Why not me, why not now?

I was a teenager during this weird time where magazines were still something the youths read and social media wasn’t really the dominant force of how we intake information. I grew up in a small town, relatively isolated from mainstream cares. The women around me were kind, but almost uniformly looked down on ambition. I honestly never remember hearing a woman being admired for anything but her beauty or her kindness.

The combination of these factors and the reality that there weren’t really outlets questioning the images we put into young girl’s psyche led to a sort of idolism of perfection that rears its ugly head often for me still. I thought the ONLY successful people in life were size twos, established, came from money, had money, had fame, had a beautiful partner. Don’t even get me started on the heteronormative ideals on femininity I ingested in gulps from the first step I took into youth group.

Black and white thinking ordered my life for a long time. Either you are successful or you are not. Either you are a failure or you are not. Either you are skinny or you are fat. Either you are white or you are Hispanic. Either you are smart or you are not. Either there is a God or there is not. I steadfastly avoided gray areas. I think many of my own struggles with religion came from the inability to find a theological framework that answered every question I had succinctly. The same type of thinking bled over into my ideas about myself.

The leading thought that kept me out of acting for over a year was, “Once I lose sixty pounds, then I will be ready to be an actor.” In my mind, if I wasn’t willing to starve myself for that goal then I wasn’t willing to make the commitment necessary to be a “real” filmmaker. When I finally made myself go out for auditions, I blamed every failure uniformly on my inability to play a thin, quirky girl (which is still an obstacle because of breakdowns written by casting directors blind to social realities). When I got cast for my first short film that would later be selected for SXSW 2019, I was at the heaviest I’d ever been. Walking onto set, I was certain that everyone would be disappointed in my existence. It was that same thought over and over again, either you are perfect or you don’t deserve this opportunity.

It was the same thought over and over again: Either you are perfect or you don’t deserve this opportunity.

Little by little as I got one gig that led to the next, I started to maybe believe that I needn’t reach perfection to continue doing this thing I was obviously good at. I went to classes to improve myself, continued to workout and struggle with my weight. I got used to the constant rejection inherent to acting. SXSW 2019 happened and I got to be a “real” filmmaker for the week – I had a badge and everything to prove it. I wrote and directed and produced my own short. The momentum of success was enough to silence the doubts that plagued me in between projects.

Then I got sick. The momentum was gone. I left my agent when the audition requests stopped coming altogether. I found myself at this same point of needing to believe in myself again, and I felt like I just didn’t quite have the juice for it anymore. My imperfection was a barrier to entry back into the game. It didn’t matter how good I felt, I felt like I had to convince myself and everyone else all over again that I was worth the invest of time and belief. Time passed. I hadn’t applied to any new agents. Hadn’t had any new projects. The weight I had put on during the sedentary lifestyle of illness made me feel like I had fallen backwards.

During our trip to Cancun, I began to ask myself who my role models are now. Unlike the teenage girl I was a decade ago, I have quite a few. Misha Collins is a philanthropist and actor I respect. I love Jamila Al Jamil and iWeigh has honestly changed the way I think about my body. Bryce Dallas Howard is this badass director who is strong and powerful and feminine. So I cleaned up my Instagram feed and let it be filled with people (both celebrities and friends) whose lives looked like what I wanted. Not perfection, but fulfillment. Commitment. Passion.

Universally only one thing was true of all of these people I admire: they weren’t perfect. Some even actively pointed out their flaws in an effort to humanize the idea of celebrity. I hate the idea of “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” (because they aren’t – their personal trainers, chefs, assistants and housekeepers will tell you so). But I finally had found in work and online people who were in the throws of building their life into something meaningful. I wasn’t left with the hollow image of the “final result.” The thought finally hit me, “Why not me?” If I work as hard as these people have at something I’m innately talented at and absolutely love to do, why can’t I build my life again. Whose opinion am I afraid of? Is my fear of failure so powerful I will let it dictate my life?

Failure is such a loaded word anyways. Is it not attaining perfection like I fantasized about as a teen? If so, we are all failures. None of us exist in that perfect state outside of Photoshopped and sanitized essays. Maybe what failure really meant was not even trying. When I asked myself what I was more afraid of, never having an agent again or never getting off of this couch again? – I realized that if I didn’t try, I’d never forgive myself.

