Tag Archives: belief

The Great Escape

“The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from negative thoughts, from regrets, from fears, from worries, from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected: how to live a balanced life of struggle and success. I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, and to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.”

What you need to know before you read this entry is that it’s not just another hobby post. I hope you’ll stick around.

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As I prepare to ride along in the racecar, I can hear cars motoring around the track.

Vroom.

Vroom.

Vroom.

There are a number of spectators watching their friends and family members take on car racing for the first time.

I stand off to the side. While they cheer the drivers on to their first black and white checkered flag, I get ready to head out to the track, to have that checkered flag waved for me. This new experience will mark the completion of my 100th hobby, a goal I’ve been working towards for the past 81 weeks.

Helmet – Check.

Yellow sunglasses – Check.

Motion sickness medicine – Check. Pre hobby jitters … Check

Ten minutes later, I am in the racecar buckling up and high fiving my driver Mitch. Before I know it, we are whipping around the track at what feels like 200 mph. The engine roars throughout the car. We speed up and hang tight on the bumper of another car on the track before swiftly swerving to the right and lapping him. I give the camera that’s attached to the deck a thumbs up.

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And before I know it, three short laps later, we pull back into where we started.

“That was awesome!” I exclaim to Mitch and then ask him how fast we were going, “175? 180?” He laughs at me, “No ma’am. 75 mph—but it feels much faster on a short track like this.”

My jaw drops. 75 mph!? I’ve reached that speed on the highway—but it doesn’t feel like that! I mean driving 75 on the highway isn’t exhilarating—it doesn’t feel dangerous—and it doesn’t feel thrilling. This ride around the track felt exhilarating–felt dangerous–and was definitely a thrill. Mitch gives me a congratulatory fist-pound and I exit the vehicle, still in awe.

I head over to the spectator area and patiently wait for another race of cars to begin. Ten minutes later, cars begin entering the track.

I listen as the cars accelerate and I raise my yellow sunglasses to the top of my head. I breathe in the fresh air. I decide to stick around the track and watch the other cars as they continue to race around.

I begin to think of the hobby year in laps. During each lap, a racecar driver must deal with significant elements—navigating around the other cars on the track, knowing when to accelerate, when to slow down, when to take the inside corner (or the outside), knowing when to take a break to refuel, when to have maintenance done on the car. During each of my hobby weeks, I had to understand when to slow myself down so I wouldn’t wear myself thin, I had to know when to take a breath and refuel for the next week, and I had to know when I could really press the pedal.

I get distracted from the track and I think about what it took to get me to this place—not only this racetrack—but this place in my life.

I’d like to invite you to step a little closer into my hobby year, to know a little more why this project has been so important to me, to learn the real heartbeat of the project and myself.

Because the truth is—the hobby hoarder project has saved my life.

I found myself wondering the past few weeks if it was me that was keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive – or the Hobby Hoarder that was keeping me alive. And the answer? It’s both. I’ve been keeping the Hobby Hoarder alive to keep me alive.

Only a few months before the hobbying began, I hit a tremendous low in my life…a low that eventually became a turning point.

The truth of the matter is I’ve spent years feeling depressed. Stuck. Bored. Over critical. Sad. Anxious. Nervous. Sometimes, I felt more alone when I was with people than even when I was in the comfort of my own home.

I tried to run from feelings I was having. I thought if I moved away from my college town—it’d get better, so I moved to New York. When that wasn’t working, I bought a plane ticket to Italy and said arrividerci to America. And when that didn’t work I returned to New York City full of hope that I could do better than I did the first time I was here—full of hope that the sadness wouldn’t return.

I was wrong.

Despite living in a great apartment, working in the field I wanted to work in, and enjoying the single-life in the biggest city in the world- I still felt a void. It was a sadness I couldn’t put words to. I had everything I thought I was supposed to and yet, I didn’t have the one thing that I thought all the “supposed to’s” were going to bring me: happiness.

I wish I could say this was a new feeling for me, but it wasn’t. It was a feeling that had simply escalated over time. I was depressed for nearly six years. I refused to talk to anyone about it.

I knew that on the surface, I played things off well and I seemed alright with my friends, but deep down inside, I wasn’t alright. I wasn’t even okay. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to call it quits. I was ready to disappear.

