Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Remember what I said about said motivational slump?

Tuesdays are, generally speaking, my favorite day of the week, because I have one class, and it's Accents and Dialects. This means two hours of the international phonetic alphabet, and joking around with other drama kids nerdy enough to actually take Accents and Dialects (by way of clarification, these are the kind I don't hate), and speaking in funny voices (see aforementioned note about how last night while watching tv I OUGHT to have been learning my German monologue).

That having been said, having one class in the direct middle of the day sometimes makes it that much harder to muster the motivation to actually go. This may seem paradoxical - surely it's easier to make the decision to stay in my bed when class begins at 9 am? Theoretically yes, but when I'm already allowed to sleep in it seems rude and unfair that I have to leave the comfort of my apartment to go allllll the way down to campus for only one class, even if it is one that I greatly enjoy.

So today, you can imagine my happiness when I was awoken because my roommate jumped on me at 9:30 in the morning to announce that our class was cancelled. SCORE. Then when I awoke for real around an hour and a half later, I discovered, via text message, that my voice lesson too was cancelled - sort of annoying, actually, as it's like the 4th one in a row that's been cancelled BUT for our purposes awesome, thus leaving me blissfully obligation free until 5:45 when I need to leave for rehearsal.

...The only drawback here is I have been watching tv via Netflix instant watch and drinking coffee for the better part of, well, ALL my waking hours thus far today. About that senioritis...

On the post-spring break motivational slump

Things I should be doing right now:
- IPAing/rehearsing my German accent for tomorrow
- Learning music for Cleftos
- Emailing Cleftos about how the practicum show is ruining my sanity but how I intend to at least attempt to mitigate the situation
- Continuing my relentless pursuit of having a good and theatrically productive summer
- Memorizing my lines for 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress
- Reading for my Thursday class
- Compiling a mental checklist of things to do for my Wednesday classes
- Finding some new music for my voice lesson tomorrow
- Figuring out how I'm going to pay for said voice lesson

Things I am doing right now:
- Updating this blog
- Shopping for shoes on the internet
- Watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
- Contemplating sleeping

This spring break, I returned to New York feeling surprisingly re-charged and well energized. I had things to look forward to, you see; despite how insanely packed my calendar is right now, I in truth am never happier than when I am severely over booked. Now, more on that later, because this is backfiring on me in a big way right now, but the end half of this semester felt more to me like a new semester than it did in January. The nasty catch 22 of this, however, is that after spring break all of New York is engulfed in the slow transformation of the nasty gray disgustingness of winter into a more hopeful, peaceful, sun-drenched time of year.

In someone who recently returned from California, this does not inspire healthy work ethic. This inspires senioritis of the worst kind out of someone who has recently come to fully embrace the fact that she's graduating.

Nonetheless, I am trying to surmount these project lists with a certain amount of enthusiasm, despite the fact that my human inability to be in two places at once is currently making me feel like a complete asshole. I have a show, I have a concert, I have a job, and I am graduating. But the fact of the matter is, the more the work piles up and the obligations make themselves clear to me and 5 hours or less becomes increasingly standard in terms of my definition of "adequate" sleep, I feel bitterly that spring break should have been earlier in the semester, when my burnout ACTUALLY hit rather than juuuust after I had reached the point of feeling that I had learned to live with it. Instead it peaked when the weather got good on both my coasts and all I wanted was to lay on the beach in California for like eight more days.

Especially, and even more strangely, when I can't figure out WHY I feel so inadequate about my handling of my responsibilities. To speak of the plain and simple facts, I'm getting it ll done. And mostly to a degree with which I am satisfied. And yet something nags. Gnaws. Must figure out how to overcome this.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why not to set your alarm at 10 pm on St. Patrick's Day if you actually intend be somewhere...

Every time my dad has an early flight, he begins to joke the night before "So we should leave for the airport NOW." If he had his way, he'd literally be at the airport for 4-5 hours before a flight, killing time there just to be on the safe side rather than running through the airport. Fortunately my mom was always the normalizing influence here, but I can't remember a time in my life traveling with my family I was ever less than an hour and a half - bare minimum - early for a flight. AFTER getting through security.

As much of a pain as I found this when I was younger, it invariably sunk into my skin and became something I made an unconscious habit of as I got older - last Thanksgiving, I was carrying on my bag, had already checked in for my flight, and found myself panicking on Super Shuttle (the first and LAST time I actually trusted them, but that's a different story) because for my 7:55 am flight, we were still not en route to the airport. It was 5:30 in the morning when I though this.

