Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh Grad School

I'm done with one year. What the fuck. What have I learned? Let's see if I can make it short:
As human beings, and artists, we try to communicate a story to someone else through behavior and speech. Everything we do with our bodies, including voice, either tells the audience what we want them to know or not. We are humans that possess an emotional life that develops everyday of our life and we have a feeling towards everything no matter how small or large that is. Over time we build habits in our bodies that protect us from feeling and being comfortable in every situation. Those habits get in the way of communicating, breathing, speaking, and sharing our emotional life with others. Grad school is to teach us how to get out of our own way when we're on stage. As actors, we are full of tensions, mannerisms, and defense mechanisms that keep us from being as true to the emotional life of the character and play that can be. Emotions and behavior are found in the breath.
In the past 20 years, I have found every possible way to protect myself from my emotions and in turn, have kept myself from feeling really bad. I have dealt with depression on and off for over 20 years. I have dealt with anxiety, fear, panic, anger, self doubt, and countless other things that have kept me from fulfilling my dreams and kept me at an arms length of everything I've ever wanted. With three weeks to go in school, some things have triggered in my body and life and I'm a vulnerable open soul that is dealing with demons of my past and living in the now. Guess what? It fucking sucks. It sucks like a prostitute in Times Square in the 80's. It sucks like the show "Shit My Dad Says". I'm now out of my head and into my body and guess what? Summer Vacation!!! Oh good! Now I have nothing to do all day but live in this open sucky state.
I'm ok. At the end of the day it doesn't kill me. It keeps me from being hyper and passionate, but that should come with time. I'm not protecting myself. Really, I don't give a fuck what other people think of me. All I care about is myself. I'm not going to stop caring about others. I will always care about others. I'm feeling. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I'm close to being a real actor.
I've realized for the 6,876th time in my life, life isn't fair and unfortunately, it doesn't seem to get easier on the 6,877th time. It's how the hero rises from this that's important. One step at a time. One scene at a time. One breath at a time. One day at a time. One class at a time. What is my character's arch? Have I lived the best that I could have so far? Not at all and that means two things. 1) When the best does happen, the amount of happiness and excitement is more than I've ever felt in my life, and that is going to world changing 2) It's not going to be easy. Actually, it's going to be harder than I anticipated. And that my friends, scares the living shit out of me but I do, I do, I do believe in myself and know that I'm capable of accomplishing it.
I love my family.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How do I what?

"So Jason, how does that make you feel?".......... What? I don't know if you understand. I'm a 35 year old heterosexual male who watches sports, bartends, and works out. I don't feel. Or if I do, I try to repress those feelings and shove them down as low as possible. What? I'm an actor and that might be the reason I only made it as far as I have so far? What do you mean I have to start feeling? Why don't you just replay every game that a team from Cleveland has played and I'm sure I'll tap into anger, disappointment, and utter defeat. I don't think you understand, when I feel, that means I become vulnerable, and that leads to pain and confusion. If I control my feelings I can almost assure you that I'll always be happy and hysterical! I don't like that you say if I repress my feelings they're going to explode out one day and make every minute of every hour extremely difficult to get through. Oh..... so that's what's been happening these past couple weeks. I liked being silly. I don't like this real shit. I'm actually getting back to the point where I'm shoving all those feelings right back to where they can't be seen or felt again!!! Yay Jason!!!
When did it occur in my life that guys don't cry? Why do I resist feeling normal human emotions when I'm on stage? My brain is involved. I might not be as smart as my brother, but for some reason I can never turn off my brain when I get involved with something. An artist is supposed to feel from the gut. The blood, organisms, energy, and life is what dictates my work, but for some reason I feel I can outsmart everything. One of my professors told me that everything I do I relate to 9/11 and of course things don't trigger an emotion in me like that did. Let's see: I get sad when terrorists invade my city and 3,000 of my neighbors get murdered. So what is the proper emotion when my pet dies in a play? It's something that a weighted scale doesn't have much impact on.
