So I have a long history with staying in relationships too long.
Long after it’s over, I’m still hangin’ out. Trying to make it work. Trying to fix it. Trying to ignore how much the bad outweighs the good.
I guess sometimes, we don’t realize that this is our pattern, until something really good comes along and wakes us up. You know, gives us a real good slap across the face.
Like for example…Hawaii.
My seven years with New York City is another tumultuous relationship to add to my very long list. The city gives me so many thrills, but really bruises my heart more than I like to accept. Like a bad boy in a leather jacket with a chain-smoking habit, I am infatuated with the city and it’s ups and downs and how misbehaved it can be.
Hawaii came along and it is just so nice to me. I mean literally, the people here are so nice to me. It still shocks me. And the packaging that this new relationship comes in, is not so bad either. Palm trees, hibiscus flowers, and the sun setting on the Pacific ocean is not really so hard on the eyes.
So basically, the question that has been waking me up each morning the past few weeks is something that a friend of mine posed to me a few weeks ago when he cheated on his girlfriend.
Can you be in love with two people at once?
I believe you can.
Because I’m absolutely in love with two places at once.
And it is the hardest thing I’ve experienced to date.
I shouldn’t say it’s hard. I am actually incredibly blessed to be in love with two amazing places at once. It’s just, extremely bittersweet.
I mean, I got New York City. My roots. My people. My passions.
New York City. Just two and a half hours away from where I grew up. My family always just a bus ride away.
New York City. Excellent bagels. Un-toppable pizza. The best fucking tap water in the world.
New York City. Where the bars don’t close til 4pm and you can get a bodega sandwich at any time of night and home is just a 35 dollar cab ride away.
New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire theatre district employing my friends and some of the most talented people in the world.
New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire population of some of the most talented people in the world who might never see their name in a Broadway Playbill because of the nature of our current world and economy.
I think that right now, I might be one of those people.
I have always defined “success” by having Broadway be the final destination. Always. I just, never ever thought that anything else would happen. I was completely confident that my dream would come true. And I was willing to basically do anything to make that happen. Give up friendships, eat lettuce three meals a day, sleep four hours a night, spend all my money on ballroom classes, you name it.
I quoted my friend Brooke in my last blog post with her words that have kept me going every year. “We knew what we signed up for.”
I have to take back my agreement with that phrase. If I really am being honest with myself, I had no idea what I was signing up for.
When I was in tenth grade, and I was playing Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man at my community theatre, and I was hugging the gay boys and being included in a community outside of my dance studio and having my hair done by my mom for two hours before every show because there were no wigs, I was having the time of my life. Literally. My mom and I bonded in those two hours, and then I got to go put my face on and dance around a stage with people from all over town that I never would have met otherwise. It was fantastic. It was the most joy I had ever felt.
So when I found out that you could go to college for just this, this amazing joy of performing for the fun of it and twirling your skirt and wearing high heels to dance, I jumped on it. Obviously. I mean I never ever questioned that I wanted to major in musical theatre.
But truth be told, I had no idea what I was signing up for. They don’t teach the “business” in colleges. They sure do try. But they don’t talk about lists that are 500 people long. They don’t talk about how cold it is in February at five in the morning. They don’t talk about how people look down on you for getting up at five in the morning to get on the list so you can get seen before you go to your waitressing job at 2pm. They don’t talk about how audition calls ask for you to show up in a two piece. They don’t talk about how networking really equals happy hour with someone new every day of the week. That’s not what they talk about in college.
So really, I had no idea what I was signing up for. And for years, I played the game. I played along. I tried so damn hard to get to the point where I could wear a two piece to a Casey Colgan audition. I tried so damn hard to put my hair in curlers and calm that shit down instead of letting it be as big as it really is. I tried so damn hard to re-vamp my resume, and send those thank you postcards, and pick songs that had money notes.
Because that’s what I was taught in school. The resume stuff. And the thank you postcard stuff. And the 16-bar cuts of exciting songs.
