Well hello again!
So I spent some time in hibernation. Partially when I was home in Cleveland, and then when I came back to New York. This was all part of the plan to “figure my life out.”
Unfortunately, I still don’t have all the answers, but I have come to several realizations.
Being alone for long stretches of time is not really my “thing.” I’m a social butterfly; I thrive on human contact and emotion. However, I needed time to clear my head of what everyone else’s opinions were of me, and figure out what my own opinions of myself are.
So here are my thoughts.
1. Being alone sucks at first, but then it gives one clarity
I did NOT like my first few days alone. I felt depressed and low. I wanted to sleep a lot and felt lazy. After about day two, I decided enough was enough.
I started taking walks, connecting with myself. I went to bookstores and coffee shops. I went to parks and people watched. I cleaned my room and purged unnecessary clutter. I worked out and appreciated all the bone and muscle and sinew that made up my body. I cooked myself meals and put leftovers in the fridge for later. I submitted for castings that I never normally would have deemed myself worthy of submitting. I auditioned for a show where I knew I wasn’t the best fit (it was a very technical dance audition), didn’t get a callback, but still felt like I rocked it out. I went to an open mic alone, and soaked up all the unknown talent in the room. I prepped for singing auditions. I re-did my resume (both professional and performance). I watched World Cup soccer with strangers. I wrote a few more chapters of my book. I worked on a new demo. I wrote music. I went to an art exhibit called The Strangers Project and anonymously shared my story on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper for this artists collection.
Over this time, I cried a little bit, but I also smiled a lot. I got headaches from thinking too much, but I also started to feel my old feelings of self worth. Which brings me to my next thought…
2. I am worth a lot more than I give myself credit
The great thing about being alone, is you can completely separate your own thoughts from the thoughts of others, because there is no one else around you but yourself.
I started to realize that most of the negative thoughts that I had about myself, (ie my talent as an actress, my talent as a singer, my weight, my looks, my personality) were not coming from me. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure I like everything about myself at the moment. I was letting people on the outside project their insecurities on to me.
And the moment I was truly aware of how low my self esteem had gotten over the last 6 months, was when I was lucky enough to work with a high-profile actor in a featured roll and no one even thought twice about the fact that I wasn’t a size 0. No one fucking cared. Wanna know why? Because I’m fucking great at what I do. I have a great fucking attitude. And because I’m extremely fucking talented.
3. I’m not apologizing for being talented anymore
We are taught growing up, especially if you happen to be female, to be modest and humble about your strengths. I agree with this to a certain point. I don’t believe we should all walk around thinking we’re better than anyone else, because in the end, we all end up in the ground. However, I’m not going to allow myself to undermine my talent anymore.
I remember after Ro died and I was just getting back to Berklee. I saw a music business job pop up in my Berklee email about a talent buyer position. It was asking for people with “experience” of which I had very little in the actual business. But you know what? I was so confident in my ability to do that job that I went in and impressed the HELL out of my future boss. Did I have the credentials some of these students had? Absolutely not. But then, not only did I get that job, but I ended up working for a woman who became a mentor, a friend, a second mother to me. She told me later after I’d gotten the job, that it was clear from the moment I walked into that interview that I was qualified, even if I didn’t have all the technical “qualifications.”
For a while out here in New York, I was paralyzed with the fear of going to auditions or submitting for things I didn’t think I was “right for, or “skinny enough” for, or “talented enough” for. Fuck that.
I’m not saying this to try to brag. I’m saying this because I don’t believe it enough of myself.
Last week I went to an audition for Rock of Ages for their open dance call for a cruise line. When they called my group of about 20 people into the room, I could tell everyone was sizing each other up. Not me. I was calm, confident, only concerned with myself. I tuned everyone else out, and focused solely on my performance. When the choreographer taught the dance, I knew it was a bit of a stretch for me since it involved a lot of technique that I simply do not have. I’m a great hip hop dancer, and I pick up choreography quickly, but there were elements like turns and kicks that I was only able to display with mediocrity. When it was my turn to dance in front of the casting director, I threw them my fiercest face, hit every single count with raw energy, and had passion shooting out from my fingertips all the way to my toes. I didn’t get the callback, but I had people come up to me afterward and commend me on standing out in the crowd. I was a little sad about not getting to sing for them, but there was nothing in that audition I could have done better. I left everything on the dance floor, and that was that. Maybe next time they’ll see me in a different light and maybe they won’t. It’s out of my hands, so why stress?