I have to feel. I have to let myself be affected by things. I need to stop thinking my way through events. I need to let movies have an emotional effect on me other than Major League, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, and Miracle. Maybe if I only do plays about sports I should be just fine.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trying to Figure It Out

I've been going through a ridiculous phase of depression, anxiety, and/or panic. My body has been in constant flux. I've been nauseous. I've been confused. I've been static. I've been banging my head on the wall. With a nice conversation over some sand papering of neutral masks with my buddy Alex tonight, I finally was able to set up a visual description of what has been bothering me for a week and years.
Let me try to write a description of this image I have. That sounds stupid. This isn't an answer to anything. I'm actually opening it up for description. It's how I feel right now.
I feel the life of an artist is that of a circle. More specifically a roller coaster that just spins in a circle at a pretty rapid pace. Everything we work on has a beginning and an end, then we begin, then it ends, then we begin something else, then that ends, and so on and so on. Actors who are successful go round and round with their projects but it starts as a horizontal coaster, just a few feet off the ground, it gets higher, then vertical, then higher, until you can see it off the interstate as you're approaching the amusement park and that's the ride you want to get on. I almost see the roller coaster's rising as levels on a video game. You beat that guy you get to level 2, then to level 3, and once you get to level 4, you can never go below that level if you should die. Once you get to level 10, you do anything you can not to die because you'd go all the way back to level 4.
Well here's the situation I feel I'm in. My roller coaster consists of one loop and a whole bunch of smaller loops that extend from that big loop. My car has been going around that main loop for years and years. That's my level 1 loop. It's only a few feet off the ground. I've been on that loop for a loooong time. I have been on many outside loops in the past 16 years which include, but not limited to: being on tour, living in NYC, girlfriends, playing guitar in concert, doing photography, reading, writing, singing, producing, AEA, AFTRA, countless classes, directing, choral conducting, sing doo wop, theory, projects, movies, tv shows, books, physical training, working with kids, bartending, meeting people, and many other things that have occupied my days, months, and years. The thing that pisses me off is that none of my outside loops have exceeded level 4 and beyond. As written in my previous entry, what I've noticed is that my mistakes and minimal drive to follow through with things has kept me from raising the levels on any of them. I go round and round on one of them and eventually get shot back to the Level 1 main loop that by now, feels like a chaffed ass on a hot summer day.
My frustration is my inability to really strengthen any of my specifics. That's not exactly what my frustration is, it's the fact that I hold every possible thing I need to succeed in doing that but somehow find a way not to. Is it the fear of success? Do I believe I should be completely happy? Do I fear growing older? Do I sabotage myself? Do I have too many interests and can't focus on just one? Am I scared to fail? Why do I continuously think that it will get done one day and not believe and trust that today could be the day? That last question stings me. I procrastinate better than anyone I know, almost to the point that I hijack my progress, and ultimately, the career I could have had.
I'm amazing when I have a deadline. I might just hire someone to be a full time professor and life coach and punish me when I don't follow through. Actually, that sounds like a dominatrix and that's for something totally different.
I'm sick of watching people pass me up and succeed while I stay one step behind for whatever reason I can come up with. It's my fault. I keep that car on the level 1 loop and it goes around and around and it's starting to make me very sick. I strive for stimulus and a new loop, and then I avoid it or ruin it. It's not every day when you can map out the wrongdoings of your life. Then turn around and get scared that you've seen a lot of years pass by and you didn't hop on for the ride. Everybody says that 35 isn't old, but lately I've been feeling just a tad bit slower on trusting the fact that everything is going to work out the way it should be. What is that "should be"? I don't know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm What Age??

