An Open Letter from Caitlin Moran

I like this.
–B.

The letter:

I can tell instantly as when you step up, darling. I know. The posture, the sleeves over the hands, something in your eyes – you the girls who are struggling right now.

Some of you are hard and tense with overeating. Others, anorexic, feel like starving baby birds when I  hug you – a handful of brittle bamboo canes. Maybe your arms are furious with criss-cross razor lines, or studs in your ear, your nose, your tongue, where you have tried to reclaim your bodies from something, or someone, with the snap of a piercing gun.

Sometimes your parents are there – standing in the background, nervous, their faces anxiously projecting, “She likes you. Please make her feel better now. Oh Christ, don’t break her.”

Other times, your parents aren’t there, but still present – their carelessness or rejection as tangible as if they were standing a foot away, casting mile-long shadows.

What do I say to you girl – you beautiful girls? You girls who are having the Bad Year – the Bad Year where you cannot remember why you were happy aged 12, and cannot imagine being happy at 21? What can I say in one minute, two minutes, three minutes?

So many things. That panic and anxiety will lie to you – they are gonzo, malign commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high, wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine.

Panic and anxiety are mad, drugged fools. Do not listen to their grinding-toothed, sweaty bullshit.

e is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute. However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.

That will never happen. That is not what happens.

The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time – all orderly strung, like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never, ever have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds.

Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute. The work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that, for just one minute. And if you can do a minute, you can do the next.

Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.

Buy flowers – or if you are poor, steal one from someone’s garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom – and put them at the end of the bed. When you wake, look at it, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers. This stops your first thought being, “I fear today. Today is the day maybe I cannot survive any more,” which I know is what you would otherwise think. Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years.

And the most important thing? To know that you were not born like this. You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done – which means things can be undone. It is hard work. But you are not scared of hard work, compared with everything else you have dealt with. Because what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.

Love, Caitlin

http://www.stylist.co.uk/people/caitlin-moran-powerful-letter-to-the-girls-i-meet-at-my-book-signings-women-girls-anxiety-depression-love-feminism-moranifesto

The one they choose.

To be in my business in this city is to be one of millions. To survive in my business in this city, you have to believe that someone will choose you over the other millions. You have to believe you have something to offer.

And I do believe that. I can’t tell you how– I have no hard evidence beyond anecdotal– but a part of me really, truly believes that someone will choose me. They have before, and they will again. And that’s the key.

I walk around Penn Station, where most of the studios where auditions are held are, and see hundreds of girls in heels or in tights, most with backpacks or rolling bags, hair whipping in the wind. Each one of them believes that they have what it takes. And if they don’t, eventually I’ll stop seeing them. I peer through pages of agent’s websites, looking at their clients’ headshots, hundreds of girls with soft, flowing hair and eyes that stare out of the frame, lips naturally pink and eyebrow hair retouched to smoothness. Each one of them also believes they have what it takes, and they have already found someone they believe in.

I often feel like the only person who believes in me is myself. I have an agent, but don’t get appointments. I have friends who help, sorta, but not enough. Everyone else glances over me or doesn’t see me in the hundreds of smiling, pore-smoothed faces that pass through their days.

It’s exhausting to only have yourself, to maintain that belief that someone will choose you when you go for months without anyone proving that to be true. It’s hard to walk amongst those girls on 36th St and feel different, only to realize that they feel the exact same way about me and everyone else.

There is an abundance of girls like me. There is a severe dearth of work.
There is an abundance of work for certain people. There is a severe dearth of work for me.

I watch auditions come and go, most I never even get to go in for, watch the shows I didn’t get to audition for open, then run, then close, watch the actors who did get to audition and who did get the roles move onto the next, and I just stand there in the middle of the city and think, once, just once, I want to be the one that they choose.

Promises and Endings

You’d think that by now I would have trained myself to resist the sweet bait of promises. You’d think I’d have realized that nothing is permanent, including happiness, including certainty.

And yet.