I wasn’t taught how to deal with rejection. Or how to pick my chin up after nine callbacks for The Drowsy Chaperone tour without a job offer. Or how to recover from five nights in a row of “networking” aka “drinking in midtown” while still auditioning at four different buildings every day for the entire month of March.
So I figured it out on my own. I became the strong one in my group of friends. I became the relentless one who preached about not taking rejection personally. And how much good stuff was coming from auditioning for so many different theatres. And being ballsy.
I was the chick who popped down in a cooter slam in every dance call because at some point, around 2010, I stopped caring what the business thought of me. I was gonna make my name mean something. I might not be able to riff like Natalie Weiss. And I might not be able to do the opening of A Chorus Line with all the grace in the world. But I could do a little bit of everything and I was, again, never worried that I would end up on Broadway.
And then 2013 rolled around. After turning down my Equity card in February, I was sure that my hard work and networking all these years would land me exactly what I needed to finish one more year as a non-equity performer before I entered the questionable world of Equity jobs and, most likely, longer stints of unemployment.
2013. My fifth audition season in New York City. My fifth year going in for the same theatres who know me, love me, and chase me down the hall after I get cut to tell me “we love you and you look fantastic and you’ve obviously been working on your body and we just don’t have a spot for you this year but keep coming back, we will have you with us one day.” My fifth year of eating bananas and tomatoes with salt and pepper all day with two binge days on the weekend. My fifth year of happy hours after good OR bad auditions. My fifth year of putting new colors on my resume and waiting to be seen at ECC’s and preaching to my friends that, “This is the year. This is it, you guys. This is our year.”
Turns out, it was my year. My year to take a few slaps in the face, enough to be knocked to the ground actually, and re-evaluate all of the things I’ve been telling myself for years.
I have been in an abusive relationship with my career for over five years. And that career is the reason that I stayed in New York City for so long. And I stood my ground in my three inch Laducas and I fought back really hard. Really fucking hard.
But I still took a beating. And my soul is legit, bruised.
When asked yesterday at the new dance studio in Kona, Hawaii, where I will be teaching tap and jazz for the next six months, why I’m leaving New York City to teach dance to Hawaiian kids, I was very honest.
I told Miss Seatree, the owner of the studio, that my soul is bruised. And while I’m here in Hawaii, caring for myself and recovering from all the beatings that I voluntarily took with a half smile on my face since 2006, why not pass on the love that I still have for the hobby that I once loved so very much?
She said, “Okay, Miss Amanda. Welcome home.”
So where does this land me in the whole scheme of loving two places at once?
Well. My people, my family, my friends, are in New York City and Pennsylvania. From Washington Heights, to Williamsburg, to Astoria, to New Jersey, to Philadelphia, my nearest and dearest are living in a place that is thousands of miles away from me. But if those people were here, in Hawaii with me, I don’t know that I would miss New York City, or the east coast, so very much.
Which made me realize that it’s okay for me to break up with it for awhile.
Because it’s not the city, or the place, that I miss so much. It’s the loving people who have literally carried me through life with compassion and light and humor since the day I was born.
And to spend a winter in the sunshine – in the ocean – on a paddleboard, instead of trudging through the darkness to the Equity building in my rainboots held together by duct tape because I spent my money on new headshots instead of Hunter boots, is the healthiest thing for me to do right now.
I have never made any decisions in my life based on health. I don’t even know what that means.
But I think I’m getting the hang of it. Because coming to Hawaii was the first step for me in making healthy decisions.
Staying in Hawaii, is the second step.
If home is where the heart is, then I believe I will always have two homes. My heart lies with my sisters, Melissa and Brooke, on a picnic blanket near the softball fields in Central Park with paper cups of wine. My heart lies with my soulmate, Joshua, in the Washington Square diner in the third booth from the entrance. My heart lies with my best friend, Bronson, on his red couch in Washington Heights in front of a Golden Girls marathon. My heart lies with my brother from another mother, Justin, in his Cornell Medical School dorm room. My heart lies with my friends who attend my tap dance classes, and with my audition buddies, and with all of my co-workers from bars and gyms and restaurants gone by. My heart lies with my mom and my dad, in Pennsylvania, at the Railroad House, before visiting my aunt, uncle, and grandparents for some Yeungling and shooting the shit.