It’s taken me a long time to put this down on paper—to tell my family and friends about it, but the truth is,  I didn’t want to live.

I struggled through smiling. I found it hard to laugh. I didn’t wear yellow sunglasses to try and brighten up even cloudy days. I went through the motions of eating breakfast, boarding the train, going to work, leaving work, eating dinner, sleeping. I was stuck. The way I saw it—there was only one way out.

I could remember trying new activities as a child. I drove my parents insane asking them if I could try them all: kayaking, sailing, basketball, ballet, clarinet, baseball, field hockey. Gosh, I can still remember the first time I held a field hockey stick—the way it turned in my hands, the awkwardness of having to roll it from side to side to dribble down the field. I can remember the rattle of my thin wooden stick as I’d go to drive the ball down the field the first time and the excitement I felt the first time I dodged a teammate during practice.

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I wanted to feel that joy, that excitement again. I wanted to be passionate about trying new things the way I had as a kid. I needed to feel that curiosity–that desire to know everything, to learn anything. It wasn’t so much that I stopped wanting to, but I stopped getting as excited, I stopped looking for the opportunities, I stopped doing what I loved to do.

And I was angry about it. And the anger drove my depression even deeper. I didn’t want to be like this. I WANTED to be excited about waking up each day. I wanted to feel motivated enough to go out and do things. I wanted to enjoying being alive.

I battled my depression as best I could, slipping back and forth between wanting to see tomorrow and not being sure it was worth the struggle, until I met someone who took me under his wing and who sat with me for endless hours in coffee shops and taught me the craft of stand up comedy. He reminded me how good it felt to laugh and how good it felt to make others laugh as well.

For the first time in years, I had tried something new and given myself up to it, completely and fully. I hit a turning point, and started to find clarity at last.

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I took up drawing and acting along with the comedy. As I stimulated my mind, the negative aspects of my life started to seemingly fade away because I had started to focus my energies on much more positives ways of living. I was focusing my attention on the physical world outside, and allowing myself the chance to see past the dark insecurities and thoughts that raced through my mind.

The Hobby Hoarder project began as an escape from the negative thoughts – an escape from regrets – from fears- from worries – from sadness. But then my project began to teach me something I couldn’t have expected–how to live a balanced life.

After a handful of hobbies, I began to see these new experiences as much more than gimmicky adventures. I started to take on a new frame of a mind. As the Hobby Hoarder I began to understand that we don’t have to run from our problems. Instead, we can face them head on. Though the hobbies started as an escape, the project actually gave me safe a way to face the very real issues I would normally feel strangled by each day: body image, confidence, sexuality, self- love.

I was finally able to recognize and admit to myself how I truly felt about my body by spinning around a pole at a pole dancing class and by taking on group fitness classes—something I once ran terrified from. I gained confidence by giving myself permission to take lessons in activities that once seemed impossible. And I began to love myself more each and every day as I conquered—and struggled through–an assortment of activities that ranged from birdhouse making with my mother to piloting a plane around Manhattan at sunset. I learned what it meant to take off, accept the struggles, to re-balance after severe turbulence—and what it meant to let myself land every once in a while and refuel—because we don’t HAVE to be on the go all the time. Life’s a balance between the struggle and the success.

And because I gave myself permission to struggle in controlled environments week after week, because I raised the stakes, because I gave myself opportunities, because I refused to quit, I experienced 81 weeks of life that I never would have, if I had given up when I wanted to—when I had planned to.

And even though for five of the hobby months I was working 60-hour workweeks, I didn’t care. Because I knew at the end of the day—or the week, I’d be rewarding myself with something that felt productive towards living a healthy and balanced life—and because I knew at the end of the day or the week that I was going to have my chance to really live the life I wanted to live after sacrificing hours to pay the bills.

After returning from my cross-country road trip in March, the 52nd hobby on my list, I feared the feelings of restriction and depression might come back after having so much freedom on the open road—after having no obligations for fifty days. And at first they did—not necessarily to the same extreme as two years ago—but I felt bubbles of sadness boiling through me. I lacked energy. I lounged on the couch and questioned how I’d ever get back into the groove of things in New York.

