Moving Forward


A coworker mentioned to me the other day that I had basically spent most of my adult life in one place. Shockingly, I realized she was right. 2017 marked the tenth year at Saint Martin’s, first as an undergraduate student, then a full-time employee, and finally also as a graduate student. While I achieved so much during that time and had many great experiences, I’ve also felt for a while that it was time to move on.

Next week marks my last week working at the university, and my last week working in higher education. (At least at this point in my life. We’ll see if that whole Ph.D/faculty thing ever happens). I’m moving into a state job in communications, which excites me a lot. I love to write, and that will become a major portion of my job.

I actually set an intention a while ago to find a new job before 2018 with the following attributes: 8-5 workday with no weekends or evenings, annual pay increases and room for upward mobility, and more focused job responsibilities. I haven’t started so I am aware of my rose-tinted perception, however this job seems to meet all of those requirements. Oh yeah, and it’s also close to home so I don’t have to worry about relocating or impacting the boyfriend’s ability to get to work since we won’t be working together anymore.

The other intention I set for last year was to find a venue for performance and get back into theatre. I quickly became involved in a project with theatre alumni from Shelton, and performed in The Evergreen Playhouse’s production of Children of Eden. I will also be making an appearance later on in the season in their production of Urinetown, and And Then There Were None. Two intentions met.

I will always say this, but I have found in my life that when I truly open myself up to possibility, it often comes swiftly.

2017 ended strangely. Thanksgiving was spent in the hospital with my father recovering from a triple-bypass open heart surgery, where he also received a bionic valve. After complications, he also received an unexpected pacemaker. He’s recovering quickly now, but it was not easy seeing him weak, exposed, and scared for his life. I cannot imagine our family without him.

It was hard to feel festive for Christmas. I don’t know why, but this year the entire holiday season was overshadowed by exhaustion and stress.

Then, New Years left me injured, as I started out 2018 by falling down my cousin’s icy steps and spending New Years day immobile on the couch. I’m doing much better now, with some heinous fluorescent green bruises to mark the memory.

I feel ready for this fresh start, and am anxious to fully embrace my life, rather than pacing along and waiting for it start as I complete obligations. I’m tired of waiting.

The intentions I set for 2018 are:

  1. Regularly prepare meals at home
  2. Re-incorporate regular exercise into my weekly routine
  3. Play my flute and piano regularly
  4. Make time for creative writing

I know that four things is a lot, but if I learned nothing else from last four or so years it is that I have to balance my physical health with my artistic health otherwise it all falls apart. I recognize that I am not following “good goals” rules because these intentions are difficult to quantify, but that is by design. I need intentions to be vague enough that I can define my own success, without feeling beholden to an arbitrary designation I set up before knowing where life would take me. That’s why I despise New Year’s resolutions, they create a pass/fail pressure that is negative and is not motivating. Intentions, instead, create room for the vicissitudes of daily life and allow you to chart your progress even when there are (inevitably) ups and downs.

I’m in the final stretch of my twenties, and as I near thirty I want to make sure that I am honoring my needs and those of my relationship, without sacrificing happiness. I’ve done that trudging along thing for what feels like a decade now, and I’m ready to make the space needed to enjoy the journey.

Wishing you all the best in 2018.

Sincerely,

Emilie

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Back on stage


I completed a season audition for The Evergreen Playhouse a few weeks back (my first real audition since 2011). The initial audition had some hiccoughs, but I walked out feeling good about what I did. That is a somewhat new feeling, so I am very proud of the experience. I am also excited to report that I will be in three shows this season for their company:

  • I will be part of the Snake and play Yonah in Children of Eden
  • I will play Caldwell’s Secretary in Urinetown
  • I will play Mrs. Rogers in And Then There Were None

Click on the posters at the end of the post to find information on purchasing individual and season tickets.

I’ve been starving without the arts and performance, and I’m proud that I put myself out there and am doing this. I want to keep being brave and taking on challenges, I am going to keep auditioning. Eventually I want to direct again. I’m not sure how or where, but I am going to work to make it happen. Goal, set.