But my heart also lies in a deep love of dance, performance, and freedom. And here in Hawaii, where the sun shines every single day, and I can go hiking, biking, and swimming every single day, and I can wake up with the sun just because my body wakes up with the sun without an alarm every single day, I get to dance, perform, and live freely every single day.
And my heart is soaring. My heart is healing. I am literally, as my friend Beth put it before I left NYC, YOLOing, every single day.
So how, can I turn down the opportunity to YOLO every single day on an island that has the cleanest air in the world, to go back to a relationship with New York City that still has me on edge? Although my nearest and dearest are there, so is all of the root of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder.
When it comes down to it…is it all New York’s fault? Is it all the performance industry’s fault?
No man. It isn’t. Nothing in this world happens TO us. We are treated, in this life, the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Things happen FOR us. I believe that everything that happened to me in New York City – from Stallion breaking my heart, to the rejection of the biz, to the financial distress of living in a metropolis – happened FOR me. To get me to this point, where I am about to give some little Hawaiian babies some real, city girl attitude and passion for 5, 6, 7, 8-ing.
Would I go back and change my relationship? Eh. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
It is what it is. And now I’m aloha-ing all up on the internet and spreading the love and I really don’t think it should have happened any differently.
So, like I did with all my other exes from past relationships, I am taking this moment to forgive New York City. And I will suck it up, and quote something I read on Gawker the other week that at first I totally looked at in dismay. However, now I will be really honest with y’all and tell you that for now, and I truly mean FOR NOW, not forever, in regards to NYC, “I love her, but I had to leave her.”
For the first time since moving here on August 1st, I cried listening to Sara Bareilles’ song Manhattan. I cried listening to it every day before I departed the city but since I’ve been here, living on the jungle side where we could watch the sunrise but not the sunset, and there isn’t much beach to be had, I haven’t felt an emotional connection to it.
It wasn’t until last night, when I journaled on the balcony of the apartment I’m staying in in Kona, on the other side of the island, where I’ll be moving to teach, when I was watching the sunset and planning out my day today to go paddleboarding, that the lyrics brought tears to my eyes once more.
“You can have Manhattan, I’ll settle for the beach.
Sunsets facing westward and sand beneath my feet.
I’ll wish this away, just missing the days, when I was one half of two.
You can have Manhattan, cuz I can’t have you.”
I was one half of a person for so many years. And for the longest time, it felt like I couldn’t have what I wanted. The whole, Broadway thing. But.
Now, as I sit here with my 100% Kona coffee blend and my apple-banana smoothie that the love of my life, Johnny, made for me this morning, while I was catching up with Joshua on the phone despite a six hour time difference, I am a whole person again. And I might not be able to have what I thought I was gonna have. Broadway might not be my final destination. A penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side bought with my earnings from starring in the revival of The Will Rogers Follies as Betty Blake might not be my final destination.
But I sure feel like this, this right here – my outline for my new dance studio syllabus to my right and my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen to my left – is part of an ongoing journey that might take me to a new destination. It’s just so not about the destination anymore. It’s about the fucking journey y’all.
And at 26, I sure don’t mind letting go of the idea of my “final destination” in order to enjoy this moment, right now. I have so many years ahead of me to figure the rest out.
I just want to say this.
John Mayer has a song called A Face To Call Home. All of you, my friends and family on the east coast, you are my face to call home. And as I spend time here, finding new faces to call home in Kona, Hawaii, I feel like I’m not leaving any family behind – I’m just making it bigger. And I could not be happier, to have so many places, to call home.
Next Week’s Posting:
This week, my best friend Melissa said the most amazing thing to me. She texted me and said, “I have to say. I was blow drying my hair today in my underwear and I looked up myself for the first time in a long time and felt really proud of myself. I’m not tiny but I love the way my body looks right now. It looks connected to how hard I’ve been working with my running and the gym. So I felt really peaceful and happy.”
“[My body] looks connected to how hard I’ve been working…”
I fucking love that.
It got me thinking about forgiveness. Melissa totally forgives herself for whatever has happened in the past with her body and she’s open to loving it for what it is right now.
Forgiving myself for what my body has been, what my body is now, and what my body will be in the future has been a really difficult part of this whole healing process. Remember the process? I said it like 18 times the other week? Recovery is a process. Aghhhhh the process. The process. But hey, listen, I feel what she’s saying for the first time in my life. And it feels so good to feel that connection to my body. And in the joy of that connection, I legit do not have time for hating myself for what’s happened in the past.
So basically, this brings me to this thing called Facebook. And, the thing about Facebook, is that its really easy to flip through your past and look at everything that’s led you up until now.
College frat parties. Throwback Thursday. Opening night parties. Ladies nights at Brother Jimmy’s. Holidays when my mother makes my brother and I take Christmas pictures in front of the tree, with the year written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, before 8am. You know, the joyous occasions of yesteryear.
Facebook allows us to look back at pictures of ourselves like this:
Dear God just look at that tiny waist! And this:
No arm flab! And in turn we then hate ourselves because we now look like this:
Curvacious. Bodacious. Bootylicious.
See the thing is, the second weight, is not actually that bad. It’s actually pretty great. I mean look at the muscles on that Rosie the Riveter picture up there – mahalo for your time. But the thing is, is that it ain’t showgirl weight. And that’s what I’ve been beating myself up for.
At the “lighter” weight, I was booking jobs, dating a rich man who used me as his toy, and being called back for Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.
At the “heavier” weight, I’m living in Hawaii, dating a man who is absolutely in love with me (who I maybe manifested in blog post 10?), and performing tap numbers in burlesque cabarets to raise money for Hawaiian Gay Pride.
The “heavier” weight isn’t actually that bad. It’s just…different.
Two very different lives all in the span of two years.
And I have to stop hating myself for that. Each of those lives is mine, and each of those lives are different and lovely in their own way. And so this post, is about forgiveness.
It’s taken me months, but I forgive myself for not looking like that anymore.
This is me now.
Happy, healthy, free, emotionally stable, kind of sane, and strong.
Let me say that again for my own sake.
Dear World, this is me now. Thirty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been during any audition season. More sane, and more happy, than I’ve ever been during a week where I’m starving myself for a showgirl call. Stronger than I have ever been doing any sort of Weight Watchers business where I’m consumed by points but take no time to work out. And healthier than I have been since I’m about twelve years old. This is me now. I accept it. And I forgive myself for no longer looking the way I once did while I was striving for a goal, but not taking care of myself.
“Our job…is to seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a “selective remembering,” a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. ‘To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love
UM, HELLO. MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE MS. WILLIAMSON.
Homegirl is telling me to let go of the anger, fear, and animosity I have for myself because I’ve gained weight back and I have to restart life and find a new way to take a stand in my career. It ain’t easy. But she’s totally onto something. Instead of focusing on those past thoughts of Weight Watchers and failure and wearing a different size pant every three days, she’s just saying that maybe it would be more helpful to let that go and just focus on the love I had during that time, even amidst the failure, and the love I have now, even amidst hardships of the recovery process.
Here’s how I’ve been working on it.
I wrote it all out. And I hope I inspire you to do the same.
Here are the ways I have been letting go, and moving on, and forgiving.
- I cry sometimes when I think of the comfort that food still brings me. Knowing that through my recovery, I will one day be at a place where I never again fully indulge in a box of Cheez-its, a carton of OJ, a box of Bagel Bites, and a half gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish a bag of Reese’s and be done with it. I forgive myself for that, even though my ego slips in and tells me it’s disgusting.
- I forgive my friends for saying things like “are you sure you wanna eat that” and “you’re stronger than food” because they didn’t know that things like that only made me want to rebel against my own disorder.