And then, as I’ve written about before, I started finding a respect for what was happening. I started to accept my sadness as part of a cycle—that sometimes our sadness is a result of something that made us incredibly happy. In this case it was a road trip. In someone else’s case it could be getting to see a good friend for the first time in years but also having to say goodbye again.

I thought I’d end the hobby hoarder project after the trip, but instead of ending the project– I continued it. I treated the trip like a landing—and took off again, because I recognized that I found great happiness through new experiences—that the activities I jumped into gave me a chance to learn not only the lessons at hand, but life lessons too. And like a racecar going around a track—I continued on my journey.

BUT that doesn’t mean the hobby year and the hobbies cured me of all feelings of anxiety—or sadness—loneliness—or depression. I’m not immune to these feelings at all. But I now have a better handle, for myself, on how to control them—and take them with stride.

We all experience depression and sadness in different ways—and it’s important that we take time to recognize how and when we are affected—and reach for help when it’s needed.

It’s also important that we discover healthy habits and methods for coping—and that we retain those tools for later.

So the next time you feel like you’ve had enough—when you think there’s no more out there and when you think there’s only one way out, I invite you to take a walk around the block and photograph at least one thing that grabs your attention. I invite you to go to the gym and give yourself 15 minutes to see how your energy and mood has changed. I invite you to turn off the lights and meditate for one, two, or ten minutes. I invite you to write down five things you are grateful for and I invite you to make a list of all the things you can do—all the things you WANT to do. And just try ONE.

And I invite you to share your stories and progress with me. As always, you can find me @ thehobbyhoarder@gmail.com, Twitter, and Facebook. I’d love the chance to know more about you, what fears you have, and how you’re able to move through them.

___

Please remember:

When you think you’ve had enough, when you think you can’t go on,  you can. Know that you are capable, and above all, know that you can live. 

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Parkour

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What is Parkour? “In the strictest sense as defined by David Belle, Parkour is the art of moving through your environment as swiftly and effectively as possible using only the human body.” –(Parkour Terminology & Definitions)

In other words? Free running–or being bad-ass and climbing walls, flipping off of buildings–or leaping over objects.

I can barely feel my legs–and I’ve still got a good five to ten minutes left in the parkour warm up.
“Everyone’s going so fast,” I say out loud, as I finish a spider crawl a good 10 seconds behind the 8 men in my class.

One of my classmates turns to me in support, “Go your own pace–this is about you getting better–don’t worry about us.” He smiles a hopeful–and helpful–grin.

We transition from backward spider crawls to front-ward hops. My body feels worn. I stop mid-way to the finish line. I hear my friend Matt begin to cheer me on. Then the other guys join in. Instead of being intimidated or embarrassed by the cheering–I breathe it in.  It’s like being back on a team again.  “I can do this,” I say to myself. “I can get to that finish line.” And I do.

After ten more minutes of warm up–some struggles–and a quick game, Matt turns to me and says, “I don’t think we are supposed to be winded after the warm up.” He’s not trying to mock me. He is tired too. Huffing and puffing, but also laughing, I nod along.

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After refueling, we head back over to the mat for the parkour portion of the class. Now, barely able to feel my legs, I try and mentally prepare myself for what’s to come. Before coming to class, I imagined them teaching us how to step off of walls and do basic jumps. I was wrong.

As Matt and I arrive back over at the mats, we realize that there is a four and a half foot vaulting box sitting in the middle of the floor. My jaw drops and I begin asking myself,  “How the hell am I — at  5′ 2″ — supposed to make it over this thing?” And now every excuse is going through my head as to why I should just stop now: “I think I hurt my legs during the warm up.” “This isn’t for me.”

I continue staring at the box–and then I make a motion as if  I am going to attempt to clear it. And then I stop myself.

My instructor watches me as I indecisively go back and forth between going for it and not going for it. He walks over to me. “Libby, part of parkour is seeing an obstacle and just figuring out how to get over it–any way possible.”

He’s right. — Of course he’s right, he’s my instructor. And naturally, as a writer, I begin comparing what he has just said to me about parkour — to life. I think about the past year and how I made my way over, under, and around all my obstacles—how I didn’t let fear stop my perseverance, dedication, or determination–how I took on fear on a number of occasions and for lack of a better term–kicked its ass. Why I am even so fearful now–at this exact moment–I’m not sure–as the worst that can really happen is that I don’t make it over the vault–in which case of course, I’d get back in line and try again.

