Everyone You Admire is Struggling Just Like You


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Recently I was talking to a friend, and they told me that they thought I was really thriving these days. To which I very reasonably responded, “SHUT UP, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” I am always frazzled and I feel like I am only now beginning to figure out my life and ninety percent of the time there are waffle crumbs in my bra! But she didn’t see any of that, she just saw the good stuff going on in my life, because that’s all I make public. And it occurred to me, it’s really all just a matter of perspective, isn’t it? The good things she saw in my life weren’t fake, they were really happening. They just didn’t seem to me like they were that big a deal, or like they represented everything that was going on with me. Because no matter how big a fraction of someone’s life you are seeing, it’s still not the whole picture. There’s always something else going on, some other thing that they’re struggling with or that they don’t love about themselves that they’re working on. She was seeing all the good things in my life, and I was seeing all the messy things and the loose ends.

And that is what led me to another, even more delightful conclusion: all the people who I thought were seriously thriving probably felt the same way I did: kind of confused, not always super confident, prone to getting lost in the grocery store and accidentally buying four boxes of toaster waffles. You can be a big giant mess and also be doing big impressive things! The two do not preclude each other! It is a feature of our dumb, irrational monkey minds that we have trouble imagining other people as complexly as we imagine ourselves, but it is important, I think, to take a little time to remind yourself that every single person you idolize and admire from afar has something they don’t like about themselves and something they don’t think they do very well and some secret vulnerability that they are afraid everyone else will notice. It is not just you. And of course this has all been said before but I do think it bears repeating: we are all just dumb confused people doing our best! No one has it all figured out! As long as you are doing your best, you are doing all right. Do try to get the waffle crumbs out of your bra though, those get itchy.

Photo by abi ismail on Unsplash

The Best Foods There Are, According to Me, In No Particular Order


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  • Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.
  • Avocado toast on really thick-cut fancy bread with thinly sliced tomato and that everything bagel seasoning they sell at Trader Joe’s.
  • Kettle cooked salt and pepper chips, undeniably the greatest commercially available potato chip. The Platonic Ideal of chips: salty, peppery, and with a tiny hint of garlic and onion.
  • The peppermint chocolate cake they sell at Nothing Bundt Cakes in December (I once worked at Nothing Bundt Cakes for several months around holiday season and ate my whole weight in peppermint chocolate cake. Oh my god, I could live on it, it is so good.)
  • White rice with soy sauce.
  • Chicken tacos with pico and guacamole, which exist for me now only in my memory, since I don't eat meat anymore. Also a chili relleno taco I had last year.
  • Mushrooms sautéed in vinegar and olive oil like my best friend makes for me sometimes when I go visit her.
  • Pasta aglio e olio with tons of fresh parsley which is the first vegan meal I learned to make that felt really luxurious.
  • Crispy breakfast potatoes with really spicy salsa like they have at my favorite diner that I will not tell you the name of unless you specifically ask nicely and I trust you.
  • Anything my boyfriend cooks for me, but preferably a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and avocado.
  • Ramen.
  • A good ripe peach.
  • Mashed potatoes with garlic and butter, still a little lumpy, loosely following Nora Ephron’s recipe. A food tailor made to nurse you through heartbreak.
  • Garlic parmesan pita chips, which I used to buy enormous bags of at the corner store next to my office at a job I didn’t particularly like. The pita chips kept me full enough to make it to lunch, which I took as late as possible because it was easier to work in the morning when I wasn’t yet fully awake and so was only half aware of how bored and miserable I was. They’re very salty and cheap and make you feel full for ages which was good because I didn’t make a lot of money.
  • The blueberry pancakes my dad makes.
  • Just shreds of parmesan straight from the bag, eaten while you wait for spaghetti noodles to cook.
  • Warm cherry tomatoes just picked from a plant in the backyard in mid-July that burst open in your mouth like a fruit gusher.
  • Any birthday cake that someone else makes for you is excellent, but the best one is yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

 

Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash

Friends Should Support You


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I have always been an over-giver. This is not a good quality, necessarily. I tend to give way too much, to volunteer to do too many favors, and I end up burning myself out in the process. Eventually I started realizing I was doing this for a lot of people who’d never do the same for me. I put so much effort into seeing people’s plays and going to their birthday parties and sending a congratulatory note when something great happened for them, but those people weren’t reciprocating those gestures.

