30 Years of Wisdom

Birthdays have always been very special to me. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because in my family, everyone has the same birthday: my mother, father and brother. However, I alone am different. And, for as long as I can remember, this has both plagued me (so unfair!) but also made me feel special. Also, my birthdays have always been celebrated, and as someone who loves celebrating, I cling on to that celebratory feeling as so many other festivals and holidays have faded away as I have gotten older.

Yet, as we all know, there is always a downside to birthdays (if you do give them any sort of thought), which is the whole omg-I’m a year older and what have I accomplished-she’s only 15 but in the Olympics/pop star/Master Chef/Everest climber-my big accomplishment is finding the right detergent for my colors AND whites-haalllpppp!!!! #yearlymeltdown

 

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Somehow, this spinning cycle of introspection did not come full force between 29 and 30 (I suppose it was a busy year), but it did this year. To quote my best friend, “I bet if you look back on it, this will be the best time of your life,” he said, referring to my 30th year on this planet. So here I am, reflecting not about the ending of my 20s but the beginning of my 30s and what all that means. Feel free to read on; or if you are bored with the self-centeredness to follow, have an excellent Monday.

30. I still have managed to keep ten toes, ten fingers, and a fairly decent health. So far so good. I would yell at myself to exercise more or do this or that- but sometimes, it’s just okay to be glad that you still have the basics.

29. You don’t grow grumpier; you just listen lesser. I always assumed people became more rigid and grouchy when they got older and hated teens because of their nostalgia and bias towards the youth. While that is somewhat true, I realized it takes too much effort to try and listen to everyone. So you march to your own drum. People call it grumpy. I call it contentment.

28. Age really IS nothing but a number. Frankly, this is not a good tag line for a romantic movie but I am not sure how different I am from who I have always been. Yes, I have learned things and grown up and miss childhood and all that, but I still love Archie comics, a good romantic movie, and believe that in an unknown way, magic exists. Deep down, I think I still carry the same optimism, flaws and traits that I have always had, and likely always will.

27. People are wrong- a lot. When I was younger, I believed people were right. Their advice were right. Their ways were right. Their opinions were right. However, now I know. People are just people. They, like me, are doing the best they can. So, we (or I) constantly walk a tightrope between believing in the best and wisdom of everyone while doubting everything to find your own way.

26. Laughing is harder. There is no denying it. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure gets harder. Everything ends up having a purpose, or an escape from some other purpose, as responsibilities amount. Moments where you wind up laughing so hard that you are out of breath get trickier. But…

25. Happiness is easier. I think when we are younger, figuring out what makes you truly happy is difficult. I think you end up wafting here and there a lot trying to “pursue happiness.” Eventually, I think you find happiness in the wafting itself. That isn’t to say you don’t have goals or don’t become determined, just that you end up taking more pleasure in the journey than seeking reward at the destination (hopefully).

24. You hear better. This contradicts what I said earlier that we don’t listen as much as we get older. That’s true. But in order to filter what you do and don’t want to listen to, you have to hear things more carefully. Evaluate them. Break them down. Then decide what to do with them. So, yes, I think we tune out more, but first we hear more.

23. You suddenly care about the news. Not that I didn’t as a child but it always seemed so distant and irrelevant to my world. Now, I feel more impacted and more responsible towards what is happening globally and within my community. This is my world.

22. Some people grow up faster or slower than others in some parts of their life. It is a fact. Some of the lessons I am learning now, others realized way before me. That is okay. We are tortoises. Not hares.

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21. Your life is truly, uniquely, your own. As kids, your life and your friends’ lives are fairly in sync. Then, somewhere in your 20s, all that changes. Some people get married, have kids, find good jobs, etc. Some don’t. However, even if it seems like there are 2 or 3 major groups, every single person is going through their own unique experience. It takes more time to find someone on the same path as you, and even if you do, it could be for a very short time before your life and theirs diverge again. So, it becomes important to become your own best friend fast. And it turns out, it’s really not that bad.