Matt is clearing the vault in what seems like an effortless manner.

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I thank my instructor for the push–and accelerate toward the vault. Right foot up. Left hand down. Right hand down. Left foot up. Jump down.

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It doesn’t look graceful. And it’s not quite exactly what I am supposed to. But I make it over the vault and in that single moment my confidence surges from a 2 to a 7. I whisper to myself, “Don’t look at the top of the mountain Libs–look at all the parts you need to get there.”

My confidence stays high and I go to jump the vault again–this time in what feels more like one swift motion. And then again–and again–and again. Though to be honest, sometimes, it feels as though I am going in such slow motion that my parkour name could be “Freeze Frame.”
DSC00133 The others are moving quickly through the vaults–the jumps–the moves–but I am taking my time.

I remind myself that this is my first time attempting this sport and that it’s just fine that I am still getting down the basics while others are twisting and turning themselves over one–even two boxes.

With each jump, I can feel myself exponentially getting better–I can feel myself getting more comfortable with the approach, the jump, and the landing. And I can feel myself smiling as I watch the others land their trick moves–my friend Matt gain some serious air–and my instructor cheer everyone on.

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A young girl joins our class toward the end and as we are taught one last move (one that asks us to hold ourselves up on a wall spiderman style) she watches a bout of doubt appears on my face. She yells to me, “Believe in yourself.”

The doubt diminishes–and I am now overwhelmed with courage. I reach one leg out–grip my hands to wall, and lower myself into the Spideman like position. I am supposed to count to ten, but I make it to 2.5. My classmates–turned teammates–cheer.

By the time class is over, I feel exhausted. Parkour to me feels like it should be called parksore–and my legs are ready to come out from beneath me. As we go to pack up our things, my friend turns to me and thanks me for inviting him–he says that he had a lot of fun and that it was a great pick me up–for a down day. I smile and thank him for joining–for seeing what hobby hoarding is all about (Which is pushing through mental challenges–overcoming fear–mixing up daily routines–and challenging oneself).

As we walk out of the gym, I glance back at the mats and think to myself: We may not have done every move perfectly–but we did get one part of class right. We believed in ourselves.

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Photos Courtesy of Elyse Mueller
http://www.elysemueller.com

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BKLYN BEAST
bklynbeast.com

Happiness

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“If you want to view paradise–simply look around and view it
anything you want to–do it!
want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”

The Willy Wonka words echo off my computer as I awake on Saturday morning. However, in my head, I am changing the words–I am swapping out paradise, and slotting in Happiness. Because if you want to view happiness–I believe we can all look around and view it.

And Saturday, I was going to make sure of it.

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As I wake up, on Saturday, I say to myself, “Today–is an important day. Today, I am completing my 52nd hobby.” For anyone who has been following along, you’ll know that my original goal for this project turned lifestyle was to try 52 new hobbies in 52 weeks. About two months ago that goal changed–My new plan is to finish at least one hobby a week for 52 weeks, ending with a road trip across the country in February. But that doesn’t mean my 52nd hobby isn’t a significant one. In fact, it’s one of the ones that means the most to me–because it’s a sign of achievement–even if my new goal is to exceed it.

“Anything you want to, do it” plays through my speakers, and I smile.

“Today I am going to complete my 52nd hobby,” I breathe of relief.

***Never doubt a dream, always move forward…Like the song says…
Anything you want to do…Do it.***

But though my excitement for hobby 52 is high on Saturday, my will to go out and do it is quickly hampered as I wake up and see that it’s cold–and gray–but not just cold and gray–it’s pretty much a frigid apocalypse outside with gusting winds up to 50mph and snow flurries pleasantly beginning to fall. I struggle. It would be the perfect day to stay in bed–all day, to get dressed at 5pm and eat cereal for all three meals in my pajamas. But I had made a plan–and that plan included to complete my 52nd hobby, by traveling to each of the five boroughs and chalking the word happiness. I groggily got out of bed and decided that this was better than chalking happiness when the weather is perfect–because in the case of clear skies, people are likely to already feel happier. This was my time to spread happiness–even if the weather was threatening otherwise.