So I’ve applied to agents. I’ve applied to some roles. I’ve reached out to a director I’m working on a project with. I’ve started writing the essay for my friend that sounded too important for someone like me. I have as of yet received no gold stars. But I’m trying. I’m giving every day my best, no matter what my best looks like that day. When I ask the question: Why not now, why not me? At least I know the answer will never be because I stopped trying.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

I know it’s so hard to believe that this incredibly well put together human once couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings. But for two yeras of my life, the days where I lay in bed all day were much more frequent than the days I was able to go out and enjoy the world. I’ve suffered from major depressive disorder for years now, and once believed I’d never be able to live a happy healthy life of my own.

My depressive episodes and anxiety are tied to a chronic illness I’ve suffered with since I had mono as an eighteen year old. I’ve also had multiple head traumas that caused the chemicals in my brain to have a hard time adjusting to the world around me. Importantly, neither of those facts connected to my mental health have anything to do with who I am as a person. My depression and anxiety stems from medical, factual issues with my brain chemistry. They are NOT a result of any sort of personal failure on my part.

Use Mental Health Awareness Month as a chance to educate yourself on all of the reason that struggling with mental health is not your fault.

If I have any message at all to the people dealing with mental health issues this month, it’s this: Use May as a chance to educate yourself on all of the reasons that struggling with mental health is not your fault. There is so much stigma attached to struggling with mental health that many internalize this idea of weakness, or failure, or shame. I am here to say that the people I have known who struggled with mental health issues are some of the strongest, bravest men and women I know.

You are not responsible for mental health issues that you suffer with – you are only responsible with how you live your live in response. Throughout the month I will be resharing some of my former mental health posts, sharing accounts and resources for combatting things like social anxiety and depression, and emphasizing surrounding yourself with a community who understands where you are coming from.

There are so many people in this world who really care about you because of, and not in spite of who you are. And your mental health, good or bad is a part of who you are. Don’t shy away from that reality. Instead, honor who you are by giving yourself the best equipment you need to create a happy, healthy life. It’s no different than any other lifestyle change made to accomodate who a person is. Athletes eat different than most people. Cancer patients take medication to help them get better. If your leg is broken you wear a cast. If you struggle with mental health issues, you build a set of treatments and choices that boost those chemicals in your brain that need the help. You are valuable and worthy of making those choices for yourself.

Check out my other posts about living with depression and anxiety here and let me know what specific issues you’d like addressed this month!

Decide for Yourself Who You Will Be

Self determination is a pretty daunting task for a former Calvinist. It’s a joke, but I’m also very serious. I grew up with a road map for my life that while murky in the every day, felt set in concrete somewhere. I had this unwavering faith that every choice I made as long as it was made from a place of prayer would lead me to the right road. When I left the church, I said goodbye to that road. To those highways. To those rules and those speed limits. Have I worn the metaphor out, yet?

Three years ago my life fell apart. Everything I had built around myself no longer felt safe or even made sense to me. The pieces of myself left over after the collapse of a carefully crafted corporate life were parts I had buried beneath years of repressed sexuality and emotions and dreams. Recognizing those yearnings as whispers from my soul took time. Allowing them to be considered valid took longer. Acting on them at all took longer than that.

I had taken the easy way out for the big questions in my life. Who did I want to be? Well, easy. Whoever God created me to be. Read Proverbs 31 and that’s it. That’s who I’m going to be. I was going to work for the church because I liked people and helping them to heal. It didn’t matter that the work itself didn’t fulfill me. The end was the good. The results outweighed the consequences of giving parts of myself away to anyone who walked in the door. More often than not, I was a raw nerve carrying the weight of literal souls I needed to save from the pits of Hell. Evangelism meant my failures were damned. The crushing weight of a broken world made it hard to get out of bed in the morning, sure, but it also made life make sense. My happiness was secondary to the mission. Who I am did not merit deviation from the cause.

Through a complicated breakup that involved untangling decades of theological idealism and a reality created from philosophical naivete, I left the Southern Baptist Church incapable of recognizing things that brought me genuine joy instead of theoretical joy. I remember very clearly sitting in group one Wednesday morning and being asked what my hobbies were. I didn’t have any. I hadn’t played piano seriously in years outside of worship groups. I didn’t draw or paint. Working out was a function and not a release. When a therapist suggested I just do something for fun, it took me months to figure out how to do something that didn’t benefit anyone in any way (It ended up being a plant phase – it passed pretty quickly because I was a fair weather plant mom).

