreamily. The pure-hearted thespians and true lovers of the craft.

This, too, frightened me. Did I have what it took to be a starving actor hustling in black box theaters? I had worked hard in Los Angeles and made certain sacrifices for my career, but I’d also built a comfortable life. I’d carved out a niche in the commercial world, enjoying a relaxed existence that no longer included waiting tables or bartending. Did I really want to give this up to go struggle in Manhattan where people with $100k salaries feel poor? Wasn’t it enough to just visit for a week each summer?

Well, no. Because every time I visited, I wanted desperately to stay. Something in my heart told me I needed to be in New York in my 20s, at least for awhile. There was a reason I’d been telling people this was a life goal of mine for the better part of a decade. What it was, I wasn’t entirely certain, I just knew I had to do it.

And then I got my chance – a house swap. It was the perfect opportunity, really. While in New York for my blog, 40 Dates & 40 Nights, I stayed with my friend Sam. Her roommate Isis confessed a desire to try out LA for acting, a hidden passion she’d recently unearthed, but like me, she had been too afraid to pull the trigger. While she didn’t love her real estate job, she loved her life in New York, and the thought of leaving it permanently led to inaction. A familiar story, if I’d ever heard one.

We discussed a temporary situation, a three month agreement to exchange places. I would get her apartment, rain boots, and public transportation; she would get my bungalow, espresso machine, and Jetta. (Funny enough, this would not be my first swap: my debut TV appearance was on the ABC Family show Switched! where I traded lives with a girl from Doylestown, Pennsylvania for a week.)

The opportunity thrilled both of us, and we planned tentatively on March. However, when I got back to LA and fell back into my routine (and a new relationship), our plan seemed less and less realistic. I found myself making excuses, formulating reasons it wouldn’t work. And I was doing the same thing professionally.

I had an offer from Adaptive Studios to write a book under the publishing arm, but I couldn’t seem to agree to it. I felt paralyzed with fear – that I was making the wrong decision, that I wouldn’t be able to write the book, that I had no idea what I was doing, that I was signing my life away.

People kept asking me the same question – “What do you want?” and I kept giving the same answer – “I don’t know.” But the truth was, I did know. I wanted to live in New York. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to be a “real artist.” I had wanted these things for a long time. A really long time. But my fear of failure and change was preventing me from fully embracing it, from acting upon it, from simply saying “yes.”

I waited until the last minute on both fronts. Isis needed to give her boss notice in order to make the move; Adaptive needed an answer or the offer was coming off the table. I consulted pretty much everyone I knew, and was greeted with a resounding refrain: follow your heart. So I did.

It’s been almost five months now since I said “yes” to New York, “yes” to writing a book, “yes” to new possibilities coming into my life. And while I’m still figuring out what this whole experience has taught me (more blogs to come!), still encountering resistance (see post below), still deciding which city to call my home (both?), I can say without a doubt that this has been one of the best experiences of my entire life. From the people I’ve met to the perspective I’ve obtained to the creative path I’ve explored, New York has proven to me why I needed to live here. My 17-year-old self knew it, thank god my 29-year-old self had the courage do it.

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Why Working Out to P!nk is F*ckin’ Perfect

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Screw Britney. Screw Rihanna, and Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga, and (gasp) Beyoncé. When it comes to female pop workout music, P!nk rules.* No matter what mood you’re in, the petite acrobatic vocalist will get you moving.

I was reminded of this yesterday at my Peloton cycling class in Chelsea. Before I even hopped on my bike, I was in a funk. And not the groovy kind, the smelly kind.

You see, I’d found myself stuck recently, afraid to wipe off the dust on my keyboard and commit words to Word. What if my blog post sucks? What if it’s boring and unfunny and pointless? What if it’s not book worthy? I hadn’t posted in months, and now I was terrified to do so.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all, I just finished writing a book for a publisher based on my other blog, 40 Dates & 40 Nights. Shouldn’t I feel like a major f*cking badass, ready to take on the Internet by storm? I mean, c’mon, I’d finally achieved that holy grail every actor dreams of: VALIDATION!