20. Friendships are the best. This never changes. It shall be the wisest thing I will always know. They go through trials and tribulations as things change but I believe friends shape who we are. Sometimes, we are not great to our friends but I believe we find a way back to them and they to us.

19. Family is the most perplexing relationship you can have. It has the most love, the most fights, the most care, and the most hope. Without family, you are lost. Sometimes, with family, you are also lost. Regardless, it is the truest embodiment of both the perfect and imperfect love.

18. Time becomes so important. I think it is a fallacy that I had more control over my time as a kid or in college than I do now. I did not know myself well enough then to understand how precious time in each day is. I spent it thoughtlessly. Now, I have many more obligations so time and control over my own time seems fleeting. Yet, I at least know how to spend it more wisely to give myself the care I need.

17. Anxiety is real. And always embarrassing. I hate anxiety deeply, yet, I am fairly sure I have more of it that most people I know. Which makes me anxious. It is a vicious cycle. When I was younger, I did not understand from where all this burden or pressure comes. Yet, it does. Some invisible hand of society and mortality makes us sense our own fragility. Fighting it is a constant battle.  Which has led me to realize that any inner demon anyone ever spoke of is real- and we should pay more attention to it.

16. Reading is the cure for everything. Knowledge is probably the one thing we can always constantly add to our identity. Without reading, how can you know things? Reading is the only way to walk 2 miles in someone else’s shoes. It makes you a better human. And for a split second, reminds you how infinite the universe and human experience is.

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15. It’s okay to quit things. There is too much emphasis placed on keep going and persevere. If something isn’t right for you- quit it. What you should not quit is yourself or belief in yourself. Stopping something to find something better takes as much perseverance and confidence as sticking with something that is good for you.

14. Food is your greatest friend. I don’t need to say more.

13. You outgrow what is not important. The rest stays.

12. Chores are mislabeled. They should just be called life. We do them more than anything else to live a normal, balanced, semi-organized and not-missed-bills life. I think they were probably called chores at a time when someone did them for someone else. When you have to do them all the time- it’s just life.

11. Money is super important. Clarification: your relationship and views towards money are really important. They probably define so many of your goals, relationships and outlooks towards society that it is probably the singular lens through which you see the outside world. If you can grow beyond that, let me know and share with me your ways.

10. You forgive yourself more. This is both good and bad. It is good to forgive yourself and move on. The tricky part is when you forgive yourself but don’t want to learn from the experience. As I said before, the art of knowing what to listen to becomes increasingly important in deciding who we want to be.

9. Anything can be validated or justified. When I was younger, I always wanted validation for my choices, and I always got it. Then I noticed that others with whom I disagreed strongly got it as well. This led me to realize how dangerous validation is. You can always find a fan. It is much better to find a good critic.

8. I don’t do enough for others. Fact. I think I get more than I give. I have to work on it. The wisdom here is that hopefully, by recognizing it, I can get better.

7. Like my beloved alumni university, I too am Under Construction Indefinitely.

6. My brother is still my best friend. Yet, our interests have varied. He has formed his own opinions, interests and tastes. He is a great person to travel with but we do things differently. It is okay to grow up, grow different, and still have the relationship remain the same. It is probably the best kind of relationship you can have.

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5. You can survive a cancelled wedding and still love someone. You can be plagued with doubts and anger and still love someone. You can continue to not know the outcome of something and still believe in it. Nothing can pan out and you can be really happy knowing you got to love someone.

4. Believing in people gets harder. Sometimes, we grow more entitled as we grow older. This often makes us unkind. I think it is because we try to preserve our sense of self. But, with more saddening news, adults who may not behave like adults, road rage, and other million things that go wrong daily- it becomes hard to still believe in the good. But…

3. People try their best- always. Most people are good. Even when they give the wrong advice, have the wrong reaction, or say things that truly hurt- most people are just trying their best to be there for you. And you are trying your best to be there for them. So it will be okay. As Journey said, “Don’t stop believing…”

2. It gets harder to see individuals. I think we label people more as adults than as children. It is one of the hardest things to overcome. We have to keep overcoming it everyday. And life is pretty good at ensuring that we find ourselves wrong all too often.