4. Sometimes seemingly serendipitous events occur, but they just turn out to be fruits of my labor.
I got some great news the other day, and had an amazing opportunity thrown my way. (I apologize that I can’t really discuss specifics. The industry and productions deserve all the respect and privacy they ask for, so please respect my vagueness.) When I got the call, I couldn’t believe that I had been chosen, and thought maybe this was a “sign” that I’m on the right path to where I want to be.
While I do believe this event occurred at precisely the right time, this wasn’t serendipity. No, this was my hard work paying off. Had I just sat in my room beside myself, none of this would have happened. I put myself out into this strange world that we call the entertainment industry, and someone finally said, “Yes, Shannon. We believe in you. You are our choice.”
I get told, “no” a lot. It takes a strong stomach to walk away from those “nos” and keep searching for that one “yes.”
AND BOY DID IT FEEL FUCKING GREAT TO GET THAT “YES!”
To be incredibly honest, today was the first day where I thought to myself, “Hey Shan, you might actually be able to make a career out of this,” and actually mean it. Sure it has always been my hope and my dream to sing/act/perform for a living, but I seldom every call it more than just that: a dream.
This is not a dream for me anymore. This is my life, my livelihood. Today when I walked off set, I was so sad that my day was ending, even though I was dehydrated, sweaty and tired from waking up at the crack of dawn. I live and breathe to be in front of an audience. I can’t even go to a concert, a movie, a play without an intense anxiety and want to be up there. I don’t want to be an observer of the arts, I want to be the art. I want to share my talent.
Having said all this, I have not gotten any of these opportunities by knowing someone famous, or having a lot of money, or being the skinniest/prettiest girl at the casting. I’m the underdog. I’m the loud/quirky girl with big hips and a bigger personality. I got down on my knees, dug in the dirt, planted my seed, and slowly watched it grow. I’ve clawed myself to the top of a mountain where I’ve been bruised, cut, knocked down, even knocked out for a while. I’m not at the top of the mountain, but maybe I’ve reached a small peak.
5. Positive thinking is quite the powerful tool
I let my life be controlled by the negative. My thinking was always, “How long will I be able to do this?” or “Will I ever ‘make it?'” or “Will I ever be skinny or beautiful or perfect enough?” When it should have been, “How can I make sure I will be able to do this for the rest of my life?” or “What is my definition of ‘making it’ that will make me happy and fulfilled?” or “What is unique about me, my personality and my looks that no one else has?”
Every day since I’ve come home from Cleveland, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and told myself one thing that I like about myself both physically and spiritually. For example, one of the first few days, I wasn’t feeling so hot about my body, but I looked at myself and told “mirror Shan” that I had nice eyebrows and I have the ability to make people laugh. I started small, and pretty soon, every time I caught myself in the mirror, I was screaming inside with happiness about the person I was looking at.
Sure, there were points where I went a few steps backward and stood in the mirror and pinched at my thighs and wondered why I was still single after 2 1/2 years of not dating, but who cares? My life is pretty damn great with my big thighs and no boyfriend to distract me.
6. There are plenty of people who still want to see you fail, but more people want you to succeed
Ro used to always tell me, “Misery loves company.” She was right. If a person is unhappy with themselves, they will project that unhappiness and those insecurities on to you. Plain and simple. Fuck, I’ve been guilty of it. I’ve probably unintentionally projected my negative feelings onto others, and for that I’m sorry.
I hate to quote Mean Girls right now… Awww who am I kidding? I would LOVE to quote mean girls right now: “Calling someone fat won’t make you any skinner. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. Ruining someone’s life won’t make yours any better. The only thing that you can do in life is solve the problem that’s in front of you.”
And with that:
7. THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST
I kept putting caps on my dreams because I thought only if I were X, Y or Z that I would be able to “make it.” There is no limit on talent. There is no cap on how many people can function in this industry. There is no rule that says you must “be this tall to ride the entertainment industry ride.” Of course there are shallow, political and shady things that go on, but I don’t need to be a part of them to survive. I’ll be over here, in my hippie clothes, spiky boots, and red lipstick against my pale face, watching everyone else crash and burn, while I’m hunkered down, focused in my bomb shelter.
Thank you Cady Heron! (or shall I say Tina Fey for writing this brilliant piece of pop culture)
Shan Babe ***DROPPING 1,000 MICS*** OUT!
Now THIS is a happy girl!
PS! I am VERY MUCH still raising money for my breast cancer walk in October. Click here to spread the love… bit.ly/shannonavonwalk