I Care

When I was seventeen, I worked at a private golf club. Members only. Picture the club of Dirty Dancing…it was like that, except we didn’t have Patrick Swayze. 

I have always believed in the good in humans. And, despite the news cycles lately and the social media streams lately and the just…awfulness of humanity lately, I still believe in the good in humans.

I have to.

But, back to the golf club.

I was a teenager.

And there was one night when an older man at the club asked me to turn to the side so he could see something.

And, being the gullible, hopeful kid I was, I turned to the side.

He was a club member.

I was a waitress.

You did what the members asked. You didn’t ask questions.

So I turned to the side, and he laughed and smiled.

I still didn’t get it.

At the time I worked with two older girls who were sisters. They treated me like a little sister, and I learned everything I know about the restaurant business, and hospitality, and customer service from them.

As I was standing there, they stormed into the dining room, took one look at the situation, and told me to sit down.

They then proceeded to yell at this member.

Stop being such a creep, they said.

It was in that moment I realized he was…ogling me I guess. He was being a dirty, old, creep.

For me, the most important part of this story, and why I still remember this story, is not the creepy patron.

It’s my co-workers, my friends, standing up for me.

It’s the fact that there were two women who had walked through so much fire that they wanted to save me from my own burns. And they cared enough about me to stand up.

Perhaps that’s what’s missing lately - the ability to care about a narrative that is not tied to our own. We can so easily push aside another human’s pain, so much so that we’ve forgotten what it is to care about someone - even if that person is not our family, our friends, our tribe.

To those who hurt in silence, I care.

To those who haven’t found the words, I care.

To those who don’t know how to trust, I care.

To those who want to trust, I care.

To those who feel broken, I care.

To those who want to love, I care.

To those who want to be loved, I care.

To those who try and make the pain go away, I care.

To those who wish it wouldn’t stay, I care.

To those who sit and wonder why me, I care.

To those who have no more tears to cry, I care.

I care.

Chicken Lessons

I used to hate to touch raw chicken, or raw meat of any kind.

As a kid, I used to electively eat broccoli, and salad, and…that was about it. It took a lot of persuasion to get me to eat meat. I was a vegan before vegan’s were cool.

I didn’t like sushi for the longest time because of the texture.

My version of cooking myself dinner in college was salad and deli turkey.

I am one of those people who gets their steaks well done.

(I apologize in advance to the meat lovers of the world out there. I know it hurts your hearts to hear me say that.)

Tonight I’m going to make chicken and broccoli from scratch - and I had this thought as I was running to the grocery store - my how I’ve changed.

The kid who wouldn’t touch raw chicken meat has now dubbed herself as the family gourmet chef.

The kid who couldn’t be bothered to cook…ever, has now become excited by recipes, and cookware, and nutrition.

The kid who didn’t eat sushi for the longest time is now going to Japan for her honeymoon.

My how I’ve changed.

The teacher in me has been thinking about my change in cooking/eating/nutrition habits lately, and, naturally wondering where the lesson is - I mean, there’s always something to be learned, right?

So here’s what I got.

It’s amazing what we are capable of once we quit believing the lies that we tell ourselves that inevitably keep us small.

I always “thought” I hated to cook.

I don’t.

I just hate the feel and texture of raw meat in my hands - and you know what? I still do.

I always “thought” I hated sushi.

I don’t.

I just hate viscous food.

So what’s changed since childhood? I try things more. I go out of my comfort zone. I explore.

Sometimes, I hate the food that I try. Sometimes, I love it. But if I never pushed myself into a space that allowed for change, well, I wouldn’t really know what I’m capable of accomplishing.

So go on, try that new recipe.

You might love it, or you might hate it, but if you don’t try, you'll never know.

7 Notes for Teachers

It's that time of year again in New York - the start of school.

And while l do not find myself in a traditional classroom setting this year, I still feel like it's the start of a new year, and perhaps that's because it is. It's a new chance to learn, to grow, to fail, to flourish, to dig deeper into the person you're becoming - whether you're the student or the teacher.