1. I am pretty happy to turn 31. I am not sure I am as frightened as I was of age; of the things I haven’t accomplished; of the deadlines I didn’t meet prior to 30. I think I am more content, although I still have many more lessons to learn about being appreciative and positive. I am just hopeful I get many, many more years with ten fingers and ten toes. #blessed

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Starbucks Adventures

In the daily life of the working, there is little to look forward to (unless you like your job- congratulations you minute percentage of the human species or unless you are unemployed and reading this and saying, “Curse your first world problems! I need a job!”, but I digress).

Every so often there is that gleam of mischief in your coworkers’ eyes as he/she says ever so slyly, “Coffee?”

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And off you go, in your car, or walking, a sigh of contentment escapes your lips. Anything, anything to be away and go for coffee. That daily adventure that you so look forward to because as Starbucks personalizes your order and mispronounces your name, you remember that you are indeed an individual and not just a cog in the machinery of society….which is not something you will feel again until the clock strikes somewhere around 7PM. So you cherish those ten to fifteen minutes and seize that sleeve and straw and sip up personal happiness as you mutter, “My precious.”

Is this not you? Are you reading this and saying, “No ones that crazy, lady. No one.”

I am sorry. Perhaps it is not coffee. Perhaps it is that guiltily stored away box of candies. Or perhaps it is that daily comic website you have to visit. Or those headphones you need plugged in for your personalized Pandora. Don’t deny it. Lift your head in guilty happiness.

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Now let me clarify something, after countless misadventures in the working world, I came, quite by fortunate accident, to be in a job I really like. Yet, perhaps thanks to the training of previous jobs and mindsets, I still get a tingling of sensation of rebellion when I head for coffee. And it is perhaps the strongest in the morning when I have only been at the office for an hour, yet here I am, taking in my daily dose of caffeine and saying to myself, “You don’t understand- I need this.”

So in case you find yourself reading this, wondering why its not already Friday, don’t worry- you are not alone. Relish in whatever it is that makes you feel like each and every day is still your own. It still is. It always will be.

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A Guy, A Girl and A Pizza Place

When I first came to America, I struggled, as all immigrants do, with the whole adjustment thing: trying to learn a new language, a new accent, make new friends, etc. Everything was and seemed foreign, cold, and lonely. People spoke too rapidly for me to understand and asking them to slow down only meant looking like I was too dumb to understand English. Spoken language became my biggest nemesis and America a lonely place, where children taunted the way I dressed, my accent, and used my inability to comprehend at such a rapid pace to their advantage. However, my rite of passage, and my conquering of the English language, occurred the first time I went to go order a pizza in 1995.

 

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One fine day in fourth grade, I was handed a BookIt prize. It’s where, if you read a certain amount of books or pages (I forget which), you get a coupon for a FREE pizza hut pizza. Thrilled, I told my parents who immediately decided we would go to Pizza Hut that night for dinner. When we arrived at the Pizza Hut, my father, who always dealt with strangers for our family, whether it be at the restaurants or the grocery stores, told me I had to go order the pizza-ALONE.

My knees went weak and my stomach wanted to hurl. I protested. How could I, the girl who could not talk in her own classroom, go order a pizza and talk to a complete stranger in English? But my father insisted and told me that since I had earned the coupon, I must go order the pizza and that it was time I started learning these things on my own. My mother, equally anxious as me, still supported my father and gave me a reassuring pat.

Laugh if you must, but I still remember the fear and anxiety that gripped inside me as I walked inside the Pizza Hut and felt all eyes of the workers turn upon me. Of course I was the only customer. My hands were sweating and I clutched the BookIt coupon for life and presented it to THE MAN behind the counter.

Now let me tell you, in hindsight, that MAN must have been no more than a teenage boy doing his after school job. But to me, at the time, he seemed an all knowing, all powerful giant. Someone who, with his very words, could see how dumb I really was and who could easily judge my accent and my lack of knowledge about the American world and pizza. I feared he would laugh and kick me out of his store; would immediately discuss the small, incompetent nine-year old girl with his co-workers as soon as I walked out of the Pizza Hut.