On top of that baggage I carried around an immune system issue that made me sick pretty much all of the time. I saw nine specialists in three years and once had thirteen vials of blood taken in the same day. I took the easy way out again and hid behind that illness for so long. I couldn’t make plans if I didn’t know what the future would look like. What if tomorrow was the day I found out I have cancer? What if I only have ten years to live? These were ony a couple of many serious questions I asked. It took me years of uncertainty to finally tell myself I was tired of being a half person. Who knows the future? No one. Yet people live passionately every day in the face of the unknown. I finally accepted that my circumstances didn’t give me an opt out ticket for being human. To be human is to create a life based only on faith in one thing or another. This time around the faith was just in myself.

These days I still don’t know what makes me sick so often. I may go to a pulmonary specialist next. I may just decide that I just have what I deem Jane Austen syndrome. I’m one of those less mentioned, waifish sisters with a delicate constitution as women are wont to have. Whatever way I choose to go with that aspect of my daily life, it’s secondary to the essential question. Who do I want to be? Doesn’t having faith in yourself mean knowing thyself? How do we order our lives if we don’t know what we want from them?

So lately I’ve been writing down the things I want to be. I want to be strong. I want to be the kind of person people see the best of themselves in. I want to be an actress. I want to be a creator. I want to be compassionate. I want to be an advocate for those who need a voice. I want to be present in my life and in charge of its trajectory (as much as any of us can be in a chaotic world). No one told me they wanted these things from me. They are just the parts of myself I love the most, the traits in others I admire the most and the paths that give me joy. True, experienced joy and satisfaction.

Maybe my path isn’t as concrete as it once felt. But knowing who I want to be and building my life around gives me guideposts I yearned for when the world felt too chaotic. Is this making me stronger? Am I learning what I need to be an advocate? Did I apply to any auditions last week? How am I practicing being in the moment? They aren’t questions to badger myself with or bring myself down. They’re just markers to hold myself accountable for a life that makes me happy when I slip into old habits or let other’s expectations dictate my actions.

So what about you? What or who have you let dictate who you are? Is it making you happy? Decide for yourself who you want to be. And then be that person with faith and dedication. We only get the one life and the one person to be.

Mindfulness for Beginners

In their most essential form, practices of mindfulness all come down to the same idea: presence. The idea of being mindful is similar to being intentional. Every action you take has a reason because you’re aware of your actions. But for brains capable of somewhat predicting the future, cataloging decades worth of information and processing multiple conversations at once – settling down enough to be grounded in the moment is not a natural setting. We’ve been conditioned to get the most out of our minds by making them work as hard as they can. The three practices I’ve listed below are just simple ways to help retrain your brain to focus on the present moment.


I feel like I’m always talking about exercise for one reason or another on the site – but it’s because there are so many more benefits to exercise than weight loss. The diet culture that runs rampant in our media and our lives has hi-jacked exercise for its own purposes. But mindfulness and exercise have existed in harmony since the beginning.

For me, running is the most mindful exercise because I’m not very good at it. I have literally no arches in my feet. I have to wear special inserts and expensive shoes just to get them to be able to do what they’re supposed to during a run. Concentrating on running on the balls of my feet and not pronating out to the sides (making my feet go in funky directions), requires at least a surface level awareness of what my body is doing. Forty minutes of that kind of concentration, as well as the extra steps of focusing on the muscles in my thighs and calves that get me up hills, focus on my breathing and what my hands are doing, focus on the trail itself – all hold me in the present moment. Rarely do my thoughts run away to something else, and if they do they are usually quickly pulled back to the task at hand.

Many people find this kind of awareness through yoga, through dancing, through things like crossfit. Exercise doesn’t have to feel like a punishment for a body you might not treat right all of the time. It can be a great time to bridge the connection between your body and mind in the present moment.

Crafts and Coloring

As a kid I was obsessed with paint by numbers. I used to have them around all of the time. As a I grew up there was a shame involved in not being able to create work that great on my own. When I got sick and needed a ton of activities I could do in bed, my husband found these really complicated paint-by-numbers that required a delicate hand and concentration. They aren’t necessarily a creative endeavour – most of the time mindfulness activities aren’t really geared around creativity. Instead it is an activity that brings me to focus on the numbers, the paint brush, the textures of the paint.

Other crafts I’ve used before and would recommend to those looking for mindful activities are cross stitching and coloring in adult color books. I have some really nice colored pencils that I use for my more intricate designs. The act of coloring itself takes me back to a time when I was younger and didn’t have as many thoughts crowding my head. I can just sit and be while the pencil meets paper. In the same way, cross stitching is a guide-based activity. It requires your hands to be busy and creating, but there is less pressure because you’re following somebody else’s instructions. The end game of mindfulness in these types of activities is just the activity itself. If you find that you’re concentrating on making it look perfect or what other people think of you doing the activity, then this is probably not a mindful activity that will work for you. The point is the practice of presence.

Use the Five Senses

Earlier this week I shared the sentiment, “Notice the things that give your life texture.” How often do we ask ourselves, “What makes today objectively different from yesterday?” Compare the feeling of the air on your skin. Notice if it’s humid or cold. Notice if you feel the suns rays. That’s touch. Sight is another sense we can use for comparison. Remember those old Find the Difference games you played in Highlights? Play that in your room. Play it on the street. Concentrating on what you see every day in a way that allows you to catalog and store the information requires a huge amount of presence. Even if you don’t carry that over into the next day, the act of noticing is mindfulness.

Using taste and mindfulness as a combination has been a huge help in the way that I experience food. Before, I was very often disconnected to the act of eating. I ate past the point of being full because I was more concerned about whatever else was going on or just finishing my plate as a habit. Really taking the time to savor food, to examine what you like and don’t like about your meal, can help you to think of food as fuel and detach the ideas of it being a negative or positive. It’s just food. Mindfulness in eating helps us to simply enjoy the food in front of us without attaching all of the other thoughts we surround food with.

Scent is the most visceral of the senses in connecting us with the past, so using it as a practice in mindfulness might seem counter-intuitive. However, while scents can take us back to a memory, they have a very present reaction on our body. Whether it’s in reaction to the scent itself or the memory invoked by the scent, our bodies go through emotions and feelings in reaction. For me, the scent of vanilla gives me a sense of calm and lightness in my limbs. When I close my eyes I can feel peace in my chest. Next time you catch a smell, notice what your body is doing in reaction.

Hearing for me is the easiest way to bring me into the present. Music and I have an incredible connection to each other. I feel the sound of good music as much as I hear the notes themselves. But music doesn’t have to be the only way that we experience sound in the present. Next time you’re on your own, listen to your breath. Listen to the sound of the room. Of the air conditioner running, of the insects outside and the cars passing by. Again, the point of the exercise isn’t really to achieve any particular sort of epiphany. It’s simply just to notice the present in all of its fullness.

Next Week

These beginning steps are just ways for us to get started on the idea of the present. Just thinking about mindfulness more often can show us when our thoughts are straying from our present moment. Next week, we’ll talk about meditation and mindfulness and how the practice can change our experience of our daily lives.

The Depressed Girl’s Guide to Contentment

Look, I’ll be honest here. Sadness, angst, restlessness, those are easy emotions for me. Not to deal with. But to understand. I lived a lot of years trying to balance the meds and lifestyle habits that would eventually help me to stabilize my major depressive disorder. These days, things are going really right and THAT is actually what feels wrong.

Last week I found out that my very first short film was selected for screening at SXSW Film Festival (a big deal for those of you who are in other industries). I also found out I get to attend the entire week for free. This little unpaid role I took after months of applying and not hearing back has actually become the most lucrative of my career so far. I am walking around in a cloud of pride and hope. Getting to do what I really want and being acknowledged and rewarded for it is something I thought I could never have for myself. So here are the things I’ve been telling my brain over and over:

Don’t invent problems where there aren’t any. There has been so much chaos in my life that I feel like anytime the storm is calm that must mean there’s a fire I’m just not seeing. It’s usually anxiety and not reality that are telling me those things.

You are allowed to be happy. When you spend so long being unhappy and living a life that feels like someone else’s, you eventually convince yourself that this is what you deserve. I have clawed my way from that mentality for so long. Now I just have to dig my heels in when my brain starts freaking out about contentment.