- I forgive the teachers in college for pretending to be brutal about physicality but not actually being brutal about physicality. As 19 and 20 year old girls, we were never really properly warned about what lied ahead in showgirl land.
- I forgive the director that taught dance to me in college who will never be down with a curvy girl. I am so sorry that I was never skinny enough to dance in your company. I feel like you are missing out on some excellent skillz, but I finally let that go.
- I forgive the casting directors for the looks on their faces when my weight fluctuated every time I went in to sing for them.
- I forgive the agents at Actor’s Connection for never calling me in after my initial meeting with them. Although I come across “confident in who I am” and “completely comfortable in my own skin”, I also lied about my weight and wore two pairs of Spanx to meet them.
- I forgive the musical theatre world for what it has done to my body, heart, and soul. It’s really not show business’ fault. I’ve been allowing myself to be controlled by it for so long and I was unaware. At the end of the day, the choice is mine. I decide where I fit in. I decide how my body type will fit in. I decide the way my career goes.
I feel like I’m a bit all over the place this week in my writing but I’m just on fire lately. Like, dude, there is a fire under my ass that has pushed me to new edges in the past two weeks and progress is happening and love is happening and acceptance is happening and courage is happening and inspiration is happening and changes are happening and basically…
…this is what I have to say for myself.
When I return to New York City, I will actually be unstoppable. To have let go of all pent up frustration, hatred, and negativity towards show business has turned my entire world around. To forgive the business for what it is, has opened my heart to whatever comes next, and I will embrace it with open arms, a graceful bevel, and full beat. Like my sisterfriend Brooke says, “We knew what we signed up for. We just have to figure out how to be happy within the perimeters.”
There is a strong possibility that I will not be cast as a showgirl, a secretary in How To Succeed in Business…, or a chorus girl in 42nd Street for the rest of my life. But there’s also a strong possibility that after a year of healing, the passion I have for performing will be so ferocious and pent up that when I unleash it on Auditionland I will land exactly where I am supposed to land. And I am willing to let it all go, in order to see where exactly that is. The unknown is so exciting in that sense. I have no idea where I belong in show business these days, but that’s like, totally cool, because all I know is that I belong and that’s all that matters right now.
Take a deep breath and feel whatever frustration, hatred, and negativity that has been built up in your heart around what you really love to do and see if you can figure out the root of it. Can you forgive? Can you really forgive, and then completely and totally let it go?
I wrote a post about three weeks ago forgiving all my ex-boyfriends. The reward for forgiving all of them, and dealing with my emotional baggage since I’ve been in Hawaii, has been absolutely, balls to the wall, fantastically beautiful.
So I suppose this week’s post is the letter forgiving show business. Because you know what? It is what it is. And this is what we signed up for.
Either we drive ourselves crazy trying to fit the mold, or we take a step back and remember that just like any job in the whole wide world, this career does not have to run our lives. I know that it seems like it has to – what we eat, what we wear, what color our hair is, when we sleep, who we are nice to, etc. etc. etc. And most of the time, all of that is true. But the key words are, most of the time. You are allowed to be you within all the guidelines and you are allowed to take the time you need to heal yourself from whatever you may have put yourself through to survive in the biz, or in the city, or in the passion of it all.
Auditionland is always gonna be there. But your life passes by every day and no one else is going to force you to take the time to live it but you. Take it from me. Look where I fucking live right now:
Forgiving people and events of the past has put me in the most loving, supportive place I have ever been in my entire life. Look at my fucking face dude:
Just an average morning in Hawaii, FaceTiming with my best friends. The most supportive, beautiful, compassionate, amazing friends in the whole world. Sending me love every day and encouraging me through my journey. I am blessed. I am strong. And I am on the right path to recovery because I forgive whatever has happened in the past and I’m ready and waiting, with open (and very tan) arms, for whatever is next!
Mahalo for your time! Now go forgive someone! Ahh! Life is good!
Next week’s post:
How To Change Everything In Five Days