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However, THE MAN glanced at my coupon and then said a very friendly, “Hello” and I mumbled back. He then said something I could not understand, and I just nodded and kept nodding. I finally walked out of that pizza hut with a GIANT pepperoni pizza and huge smile on my face since I felt I had had my first real English conversation with a friendly, kind stranger. That night, my family and I enjoyed dinner immensely and marveled at the giant size of our free pizza.

I soon finished the required number of pages for my second BookIt coupon. Feeling much more reassured and confident, I again walked inside a Pizza Hut and this time, met a woman. She took the coupon and did not say a word to me. Minutes later, she handed me  a much, much smaller pizza. I was very confused. I showed her the coupon again and tried to explain the size of the pizza I had received the first time-enough for a family of four. This one seemed big enough for only my lunch or snack. She shook her head and pointed to the bottom of the coupon where it said, “PAN SIZE” pizza. She explained what pan-size was, and again handed me my tiny 4 personal slices of pepperoni pizza. That was the first time I learned that pizza comes in different sizes.

Looking back on that moment with THE MAN from Pizza Hut after learning about the true validity of the coupon, I believe I can gather what the actual conversation must have gone like with THE MAN:

“Hi,” looks at coupon, “we are unfortunately all out of pan sizes.”

I nod.

“Well another size do, like medium or large? it’s bigger and better,” smiles at me.

I nod.

“Okay, how about medium.”

I nod.

“What topping would you like?”

I nod.

“Do you like pepperoni? They give pepperoni in school. Is that okay? Do you eat the pizza they give at school?”

I nod.

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And so on and so forth. THE MAN was the first person, at least in my memory, who made me feel completely safe about not understanding English. He did not grow impatient, he was not judgmental, despite my only contribution being confused, mute nods. I am sure he figured out that while I could not comprehend his words, I was one very scared child. Somehow, sensing that this must be one of my most petrifying experiences, he managed to comfort me. Had his reaction been any different, it would have taken me a lot longer to ever be confident enough to speak English.

Yet, I left that Pizza Hut feeling so confident and happy that I immediately began watching TV to pick up more on English and began more freely talking to people, growing less and less scared of their judgments and reactions.

That incident was responsible for so many things, including beginning my love for the English language, earlier my greatest enemy and nemesis. And now, years later, when I look back at my English degree, I still feel marveled at how strange that seems. I still always recall that incident as the turning point which allowed me to face my greatest fear and enemy and turning it into my greatest asset and strength.

Kindness, you know, goes a very, very long way indeed.

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The One Year Mark

It’s been a year since I passed the bar, moved to Northern California, since I started working (approximately),  since I wrote this blog, since I started Improv and  since I bought a guitar and played it for the first three weeks.

 

A lot can change in a year.

When I first moved here, I had this image of what life was going to be like post school. I was going to basically rock it: hang out with all my old high school friends, join the legal team of a crazy cool start-up and work day and night while putting every legal and creative fiber of being into the job, become best buddies with my parents and finally convince them to get a dog, and of course, meet the perfect Northern California guy as we settled into a cozy apartment underneath the graying skies of San Francisco.

 

The problem was, I had read one too many romantic-comedy novels and seen one too many-romantic comedy movies. Life is, in short, no walk in the park and school had left me with nothing but too much imagination as to what lies beyond the gates of the real world and a truly humbling GPA.

 

So, as my plans began to unravel at the seams on which they were so badly stitched, I did what anyone would do in the same situation, I decided to go seek and explore new dreams.

 

So feeling somewhat desperate and yet determined to prove to myself that even a fraction of my dreams could come true, I joined Improv. Improv was the creativity that loosened the chains of obligation that had suddenly tied me after coming out of law school. It was the escape, the identity, and the first thing that I could truly call my own as I adjusted into a whole new life. It erased the loneliness, eased the adjustment, and of course, gave me the outlet I so badly needed.