And yet, every time I sat down with my laptop, I couldn’t bring myself to type a single sentence. I’d click on Firefox, and pretty soon I’d be down a rabbit hole, reading short stories by Clarice Lispector, researching apocalyptic earthquakes, trying to understand why people are religious. Suddenly three hours would pass and it’d be time for my barre class and then I’d be out in Manhattan and how could I possibly think about silly meaningless blog posts with all this crazy life swirling around me? (And cocktails swirling in me.)

But every morning I woke up with the same nagging feeling: WRITE. (also: hangover.) Once again, I’d pull out my lap top, crack my knuckles over it,* and not get to work. Let the cycle of self-admonishment begin.

My spin class rolled around yesterday with yet another blank document on my desktop. As I adjusted the seat in the dark room, a weariness overtook me. Why am I here? Do I even enjoy this anymore? Throughout my unstructured life as an artist, exercise has been pretty much my only constant, an almost sacred space of meditation, discipline, and endrophin-induced joy encouraging creative flow. But lately my workouts had felt more like doing laundry or washing dishes than a blessed communion of mind, body, and spirit.

The lights dimmed and the instructor hopped on her bike enthusiastically.

“In case you guys didn’t know, this is a P!nk ride, so yeah,” she announced unapologetically, then turned on the music.

A pink ride? Does this mean it’ll be supporting breast cancer? Or only include songs that have to do with every five-year-old girl’s favorite color? I wondered. Perhaps it was being sponsored by Vicki’s Secret and we’d all get matching thongs at the end. That would be fun!

I began pedaling to the beat, humming along to the song. Who is this? The vocals weren’t gravelly enough to be Amy Winehouse, and were much too pop-y to be Mary J. Blige, although the lyrics were dealing with family drama. Can we work it out? Can we be a family? I knew the voice, but I didn’t.

Until I did. Within three notes of the second song it hit me — Ohhhhh, it’s P!nk!! (Duh.) I smiled at my obvious oversight, then picked up the speed of my legs. This should be.. cool I guess? I was still in my funk.

My initial thoughts on the ride echoed my early feelings on P!nk’s music – meh. Back when she’d first debuted on the radio waves, I’d been somewhere between milquetoast and irritated by her party anthems.*** When I moved to LA in 2004 she was one of my first Hollywood encounters at a sushi restaurant, and as we threw back sake bombs I remember wishing she was Christina Aguilera.

However, over the past decade I had grown to respect P!nk and her vocal and physical acrobatics, even kinda sorta love her. And with each song of the ride I understood why. On one sprint I’d be ready to kick someone’s a$$ because so what, I’m still a rockstar, and the next I’d be nodding my head on a climb, knowing I needed to keep going. You gotta get up and try

By the time we’d finished arms, I felt like myself again – back in my body, excited to get to work. The honesty in P!nk’s lyrics moved me. Raw, simple, real, unafraid. Was her music poetry on the level of Leonard Cohen? Did it possess the originality of a Dylan, or the depth of a Joni Mitchell? No. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t good, or relatable, or inspiring.

The second to the last song came on: pretty pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel, like you’re less than f*ckin’ perfect I started to cry, realizing that that’s what had been keeping me from blogging these past couple of months: fear of not being perfect. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Perfectionism. It was the cause of my eating disorder, my anxiety, my writer’s block. Why do we do that? Why do I do that?

As I pedaled through the finish line, I decided right then that I would start posting on my blog again the next day, no excuses. It didn’t matter if what I wrote sucked or was boring or pointless, because at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s about. Every song isn’t going platinum. Every blog isn’t getting turned into a book.

But it is about living fearlessly. About owning your truth, and honing your craft, and taking risks, and being willing to fail. So what if you make a wrong turn or a bad decision, release an annoying song about partying or write a dumb essay about a spin class? Get up and try again. And again and again. It obviously worked for P!nk. It can work for the rest of us.

Damn, it feels good to be back! 🙂

*Okay, fine, all of these awesome ladies kick my ass on the treadmill.

** I didn’t actually do this, but I’ve seen it in so many movies I thought I should add it.

*** 2000, WTF?! We’re getting so old.