“it’s natural to be unnerved by the prospect of getting what you want”
June ended with a blackout. A few blocks in my area of Brooklyn had no power for about 24 hours. And, because why wouldn’t it be, it was around 94 degrees that day.
The day started with me waking up warmer than usual, like there was no air to breathe. I pushed off all the sheets because I was starting to sweat. Rare for my anemic ass… I’m supposed to be that annoying girl that’s always cold…what’s going on? I opened my bedroom door and two of my roommates were sprawled right there on the couch in just their underwear:
“The power went out.”
We walked to a coffee shop a few blocks down for breakfast, scared to open our fridge and lose its temperature. On our way there, all the neighbors were outside just as confused as we were. The gentrify-ers and Polish natives both asking the Conedison men any updates on the situation. Some of these residents were quite old, and after just watching In the Heights…I was getting worried some of them could croak. Spoiler.
We bought our silly little breakfast, and as we waited for our iced mochas, I turned to my roommate: “Something feels off, right? Something feels weird. Like the universe is trying to tell us something. Like something is about to change.” To be very transparent, I do tend to make this suggestion of an EXTRAORDINARY COSMIC SHIFT about twice a week. You could argue I was right this time because, mathematically, it had to happen eventually. But from that day on, things were different.
My roommates all found other places to take shelter for the day. But for whatever masochistic reason, I stayed. I stayed in that 94 degree apartment by myself, in the dark, with no internet. I felt like that was what I was supposed to do. So that’s what I did.
I spent the day rummaging through everything I own. I was almost naked, sweating from every pore in this heat, just gutting my room like a fish. I was due for a purge, for that once-a-year grand cleaning that makes you feel alive again. That deep clean that feels like a reboot. Restart. Refresh. A chance to start over. But this time, looking through all these things, moving everything around, I realize how stagnant I’ve been for so long.
Like always, I found things I forgot about, discovered things I thought I lost long ago. But looking through this room, this tiny, Brooklyn
bedroom, I realized two years have gone by. Two years living here. I’m not the same person I was when I moved in, but in many ways, my life is exactly the same. Not much has actually changed. In terms of my career, my art, my sense of self. Why not? Why am I stuck?
That day, June 30th, until about 9:45am the morning I started writing this, August 6th, has been one of the hardest periods of time I’ve faced for a while because I questioned the root of this stagnation. The things I’ve always believed still rang in my head: I’m scared of my own success, I’m addicted to the anxieties of doubt, I don’t trust myself, I’M THE PROBLEM. But wait. Am I? Am I the really the only thing I’m dealing with here?
I’m not where I want to be. I’m not doing what I want to do. Why not? What’s wrong? What do I even want anymore?!
Discouraged. A real, serious feeling. I’m discouraged from the theater industry from multiple bad experiences, making me question what I even want out of my career altogether. I’ve been tokenized by theater companies and my stories have been appropriated to fit their audiences and I’m beginning to see that. Since realizing this, I haven’t been able to get myself to write a single page. Do I want to be in this hypocritical, pretentious, abusive industry? Do I want to be tokenized all my life and never receive any of the benefits of this tokenization? Do I want to keep fighting for this career now that I can see what it’s really like? Who am I doing this for?
I studied theater and playwriting because it’s the place I thought I belonged. Playwriting comes naturally to me. It’s the medium in which I excelled. I love writing plays, reading plays, and watching plays. And seeing the work currently being produced is really inspiring and game changing. It really is. For decades these new voices were ignored and marginalized, and now they’re the headlining shows. It’s so exciting. I’m rooting for these artists. But I haven’t experienced my own real representation, so I’m discouraged. I haven’t been able to exist as my authentic self instead of the stereotypes that were created for me in my theatrical experiences, so I’m doubting my aspirations altogether.
When I see the discrepancy in treatment, opportunity, and respect so bluntly between white bodies and black or brown bodies, it’s just hard to keep going. Hard to keep trying to fit in when I don’t feel authentically supported. I feel exoticized, like something to stick on the end of their festival to make these theaters look like better people. Like they ‘care’. They don’t care about me, and I’m sick of caring so much about them. I’m so utterly discouraged, and I’m just really struggling to feel that spark for live performance like I used to. They beat it out of me.
I’m fully aware I’m not making any life altering observations here—this is honestly common knowledge which speaks for itself. But being in so many of these white theatrical institutions this summer took so much of the magic
away, so much of the beauty. It leaves you hopeless. It leaves you discouraged and hurt. And I need time to recover. I can’t pursue my creativity and celebrate my culture in these spaces anymore, I just can’t.
I’m going to step away from theater for a bit. Not from reading and consuming or even writing, but step back from the industry that keeps using me. I just have no interest in chasing this carrot on the end of the stick anymore. I want to be in charge of my creative destiny. I want to be the boss. So if that means I shift things around to make that happen, if that
means I’m taking a few steps backwards in my career, if that means I’m even more broke…that’s what I’m going to do. I want to be among people like me instead of fighting for that one poc spot in their festival line-up.
I’m done trying to fit into spaces exploiting marginalized voices in their marketing ads and not providing real resources or funds to support their success. No one is providing us the tools to actually excel because they still drink the Koolaid that our fortune could threaten their own power. So they slap our faces next to their logos for keeping up appearances and continue business as usual.
I’m moving out of that apartment. Really starting fresh I guess. I hope that spark comes back, but right now I don’t know if it will. For now I am trying to focus on being an artist and just generating material that I want to make. Consume the work that moves me. Find my voice again amidst all that noise that was drowning me out. Be the baddie I was clearly made to be. I mean…look at me.
I remember what Rihanna said accepting her CFDA Fashion Icon Award in 2016, “even as a child I remember thinking, ‘she can beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit.’”. I need to remember that. I’m learning my worth, I’m learning my impact. I’m learning what actually matters to me. And for people like me, discovering your worth has consequences for our career development in this industry. But if I have to choose between these two things, I know which way I’m turning.
Though this month fucking sucked and I feel like shit, I feel a page turning. Like this was inevitable and now I can move forward. I’m
going home with my family for a few weeks. I’m going to listen to Persian music and eat a lot of kebab. I’m going to call my family in Iran.
I’m learning and I’m growing and trying to take things one day at a time. July was a weird month…fuck them leos (jk)
Today I awakened
The soft joy of trust
The sure feeling of suade
The fast thought that I sparkle.
I’m aligned with the warriors in my blood.
I’m wavy and bitchin on these studded streets beneath me.
I’ll keep going, no matter how slow.