It took me no more than 7 hours to complete my trip to each borough and tattoo the word happiness into the sidewalk of each.

It took me no more than 7 hours to etch happiness right outside my doorstep in Brooklyn. It took me no more than 7 hours to experience the excitement of families going on the Staten Island Ferry and having an amazing view of Manhattan. It took me no more than 7 hours to witness the wealth of joy outside the doorstep of my favorite chocolate shop in Manhattan, as a homeless man approached me and thanked me for the happiness.It took me no more than 7 hours to clear my negative image of the Bronx and leave a positive message behind. And it took me no more than 7 hours to make my way to Queens and chalk happiness into a park that I once danced happiness into–just two years ago.

The truth was–that in each borough– It took me no more than moments to see that even though I was physically spreading the word happiness–it was all around me. It was in the faces of children who’d never been on a boat. It was in the faces of those who told me they had nothing but still felt joy. It was in the faces of those walking through streets of the Bronx—and it was in the faceof the child who stood up on the subway seat and peered out the window on an above ground train heading to Queens. It was in the taxi driver who got me from downtown Manhattan to Grand Central. It was in the cappuccino that I drank mid-morning. It was in the face of the man with his child who strolled past me on Fordham Road. It was in the skateboarders who skated through the park while I finished my last borough tattoo. Happiness was truly–everywhere.

And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.

Here’s to 52 hobbies–and many, many more. and here is to happiness. Cheers.

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Donate! Volunteer! Help!

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A special message from The Hobby Hoarder during these tough times:

I can see the Empire State Building from the front door of my apartment building in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The lights are shining bright. Whether the lights to the south or the north of it are on–on any given night–I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But this past week I know that for a good portion of time, most of the lights south of the Empire State Building were off. And even still, now, many of the lights in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the state of New Jersey, and across the Harbor in Staten Island are off.

My family and friends in Pennsylvania spent days in hotels, office buildings, and at bars huddling for phone charges and heat. My professors and friends in Rhode Island watched as the Atlantic Ocean hurdled over the Narragansett Wall creating rivers on main roads, knocking out power to many, and destroying one of the city’s most popular restaurants–the Coast Guard House. Kids were off from schools–hospitals were evacuated–subway tunnels were flooded– the coast of Jersey was completely destroyed, and worse of all–lives were taken.

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast leaving many states powerless and many residents homeless.

Up until today, all the devastation I knew was what I saw in photos–through Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook.

I spent the week working from home, feeling selfish that I wasn’t on the front line helping people–that I wasn’t there putting together recovery packages for strangers–that I wasn’t helping. I realized very quickly that even if I wanted to be on the front line–my help would be exhausted shortly as my strength is not in my arms, but rather in my voice.

When the power went out, for most, on Monday evening, all they saw was darkness. They lost the ability to watch thew news–to follow Tweets–or to get Facebook updates. I kept power–and instead of sleeping, I stayed connected. I followed Twitter until my eyes dimmed, and then early in the morning, I texted my friends who I knew had lost power to see if they were alright. By the middle of the day I had heard from many New Yorkers, and several hometown friends in Pennsylvania. “Can you just update me–I have no idea what happened after it went dark.” “Are the trains going to be able to run?” “What happened?” “When will my power come back?” “How bad was it?” My strength was now my ability to accurately relay messages to them from various news sources including New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Morning Call, and the Daily News.

I found myself Tweeting updates–Facebooking the latest breaking news–and realizing that even if I couldn’t be out there in the Far Rockaways where homes had burned down–even if I couldn’t be in Staten Island–even if I couldn’t be in the basement of someone’s home emptying out water–I could be making a difference . I could be informing people.

So I continued informing people, looked for more ways to help, donated food and supplies to the Far Rockaways via friends with cars, and woke up this morning with one mission: Find a way to get out there.

I read through my email of countless volunteer opportunities to see which one I could get to by bike, foot, or limited public transit. Staten Island had a call for helpers in several areas, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach many of them without a car–and that I likely wasn’t strong enough for many of the things people needed. And then one popped out to me:

10:30AM: NORTH SHORE. Go door-to-door distributing helpful information about warming centers, power stations and recovery to North Shore neighborhoods still without power. Spanish speaking a plus. LOCATION: State Senator Diane Savino’s office, 36 Richmond Terrace right across from the Staten Island Ferry. RSVP tokmotley@pubadvocate.nyc.gov

I re-read the post. “Go door-to-door distributing helpful information.”