Then, Improv started becoming routine and I started taking it for granted. Not only that, it started becoming difficult. It suddenly went from a fun class to something I had/have to struggle with to keep going, keep getting better at. It started becoming real.

 

So, quickly realizing I needed an escape from my escape, I began to turn to people, hoping to find a group where I actually fit, people that would make me feel at ease when I could not feel comfortable in my own skin. And, after meeting so many new people and changing cloaks of friendship in every which way so I could feel like I can blend into the garden of society like a chameleon, I finally have decided to make a resolution for this next year:

No more escapes.

Life is not perfect and dreaming of a perfect life will not make it happen. I am masterful at escapes and at excelling at things that allow me to be an image rather than a person. It’s about time I stopped being so scared of not having the perfect life and just started conquering the one that I do. It’s like what they teach us in Improv, mistakes are a gift and failures are inevitable. It’s the lack of perfection that allows for achievements, otherwise, how will we ever learn to grow?

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Shalloween

Happy Halloween dear readers! I hope 2012 has brought you a fair share of opportunities to dress-up and eat candy guilt free this year.

Now, I know I have not written in a while but I simply could not let the most festive American holiday go by without a mention. The problem was, what to write about? The scariest day I’ve ever had? The one time I was haunted by the ghost of Bloody Mary in my mirror reflection? The most fun Halloween I’ve ever had? The worst Halloween I’ve ever had? The must-see scary movies? Costumes to avoid?

 

It all seemed so trite and redundant, and then, the answer presented itself to me as I watched my weekly lineup of Fox shows- New Girl and The Mindy Project. Actually, it wasn’t just those shows- it was just kind of all over the media-year after year…The never ending dilemma for all 20-some women everywhere celebrating Halloween: how to be sexy enough for the holiday while quashing every desire you have to be funny or creative.

 

Let’s go back to childhood Halloween for a second, if you were a girl and you were younger, you were either going to be Dorothy, a Disney princess, or some equally dainty, protagonist, female character. Then, the awkward teenage years hit, and the award for best Halloween outfit went to the girls who took the opportunity to dress as scandalously as possible, a tradition which continued for all other Halloweens, for all women eventually when we stopped going through puberty physically, but arguably, not mentally.

Now, I say power to the women courageous enough to walk around in sailor-outfitted bikinis. But what really struck me is that apparently, men are looking to Halloween as a way to assess if a woman has sex appeal. On the one day of the year where its okay to dress as freely and as creatively as possible, somehow, its okay for a guy to say, “Well, you didn’t dress the part of slut.”

For example, in this week’s New Girl episode (*spoiler alert*), a main character dumps his long, steady girlfriend because she didn’t come dressed for night-time fun, but came as a Queen wearing a cloak of dogs and cats because she was “Reigning Dogs and Cats.” I thought that was pretty hilarious and clever, but apparently, not enough to keep your man around because you didn’t throw on that naughty nurse costume.

 

Or maybe in the Mindy Project where the guy told her he would only take her as a date to a party if she dressed in the right way for his Halloween bash (although that did have a pretty cute ending, so yay! At least funny gets one point).

Or in Ben and Kate where Kate is encouraged to dress all sexy to impress this neighbor when she is actually going as Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg costume (whatever that is),but ends up wearing a tiny umpire outfit underneath.

This isn’t a rant on Hollywood because art mimics life. And this isn’t about how I only am basing this off of chic TV shows (though, that seems to be all I watch these days). For example, there was the Halloween where I went dressed up as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim versus the world and ended up talking to this cute guy who said my outfit rocked. I was obviously thrilled to talk to someone who was nerdy enough to fall in love with the movie like I did…and as conversation went on, he finally confessed it didn’t matter what I was dressed as, the point was, my skirt was short enough to have him indulge in conversation though the leggings underneath were just not cutting it. Or to have my guy friends tell me on several Halloween, “Ehh…yeah she was dressed funny, but where’s the sexy in that?”