Last summer, I resisted the honey they poured in my ear. I tried to let it drip out as it came, delicious and sweet, but not something to hold on to too tightly. Of course, as honey always does, it sticks.

In this business, promises are frauds. Nothing lasts. A perfect moment, an upswing, a success, will pass even quicker than it came. Humans like to make sense of things. People in normal industries are used to this. You intern. Then you assist. Then you office manage, then you’re a junior partner, then you’re a CEO. Or whatever.

That is not the world I live in. There isn’t any "fairness" to it. The best, most honest of intentions are thwarted. No one lies on purpose. No one says, "there will be a reading in March," or "we’re going to cast Connie Britton," or "there’s interest in a transfer" or "that was beautiful to watch" or "you’re undoubtedly going to have a career" and NOT actually believe that they’re telling the truth.

Nothing in this business works with they way things are "supposed" to go. You don’t climb the ladder. You don’t work with the same people in the same office on the same schedule on the same things day in and day out. Your job doesn’t conflict with ANOTHER job because you just have ONE job. You don’t turn down the opportunity to audition with a casting director who loves you for a lead role in a hilarious short that’s filming in a gorgeous beach town in August with all the people who love you and tell you how special and talented you are because you have 7pm performances of a play with the company you both helped found in 2010 and were weirdly fired from in 2012 in a basement theatre in the East Village.

And yet, that’s what happens. And it’s not the first time.

It’s hard, when shit like this happens, to feel like its worth it. My heart breaks on a weekly basis. But when I’m in rehearsal, with knee pads on, loping around like the Zanni from commedia dell’arte, I understand. When I’m set up in front of a camera and I dig my hands in my pockets and gaze into the tiny eye of the lens, I understand.

It seems, based on my posts this summer, that its been particularly trying to be an actor at the moment for me. I guess that’s accurate. It was so EASY last summer– but now I’m back in reality and its not quite as simple.

1. I’m in NYC, land of (too many) opportunities, not trapped in Jersey and safe from the cattle call.

2. I’m doing a show that may or may not be any good, and that people may or may not see and may or may not enjoy.

3. I have to talk myself down off the ledge. I don’t have two 40 year old moms to tell me I, good and special and important.

This life is exhausting in its complexity. Being in rehearsal from 11-3 feels so good, but at 3 I have to go to an audition, or go home and work on my relationship, make dinner, go to the psychiatrist, THINK.

I helped host this panel with the Drama Desk Awards in June, which brought together a number or folks making their Broadway debuts totals about, we’ll, "Making My Broadway Debut." One young (my age… Oof) actress, who’s currently in VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE said something along the lines of: I love going to work. But even though I’m actually doing my JOB (performing in a play 8 shows a week), I feel like I’m not. It feels like my job is to find the next project. I’m not comfortable just coming to the theatre every night and doing the show. The SEARCH for work feels like my job almost more than the job itself.

And even when I was at my most comfortable in a show, I agree– you’re always looking for the next. Everything ends. Even a Tony-Award winning play. Even happiness. Even a promise.

But I also have to believe that even the frustration, the stagnation, the sadness, will end, too. It’s just a matter of time.

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Seismic Shifts

I’ve been thinking about what to write for a few days now, and I’m just now sitting on the couch, hoping to scratch some of it down. It’s going to be jumbled, but sometimes there’s poetry in chaos. My dad always said to start with a free write.

The window behind me is open a crack. The air is wet and full, but the breeze has a chill. It’s been a rainy June, but we’ve had a couple of miracle days. Days of perfection– bright blue skies, calm air, just enough warmth to release the sounds and smells of spring, as if every piece of the city was perfectly placed on its coordinates, suddenly allowing things to flow just right.

I have moments in this city, like I did yesterday on the way home from working with my boss while he was in rehearsal at the Barishnikov Arts Center on 11th Ave, where the pieces feel like they fit just right. I can glance at the skyscrapers uptown and wonder at how a homebody from Idaho made a life here. I’m not hungry, but I’m not overfull. Breath flows, unobstructed. Heading home in time for dinner, the sun just starting its descent over the Hudson.