‘I can do that,’ I thought, and so I RSVP’ed right away. Soon after, Piers Morgan ReTweeted a photo by Stephanie Gosk from NBC of herds of New York Marathoners making their way onto the Staten Island Ferry–not to run their race, but to run to places that needed help. If these people were going to run 5-7 miles to the underside of the Island–I could sure as hell get myself, somehow, someway to the Staten Island Ferry and walk across the street, to do what I do best–Give information. A walk, a cab, a train, a cab, and a ferry ride later I was sitting in an office at 36 Richmond Terrace preparing to head out to neighborhoods that had been without power for days.

I realized in this moment–that a little help–goes a long way. As the temperature dips to close to freezing tonight, many people not only in Staten Island, but around the tri-state area, and points further north will continue to live without power–without heat. The information we passed around today informed members of the Staten Island community where they could go for shelter or warming centers. The information we passed along today–could save someone’s life.

I don’t like to preach. I’m more of “an inspire by doing” type person. But in this case. I don’t mind preaching a bit: A dollar you give–a minute you give–an hour you give- a day that you give–blood that you give–could save someone’s life.  Many shelters in New York City are turning away volunteers BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY. This is a GOOD–no–GREAT thing. It means plenty of hands are on deck to help.  Maybe you aren’t into knocking on people’s doors and distributing info, maybe all the shelters are filled to capacity with volunteers, and maybe you don’t have the strength to carry packages of bottled water–but there is always a way to help–and always someone in need.

Oh and P.S. Cause I am a bit of a hippie. Don’t forget about Love. Keep Loving.

To my friends in New York City–My friends in New Jersey–My family and friends in Pennsylvania–and my Professors and friends in Rhode Island–and all those along the East Coast–This one’s for you. 
Check out these places for more opportunities to aid in Hurricane Sandy Relief
 Red Cross
 WNYC
 Brokelyn 
 Life Vest Inside
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“The Resilient Ones”:

“New Yorkers are resilient. They’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway. They’ve experienced bombs rumble under ground. They’ve watched their iconic buildings collapsed. And each time they’ve risen to the occasion to come back—to reassemble—to regain their composure—to help a neighbor—or a friend—or the elderly—or a child. New York is filled with people who fight battles every day to survive metaphorical storms. And today, with this very real aftermath of a devastating storm—New York is still filled with those people—those same resilient people. And I know we’ll all get through this, together. New York City is our home–and it’s not going anywhere–and neither are we.”
-The Resilient Ones
Publishes on Libs on the Reel and One for the Table

Checkmate

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In New York City—it’s not every day that a stranger tells you that they have faith in you—or that they believe in you—or that they even want to sit down and chat with you—even for a few moments. I can attest to this—because I often try to sit down and talk to strangers.

 So when all of this happened–on a Friday night in Union Square, you can imagine my surprise, and my joy over it.

The truth is, I wasn’t expecting to sit across from a man in the middle of the park. I had another hobby planned for the week, but upon discovering that the original hobby wasn’t going to happen, I decided to try something more relaxed, novel, and New Yorky—so I headed to the park, found a chess player who didn’t have an opponent, and sat down.

 “Can we play?” I asked.

 He rolled his eyes at me. “I guess.”

 I wondered why he was so upset. I clearly hadn’t done anything wrong yet—except appear to be a novice who didn’t know the difference between a knight and…well a horse….

 I sat quietly for another moment, hoping he wouldn’t ask me to leave.

 “I’ve been waiting here for an HOUR for my friend. An HOUR. I HATE waiting,” he said as a distraught look overcame his eyes.

 “I hate waiting too. It means people don’t value other people’s time. I’m sorry that happened to you.”

He rolled his eyes again.

 “I mean it,” I said. “Waiting sucks.”

He smiled. “Waiting does suck.”

 “What’s your name?” I asked.

 “David.”

 “Good. David, my name’s Libby. Nice to meet you,” I smiled and held out my hand. He shook it.

 “How much is this lesson going to cost you?” He went on.