I'm not quite my father's daughter, but I do like to have about an hour to an hour and a half after my time in security to settle, get a coffee, a water, some magazines, etc. So you can imagine how unhappy a camper I was this morning when I arrived at the airport when my flight was BOARDING. Again, carrying on my bag and already checked in, so for most people this would've been an unfortunate oversight, but for yours truly it was a cause for actual panic. Somehow in a foolish haze of last night's St. Patty's Day festivities, I felt that 7:30 would be an appropriate wakeup time, rather than, as it ACTUALLY was, an appropriate time to leave for the airport. So at 8:18, still on the freeway headed for JFK, I was beginning to SERIOUSLY kick my own ass for what would probably be a missed flight.

Now, fortunately, I write this happily parked in my bedroom at home in California, having made my flight by the skin of my teeth (no seriously, I literally ran to get on the plane). But I've proven to myself that I will never, ever, ever be able to be one of those kind of travellers. Yeesh.

But all told, it followed a particularly successful St. Patrick's Day which included far too much debauchery in the name of being Irish whilst sunbathing on my porch in the gorgeous 70 degree weather and later being able to traipse around New York the entire night at a comfortable temperature, since I didn't in fact miss the flight it's very hard to feel bad about this at present.

And now I have three gorgeous days of blissful relaxation in the California sunshine, and plans to go to the beach tomorrow. I return to my insanely stressful life Monday night, but for now? Life is good. Life is really, really good.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

They say there's always magic in the air

Caution: minor pretentiousness ahead.

Having had guests in town this weekend, I've been doing some things I don't usually do - shamefully, seeing Broadway shows (Next to Normal again), going to art galleries (somewhere in SoHo in a tiny weird unmarked artist's loft), and going to museums (MoMA).

My reasons for not participating in these activities are myriad and semi-valid, but mostly they boil down to a lack of time and money. Which frankly... is sort of bullshit. I just started to write how I spend a very large portion of my time on, well, art, and how in any other course of study it would be considered normal to therefore make my leisure activities NOT, in fact, revolve around that. But that seems like a really strange argument to me since one does not pick art school because they feel obligated, one picks art school because one, like me, loves it.

My money argument most loudly sets off the bullshit meter. Today I paid $40 to see Next to Normal - a little high for a show I've 1) already seen (albeit seen and loved enough to willingly fork over the money to see again just one month later) and that 2) has a cheaper lottery (which admittedly we tried today and did not win). Nonetheless though, in a given week of studio, I prooooobably spend that on lunch. So if I brown-bagged my lunch for a week, there's a trip to the theatre. And that's Broadway; off-Broadway of course tends to be way cheaper. Same with museums - practically everything in New York is suggested donation, and if/when it's not, it's never more than $15 for a student. Again that's kind of a lot of money to me, but what do I usually spend that on?

Knowing this though - and I have of course, known this, it's not like I came to some realization today - why does it take having guests here to get me to see live theatre and to go to museums? That's of course not strictly speaking true, but it's a lot easier to remember that these are things I really, really enjoy when someone else suggests them as a novelty not available to them. It's symptomatic of what I think everybody who lives in a major city experiences in some way - I find all the same things special about New York that people who don't live here do, but I feel no pressure to do them because I'm here all the time, and consequently, don't. And though the arts things are the ones that jump out to me, simpler things fall by the wayside too - I don't go to Central Park, I know almost nothing about neighborhoods north of 14th street including my own, I've never seen a New York sports team live... you get the idea.

Until I'm no longer a full time student, there's virtually zero chance of my rectifying the no time situation, which is pretty legitimate. But these other things - the reckless money spending and more importantly and alarmingly the general... apathy? It's too strong a word but the idea is right. These are the things I should fix. Especially since it's fuckin' New York City.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Growin' up in Spanish Harlem, she livin' her life just like a movie star

...Maybe not JUST like a movie star.

Recently I was looking on Wikipedia at the synopsis for Precious, which takes place in Harlem. As happens so often on Wikipedia, I of course clicked through to the Harlem article. And then to the Spanish Harlem article. And then, somehow, I found myself reading about gentrification and gangs in Spanish Harlem, which is to say, about gentrification and gangs in my neighborhood.