I haven't been inspired to write in a while even though everything is bat shit crazy here. Then today, I got a message that made my brain flood out. My friend from Otterbein, Celina, is celebrating her 35th birthday today. I celebrated mine back in February. Celina texted me and reminded me that back in college (when texting didn't exist), we made a pact that we would get married when we were 35 if neither of us were by then. Holy shit. That's today. Here were two kids, maybe 20-22 years old, sitting in the palace, or in a fog of smoke at Jonda, or walking to the PIT catch some disease from the carpet, and were thinking waaaaaay ahead to the future when we would be old and figured it would be unheard of to be unmarried at 35. Wow. If something happened today that was the universe telling me something, it was this.
What do we think at the end of college? We're going to marry someone we already know, we're going to get a job in something that we've been studying for the past 4 years, and we have the tools to face any challenge that we come across. Well I wish someone would've taken a frozen deer and bashed me over the head at that moment. I'm 35. I'm fucking 35! What have I been doing for the past 13 years? If this was an essay question on a test, I'd simply answer "I don't know". A lot of significant events and absence o events stick out in my mind. I remember being in NYC. I remember seeing a whole bunch of shows that I couldn't tell you the first thing about, I dated some girls, I made a lot of money, I met thousands of people, I traveled around the city and saw anything and everything. I toured for almost 5 years. I saw the country. I saw the world. I did tv. I did movies. I produced. I directed. I taught. I was a trainer. I was a bartender. I figure I was in NYC for almost 4,400 days of my life. I want one of those days back.
I hate to say this, but I feel I've wasted so much time. I feel like I'm 35 going on 22. I have found a way to let the world move forward and somehow I feel like I sat there and watched it go by. 4,400 days! It's a blur. I moved there to be an actor and I got scared. I found stability and I punked out. I should be able to list 4400 things that I did to work my way UP the ladder, but I feel like I have 3,000 things that have made me a stationary jogger.
I think I sabotage myself so I don't move forward. I focus on my mistakes. I focus on what has held me back. I live my life always believing I WILL do something. EVENTUALLY I will get to something. When does that stop for me? It makes me cry. I sometimes stand isolated and the only phrase that rolls around in my head is "I am a waste". I know what my potential is and I'm nowhere near it and I refuse to do anything about it. I'm not even doing anything now. I'm writing about not doing anything! One of the things I want to do is write!
35 is approaching 40 and that scares the living shit out of me. Gas is almost 4 dollars a gallon. That scares the living shit out of me. Watching the news scares the shit out of me. Listening to firings, layoffs, tuition increases, lower test scores, economy struggles, partisan politics, insurance problems, hatred, death, cutbacks, closings and all other things that will affect me scares the shit out of me.
For some reason, the whole world came crashing down on me this week and I realized I don't think I have what it takes to make it. I have big ideas and dreams and I don't trust myself to follow them through. It frustrates me to all hell because it's all on me. There's a part of me that knows no matter how hard I work, it doesn't matter. I'm being swallowed up by a large void and I have dropped my weapons and have stopped fighting. I have so many things that have been considered successes that I have either not followed through with or destroyed. I have things that I have put an effort into that I have stopped short doing. I have things I want to do and have worldly ideas for that I have never begun. Of the three, which do I even begin to take on as a challenge?
Here is the 35 year old, looking back on myself at 22 and saying "Jason, you have no clue. You're going to make mistake after mistake. The problem is you will have trouble learning from them. At 35, you'll still feel like you do at 22 but only with more physical and emotional scars, more stories, more experience, and things are going to be more expensive." Celina and I thought 35 was going to be major marker in our lives, but actually is a crater in the war ground of my life and I've got my head down and keep charging and hope to kill some enemy along the way.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.......Well I want it back. I should have done this. I could have done that. I would have done that. These phrases go through my head way too many times in a day. I know it's wrong, but I don't seem to change the pattern. And why? Because I know what the past was about. I know I survived it. I know what I liked and didn't like...... But the future fucking scares me. I know I'm going to continue to make mistakes and that hurts me so much. I've made enough mistakes for 300 lifetimes. I'm a mistake machine.