 

And maybe I am hanging with the most pompous crowd on Halloween nights, but this kind of seems to be the case for the majority of Halloween celebrations, enough to actually be shown in pretty much every TV show.  Every Halloween party for 20-something year olds is about showing of and judging the amount of skin shown off. Halloween parties for adults have basically become parades where women get ranked from 1-10 based on how revealing they are but creativity is not valued. Seeing it on TV made me realize this has now become the accepted norm: if your girl don’t dress like a tramp on Halloween, she’s just not bringing sexy back even though she has the only costume no one else is wearing.

So, I guess my goal is to make funny the new sexy. Guys will oogle at us all year, anyway (yes, I said oogle). Halloween is going to be the one day in a year where I can be as creative as possible. So if you see me with wings, a baseball outfit and baseball glove, just remember, I am the Angel in the Outfield even though I am not wearing a tiny white dress to prove it to you.

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A True Hollywood Story Part 3

Finally I entered the room and faced three people:

1) The casting director

2) The guy who would read the other lines, and

3) Some random lady whose purpose I forget.

I was informed Owen Wilson and Wes Andersen would be watching from another room. No pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was placed in front of a video camera and there was a TV where I could see myself from the video feed. I stood inside a square and was told I could use the entire square. My insides were ready to explode with nervousness at this point. I took a deep breath…

The guy began reading his lines and I did my best to start acting out mine. It was all very nerve racking. The guy reading the lines was across the room but I had to pretend like someone was standing in the square with me. In fact, I even had to “kiss” someone but no one was actually there. How in the world do you pretend to have a hot passionate kiss with nothing?? It had seemed so much easier in my apartment. Now there were 3 pair of eyes staring at me, more watching from another room, and worse, I could see myself failing miserably on the TV monitor. This was supposed to be a fun experience- a dream of a lifetime- but I was just a giant, nervous mess.

Suddenly, the casting director paused my audition.

“Tanu,” she said, once again butchering my name, “You look like you aren’t breathing. You haven’t moved at all. And you have been staring at yourself in the TV monitor the whole time. The point is to pretend its not there.”

Wow. I had nothing to say. I was completely humiliated. Clearly I was out of my depths. This was a Hollywood audition, not some intro to stand in front of a camera class. I waited for the evil laugh, the typical Hollywood mockery, and to be kicked out of the room in melodramatic tears.

“Nevertheless,” the lady continued, “You have exactly the kind of look we are looking for. Very natural…and…quirky. Rita is natural and quirky and headstrong. She represents India in this movie- so we want her to be traditional but tough. So this time, I am turning the TV monitor around and you are going to move about that square and pretend this is happening…for real.” She smiled at me kindly as she put away the TV monitor.

I stood there somewhat shocked. All the other girls had had much lesser time to audition. They had been kicked out after 5-7 minutes. If I went again, it meant I was giving nearly a 15 minute audition (now I know why they say 15 minutes of fame).

So I took a deep breath and did it over again. It definitely wasn’t much better, especially the invisible kiss, but the last scene, the one in which my character, Rita, cries and has a breakdown, came out perfectly. I don’t know how to explain it. It was as if all that nervousness and self-esteem got channeled into the character .

When I was done, there was a silence around the room.

“I wish you could’ve done that in every scene,” the casting director told me.

“Thanks,” I said. I was mostly just relieved that  it was over.

I started to walk out and then the casting director caught up with me. “Here,” she said, handing me business cards of some photographers. “In case you ever want real head shots. You aren’t bad you know. Not everyone gets two chances.” She grinned and left me staring, stupefied.

It had only been fifteen minutes long but I felt like everything had changed. Hollywood had told me I had potential, had given me not one but two chances.

As I walked out, the girls stared at me once more. One of them asked how come I had taken so much time, and I told her it was because I had to do it twice since I kept staring at myself in the TV monitor. She smiled with relief and told me, “You never do that. That’s like audition 101, hon.”

I smiled at her politely and kept walking. I realized that audition meant everything to those girls in that room. It was their entire life. Their whole life was being told by some random stranger what they were or weren’t worth. You were lucky if some casting lady liked you or in tears if they told you you were worthless. In 5-7 minutes, your entire preparation was judged and these girls would be lucky if they ever got a single leading role.