In October, shortly before we signed the lease on this place, my parents and I got into an argument about the neighborhood. They believed, and not without reason, that this was NOT a place that four single white females should move. I believed, and not without reason, that this was a neighborhood where four poor college students could live in a gorgeous, gigantic apartment, sacrificing only the comforts of living (almost) walking distance from campus, and a liiiiiittle bit of personal safety. But hey, this is New York, right?

As so often happens in situations like this, my parents and I were both sort of right. With reason, I more acutely fear being thrown up on or peed on by a drunk person than any other form of intrusion on my personal space or security. I have grown accustomed to the "hey ma"'s and "God bless you, beautiful"s and "DAMNs" and any other manner of generally inappropriate commentary that follow me on my way to the subway or anywhere in the neighborhood. [Note to men everywhere: Seriously? You really think I'm going to respond to this? Someone has to explain the cat calling phenomenon to me one day.] I walk a little faster and with more purpose at night alone, but I'd never really posit that I feel unsafe.

When we first moved up here, we came up with a little song on the subway. Picture it like Avenue Q - essentially a children's song, except sort of offensive: "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong - it's me!" And frankly, Harlem is one of the most homogenous communities I've ever lived in. My roommates and I in large part literally do represent the diversity in the neighborhood, especially five months ago when we moved in. I point this out because I've been lucky enough in my life to live in communities where I was never singled out for being different, where I was never treated differently because of the color of my skin and hair. To be clear, this is very much not my indication that I'm shocked that this happens to people, but it happens to be the case that where I've lived, it's not happened to me. And why? Let's be real, that part is obvious. Call it white privilege, call it evidence to a still-racial America, or call it simple naiveté on my part, but I was surprised to suddenly become different, and frankly surprised I subsequently became someone to dislike pretty much on instinct.

There are, of course, years and years of racial and cultural and socioeconomic politics to contend with in this neighborhood that have nothing to do with me personally, and my "kind" - white twentysomething college students - pretty much represent all the evils of gentrification and so it's not necessarily surprising to overhear someone saying, "White girls movin' up here thinkin' they doin' everybody some big damn favor."And I don't mean to overstate; nobody's giving us trouble or starting shit with us, and it's nothing, nooooothing like what I'm sure most people who haven't grown up basically white and middle class haven't experienced their entire lives. But I can't pretend it's not a strange thing to contend with, and you do notice when someone will open a door for your neighbor and not you, will cut you in line, will make the aforementioned comments about you, will refer to you as "damn I love white girls" or "snowflake" or "white tiger." (No seriously, white tiger. Okay, actually that one was kind of hilarious.)

I said I feel safe in my neighborhood, but a pretty important qualification is that I feel safe in my neighborhood in so much as I'm on Lexington Avenue - which, for those unfamiliar with hood geography, is where the subway is and where four very short blocks to the south my apartment building is. Generally anywhere in New York, avenues are more crowded and well peopled than streets - avenues have more commercial business, streets more houses. This is particularly true up here, and then of course breaks down by which avenues are safer than others. One block to the east, 3rd, is quite gentrified, I'd reason that it's moreso than Lex. One block to the west, Park, despite having the precinct, has mostly projects for about 8 blocks. The streets between the avenues begin to feature more of the traditional harbingers of a "bad" neighborhood - empty lots, abandoned apartments, no people, burned out street lights.

But because 1) most of my daily business takes me downtown and out of the neighborhood altogether or 2) over to 3rd in the day light hours/in a group, I don't really think about it or notice it. When you look up crime stats in this neighborhood, besides the NYPD's website and NYMagazine's crime-stats map, you basically get linked to message boards where people debate the relative merits of many NYC neighborhoods. They're generally informative, but there's always one person maintaining that people are stuck in a 70s/80s/90s perception of Harlem and that it's super gentrified and totally live-able up here now, and one person maintaining that you're going to get shot or mugged for crack as soon as looked at up here. What're we learning, kids? Obviously neither of these things are true. Nonetheless, sometimes I forget and must consider that I don't, in fact, live in a traditionally thought good/safe neighborhood and one that most lower-Manhattanites, New Yorkers, and people in general would not choose to visit. Kinda weird.

Given the choice, would I pick this apartment and make the same case and get in the same fight again? Yes. Yes I would. Would I have liked to know what I know now about the public drunkenness at ALL hours and the cat calling and the garbage and the prejudice? Yes. Yes I would. I am, in fact, growing up in Spanish Harlem - I have allllll kinds of problems with the neighborhood and recognize that actually yes, there definitely is gang-activity and drug-dealing and high(er) crime here as well, but I find myself slowly but surely becoming one of the Harlem defenders. Or at least that it's nowhere near as bad as you think hearing "Harlem" and isn't, in fact, basically a third world country. It's totally livable, and you're actually getting what you pay for up here, which is to say the kind of space one deserves paying Manhattan's exorbitant rents. You just have to be willing to make some compromises, and to come a little more into contact with the realities of living in a big city.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In which Siobhan takes an office job!

I don't recall if I mentioned how the interview with Bronx House actually turned out; I actually DID, in fact, get hired. Which was somewhat surprising as she called me two days after she said she would be calling were I to be hired, so I had already pretty much written it off as a bust.

Anyway! After two semi-hellish but very informative training Saturdays (let's just say I have not yet mastered the art of having a responsible, appropriate for an 8:30 am workday Friday night yet), today was my first real day.

I have never, it occurs to me, held a job before where I am actually obligated to sit down. In 8 hours at work today, I probably stood for a grand total of a half-hour. When you work, say, corralling children and willing them to learn something about this thing we call theatre and/or trying to convince foreign tourists to buy copious amounts of fashionable American lingerie and/or... wait, nope, corralling the children again, sitting is frowned upon. It connotes laziness and disinterest and a general unwillingness to do your job. Not so, when your job is to work in an office.

Relatedly, I have never had a job in which downtime was to be filled with... well, doing whatever the hell I want, rather than some kind of semi-productive menial labor. Today I finished two plays I have to read for class, made a to-do list about an impending project for class, and then got 60 pages into a play I don't have to have read for two more weeks. (Related to all this play-reading, I made a list of the plays I have read this semester: we're only at midterms and it numbers 26.)

But what strikes me most of all about this job is, really, how little human interaction is involved. It's not solitary; I talked to the Bronx House teachers most of the day, answered the phone at regular intervals, handed out parent registration forms and instructed them in that protocol - in short, all the customer service related tasks available. Again though, when one's frame of reference involves talking close to all day, everyday in an 8 hour weekday, that I went two hour stretches without speaking to another human is extremely odd to me.

Nonetheless, I do, in fact, quite enjoy this job owing to all these aforementioned assets, plus the teachers are all cool people and this job is already proving my heretofore already established theory that East Coast parents are so much less obnoxious than West Coast parents. It's just very different. That, and I have to BE THERE at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday mornings.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Being that it's theatre school, my homework is often thought provoking in an introspective, emotional way in addition to in an intellectual, academic way. Occasionally when this happens, it hits on a question I have been asking myself for a long, long time and trying unsuccessfully to STOP asking.

I sort of hate it when that happens.

In the interest of honesty, from Anna Ziegler's Variations on a Theme, the question at hand, in this case is, "how on earth did you become a just another stranger in a crowded room?"

Monday, March 1, 2010

From 17 to Senior in 3 Easy Steps

Quite a few people have asked me recently - and by recently, I mean since I finalized my choice to graduate in November - what prompted my choice to graduate early. College, after all, is a traditionally four year process, and nobody was more vocal about not wanting to cut short their college experience than I was, particularly with regards to getting an acting education.

I knew from second semester of freshman year that I was ahead on credits. I was a sophomore by that semester, credit-standing wise, and when I lost my NYU card on a plane in April, they put 2010 automatically on the new one issued to me, something I never rectified being that I was told they'd just re-issue me one IN 2010 prior to my graduation.

Through less-than-fruitful encounters with my former advisor, who continued to laud my so-called "overachieving" without actually being able to offer any real guidance about my academic progress, I continued to take 18 credits a semester, planned a psych double major, then minor, then dropped it altogether in favor of a Spanish minor, and then a double minor. And then, somehow, I discovered I did not, as I had initially thought, have enough credits to graduate a semester early but rather that at the end of the 09-10 academic year, I would have enough credits to graduate from the university a full year early. And that I had, essentially, done this without even trying.

I deliberated. And hedged my bets. And agonized. For five months, I passed two week rotations convinced that I would graduate early and begin my life, or that I would stay on for one more semester and do all the random things I never got around to. Variations on this life plan also included summer class in New York and abroad. All of these were hugely appealing; making pro-con lists was so far beyond pointless because though the two biggest were huge contenders (save $50,000 v. my paralyzing fear of real life), the other, nit-picky details, were the ones I got stuck on and the ones that caused these fluctuations.