Fellow educators, I think about you often. 

And while I have plenty of words to write about my students, I find myself always coming back to writing you notes at the start of each and every school year - eager to share the tidbits that have kept me going strong and happy from the first day of school until the last.

You're the one who gets to inspire a child and/or a teenager to become better than they were yesterday. Everyday you step foot into that classroom, you have the ability to show them how to bring their best self to the world. It's a huge responsibility. Embrace it.

Embrace the differences of the day - especially when those lesson plans go awry. You're teaching humans, not robots, and sometimes things don't go as planned. It's part of the gig. But if you don't deal with whatever crisis happens to be disrupting that perfect plan, nobody will retain the information you're trying to teach. 

Teaching is a superpower. And it's probably one of the most undervalued professions in our country. But know that I see you. I value you. And so do your students - even in the moments when it seems like they would rather be anywhere else, know that if you love what you're doing, and love teaching, they'll remember that for the rest of their lives. My favorite teacher in high school was Dr. Figuerido. She was my biology teacher. I have a career that has absolutely nothing to do with biology. But she made an impression upon me, as a student, and as a human that I'll never forget - and I graduated high school quite a number of years ago. Brilliant teaching transcends time.

It never feels like there's enough time - and you're not alone in that. Not enough time to prep them for a test. Not enough time get them ready for a show. Or a game. Not enough time to work all day and night and then go home and whip up a healthy dinner. Not enough time to spend with your loved ones, and grade papers, and prepare, and still get at least six hours of sleep. So often people quip about finding the work/life balance - and you know what? Maybe that's the problem - we tell  ourselves that each day has to be perfectly balanced with the perfect amount of work and the perfect amount of life, and then beat ourselves up when that doesn't happen. Sometimes days are perfectly balanced - and then there are days when the scale tips one way or another. Sometimes days are filled with more work than your brain can handle, and putting anything else onto your plate will set you over the edge. So, I say, stop filling the plate. Take a breath. Reach for your favorite take out menu, and cut yourself a break. Each month of the school year will bring a different season - embrace the season in which you're in.

With each season of the year will come new obstacles, new successes, new hurdles to jump. When you let yourself lean into those changes you'll remember that the ever changing days are one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of this job. 

You hold one of the most important jobs society has - you're a teacher. And when the days seem like they're never ending, and when you feel like you're not doing a good job, and when you get frustrated about the millions of things that go wrong on any given day in a classroom, know that if just one kid goes home at the end of the day, smiling because of something you said, energized because of something you taught - well, that's a success.

Success in your classroom is not about good test scores. Success is in the moments of discussion where you see the lightbulbs go off - it's the times when the students have discussions amongst themselves, and you can sit back and watch them engage with one another like respectful, intelligent, empathetic young adults. It's the moments when you see your students grow into the people they are becoming, when they become keenly aware of the world around them, and want to do their part in making it better in whatever way they know how.

Hamilton Lessons

I recently wrapped up my second season of teaching theatre to adults with special needs. Special needs can mean an assortment of things, so to put it to context, many of my students have autism, some have Down Syndrome, others are nonverbal - and the list doesn't stop there.

It is by far the hardest teaching job I have had in my career - and I have been teaching for ten years now, but it has also lifted my heart and spirit in ways I never thought possible.

It's so cliche to say, but I often feel like my students teach me more than I teach them.

One student this semester was quite quiet in the beginning days. He didn't like to talk much. And, well, it's a theatre class, so you can imagine how that might pose a potential problem.

In an attempt to foster conversation, I did a twist on the Mirror Game - and instead of playing the game in silent, I had Wait For It, from Hamilton playing in the background.

My student lit up.

He started singing - and he knew all of the words.

Do you like Hamilton, I asked?

I love Hamilton, he said.

And there was our entry point. 

I asked him if there was a song he'd like to learn, and he said that he wanted to know MY SHOT. So I printed the lyrics out, and we went over it each week, for ten weeks.

The final class is an open class for parents - the theatre invites them to come to see what their children have been working on all semester. It's informal, but it's special. An intimate look into the learning process.