Then one day, I heard the film I had auditioned for was released. The film was Darjeeling Limited. The role of Rita went to a girl from England. She went to Oxford to study film and had won a series of awards in film making. I knew this because obviously when the cast came out, I stalked the girl eventually chosen.

I went to see the film, with the friends who helped me prepare for it. I went clutching the 3 scenes they mailed to me in hand, so I could read them while they were being played in the movie (and those scenes are actually in the movie!) The actual actress, Amara Karan, did an incredible job and there was no way I could have ever played that role (there was a nude scene. No way in hell were my parents ever going to let that one happen). But it was true what the casting lady said, for the role of Rita, they were definitely going for someone with more merit and ability than looks…not that Amara isn’t pretty, its just not what was emphasized about Rita’s character.

Few people can say they have auditioned for Hollywood just by chance. I can say that I got too, that it wasn’t a complete nightmare, but it wasn’t for me. Like everything in life, Hollywood fame also comes with work and luck. I just don’t think I could spend my entire life putting in effort to go to auditions and trying to be validated by other people, only to see those roles go to other people simply because someone else had a different idea in mind. Those other girls in the audition room spent their whole lives trying to get the 15 minutes I got. It all seemed too stupid and arbitrary. I was better off cultivating my mind.

My Hollywood dream was a pipe dream and while I still haven’t let go of wanting to be famous and a superstar, I know its not a path I can ever consciously work toward.

What I did learn was that I loved acting. I always knew that, but that conviction grew even stronger as I walked out of the audition. So I scaled my dream down to something more realistic- learning acting instead of wanting fame. I went back to Irvine and auditioned for a play in college and was happy to receive a role.

Oh and a last note about the insanity that is Hollywood: Weeks after my audition, I called the number I had been using to contact the audition people in order to follow-up with them. When I called, it said the number did not exist. So I tried googling the building and calling that number, but even that did not exist and it said the building was a dance studio. Seriously. Ninja style. I guess they really mean it when they say don’t call us- we’ll call you.

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A True Hollywood Story Part 2

First of all, I apologize since I realize I may have left this cliff hanger hanging a bit TOO long, but seriously, some months are just crazy and this past one was something special. More on that later.

So too recap- I wanted to be a movie star but went to college in Irvine instead, but somehow ended up getting a call from Hollywood to come audition for a Wes Andersen film. And our journey begins from when I found a mysterious brown package on my doorstep…

I grabbed the parcel without the return address and opened it carefully. Inside were three pages, each were three different scenes from the movie. In addition to the scenes was a simple piece of paper that told me the time, place and date of my audition, which was only 3 days away from the day I received the package. No pressure.

I read the script and as I did, it dawned on me, that perhaps acting was not so simple after all. The script went something like this:

Character One: What?

Character Two: Nothing.

Character One: You know how I feel.

Character Two: Do I?

Character One (crying): Why…if…when you…left the train…

Now, it seems simple enough when you are reading it to yourself, but when literally the script is nothing but a few short dialogues without any emotion, any other descriptions, you are left to fill the void and bring those words to life. Hence the art of acting, that too realistically and subtly.

So began my 72 hour crash course into the world of acting. I had only two allies: my friend who submitted my picture on Craigslist (its his fault he got himself involved), and the only friend I had who owned her own sophisticated video camera.

The three scenes sent to me were vastly different from each other. One was neutral- just two people having a conversation. The second, my character was ecstatically happy but also bewildered. And in the third, my character was angry and upset and near tears. Most of all, my character required an Indian accent and a clash of tradition meets rebellion. Simple right?

The three of us became a dedicated team trying to mold me into “Rita.” My friend would read the dialogues, while I would act out the scenes, and my friend would film it. We rehearsed day and night, and I definitely did not improve, but I did become more and more confident in front of the camera. After all, what had I really got to lose?