I feel little parts of myself coming back to life, bit by bit. Shriveled leaves are feeling the sun for the first time in a very long time, and are beginning to unravel. Parched roots are regaining strength while sucking up moisture, and little buds are starting to form. I’m going to be ok.

Do what you love, no matter what. Otherwise, the rest of it is not worth it.

Sincerely,

Emilie


Children of Eden
UrinetownAnd Then There Were None

“All the Wasted Time”


This past weekend was rejuvenating in a way I did not expect. This little idea that I, at many times, did not think would happen actually did. And it was beautiful. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, alumni from Shelton High School got together to put on a musical theatre review show alongside a musical theatre intensive for current students.

Being back on that stage, with those amazing people, reminded me of where I need to be. Watching those awkward, unsure, and somewhat skeptical students gain confidence and try so hard to perform what they had been taught was breathtaking. That is the beauty and the magic of art. God I hope they are allowed to just be, and don’t get torn down by the empty and the jealous.

Music and theatre have always been what has felt right to me, that and writing. I am never more at peace than when studying, practicing, and performing. The nostalgia of this past weekend has also brought up all of the memories of the awkward, shy, and beaten down Emilie of that time. I had absolutely zero confidence. I had not only learned, but been taught to embrace, shame. I was lucky that I had teachers in my life who saw my spark and believed in me, but it took me many, many years to see that myself.

Now, closer to thirty than to twenty, I am confident in my talent in a way I never have been before. I wish I’d stumbled upon this heavy freedom sooner in life, but I will take what I can get now.

And I also know how fragile it is. Despite being aglow from the experience, one cruel and careless comment from a community member in the show was enough to douse my light for quite a while. Enough, even, to produce a few tears in the privacy of my car on the way home despite my deepest wish to be resilient and unaffected. When will I ever be enough? But I recognize that those words and those feelings are not me, and are not truth. Even though they sting.

While I know it is unavoidable, my wish for these children is that they will not be crushed by unconscious cruelty. My wish is that they will never be told that they cannot do it because they are not good enough (because a paying career isn’t often the same as doing what you love). My hope is that they will stick to what brings them peace. And even when they don’t, and they are beaten down, and they doubt themselves, that they will be able to look back at this victory and remember that tiny feeling of freedom, and it will be an anchor to them.

shelton perf arts alumni cast

Sincerely,

Emilie

Art and Adventure


After a solid ten months of 60+ hour work weeks, I am so excited to announce that I am taking a few days of vacation! Today we played tourist and visited SightConnection (what we colloquially call “the blind store”), Cafe Mox (a board game cafe/store), and Seattle Center.

I know that it is so much cooler to be a travel snob and to reject the tourist traps in favor of hipster dive bars and nude beaches (whilst enlisting strangers to take humble brag photos documenting the entire experience), but I must admit I enjoy playing the tourist. Despite being a PNWer and spending a bit of my childhood in and around Seattle Center with my mom, siblings, and grandmother, I had never been up the Space Needle. Boyfriend decided that this would not do, and we abandoned all plans (including the sacred and routine Wednesday night Game Night) to have an official ADVENTURE DAY.

ADVENTURE DAY (yes, all caps) is usually something we do for me, where we force our introverted selves out of the house and around other people. This DAY can be as simple as taking a long walk in downtown Olympia, or traveling somewhere semi-spontaneously. For Boyfriend, we have spontaneous GAME DAYs.

Today was necessary, and so refreshing. Not only did I not have to be in charge of anything but driving, I also had the freedom to forget about the clock. I felt a little guilty being out and having fun on a work day, but that’s what vacation is all about. (Right?) The beauty of the city-scape paired with the gorgeous Chihuly artwork felt like a jumpstart to my creative processing, and reminded me just how much I need beauty and art in my life.

The peace that comes with stillness is also fleeting in my life, and spending 20 minutes sun-basking in front of the fountain was more precious to me than any nap or break I’ve stolen in the last year.

I don’t feel completely rejuvenated, but I am reminded of the need for art and beauty in my daily being. I am working on being more mindful of my need for this care, and hope to create the space to let myself be fulfilled.

Wishing you the ability to recognize all of the art and beauty that surrounds you.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Back from the Dead


It’s funny, therapists spend so much time touting the value of self-care to clients, but somewhere along the way on my journey toward graduation I lost sight of my own needs. I kept telling myself that if I could just make it through, I would have the rest of my life to feed my creative hunger. Just three more years, two more, just an internship, and then you can go back to the things that make you feel fulfilled.

And here I am, at the end. I made it. But I’m depleted, and disconnected. My body has suffered and I am looking at beginning again on my journey of health. There was so much pain, so much creative starvation, and why? Perhaps if I had set aside more room for passion I would not feel so much like I am back at square one.

Don’t get me wrong. These four years have been amazing. I’ve made friends, I’ve developed outstanding skills. I am competent and confident in my ability to be a therapist should I choose to pursue licensure. I have a degree that will assist in my current career. I fell in love.

But I also shut away a part of myself, tricking myself into thinking if I did not acknowledge it that it would go away. This is dangerous. There were times when I could not get air, I was so strangled by yearning. There were moments when I wished I could quit, just to have some semblance of my artistic life.

And yet, I’m here.

Wiser for my mistakes. Beginning again. Promising that I won’t forsake myself along the way. Hoping that others will hold me accountable.

I know I did what I needed to in order to survive, but pure survival is a very bleak life.

An artist without art is not a truly Living thing.

So hello, my dear friends. I’m back.

Begin again flowers

Sincerely,

Emilie

Birthday


Here I am

at 26

thinking what’s so new about this?

Tired, still —

happy, true and not true,

and forgiving paths untread.

Time itself

seems intangible

as though nothing is ever

nearing completion

and yet–

isn’t there comfort in practice?

With Love


Understanding how people are motivated and what stories they were taught only goes so far, some times. There comes a moment when taking a stand and making a choice is necessary as an adult. As a free person. Remaining an idealist, theorist, and philosopher eventually dries up and runs out of purpose. More is necessary.

Amidst the wash of rainbow-colored facebook posts, I was astounded to see a peppering of hate-filled statuses made even more prominent by the juxtaposition. Words like “sodomizers”, bible verses, patriotism, and religious doctrines were all incorporated in the offensive posts. People whose previous posts had been innocuous enough came out of the woodworks making their feelings on the ruling clear–many ex-classmates, some family, and thankfully no close friends.

I’m not writing this to extend judgment. We all bring what we know.

I’m writing out of a feeling of profound grief.

I’ll probably get a lot of flack for typing this, as well as hurt some people’s feelings that I care about.

I’m writing it anyway.

I tend to steer clear of controversy online (for the most part) but that act of self-preservation isn’t enough for me right now. I’m not at this life phase, but if I have children someday, I am terrified that they will grow up learning hate as I did. Even when I was very young, the judgment I was taught was “right” didn’t sit well with me, and I squirmed in the church pew as messages that seemed so un-godlike were delivered from the pulpit. I chafed at the black and white that seemed more cultural status than divine belief, and it took a long time for me to find the space and education to identify those feelings and even longer to release myself from that stranglehold of fear, guilt, and “othering”.

At times I still play along, because it’s easier than standing up.

Nobody likes to be a disappointment.

As I was reeling from some truly horrible updates, I saw another viral post about a pastor walking in his first pride parade. That made me cry too. Then there was the Catholic priest that posted a message of celebration and received threats in return. That’s the kind of love I wish I’d been taught, and hope to pass on. Not the patronizing “hate the sin not the sinner”, not the embarrassed “well they’re my family so I have to”, but true, honest-to-goodness, human rights for all humans love. Now that’s a sermon I could get behind.

I am lucky to live in the part of the country that I do, and to work in a field that creates an environment where self-evaluation is a daily occurrence and social justice is included in trainings. The speed at which things are changing is inspiring, but then I am reminded that there is still so far to go.

I just hope that I am brave enough to challenge messages of hatred and exclusion that surround all of us as they intrude on life. Tolerance, too, needs to go. That’s nothing if not a high status move of oppression.

And yes, I must check myself as I check others.

With love,

sincerely,

Emilie.

I Set My Intentions


If all that I learned in 2014 could be summed up in just a few points they would be the following:
1) Vulnerability takes work, but the rewards are completely worth it
2) Risks can pay off far more than expected, and cause far less pain than feared
3) Sometimes the truths we think we know about ourselves are really masks we have created to protect ourselves from danger
4) People are always both better and worse than we think

Looking back now, it is almost funny to me to think that I thought myself an Ice Queen, untouchable, hard-hearted. I am none of those things, although I learned how to appear that way because I was terrified of being found out and consequently being hurt. It’s sort of impossible to take a leap if you’re too busy convincing yourself and others that you are incapable.

So much of the good that happens in life comes from determination and intention. Outside factors such as location, privilege, socio-economic status, ability, and access certainly contribute to a person’s life, but I firmly believe that the most important factor is intentionality and outlook. Can a positive attitude outweigh not being able to pay the bills? Absolutely not. I’m not saying go blithely forth into the world without paying mind to the practicalities, or to reality. Stuff happens. But on the other hand, life should also not be an Edith Wharton novel. Stuff does happen, and people have choices.

I have decided that once I graduate from my master’s program it is not likely I will immediately pursue licensure, however I have found that the program has solidified my belief in self-efficacy and the power that one has over one’s life. I will never forget a particular Rogerian Person-Centered statement I first heard in my Individual Therapy class, “You have within yourself all of the resources that you need”. I do not want to demean anyone’s situation, I know that we often don’t have the power we need, and that when abuse is involved everything becomes mal-aligned. That being said, I feel that the culture in which we live enables selfishness and a lack of self-awareness and self-responsibility. I’m not saying we should hate on the Millenials, or write a dirge about how technology killed society. What I am witnessing is a  trend of people blaming external factors for their lives, and giving up on themselves.

This breaks my heart. For whatever reason, it has become “easier” for people to adopt a stance of defeat rather than one of confidence. (Energetically, however, I would argue that it is far more draining to give up personal power).

Success doesn’t come without work, but it also doesn’t come without trust.

And, often, just when you think your work is done that is when it is really beginning.

Shields can be necessary, but letting them down is such a blissful relief! Speaking as someone who developed an art out of raising shields, it is utterly refreshing to not have to always use them.

So now, in this new year, I set my intention to continue to allow myself to be vulnerable, and pursue growth even if it is terrifying. I set my intention to make meaningful choices in life. I set my intention to be more giving to and supportive of others. I set my intention to live my life fully, and to relish the present rather than yearning for an intangible future.

I hope that you choose to thrive in every way that is possible for you in 2015, because I fully intend to do so.

Sincerely,

Emilie

On Dating


Dating has been on my mind a lot this year, and through the highs and lows I’ve realized that the entire system of traditional dating is entirely not my cup of tea. Dating, from what I’ve seen, seems to boil down to a lot of strategy and very little vulnerability. From group-sourcing text messages and following arbitrary rules of what you can and cannot say, to being careful to present and solicit only the “appropriate” information, to trying to completely hide all natural bodily functions, the entire system seems built for the pure purpose of shoring up insecurities and adding anxiety to a person’s life. Excitement, certainly, can be found in the drama of waiting for a response or wondering which emoji most appropriately captures the emotion one wants to communicate, but to me it seems like an unnecessary expenditure of energy. I am not writing from a scorned or unhappy place (quite the opposite), but I wonder how many others are fed up by this system designed to leave people dissatisfied and only superficially acquainted with the people they are dating?

I understand that I am an Introvert, and it is energetically draining for me to spend a lot of time in surface level chitchat. I understand that my personality makes the modern style of dating even more difficult, so take this with a grain of salt. People have told me I am intimidating, and that I am blunt. Yup, it’s true. You caught me. I say what I mean, and I don’t play games. You get what you see with me. What’s messed up is the fact that that is so terrifying and unusual. I would think that people want to know what they are getting into in a new relationship. Don’t you want to know what makes your partner tick, how they behave when they’re hungry and sleepy and sick, and what their fears and hopes are? I’ve been informed that I apparently skip over all of the entry-level fluff you’re supposed to live in for a while before getting to the more personal information. But you know what? I don’t care. Not that getting to know new people is ever a waste of time, but I do not understand the model of investing as little as possible only to be disappointed months later once you finally get to know and are not compatible with the person you are seeing.