One of the biggest lessons in self-preservation and preventing burnout is this: I don’t have time any more for people who don’t support me. I’ve spent too much time dating and befriending people who can’t find it in themselves to enjoy my success, or who can’t sympathize with my struggles, and honestly? That’s just not compelling. I have had too many friends begrudge me for successes that they wanted for themselves, or get annoyed that I don’t want to come to their large crowded event because crowds are scary and I get panic attacks sometimes. That sucks! I used to feel like I had to try to be friends with everyone, like if a friendship wasn’t working, or I wasn’t getting what I needed, maybe it was somehow my fault. But as I’ve gotten older I have found a group of people who actually work at maintaining relationships: I have friends who make it a point to make plans, who check in on me and my projects, who go out of their way to support my work and congratulate me on good news. I have an amazing boyfriend who supports me in anxious patches, instead of being annoyed at them.

I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m not interested in people who aren’t interested in me. Some people aren’t! It’s not their fault but it’s also not mine. And it’s just not worth it trying to convince them that they should support me like I would support them. When those people fall out of your life, it makes room for people who want to support you, who find you interesting and exciting and enjoy listening to you discuss your weird intense passions. (Shout out to everyone who has ever listened to me deliver a lecture on the cultural significance of “Teen Beach Movie,” Disney Channel’s unacknowledged masterpiece.) And then you are less wiped out because you’re not investing in a one-sided relationship, and you can spend all that extra energy on yourself, instead of throwing it at people who will never fully appreciate it.

Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash

Dairy Free Cherry Almond Muffins


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Don't you hate when you want to use a recipe on a food blog and half of the post is just inane filler about the deep emotional impact these muffins had on them and how long and hard they worked to perfect the recipe? I hate that. Here's the story with these muffins: I had some leftover cherries that I needed to use. I also had almonds. Cherries and almonds sounded like they would go well together in muffin form. So I made these muffins. I liked them, and you also might, if you enjoy almonds and cherries. Now here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

½ cup nondairy butter or margarine (I use Earth Balance)                                                                                      1 ¼ cups sugar                                                                                                                                                           2 eggs                                                                                                                                                                         1 tsp vanilla                                                                                                                                                                ½ tsp cinnamon                                                                                                                                                         2 cups flour                                                                                                                                                               ½ tsp salt                                                                                                                                                                    2 tsp baking powder                                                                                                                                                ½ cup almond milk                                                                                                                                                    2 cups fresh cherries, pitted                                                                                                                                    ¼ cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream nondairy butter and sugar together until pale yellow. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue mixing.

2. Sift dry ingredients together. Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, then half the milk, then the rest of each, mixing after each addition.

3. Chop cherries into fourths. Set half aside and mash them with a fork. Mix the cherry mash into the batter, then fold in the unmashed cherries and the almonds.

4. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake liners. This should be enough to fill a 12 cup muffin tin fairly generously.

5. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes. Cool in the tin. These will last several days in the fridge.

Adapted from "Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins" at New York Times Cooking.

Nobody Gets to Have All of You


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One of the toughest things about being an actor and a writer, I think, is that it’s inherently so personal. You’re going to have to draw on your own experiences and feelings to do your job, and because of that, it can be hard to figure out where to draw a line and say “no, this part of me is not available for public consumption; this is just mine.” It can feel like by drawing a line in the first place you’re jeopardizing your career or your opportunities, like you should be game to open your whole self up and share everything, because you picked these careers for yourself, didn’t you? And that’s what they entail. I think that mentality is encouraged a lot in younger artists. A lot of schools and coaches and your competitive peers will imply to you that if you aren’t willing to share your deepest fears and traumas then that means you aren’t brave enough or bold enough to be an actor/writer/artist of some other persuasion. But hi, I am here to tell you NO, absolutely not. You not need to share all of your thoughts and your trauma and your messy bits just to keep going with your career. Because you are a person, not just a brand, and you need to have parts of yourself that are just for you, that aren’t being exploited in the service of a scene or a poem or a personal essay that a magazine is only going to pay you like $50 for. That's not sustainable!

Keeping things to yourself doesn’t mean you’re hiding them or that you’re ashamed of them or that you’re not willing to deal with them properly, it just means that you’re not putting all your experiences up for sale. And that’s a good and healthy thing to do, because once you start making all your thoughts and memories into commodities, I think you start to lose something. It’s almost as though when you start using everything in service of your art, you stop approaching situations normally and start looking at them through the lens of “how can I make this situation useful to me, and what can I use this feeling for?” You become a voyeur of your own life. And for some experiences and situations, that’s totally fine! I certainly write a lot about my own experiences and emotions and it can be really healing and cathartic, but it’s nice to do a little gut check before I publish a blog or submit an article and ask myself “is this something I actually want to share, or would I rather keep this to myself?” Because sometimes you write a piece and then realize that publishing it would make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe or vulnerable in a way you just don’t like very much. And it’s totally fine to listen to that voice and say, “okay, well this thing is roped off for now, and only VIPs get access to it.” It will make you feel safer and happier and both of those things can only be good for you and your work.

Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash