Thirty Years Later (Yikes!)

I just spent a weekend at Amherst College, celebrating thirty years since my graduation.  For much of my time at Amherst, I felt like an outsider, and at the first few reunions I attended, I still felt that way.  But I went, and mostly I had fun.  Often I missed references to events, to shared memories I did not have, to people I did not know, but there were always some good times.

I spent much of my four years at Amherst in this building, the Kirby Memorial Theater.

I thought twice about going to Reunion this year.  After all, I am currently unemployed, and I don’t know what will happen next.  My life is not where I thought it would be at this time, and certainly not where I thought it would be last fall when I volunteered to be on the Reunion Committee.

Some of my classmates have already written about what Reunion meant to them, whether in long or short form, or in beautiful blog posts.  I’ve spent today reading those, laughing, crying, and writing this post.

In past conversations with classmates and others, I’ve noted what, for me, made my Amherst education so special, and what has kept those friends in my life.  Amherst, even for those of us who felt less included, gave us a common language, even a style, in which to discuss the hard things, both personal and not.  Though for me, as I chose Amherst without knowing much about it (though my blog post on why seems to have disappeared from the College’s website), I still have moments when I wonder if I made the right choice.

And my takeaway after thirty years?  I did the right thing.  I will continue to jump in with both feet.  I will take the risk.  And I will keep going back.


(P.S.  In case you’re interested, here’s a post about Amherst I wrote just before my 25th Reunion.  I’m linking here as the sit-in mentioned came up during this past weekend.)



They made their AFL debut the year I was born. Just sayin’.

Well, here I am.  On my couch on Super Bowl Sunday, uninterested in the game (well, hell, no Dolphins), having just been diagnosed with shingles, and unemployed.

So what’s next, you ask?  This week, I’ve managed to ensure I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, and it’s all for me.  There’s that.  And there’s time to think.

When you leave work you loved, that helped shape the person you are, that (you hope) made a difference for a lot of people and your employer, there is a lot of thinking to do.


The obvious, easy question is “what job next?”.  But I think the more important questions are “why that job?  what kind of work (not just a job) will challenge me, fulfill me, and oh, yes, pay me properly?  where are my “gifts” most useful and appreciated?  where will I find my future?”

Of course, these are also the hard questions.  But I’ve never been lazy, so I am mulling all this.  And it’s actually quite exciting.  Even if you are happy with your work, I highly recommend it.

After all, you never know.


Evening update:  Everyone who reads this seems to be focusing on the shingles.  Well, yes, they suck, but life happens.  It’s the rest of the post I hoped you would like!


It’s almost February.  And then, I will be unemployed.  Why doesn’t actually matter… as I said on social media when sharing my news there:

I am sad about leaving my work of the last 23.5 years, of course, but I am excited to move forward.

I made this choice, and I own it, gladly, even knowing I will soon be unemployed for the first time since 1990 or so, but “forward” and “choice” and “gladly” are the key words here.

Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses.  There is worry and, yes, fear, involved in this step.   And there are so many details!  I’ve seen all my doctors and filled my prescriptions; I’ve found and purchased an appropriate health plan going forward (NYS makes it really easy, thank goodness); I’m taking full advantage of various services of The Actors’ Fund (my favorite helping hand for entertainment professionals);  and I have made plans.  Lots and lots and lots of plans – some involving my job search, and some personal goals for which I will finally have the time.  Yay for de-cluttering!

It’s surprising to me that many of my friends are (kindly and generously) calling me “brave”, because really what I feel is reckless.  Really, really, really reckless.  But I’ve written before about my decision-making process (well, more than once, but that’s a good one), so maybe you understand.   And already there have been both ups and downs – help from the most unexpected sources, and a surprising lack of anything from some “expected” sources.   It’s been a learning experience, that’s for sure.

All that said, it’s time.  Time for me to take this step.  Time for me to be about me.

And then we’ll see.



Labor Day

imgresSo, it’s almost Labor Day – the last long weekend of summer (even though summer isn’t “officially” over).  I’m taking a moment here, self-indulgently, to think about what Labor Day means to me.  (Full disclosure:  I’ve spent the vast majority of my career employed by a labor union (the same one, in fact, for over 21 years), and I could not be happier about that.  I’m a lucky girl.)

But sometimes I get asked why I care about the labor movement.  After all, I cannot deny I’ve led a pretty privileged life, even if parts of it were really, really hard.  And while there are both union members and those who do not believe in the value of unions in my immediate family, I saw first-hand the value of the unions to those who were members.

I started college thinking I would be a professional theater artist of some kind – or an entertainment lawyer – but after college, and after being part of an organizing campaign that left me unemployed – I really wasn’t sure.  So, I took yet another regional theater job, and I got fired.  I headed back home with my tail between my legs, and freelanced at local theaters while I decided what to do next.  Grad school had always been in the back of my mind, and in fact, if I had not been fired on the deadline of my school of choice, it might have come a year sooner.   The freelancing got to me pretty quickly – HATED IT – so off I went to study with some real giants of the modern theater (and incidentally, get an MFA in Theatre Management).  During my three years at the school that shall not be named, I did an internship at the union that now employs me.  That internship was a revelation, and when I was staring at the real world after graduation, I called up and there happened to be a job open.  The rest is history – I got not only a job, but a career I love and that adds value to the work lives of others.  As I said, I’m a lucky girl.

If you’ve read this far, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote (yes, I know, it says “men” throughout – historical context is a bitch.  I read it as “people”):

“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.” — Clarence Darrow

And that’s what Labor Day means to me.  Enjoy!


