For those of you who don’t know, Asteroid is a feature film I was cast in and filmed in August 2020. I have spoken a lot about my experience on this set, you can read more here, here, and here. And because I’m me, it’s only right that I share a story along with such a beautiful career and general life milestone.
On one of my days off during shooting, I took advantage of being able to actually go outside during the pandemic and also being in the stunning landscapes of Upstate New York in the Summer.
I landed myself in what looked like a Windows Macintosh 2004 background IRL. As I walked through the sprawling field of sunshine, daisies, and actually not that many bugs, I kept thinking “Is this real??”
I sat down on a rock, looked out over the lakes and lush greenery of Cooperstown, and pulled out my journal. Because what else.
I got weepy as I remembered another amazing milestone I experienced in Upstate New York 16 years prior -- My time at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts.
I believe we all know our personal purpose in life from a very young age. On dates in the past, I've been asked how I define “personal purpose."
“I think purpose is at the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and using that to impact the world in a positive way.” I replied. One guy who had a fancy job in finance at Amazon said “I can tell you’re a writer. That was incredibly eloquent.” Thank you, I am so flattered.
Another guy who runs his own music lessons business said “Wow. Yeah, I don’t think I’m doing that.” I told him he probably is. Those kids likely adore him and he’s imparting invaluable skills of artistry in their lives.
Anyway, neither of those dates came to anything but I hope they’re a little closer to finding their personal purpose after that spectacular wisdom I dropped over drinks I didn’t pay for. #purposedrivenlife
The thing about personal purpose is it gets squelched out as we age. Whether it’s from familial, societal, and/or economic pressures, over time, we all begin to morph ourselves into something other than our design. I believe this is the number one contributor to mental and physical un-health, but maybe that’s just me being woo woo.
I was fortunate enough to have parents who always encouraged pursuing my personal purpose. They really did believe God made me with exactly the set of gifts I was supposed to sparkle shower the world with, and they would never get in the way of allowing that shower of sparkle to occur.
So when I turned 14 -- amidst having a pretty gnarly go at anorexia and depression -- and told my parents I wanted to go to theatre camp in New York, they didn’t say no.
Well, my dad didn’t say no. He said “Make it happen.” I think my mom didn’t say anything because she was scared for me to go but thought maybe it would help me find my joy again and didn’t want to get in the way.
So I raised the money. I called local businesses and asked for donations for a raffle. I washed cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I washed more cars in my driveway. I babysat out the wazoo. I was a determined mother fucker, even at 14. I raised all $5,000 it took to fly me to and from camp, pay for the 3 week session, and buy new clothes because my skinny anorexic ass had nothing to wear. Oh bless me.
Per a typical Midwesterner/someone who hadn’t traveled outside of their United States region ever, I didn’t realize there is a difference between New York City and every other part of New York. I thought a camp for theatre would be in the theatre mecca! It wasn’t. It was “Upstate.” Whatever the hell that meant.
On my bus ride from the airport, I discovered Upstate meant gorgeous mountains, abounding greenery, and shimmery lakes! “This is stunning!” I thought. Not the City, but it will do. Camp was in the Catskills, and my heart was a-flutter.
Upstate New York is where I was cast in my first play and learned I LOVED acting. I LOVED telling stories through hard scripts, learning dialects, and collaborating with other actors, directors, lighting designers, the whole creative lot. Being part of the magic of making a production and then making the audience feel things made me feel all the things!
Upstate Upstate New York is where God, Sex, and Rich People was born. I met my first gay person and began asking questions about why God wouldn’t like gay people. It was where I learned of the 1% and of their cultural habits like being able to send their kid to camp all Summer for $15,000. Like there were actually kids/teens in America who didn’t have to wash cars to pay for fancy theatre camp?? Lucky fucks.
It was Upstate where I learned even in the midst of a really dark time in life, so much good can happen. I was suffering from an eating disorder and depression, but I was not my eating disorder and depression. My mom was right. Camp helped me find my joy again. I learned that incredible healing occurs when we align with our highest, personal purpose.
Those 3 weeks of acting in Upstate New York changed the trajectory of my life. Those 3 weeks in Upstate New York are where I found my personal purpose in storytelling through acting and, although I didn't know it quite yet, writing about experiences for the sake of helping others heal.
I know it’s cheesy as hell (I am what I am) but as I sat atop that rock overlooking Otsego Lake in Upstate New York, I felt overwhelmed with awe and gratitude at getting to have such an amazing experience in an acting career milestone in the place where I discovered how much much I loved acting. Upstate New York is where my acting and storytelling journey started! And here I was again, getting to do the thing I adore in a place that is so dear to my heart with incredible people. AND I would get to (eventually) share it with all my friends and family who knew me when I was raising money for that rich kid theatre camp and can now watch me shine on Amazon Prime.
In the throes of the uncertainty, doubt, and insecurity that I will inevitably experience in this life of an actor/writer/artist, I will always remember to marvel at the magic of life’s unfolding. That when I am aligned with my personal purpose, things come together in the most perfect for me, divine design, sweetest of ways.
Now go cuddle up with some hot cider and kettle corn and watch me (perhaps unconvincingly) play the mom of an angsty teen in Upstate New York.