That was, of course, right before we watched my “audition takes” and realized I really had no clue what I was doing. My neutral was sad, my sad was hysterical, and my happy was frozen nervous self who thought happiness was a cheesy plastered smile that never leaves the face. Basically, I was about as good as Kristen Stewart but without the haunting hotness.

But the one thing I did not have to worry about was the Indian accent. I had that down pretty well.

The night before the audition I realized I did not have something everyone else in Hollywood does: a head shot and acting resume. The audition was in less than 8 hours and I was about as prepared as a gorilla trying out for the part of Lassie.

So my friend and I got together and using a white wall, holding up a lamp, and using black and white features on the digital camera, we came up with the most professional looking thing we could:

Which I guess isn’t half bad when you consider professional head shots cost $500 minimum.

So, head shot and a fake resume in hand, I headed to Los Angeles- correction, no to Hollywood, for my calling to fame.

Upon arriving to a nondescript cream colored building by the Scientology Church in Hollywood, I headed inside the wooden doors that seemed to seamlessly blend in with the walls. In short, it was a building no one would notice.

Inside, I was guided to a waiting area which was exactly like I had always imagined: It was a narrow corridor with a table that was laid out with a few refreshments, cushioned chairs, and many, many, Indian girls pacing nervously. About 14 or so in total.

I mean what had I expected, that I would be the only one? No, but I was certainly the shortest, most plain-looking and least dressed up one. Most girls were between 5’7″ and 6 feet, with heels. They were fully dressed in Indian clothes, with flowing black hair, and professional make-up done. In short, they were dressed as though headed for a beauty pageant or a wedding. I, on the other hand, had worn an Indian-looking shirt on top of jeans, flats, and definitely did not look like Jasmine brought to life. Basically, that waiting room was every boys dream, filled with glamour and beauty. I was literally star struck and I wasn’t even witnessing the rich and the famous yet.

I noticed that my head shot was nothing like the other women’s head shots. All head shots were printed on glossy paper with colored pictures and extensive resumes on the back. Mine was regular old letter-sized paper, black and white, with a stapled resume that made up some acting experience based on a few roles I had done for family gatherings. Yes, seriously.

I caught glances at some of these resumes which listed roles like, “Soccer Player, Bend It Like Beckham,” or “Miss Southeast Asia, Los Angeles,” or my personal favorite, “Background dancer, Bollywood Films.” I probably could have added that too.

One of the potential “Ritas” finally asked me, “What do you do?” All eyes turned to me. It was obvious I was not one of the herd. That and it seemed most girls knew each other from other films.

“Well, I..uhh…go to UC Irvine and major in English…” There was silence.

“What do you do?”

“Well, I was in New York working on music-release of my new album-but my agent flew me out here for this audition.” More awkward silence. “You need to fill out these forms,” she told me, handing me some papers tucked behind the refreshments.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, as she turned away to converse with other, less clueless auditionees.

I quickly scanned the papers. Like most job applications, it asked for your contact information and recent place of work. Unlike most job applications, it also asked for your bust size, thigh circumference, weight, waist size, height, agent name and contact, your regular workout, your last audition, your last role, and finally, your last haircut.

I was once again floored. I had no idea what my bust size, thigh circumference, or agent name  and contact was since I never had one. I also couldn’t remember the place of my last haircut. Nothing in my university classes had prepared me for this. I had spent so much of my time cultivating my brain that I had no idea my biggest call to fame opportunity would rest on things such as my bust size. I could see my dreams of stardom floating away once again as I began to fill in believable guesses (also known as: fibs) for the form.

Just as I was filling the form, I heard my name being butchered by a skinny, middle-aged blonde woman. She beckoned me to follow her into a room as another girl walked out, holding her head high, but looking downtrodden all the same. I hoped it was because she had just acted out a sad scene and not because her haircut was too current, or worse, too old.

Finally, I entered the room and faced…

*WHAT!? SERIOUSLY!? ANOTHER CLIFF HANGER AFTER ALL THIS WAIT!???* Don’t be angry…I do fear and love you all…to be continued only til tomorrow!

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