My student, who has Down Syndrome, performed MY SHOT perfectly. His mom cried. I got a bit weepy.

At the end of the song he asked his mom if she liked his emotion - naturally she said she loved it. How could you not?

Hamilton was the entry point for my student to be seen, to stand on his own, to shine, and it was beautiful.

Perhaps that's the greatest lesson in the show - to pay attention to those around you. To see someone else's story in yours. To recognize that we all have the ability to stand strong in our own story. 

 

The Sorry Space

I'm sorry.
Why?
Because.
Because, why?
Because you're sad. You're unhappy. You're mad. Because that horrible thing happened. 
It's not your fault.
I know.
Then why are you sorry?
I don't know.

 
I used to say sorry to fill the space.
 
Even writing that seems like an odd thing to say.
 
But it's true.
 
I used to say sorry to fill the space of silence. To apologize for things that weren't even within my control. To apologize for something that never had to do with me. I used to say sorry for pain that I never caused and hurt that was not my fault.
 
Sorry used to slip from my lips as easily as air.
 
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
 
If you asked me why I apologized so much, I wouldn't have an answer.
 
And honestly, I still don't have the answer.
 
Somewhere along the line I got it into my head that it was my job to fix everyone. To take on their pain and hurt, and try and make it better.
 
Somewhere along the line, I started saying sorry for things that weren’t my fault, but it was all I could think of when I say people I loved and cared about in pain.
 
Sorry.
 
I’m sorry.
 
But as you might imagine, that wasn’t always the healthiest thing for me. I would venture to say that it’s not the healthiest thing for any human being.
 
Saying sorry all the time. Taking on the world's hurt. Trying to fix the discomfort and pain of those you cared about with a single word can get quite exhausting.
 
It can even be demeaning.
 
See, when you utter sorry enough, people think that they can do anything to you.
 
People think that they can step all over your heart and soul, and it’ll be ok, because you both know you’ll be the one saying sorry in the end.
 
Now does that sound right to you?
 
Does that sound kind to you?
 
I do hope your shaking your head no on the other side of this screen.
 
I do hope the world no slips from your lips.
 
Because no, it’s not ok at all.
 
See, if your heart is that of a fixer, a healer, a do-gooder, chances are you want to rid the world of all it’s horrors. Chances are you want to reach out to the people you see in pain, the ones who are sad, the ones are hurting, and wrap them in love and warmth that will fuze back the pieces of their broken hearts.
 
Chances are you see folks dining alone and stop for a second to wonder if they're lonely. Maybe you walk down the streets and stop to look in the eyes of those who have no home, and give them the last crumbled bill in your wallet. You’re probably the person who stays on the phone with a friend in need, long past when you’d ought to be in bed.
 
And you know what?
 
That’s beautiful.
 
Your heart is beautfiul.
 
That goodness is beautiful.
 
It is.
 
But guard your heart, ok?
 
Don’t be so quick to fill the space with sorry. Don’t be so fast to apologize for something that you had no control over.
 
Listen before you let sorry slip through your lips.
 
Your apology should land on the hearts of souls who need it, who'll appreciate, who will hear it. Fill the space with sorry when it’s needed - not when you are at a loss for what to say.

NOTE - THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON GLASSHEEL.COM

The Place of Praise

I tend to have a problem saying "thank you" when I'm complimented. 

Seriously.

Someone tells me, "you're so ___________________ (fill in the blank with something positive)", and I say, "oh, no YOU are." It's an active effort for me to sit in that place of praise. 

I don't do it on purpose. 

It's like a knee jerk reaction - and I have no idea where it comes from.

Perhaps it's my need to please people, or because I'm not always comfortable with attention on me, or because I am my own worst critic.

Perhaps.

But here's the thing - I know too many wonderful humans who do exactly the same thing, especially women. Girlfriends of mine who are brilliant at their crafts, their careers, at motherhood, at marriage - they too shy away from living in that place of praise.

And I wish we'd all just...stop it.

Perhaps it would be easier to stand in that praise if we saw our fellow sisters doing the same thing - and celebrated them for it, and even encouraged them to do so more often.

So, ladies of the world, hear me when I say, "it's OK to own your magnificence and celebrate your accomplishments. It's OK to say "thank you" when someone recognizes the good in you and the greatness that you're doing."

Humility is beautiful, sure. But being humble doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel the praise. 

Feel it.

Own it.

Embrace it.

 

Take the Time

The following post was originally published on I AM THAT GIRL.

Self-worth.

It’s a term I hear everywhere I turn lately. Every article I read. Every post I see.

Self-worth.

Part of self-worth is taking care of yourself and making sure you get the things you need. Knowing what you need to be at your best is important - and you and only you are the person whom can make that determination.

Sometimes, maintaining self-worth means taking time for yourself...solo.

And I think that’s easy to forget that in this age of digital connectedness. We’re constantly peering into one another’s lives. We’re with one another even when we’re not - and sometimes, just sometimes, that’s a bit too much.

It can be overwhelming to be constantly surrounded with people and posts - and taking time away from that to get the balance and clarity that you need is ok. It’s more than OK. I happen to believe it’s quite healthy. (But hey, I’m not a doctor, so don’t quote me on that one.)

Sometimes, life can get overwhelming. You’re juggling three jobs. You’re juggling school and work. You’re juggling school and work and relationships and friendships and families. Sometimes the carousel of life seems like it’s going a bit too fast. And all you can think is...push pause, please. I just need a pause.  

I think when that moment of woah happens - you have to do what works for you. If phoning a friend works, that’s great. But if you need that quiet time, take it.

Take the quiet time.

Take the quiet time, even if it’s for five minutes. Go outside. Look at the blue sky and the green grass and life bustling all around you, and just...breathe.

And then tell yourself, I will get through this. I have climbed mountains before, and I have gotten to the other side.

Say this with me, friends...

I will get to the other side of whatever is stressing me out. Whatever is making my head spin. Whatever is making me doubt. I will take time for myself today, looming deadlines be damned. I’ll sit for that manicure without my phone. I’ll go for a run. I’ll take a walk. I’ll read my favorite book. I’ll crawl up on the couch for that catnap. Cause there ain't no shame in self care, or taking those moments of clarity when I see fit.

 

 

 

FAIL FORWARD

 I wrote roughly three articles before I wrote this one.

They've now gone into the internet graveyard. They've become words that will never see the light of day, and that's OK.

Why?

Because they were garbage.

That's right, garbage.

The sentences didn't flow. The thoughts didn't make sense. And it wasn't really a good fit for anyone's eyeballs to see except for mine, and that's cool too.

Sometimes, you need to create, just to create. Sometimes you need to write down the thoughts in your brain, and the only person that will ever read them or see them is you.

And you know what? That's ok.

Really.

Trust me.

In the conveyor belt that's become the creative production and freelance world there's an expectation to create and produce, and create more and produce more, and sometimes, it's a little too much.

As artists and writers we put so much focus on product, we can too often forget the road to creation is paved with a lot of failure and garbage.

There it is again - garbage.

Sometimes I write and it's bad. Sometimes I write and it's really not appropriate to share on a public platform. Sometimes I create and think it's great, and then realize when I'm editing it that it's terrible - and I need to start all over and toss whatever I created into the garbage, and begin again. 

But that's the beauty of creation. The trials and tribulations. The looking and examining and making sure it's the best possible version of itself.

Nothing's perfect from Day 1.

Masterpieces need tender love and care, and that doesn't just happen on the first shot.

So when your editing, or looking at a piece that you created, or a business that you've started, don't be afraid to throw out the garbage and start over. 

The beauty of this life is learning how to fail forward. There's so much to be learned when that happens, so much wisdom to be gained. Allow yourself to fail and fall, and give yourself the permission to pick up and start anew.

NOTE - THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON GLASSHEEL.COM.

She Really Is Useless

I was running late to work with a student.