Then in late September, I was kicked out of my apartment. Suddenly all thoughts of graduation went by the wayside; simply getting through the day without having a panic attack was a much more pressing imperative for the next month as we dealt with the legal and financial ramifications of breaking our lease, moving to the hood, and having to deal with all of this in the midst of midterms. I was so burned out and tired and pissed off about everything that graduation, suddenly, with all it's uncertainty and obligation, seemed like a fantastic option. But yet somehow, I was still saying that I "might" be graduating. I don't like commitment, you see, and given the option, I generally choose to avoid it until the last possible moment.

One day it hit me: graduating early wasn't a cop-out. It wasn't a failing. It meant that I worked damn hard through four years of elite college prep school, and even harder in two and a half years of elite university acting school. Was I ready? Maybe, maybe not. But clearly my academic standing meant I'd done SOMETHING right. And once all the stress clouds cleared, logic kicked in: staying around meant another semester part time, paying tuition while paying loans, whereas I could still be in acting class, voice lessons, and dance class for way, way less. And working full time, and still, you know, reading and learning about the world on my own time.

And suddenly, just like that, it made sense. Almost as if I actually planned it. There are 72 days left until graduation; about 36 of those are class days. I'm terrified. Particularly after this weekend's prom-themed Clefto concert, I still have trouble reconciling the only precisely three years that will have passed between my graduation from Harker and my graduation from NYU. Time has flown by WAY, way too fast. I'm learning to reconcile the fact that for the rest of my life, I may never be able to concretely say what my "plan" is. There is more doubt in my life now than there ever has been and believe me that is NOT something that one wakes up and has an easy time dealing with everyday.

And yet... something about that excites me more than anything else EVER. To be a poor starving artist, living from audition to audition, having the possibility to know I may end up in San Francisco or London or Toronto or Chicago or a cruise ship or Broadway or all of the above... that's pretty fucking cool (if, you know, scary and weird). But I've always kind of been a nomad, and I've certainly always known I was going to end up in something creative. So that's really what it boils down to.

There are 72 days until graduation, which means 73 days until the rest of my life. Let's see what happens.

So sometimes I have trouble sleeping

This is problematic, you see, as it's beginning to have somewhat averse effects on my health. Like that time two weeks ago when I did not fall asleep, for god only knows what reason, until FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. This does not bode well when your first class begins at 9, you must leave at 8:15, and you must wake up for said class at 7:30. (Or who knows, maybe some people are better conditioned to calling their evening of "sleep" what I would describe as a particularly fulfilling nap. I, obviously, am not.) Needless to say it didn't happen, and I made it to the 11 am class with my sincerest apologies to the 9 am class' teacher.

This morning, cerca 1:15, it dawned on me that my alarm was in fact going to ring at 7:30 for studio this morning. Bedtime! Alas, as is so increasingly often the case, though I'd been tired at 10 pm, sadly at 1:15 I was as awake as I had been roughly twelve hours earlier. Fine, okay, I'll get in my bed and look over my work for tomorrow/get a jump on more summer stuff, 2:30 bedtime, not optimal, but totally do-able with a 7:30 wakeup time. Oh but wait, haha. 7:30 rolls around, and I wake up feeling pretty well awful. I've been fighting off, with relative success, getting sick for most of the week. But this particular morning I had no voice to speak of, a headache, very little ability to breathe through my nose, and that cute flu-like sensation where you feel dizzy and weak from doing, well, nothing. Back to bed for Siobhan, who initially intended only to miss her Working with the Director class only to recall that in the afternoon she had singing and dance... which in her current condition didn't seem like they'd go over too terribly well.

I just can't reeeeeally figure out what's bringing this on. And I'd like to say it's stress, but I'm less stressed than usual being that I am less busy (albeit with a much higher amount of general LIFE stress - more on that some other time). Which in and of itself means I can't quite account for the not sleeping well.

I mostly feel better, if still a little shaky and headache-y, and as consequence/happy accident of my day off, I'm getting quite a bit done. But like, seriously? Mostly I just feel like a giant tool for missing class, especially the morning class which I actually LOVE.

WHAT THE FUCK, body. Can we work this out, please?