Yoga Is Not Life; Life Is Not Yoga

The title of this post may surprise those of you who know how much I love my Bikram Yoga practice, and how it has changed my life.  And it’s not like I haven’t written just a bit about that.

Yoga-Equals-LifeBut lately, I’ve had a few thoughts about how much yoga is not like life, and how it’s important to recognize the differences…so of course I had to share.

The big one, at least to me, is that in life, unlike yoga, getting each step right is not as important as getting to the finish line.  The Bikram Yoga dialogue emphasizes, in many postures, that as long as you get to a certain point (your head on your knee, even with a bent leg, for example), “you’re getting the full benefits of the posture”.  Life’s not like that.  I can only imagine saying in the workplace “but I was trying the right way!”

Which leads to my second point…time.  In yoga, unlike life, you have all the time in the world to keep trying.  I’ve been practicing Bikram for nine years, and no-one gives me a hard time about the fact that I often still fall over in the balancing series, or that I can’t get both legs off the floor in Locust.  Well, I give me a hard time, but no-one else does.  At least to my face.  The fact is, the underlying philosophy that trying is as important as succeeding is a very sweet idea, but it really doesn’t hold up in day-to-day life.

And it’s important to note, in light of the preceding points, that in life, unlike yoga, you cannot always stop and take a break if you get overwhelmed.  Imagine taking a knee during a family argument, or stopping during a tense meeting for savasana.  As lovely a thought as that might be, you usually just have to get over yourself and get on with it.  Though maybe that’s a place where yoga should be more like life?  I’ll have to think about that.

Finally, for now, at least, in yoga, unlike life, it’s okay to let your emotions well up and spill over.  In fact, the openness that allows that to happen is valued.  But most of us know that free flow of all emotions in our daily lives would cause more friction than freedom, and would probably be downright embarrassing.

But take heart, all of you who believe that your practice is a metaphor for your life…even I agree there is one thing that for me is exactly the same in both…the need for “English bulldog determination and Bengal tiger strength”.

Bad Attitude

I just missed being expelled from high school due to my “bad attitude”.  (Okay, well, to be honest, the owner of what was then a for-profit school threatened to pull my scholarship, which would have had the same effect.)  And I’ve always found it more “natural”, whatever that means, to be angry and even unhappy than calm and happy.

I always knew these things about myself, but what I only realized a few years ago was how true it is that misery loves company.  It’s been a very tumultuous several years for me, and I finally realized I needed to make a change to continue.  I guess the first change was actually before all the upheaval, in 2005, when I started my Bikram Yoga practice.  Or maybe even in 2004, when the Evil Ex was finally out of my life – finalized by my moving into an apartment he never shared, early the next year.  Certainly my weight loss journey, which started in 2008, reached a goal in 2009, and is again a journey, was part of it.  But whatever.  Change takes time, and for me, at least, it needs to happen in stages.

And so, I made a conscious decision a few years ago (almost four years ago now, actually), to just stop.  Stop having a bad attitude – stop trying to make it someone else’s, anyone else’s, fault – stop being the force for negativity in the room.  It’s been really hard, and I catch myself backsliding all.the.time.images-5

Most recently, as part of this journey, I came to a very difficult conclusion.  I realized I cannot be part of those circles of people who are like I was.  I cannot participate in those gatherings of negative energy, that no matter what, will spill over into everything else I try to do.

And all of a sudden, I looked around, and realized that I had far fewer friends than I thought, because so many of my supposed friendships had been based on mutual unhappiness.  Now, of COURSE there is still complaining, and sometimes even whining, but now I try to vent it – appropriately – and just fucking move on already already.  It’s been hard to see that distance grow with old friends, and I’ve tried, in many cases, to explain to them how we can stay friends (generally, though I find myself reduced to stammering out something like “I just can’t do it.  I need to stop this.  This negative thing.”), but I know I’m better off.

I mean, we all know that as we move through life, we add and lose friends, for various reasons.  And sometimes, those reasons are because we have to make hard choices about personal well-being.  But in the end, you can only control your own behavior, and you are the only one you can improve, so why the hell not?  At least that’s what I think.  And I’m going to keep trying to move forward, even if it means sometimes I have to leave people behind.  After all, I’m the one person I know for sure I’ll have with me my entire life.

Oh, and this…which I just couldn’t resist: 

No, I Can’t. And That’s OK.

Before we start, I will say I’m not talking about saying “no”…as you know, faithful readers, my default answer is “yes”.  I’ve been thinking about failure.  Honestly, I’ve not failed that much…professionally.  Personally, well, there you go.  But yes, I have failed.  We all have.wrong+turn+okay

There is an attitude out there, and while many people, myself included at times, blame the Gen Ys and Millenials for it, I remember hearing it as a child… but not from my mother (thank God).  It’s the idea that you can do anything.  And while when I heard it first, it was tied to “if you work hard enough”, lately (and for this I do blame parents of people of a certain age), it is simply stated as a fact.

Well, you know what?  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, will fail at some point.  And there will be things you cannot do.  Now, I’d never say don’t try, but c’mon, do you really think everyone can be an Olympic athlete?  A brilliant, innovative scientist?  The author of a novel that is both a bestseller and critically acclaimed?  Win a Tony?  Or more basically, never fail?

I had a conversation with a friend recently about goals.  And mine have changed.  I now acknowledge there are those things that while, maybe I COULD do them, I could not do them to a standard of excellence.  So, at least professionally, I choose to go down a path that I hope leads to excellence.   I do still try and fail, though.  As I learned in my Bikram classes, “it’s a practice, not a perfect”.

So, no, I can’t.  And yes, I will try.  But if I fail, I know that’s just fine.  It’s OK.


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