I know, right there I'm wrong because, well, I was late.

But hey, I let the parents know - I texted them, and said, "I'm running late. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

They said OK. I thought that was that.

And then I got a text that said, "this is unacceptable. I just texted her to see when she'll be here. She really is useless."

And then I got the "oops"...

That message was for someone else. Sorry.

I was three minutes away from the house. Useless thundered in my brain on a loop. Useless? Useless? USELESS? REALLY? I wanted to drive away, and say, perhaps you should get yourself a tutor for your kid that's more useful.

But I didn't.

I finished the session with my student - because that was the right thing to do.

Maybe the parent really wasn't talking about me. Maybe it really was about someone else. Maybe...

...maybe not.

It was a rather uncomfortable session. And I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Again, useless thundered in my brain. How dare they! I'm an outstanding teacher. I know that in my bones. So you're having struggles with your child. I can understand that. It's tough. You're worried. You're stressed.

But then you take that out on me?

Nope.

That's where I have to draw the line.

So, I finished our session, and then I politely declined to work with the family ever again.

Maybe it wasn't supposed to be personal, maybe it was, but there comes a time in life where all the money in the world cannot make up for disrespecting another person.

And it's all too easy to get swept up in the rat race of life and want to make more money, and then stand for treatment that just isn't right. That just isn't nice. That just isn't decent.

I don't care if you're a CEO, the commander in chief, a stay at home mom, Hollywood royalty, or a nine to fiver - when you start thinking that people are there to serve you and suit your needs as you see fit, and that their usefulness is wrapped up in your perception, you lose.

You lose, and you're wrong.

Nobody gets to determine the usefulness of people.

People aren't old shoes that get to be donated to Good Will or thrown to the trash.

People are humans who cry and love and laugh and bleed and feel.

And we're all useful.

NOTE - THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON GLASSHEEL.COM

Breathe In Stories, Breathe Out Art

I got a million rejection letters this week.

I mean, It wasn't a million. But it felt like a million.

And it messed with my head a bit.

And now I'm writing about it, because, maybe if it messed with my head, it's messing with someone else's head, and, well, I'm all for pouring encouragement and community and positivity back into the internet.

So, back to the rejection letters.

I'm a freelance writer, theatre director, producer, and teaching artist. I also run thewriteteachers.com. None of this happens by accident - I am constantly sending out query letters, applications, submissions, etc. 

Some might say that the application process to be a creative professional takes more time than the actual creating - I still haven't quite made up my mind on that one yet.

But alas, I digress.

Sending out submissions, whether you're the performer, or the creative behind the table, takes a lot of time, effort, and mental energy.

Sometimes, you'll get the response you like. A lot of the time, you just...won't hear anything. And then, like this week, you'll get a lot of "thanks but no thanks emails" - and it can be hard on the soul. 

If you get enough emails like that in row, sometimes, at least for me, my brain just starts shutting down. The doubt creeps in. I start to wonder if my words are just awful. I start to think - "maybe I just don't know what I'm doing. Maybe the things that I've directed and the projects I've created were just...crap, and nobody told me."

That's the point in which I usually text my people - my mom, my best friends, my now husband. 

And usually those voices break the shell of "maybe I'm not good enough."

See, creating is hard. It takes cultivation. It takes dedication. It takes motivation.

And letting yourself wallow will not make the words come faster or the projects come knocking. Comparing your success to that of one of your contemporaries doesn't do you any good, either. 

Hear me when I say that, please.

Letting yourself wallow will not make the words come faster or the projects come knocking. Comparing your success to that of one of your contemporaries doesn't do you any good, either. 

Resist the urge to do that.

Instead, remind yourself that success comes from years of creating when nobody will consume your art, dedication, and constant pursuit of your vision when those around you can't even see it. 

Instead, turn to those who inspire you the most, and learn from them. See all the shows. Watch all the films. Listen to all the music. Read all the books. Talk to all the people. 

Instead, remind yourself that you create because the magic that is in your bones deserves to live outside of your head. 

Breathe in stories, breathe out art.