 I smiled. “I’m not sure, but there’s an ATM over there…and”

 “Now we’re talking.”

 And then before I knew it, he was teaching me the first eight moves to make on a chessboard. He was lifting pawns…sliding knights…building a moat—I mean…setting up opposition. Let’s just say he was doing his thing.

 “This is how I teach my 8 year old son. You got it? Good. Now show me the first 8 moves you can make on a board.”

 I went to move a piece.

 “No,” he sternly objected. “Not right.”

 Reminder to self—don’t pick an intellectual hobby when you’re looking for something calm.

 I tried again.

 “Good.  You’re a quick learner.”

 Now try another move…

 “Can I tell you something?” I stuttered.

 “Yes…”

 “I am playing chess tonight because I am doing this project, where I try one new thing a week—for the entire year…”

 “Well then let me ask you something,” He said, shifting the attention, and smiling. He lowered the volume of his voice.

“Okay…”

 “Have you ever slept with a black man before,” He began to laugh hysterically—as did I, before responding—“Not this week.”

 We laughed together and I told him he should try stand-up.

 “Naw…not for me.”

 “Well then come to a show sometime,” I responded, as I told him that I do stand up.

 “You do stand-up” he said. And we continued to converse while I slowly (kind of) learned some new tools for the next time I sat down in a chess match.

 And just as we were finishing our lesson, one of his friends came along.

“Man—meet Libby—she’s a comedian. She’s going to be famous one day. I am going to see her on Comedy Central…she’s funny. She’s going to be a star. People aren’t going to believe me when I say I know her.”

I don’t know what made him say this—I don’t know what energy was in the air—but I do know it made me smile—a big smile. He didn’t even know me—and he believed in me.

 Let’s just say—he didn’t check a mate that night with his joke—but he did indeed open my eyes—and my heart.

 The truth is, when a stranger has faith in you—after only moments of knowing you—it is an incredible feeling—and it makes you wonder how you’ve ever doubted yourself.

Checkmate.

If you can make it here: My First Audition

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I moved to the city nearly three years ago, and while I call it “home,” I’m not quite sure I ever went through my official initiation– that is until this past weekend, when I attended my first audition.

Now. I should stop for a moment. I have many, many friends here in the city who are actors and actresses, and in no way, shape, or form am I attempting to take away from their hard work and effort—by calling auditioning a hobby—because for most all of them it isn’t. Auditioning is serious business and leads to amazing opportunities.  More closely, auditioning resembles job interviews—Ideally, you only go to one of those every so often.

But this audition was a bit different. Unlike my friends who have practiced, rehearsed, and memorized their lines, I had to do nothing other than be myself and hope for the best.  I auditioned for a game show—which is quite a bit different than auditioning for a television pilot, series, indie or feature film. It’s about auditioning for a chance at having fun—and winning money. And that’s a hobby I could really get used to!

Now your big question. What game show was it? … Wheel of Fortune? Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Jeopardy.

Nope.

A brand new one—that features a hypnotist. This audition was for a game show pilot—which seemed even cooler. How awesome would it be to be the first contestant on the next big show!?

And even though the audition wasn’t for my future Emmy or Oscar winning role—I still got nervous. “What if I say something embarrassing while I am hypnotized?” What if I can’t be hypnotized?” “What if I DO get picked for this game show pilot?!” “What if I do win money?!” “What would I use the money on?!”  (That answer is easy—more hobbies—and traveling).

While I can’t dive too much into specifics—because I truly don’t know any part of the show other than the fact that someone tried to hypnotize me, I can tell you that the experience of applying—and finding out that they wanted me to even come in and audition at all was exhilarating in itself. I consider that the first win of it all.

My friend, Adam, who is on his own journey, travels the country, and runs the site We Own The Moment, came along with me—and I believe he said it best when he explained that it’s amazing how many opportunities there are to do something like this every day in New York City.  And he’s right–there are SO many opportunities. I began to question myself. Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Why hadn’t I auditioned for ANYTHING sooner?

I could go into the psychology of why I hadn’t—but for now I think I’ll just start focusing on the present which involves a stack of casting calls…because hey…why the heck not?

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In honor of the theme of hypnotism, I thought I’d include the recent Joseph Gordon-Levitt skit from SNL:

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