Acknowledging your success doesn’t take away from other people’s successes. Ah, the comparison game. I might be doing this, but so and so is doing this and isn’t that so much cooler. Nah. 1) it’s probably not that much cooler 2) you’re trying to belittle your own worth and success. Accept that you can both be doing well and that there is enough happiness around for everyone.

Contentment is not the same as complacency. Giving yourself kudos for a win isn’t you backsliding into your old lazy habits. It’s just fuel for the continued work your doing and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Just because you are not a finished product does not mean that you need to wait to celebrate yourself and find contentment in the journey. Life IS the journey.

For those of you who maybe don’t do so well with just letting yourself be okay, I hope this list helps! Let me know what you think you would add or how reading has helped you.

My Anti-Resolutions Resolutions

Why I’m a Bit Against Resolutions

I used to be very very pro-resolutions. A new year, a new start, a chance to correct some mistakes from the last year. But, I think the idea that we need to need to fundamentally change something about ourselves every year is a little bit ridiculous. “I need to be more adventurous,” “I need to exercise more,” “I need to eat better,” etc.

I think goal-oriented resolutions are often steeped in some form of self-hate or a societal ideal of what an adventurous, fit or healthy person does. Instead, this year I’ve decided to reflect and evaluate some of my relationships with the world around me that started changing in 2018 and I’d like to think about more in 2019.

This mud run was a great team building exercise at work and a really fun goal to work toward. An example of healthy exercise habits in my life.

My Relationship with food and exercise

I’m pretty sure my first ever magazine subscription was to Shape magazine when I was about 13 years old. Thirteen! At the time I was much chubbier than all of my friends, bullied and lonely. I remember thinking that their social behaviors were punishment for my inability to lose weight and look like them. So I started counting calories (again, at thirteen), doing Mauro Pilates for sixty minutes a day, and trying really hard to fit in with the other kids around me. I actually ended up losing about thirty pounds. And wouldn’t you know, by my eighth grade year I ended up getting voted the class’s Princess at our formal. In my mind, the weight loss was the reason people liked me – not the confidence that I had gained from the weight loss.

Now, eating healthy and exercising in and of themselves are amazing things to do for our bodies. They really are. But when the actions themselves are steeped in shame and punishment/reward mentalities, they become more harmful than good. The diet culture wants us to look a certain way to feel validated, and they use food and exercise as weapons in that war. Having been a fairly visible person my whole life (as an actor, model, youth leader, etc.) – I was very much of the mindset that being a leader meant looking a certain way and setting a certain example about discipline with food and exercise. So instead of saying that I’m going to eat healthier and exercise this year, I’m going to continue to build on the work I did last year in disassociating food and exercise from forms of self regulation.

An account I love to follow on Insta that discusses this is @annamaried.rd , who focuses on intuitive eating and listening to your body, and is run by a certified dietician. I think when we listen to what our body wants we can come naturally to a place where weight loss and healthy weight happen. We know when foods make us sick, or make us feel sluggish, or make us feel energized and ready for the day. When we listen to those cues, we can usually figure out what our body is craving from us.

A healthier idea about exercising is a natural extension of a healthier idea about food. If food is not something we use as punishment/reward, then exercising isn’t something we use to “make up for” our eating habits. It’s just something we do to feel stronger, get to know ourselves better, enhance our life and get more energy. For me personally, it’s something I do to have a place to watch my own progress as a healthier person and to stimulate the endorphins that make my depression more manageable daily.

My relationship with creativity

As a creative person who makes money off of being creative, it’s really easy to get into the mentality that I must be an expert at all times. Due to some negative messaging I received growing up, I have a really hard time showing anybody anything but perfection – especially in areas of my life where I want to succeed the most. As an actor, photographer, musician and writer being vulnerable enough to ask questions is something I find incredibly taxing. My hope for this year is to evaluate that reluctancy in the creative space because I think it prevents me from releasing the creativity in me.