The process of keeping oneself at arm’s length is also in direct opposition to being vulnurable. The simple fact is that there will never be happiness and trust without a leap. And, yes, you can get hurt. Things can be amazing for a little while and then not. But how do you find either the good or the bad if you don’t open up? To me, the dating “game” seems comprised of status moves, rather than relationship. While it may seem that this approach keeps you safe from harm, from what I have witnessed and experienced it merely keeps you from possible happiness.

This is not a rant about the methods of how to find a partner. Use a dating app or website, go to singles events, hang out in restaurants and bars and libraries and coffee shops, or go on a blind date. But when you do, present your genuine self. Don’t count how many hours or days it has been since you last communicated. If you want to text, text. If you hate that type of food, be honest. If you are really into a person but they don’t meet your laundry list of expectations, examine your intentions and actual needs as well as what you bring to the table rather than writing them off for superficial reasons.

I’ve tried that other thing with planning and rules and safety. It’s bullshit.

Be yourself instead.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Birchblogger Review: Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?


The monthly subscription service for beauty products, Birchbox, partnered with Mindy Kaling on their August box as well as a social media campaign that concluded with a live twitter chat with Kaling. As part of this campaign, Birchbox sent out several copies of Mindy Kaling’s bestseller Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) to members of their Birchblogger network to review. I was one of the bloggers who received a copy, and the following is my take:

 

Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast-paced and pithy showcase of Mindy’s comedic talent, and the balance of frivolity with depth Kaling carefully curates showcases her craft. Reading more like an anthology of humorous anecdotes and hip-yet-provocative editorials than a chronological autobiography, Kaling’s book is always trendy and occasionally poignant. Furthermore, despite protestations to the contrary, Kaling subtly calls out sexism through critiques of the comparisons of female comedians, as well as through personal anecdotes about industry beauty standards. One example used is when she learned other actresses would be auditioning to play her in an unsuccessful television pilot, “[…] I could convincingly play Ben Affleck but not Mindy Kaling”.

Kaling’s writing is hilarious, and if familiar with her work on The Office and The Mindy Project it is impossible to read the book without hearing the cadence of Kaling’s own voice. (Rumor has it she narrated the official book on tape, and if the online customer reviews are to be trusted four out of five say it’s amazing). Scattered between anecdotes of growing up as, “a child who wore cardigans”, and strong opinions on the importance of male chest hair, fans of Kaling’s work will also be excited to get a quick peek behind the curtain in the writer’s room of The Office and Saturday Night Live (one of which turned out better for Kaling than the other).

Despite the frequent and blasé name-dropping of Kaling’s contemporaries such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, B.J. Novak and her “frenemy” Rainn Wilson, Kaling comes across as instantly relatable. Kaling shares many of her personal struggles with weight, body image, rejection, hot-headedness, and romance—not to mention romantic comedies—in a way that is genuine and normalizing. Oh yeah, and truly funny.

It is interesting to note that Kaling thanks B.J. Novak in her acknowledgments for his feedback, including his recommendation that she work on not “sounding racist” in her book. While the thank you is humorous, there are a few moments in the book where jokes about race flirt with the border between provocative and tasteless. However, there are many more that land flawlessly.

From the first page Kaling is endearing, and comes across as someone who would make a really great best friend. Not a seminal read by any means, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a fast, effective compilation of the inner musings of Mindy Kaling. The book is entertaining for everyone, and a treat for her fans. Kaling shines through her unique mixture of drama, genuineness, and comedic timing, easily winning the hearts of her readers. After all, there is something delightfully charming in her willingness to confidently state, “I’m kind of a mess”.

Sincerely,

Emilie

 

P.S. If anyone is considering signing up for a Birchbox subscription, click here for a referral.