To be honest, I haven’t ever opened up about this particular topic in a public manner so please exercise patience with me on what I’m about to reveal to you. To be frank, some crazy shit went down, so bare with me.
Now that you’re aware of the disclaimer, let me begin:
It is my whole hearted belief, post-experience, that the state of Texas is the first place you should go when you want to stare the devil straight in the face, poke him in the eye, know he will retaliate by throwing balls of flames at you, and as you try to escape, realize you’ve learned something very important: “Don’t poke the devil in the eye, stupid.”
I would’ve never left Florida if I didn’t think I needed to be pushed beyond my own personal limitations, so one may argue that my misfortunes in Texas were a product of my own damn decisions. And that’s okay. I’ve grown to take full responsibility for the events listed in this entire story.
As you may know, the reason I moved to Texas was to pursue a Master of Fine Arts Degree in acting. I had spent the months prior preparing and auditioning for schools across the country. I was looking to expand my acting training because I wanted to be the absolute best in what I love to do. That fact is still true to this very day.
What most people don’t know is, I was actually accepted to and in the process of finalizing my paperwork for the graduate acting program at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, FL. I was on my way to submitting my acceptance packet, when I got a call from a man telling me they would like to invite me into the Professional Acting Training Program at the University of Houston for the 2012 school year.
Now, MIND YOU, I had already accepted an offer elsewhere, and I would have never accepted this new offer if it not been for two factors: 1) My initial callback for UH left me with the feeling that Houston would push me beyond my limits as an actress, and 2) I really wasn’t keen on staying in Florida. Naturally, I accepted the offer, and later told FAU I had changed my mind about attending their program.
In hindsight, my brain thinks I made the right decision, but my soul and spirit is forever scarred.
Now, here’s where the story gets interesting:
The University of Houston is a really nice campus. It has beautiful buildings, lovely landscape, and a clean and friendly environment. Never in a million years would you expect that deep within its white and cleanly walls lurks a serpent infested, fiery, death-trap for the young and the hopeful.
I’m exaggerating, obviously. But I will not give you a more realistic depiction of this experience because it is exactly how I FELT while I was living and working there. It was hard to breathe (metaphorically speaking), the pressure was unfathomable, and there was danger lurking literally behind every corner, crack, and nook. Remember, this is a story about how I almost died. And when I say I almost died, I mean that literally. Sans exaggeration.
In hindsight, my brain thinks this was exactly what I needed to become a stronger person, but my soul and spirit will never forgive me.
So let’s get down to it:
At the University of Houston PATP, losing is a necessary evil. The acting training relies on the principle that to be one of the greats, you must first break down all of the things about yourself that hinder you from accessing the tools that God gave you as a living, breathing, human being. Your senses, your instincts, your brain power needs to have all been brought down to a clean and focused, unhindered state. Bare. Raw. Neutral. Leave your years of baggage at the mother-f**kin door (See Post #2 – “Clean out your shit” for more info on that).
Each lesson, exercise, or activity was perfectly designed so that we, the actors, would fail, indefinitely. They would ask us to perform tasks just so that we would fall flat on our faces. We had lessons that played on our mental capabilities, our physical capabilities, but most of all, our emotional capabilities. We were put under immense pressure to change at any cost, to “fix” our problems through any means, to become faster, smarter, stronger, better by fighting for survival every step of the way.
My classmates and I turned on each other. We learned how to manipulate each other. We learned how to step over each other, just to get ahead. We also learned how to work ourselves to the bone. Consistent hours and days living, breathing, and practicing in those rehearsal rooms, for the fear that if we ever stopped, we would get slammed the next day in class by our professors.
We were told on a consistent basis that we were not good enough, that we needed to be better, that we would never amount to anything if we didn’t change the way we thought, behaved, or interacted with the world around us. To lose meant to win. It meant that you were a step closer to being vulnerable, to being accessible, to being knowledgeable, to being the best actor in the game.
Now, I know this logic seems backwards, but a lot of acting training programs operate under the same guidelines. The idea being, if you don’t fail, if you don’t hit rock bottom, you will never learn what it means to win.
And acting, believe it or not, is all about playing a character that is constantly losing, up until the very tippy end of the show, where they finally defeat the villain and win the prize. It’s actually a brilliant proposal. It makes quite a bit of sense. And it does wield incredible actors and craftsman.
However, it takes a special kind of strong and stable human to withstand that kind of emotional pressure again and again without them wanting to end it all from the fear that they’ll never amount to the caliber of effort it takes to become such a superhuman.
Now, I never reached the point of suicide. It’s a little much for me, to be honest, the idea that I would take my own life, and it’s not quite in my nature to follow through with something so dire, even if I really, really wanted to. And the suicidal thoughts, which I only had once, are not at all what almost killed me in this story. I’m merely just painting the picture for you of the kind of shit I had to endure while under training. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. I cried every, single, day. And I truly hated myself. Still not exaggerating.
But I stayed. I stayed because I figured, eventually, they’d have to build me back up. “Maybe that’s what year two was all about.” These MUST be lessons I need to learn. There MUST be a purpose for all of it.
In hindsight, my brain is under the impression that because I survived Texas, I must now be invincible, but my soul and spirit still go through a little PTSD anytime I trip on a rock in the road.
So now that you understand my emotional state while living under these pressures, and the idea that after Year One I was two steps away from completely quitting, packing up, and moving back home to be a high school dance teacher or something, I’ll tell you what convinced me to stay and follow through til the end.
This is the thing that changed my life forever, the actual almost dying part, and now, the reason I’m able to sit here in LA as a working artist and give you this advice. This is where the game changed for me. Or rather, I told the game to move out of my way; to sit down, shut up, or f**k off so I could finally be the person I needed to be.
And I will reveal exactly how it happened in Part Two of this story.
Didn’t mean to game show host you there, but this post would be way too long if I tried condensing this entire story into one shot. Trust me.