For example, with acting I have a hard time just sitting in classes and absorbing because I’m usually surrounded by people who have been doing this longer than I have. I want to seem like I’m just naturally great at the job – which is a totally normal instinct. But for me, acting is only fun if it’s a place where I can funnel emotions and stories into something an audience can connect with and learn from. If I’m not allowing myself the freedom to experiment in how that gets done, then I’m not allowing my creativity to really grow. I’m just showing up to a class to check a box on a resume instead of letting myself play and have fun. I don’t want to set the goal of “I want to be a better actor” – I want to set the goal of “I want to have a relationship with acting that’s focused on the process and not the outcome.”

Especially in a creative setting, the lack of quantifiable outcomes makes resolutions murky at best and incredibly stifling at worst. My hopes in just taking a reflective attitude on my thoughts around creating is to allow a space not ruled by anxiety, but by freedom and choice. I personally need to be free from pressure to do my best work – otherwise I hide from the things I enjoy.

So what does all of this mean?

My main point here today is that resolutions aren’t the only way to approach your new year. Resolution mentality is often based on the idea that you need to fundamentally change something about yourself every year. I just don’t agree. I think you’re awesome, and that evaluating the things in your life that are holding you back and are bringing you stress is much more important than adding another to-do to your hectic life.

If you have areas of life where you’d like to learn and grow but experience anxiety when you take steps in that direction, examine those anxieties. Are you dealing with a fear of rejection, fear of failure? Are you doing this because you think it’s what you’re “supposed” to do or because it’s an area of your life you are passionate about? Honor yourself this year. That’s my goal for you. What do you think about that?

Thoughts: Who you are is enough.

I woke up the day after my birthday party with some post-birthday blues. 25 had been coming for so long and now that it’s here I realized I felt a little like the wind got kicked out of my sails.

I’m 25 now, and I have packed so much “life experience” into those years that I think I’ll take the opt out option on getting my ass handed to me by anything too major for the next few months at least. But because my laugh has this far been a series of big bads – get out of school, graduate college, get a job, get promoted, finish all this intensive therapy, learn how to be a human again, find the right career, etc. it feels like without a fight I’m somehow lacking.

My normalizing life is a series of smaller wins. I didn’t lose 25 pounds this year like I’d hoped. But so far I’ve lost fifteen. I didn’t have 2500 followers by 25 like I’d hoped. But I have 2000 these days. I’ve been booking acting gigs and losing weight and posting when I can so I know I’m not failing. It’s only been six months since I really started this whole living thing again so I owe myself some grace. By choosing to run and workout and to keep going to auditions and to keep posting and to keep writing, I’m telling myself that I’m not giving up. And sometimes that has to be enough.

In the face of this little bit of blues, I had dinner with a couple of other actresses last night and we commiserated over how hard the Texas market can be when they’re are hardly any projects getting made in a week. Soon though, the talk turned to all the things that we wish we could fix about ourselves and our lives and I hated hearing it coming from them. When we listen to someone else telling us all the way they feel like they’ve failed it doesn’t make sense the way it does when our inner critic has our shortcomings on speaker. I just saw these two beautiful women who hadn’t given up on themselves or their dreams and were fighting when life gave them obstacles. And very fairly they pointed out that they see the same in me.

So maybe you’re kind of like me, feeling like a warrior without a battle at the moment. Or you’re like my friend who feels weighed down by her past. Or my other friend who sees who she is as an obstacle toward achieving what she wants. Or maybe you have an entirely different thing nagging at you today.

But just by reading this, by choosing to get up and get on with your week on this Monday – you’ve chosen to live a life that makes you happy. So for me, I want you to ignore the other voices that are telling you the criticisms and lies, and I want you to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. Someone outside of you can’t hear whatever negativity you’ve got on loop, and I promise they can’t see it just by looking.

We are works in progress, and being in the middle of change, especially when it’s the kind of change we accept in exchange for our own happiness, is chaotic. It creates a kind of thrum of upheaval we’ve been told is the result of us not being able to handle our situation. I call bull. The most successful and happy people live in a state of flux and embrace the hell out of that. You’re not failing because there are sections in your life under remodel always.

So at 25 or 35 or 75, take a moment today to acknowledge those places in your life under construction and accept how awesome you must be to take on that kind of project. Because you, reaching forward in life and not giving up – you are enough. There’s not some distant version of yourself you must achieve before you are worthy. You, right now, not stopping when it might be easier to do so, are enough. Enjoy yourself as much as the people who really know you do. This season in your life may look completely different than all the rest – in fact I kind if hope it does.