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Phoenix Heart

 
 

It's January 8th, 2017. Today would have been David Bowie's 70th birthday. Instead, two days from now many of us will mourn the one year anniversary of his passing. My first post in this blog was shortly after that, discussing how his death affected me as a person and an artist. Right now as I write this post, "Rock n Roll Suicide" is playing on my turntable, the encore from the David Bowie Live Santa Monica '72 album, the song I love so much I tattooed a lyric from it over my heart. "Oh no love, you're not alone." "Ho lo ahuva, lo at l'vod."

It's 2017, and one year ago today I was in Jerusalem with a group of strangers, a few of whom had become fast friends. We visited the Kotel and I said a prayer, felt the presence of my Jewish grandfather that I never met, and thanked the city and the spirits for a special day. I wore a Bowie shirt, in honor of his birthday, and thought of all the things I had to be grateful for. Three days later, eleven days into the year, while sitting in an Israeli national park, I found out my hero had died in the night.

It's 2017, and 2016, the garbage year that so many of us struggled and fought through and hopefully survived, is over. My hope is that 2017 will be better, some would say it has to be, but then we look at the state of politics and social divisions in America and I'm not so sure, but I have to have hope. (I tattooed that on me, too.)

It's 2017, it's Bowie's birthday, and I'm remembering Bowie, the icon, someone I never saw live, but whose music and artistry and passion I loved. Bowie was never afraid to be who he was, whoever that was, and was not afraid for that to change, dramatically and often.

 
I feel confident imposing change on myself. It’s a lot more fun progressing than looking back. That’s why I need to throw curveballs.
— David Bowie
 

That concept is key to me, as an artist - to be willing, able, and sometimes even eager to change. As a Taurus, I am innately opposed to change, so it's something I constantly struggle with. However I think a focus on progress, moving forward, and evolving is important. Letting things die so new things can be born is a part of life. And that idea is why I relate so strongly to the iconography and lore of the mythical phoenix.

 
Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.
— Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
 

Phoenixes, in addition to all the traits above, are most known as creatures of rebirth, bursting into flames and being reborn from the ashes. If ever there was an artist who was a phoenix, it was Bowie, constantly creating and killing new personas every few years, from Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane to Halloween Jack and the Thin White Duke. Ultimately all of these characters became disposable in the face of something new. All simultaneously eternal, ephemeral, and empty. 

2016 was full of many goodbyes, celebrity deaths, jobs ending, life changing, and 2017 will be no different. In August Fuerza Bruta, where I had worked for nearly six years, finally closed off-Broadway. Next week I face saying goodbye to my new Broadway family at Jersey Boys when the show ends its historic eleven-year run on January 15th. After performing with the company at Gypsy of the Year last month, I have truly felt a part of the JB family at the August Wilson Theatre, and next week's ending is sure to be a tearful one for many including myself. I admit auditioning and other career moves have been on a bit of a slow track over the last couple months as I've spent almost every day at one job or another and almost every night at Jersey Boys, seeing the run through to its close. But even big Broadway machines eventually die (except Phantom). So now I face two months of less certainty in my work life, another opportunity to reinvent my future, a chance to lay the groundwork for 2017.

Beginning is challenging. Starting new is scary. But if one of the biggest pop stars of all time could do it, very publicly, and right up to the very end of his life, I think I'll be alright. Let's light this fire together, everybody. May your 2017 be full of bravery, risks, adventure, and success.

 
My new year's tarot spread today, with my Bowie deck. The death card came up today, as it has every year at the start of the year. Big ch-ch-ch-changes ahead!

My new year's tarot spread today, with my Bowie deck. The death card came up today, as it has every year at the start of the year. Big ch-ch-ch-changes ahead!

 

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The Hard Work of Being Broke

The only "selfie" I took in Israel - at sunrise atop Masada, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The only "selfie" I took in Israel - at sunrise atop Masada, a UNESCO world heritage site.

A facebook friend just posted one of those inspirational quote photos - you know, with the mountains and the sunset (kinda like that picture up there) and big block letters - that said "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." That post was immediately followed by another friend's post, a cartoon of a horse on the phone that said "when my parents ask me why I only have two dollars in my bank account" and the caption "because I have no self-control and I hate myself." Of late my bank account has had a much smaller number than I'm usually comfortable with. I have always prided myself on being fairly frugal and completely financially independent. I'm lucky enough to have no student debt, and I work hard enough to pay off my credit card bill every month and pay my rent on time. I do okay.

In the last six months or so, I've been able to adjust my jigsaw puzzle of a work schedule (at present I have four jobs; that's pretty standard) so that I have time for things like going to auditions and working on my play - creative endeavors that previously took a backseat to three years of making myself financially stable after college, so that I could afford to stay in New York and do things like go to auditions and work on my play. So, huzzah! I achieved a goal! I am maintaining that goal! Yet now as I get to spend more time doing those artistic things that don't pay out (yet), my bank account sits at a consistently lower balance than I'd ideally like. 

When I look at the number that is (usually) higher than my next rent check or (barely) credit card bill, I get a little anxious that I don't have more of a cushion to fall back on in an emergency. But I have chosen to forge my path in the shoes of an artist, and that is not a path of security. So while I fill my bank account to dance around the line of "just enough for one new sweater" or "I'll pretend I can afford this vintage record," I've been able to fill my life to dance around the world, taking exciting trips to inspiring places. 

Back in November I traveled to England to visit a friend and together we went to Berlin. In January I took my birthright trip to Israel. People said I was "lucky" to get to travel so much. But luck only has a little to do with it. True, it wasn't hard work that gave me a Jewish parent, which entitled me to a free trip to Israel, but luck had nothing to do with me saving up nearly $1,000 to take a trip to Europe. That was working seven days a week and putting a weekly $20 in a coffee can for a year. No accident, no moment of luck or chance put me on a plane to London.

And sure. I could have put that money in the bank, or kept that money in my coffee can to pretend it didn't exist until an emergency arrived and I needed an extra month's rent. But I'm not the cautious, stingy kid I once was. I'm proud to say adulthood has made me a little reckless. Still responsible, still paying my bills, but free to splurge on what I've worked hard for. I'm making a living and making a life. I have self-control and I don't hate myself, even if my bank account is on the small side. I'm free to build my actor's life, my writer's perspective, one audition, one trip at a time.

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