I’m alone, usually, when this happens. It’s like those toys we had when we were kids– the beak of an eagle perched on your finger balances the whole bird. Miraculous. Also, temporary, and also, solo. If a bee lighted on the back of the small plastic eagle, it would crash down, all memory of balance gone. So I relish those moments– solo, balanced, and necessarily brief.

I have found that I am still very young. This is not shocking. I mean, I’m not crazy– I’m 24 years old and I’ve known I’m young for about as long as I’ve been alive. But I don’t have a life pattern yet. I have little to base what’s next upon. I was in school for 22 years– day care and preschool, elementary school, high school, boarding school, college. And now I’m entering my second year of true "adulthood." That’s not a very long time to develop of sense of what "life" is.

So I falter. I compare. I long for last summer’s career arc, and I pine for my college friendships. I am a different person now than I was two years, four years, ten years ago. Which surprises me, in some ways.

Perhaps personality develops through a series of catalysts. Choices we make that echo long after they’re done. Battles we fight until we can finally emerge, bloody and mutilated, but victorious. Sometimes the mere shape of the world around us– a high school, for instance, or a mother-daughter relationship– catalyze what’s next. I wonder how long I will keep changing. Will who I am ever cement? Or with every shift of the seismic plates, every strong Noreaster, will my "self" be changed a little bit too?

 I come from a town that is bigger than a town but smaller than a city. There were cul-de-sac suburbs and junky trailers off the highway, but where I lived there was a front yard and a backyard, an elementary school in walking distance, piano lessons, ballet class, and gymnastics. I had a younger sister and two parents who worked. My dad, a PhD and a Rhodes scholar, professor of English and author of creative nonfiction, my mother a labor and delivery nurse who often worked odd shifts but could be counted on, when home, to prepare stir fry or pesto pasta and knew when we should finish our last snacks so we had room for dinner. I had some friends from school– Heather, Keako, Andrew, Evan. We went camping in the mountains during the summer, alternately covered in dust and damp with lake water.

This was the structure of my life from age 6 to age 15. And yet, the inside is so much more complex. I was a difficult little girl– tempermental, moody, destructive, obsessive. My parents fought often, and for some time, slept in separate bedrooms. My mother sent money, and then refused it, to my drug-addicted cousins (there’s more than one), and she learned that her sister was in prison. My father still struggled to come to terms with his childhood sexual abuse at summer camp. It shuttered him. I didn’t know my sister, despite the fact that her room was next to mine.

The facts of my life are these:
I live with my boyfriend. I’m a professional actor. I’m a resident of New York City. I graduated summa cum laude as the salutatorian from college. I take the subway every day and see a therapist every week. My eyes are blue, or green, or gray, or a mix; no one can decide. My hair is blonde, or dark blonde, or light brown, or honey-colored; no one can decide.

Underneath, the struggle:
I can no longer see food without considering whether or not I should eat it.
I know when I’m depressed when I can’t read.
I am terrified that I have alienated the dearest friends I have.
All I really want is for people to love me as much as I love them.
I feel trapped and terrified and lost nearly every day.
I fantasize about a childhood that I know didn’t exist.
Sometimes I go through days in New York where every single person I see, I resent.
I want to write powerful personal essays like my father, but I don’t know where to begin.

Everything changes. It would take years and years to trace each seismic shift from its starting place, to its catalyst, to its change. There are patterns, of course. My triggers are familiar. Many of my dreams are the same.

But the way I see myself, the way I see the world, has transformed, and on more than one occasion.

I’m okay with that.

As long as I still find those moments where all the pieces of my life, my desires, my city, can balance momentarily on a finger. As long as I feel those sharp flashes of knowing I’m exactly where and what and who I’m supposed to be. The inside transforms the outside, and the same is true the other way around.

And maybe that makes me hope that I’ll never stop changing, that with each turn of the season and spin of the axis, I’m finding my balance on the point that feels just right, at least for a moment. And then I’ll fall off, only to tip and spin and flounder until I’ve found my perfect, temporary fit again.

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