If there is anything I learned after completing film school - it was leading the lifestyle of calming, the fluff, down. After sleepless nights of burn-out from a certain story, or still wondering if I loved the idea of filmmaking, to having to pick up the extra slack after one of my crew members unexpectedly dropped out, and dealing with judgmental faces and a tone of complete and utter self-indulgence, I wish I knew then to take a step back and relax. Yes, your art is important, but hey - it's not going to get the chance to be shared with the world if you're in the hospital because of spiked cortisol levels and overall, sucky health and spirituality.
So when you're feeling this way, in any situation really, go through these few steps below to keep your clarity and integrity.
WHen the Love Fades - Take a Break
Simple as that. If you feel like you're being forced to do the thing you love to the point you're not sure if you like it anymore, take a breather and step away. I know that's difficult to do in any sort of art school situation where you're being graded on what you do, and your education is what you're paying for - and of course, most of your assignments take up a lot of time, but even if it's just once, put in the minimal you need to, to get it done, then get your mind off of it - even if it's just for the weekend. Go the beach, to the movies to lift your spirits a bit, for a weekend road trip, to see your family, whatever it may be - shake it off for a little while then come back with a fresh mind.
Be Kind, Open Your Mind, and listen!
In school and classes, you're often asked to give constructive criticism, but more often than not, the feedback you receive is more of an opinionated slam rather than a helpful and constructive suggestion. My take on this is that instead of just thinking about what you are going to say in response to your fellow artist's work or performance, allow yourself to actually take in what they've done and how you react to it. Keep and open mind, and get that selfish idea that whatever you may say is what matters most out of your head and into the waste basket. Constructive criticism is about helping your fellow artists strive, not your opportunity to gloat. With this, if anything stands out with their presentation - whether it be negative, positive, or a suggestion, respond with what my dad calls the "Oreo Strategy." What this means, is that you start with something you enjoyed or you thought was well done, why it was well done, then something they can work on, then end with something positive - this way, those receive the feedback respond in a positive way and also understand something they can work on without feeling shut down.
Don't Create For Others - Create for Yourself
So many say, "create for the masses," "make it commercial," "do this,""do that," but if you have no interest in what you're writing, I can assure you it probably won't turn out well. John Carpenter, master of horror and wonders alike, as well as Stephen King, said, "Write what you want to read, write what scares you, and what you have fun within the process of doing." After that, Carpenter mentioned, "if it scares you, chances are, it'll scare someone else too," and that way, your writing is unique, genuine, and probably loads better than what the outcome would be if you made something predictable and that you thought people would like.
Educate Yourself - But Don't leave Your Heart Behind
Learn from experiences, get on set, get behind someone who is doing what you want to be doing as a career and take it all in. Also in classes, participate - figure out what's happening in your industry and what people are into. Is it sci-fi films with aliens? Method acting? Black and white photography? Cubism? Whatever it may be, take it in and use it to your advantage. Along the way though, make it your own. Educate yourself within your world to set you up for the highest amount of success and response as possible, but make the experience come from your heart. Put yourself into everything you do to make your work that much better. For example, if pastels are in style and trendy, and you love bumblebees, add a bumblebee patch to each or some of the pastels you own. This way, your passion is something many can relate to and jive with, but you'll be even more memorable, because you added something new to the scene - you added you to the scene.
Don't Let Anyone tell You what Will and Won't succeed
As far as I know - not everyone is able to tell the future, and even if they can, there's a possibility of them reading it wrong. What I mean by this is that no one can tell you that your work won't be successful. Same goes for the fact that one person can't feel and think the way the other 7.5 billion people on this planet do, so if you feel strongly about sharing your art, you best go and share it, because chances are one of those 7.5 billion people will need it to make their lives better in some shape or form.
Keep your Word
If there's anything that truly grinds one's gears, it's trusting someone to show up in any regard of life, then having that person let them down. I find backing out of things last minute for no true reason at all, not keeping a promise, not delivering what you said you would, not making that call, not reading the fine print - whatever it may be, to be one of the worst forms of betrayal. Integrity is an essential part of living a full life - and if someone is counting on you - you best show up to your best efforts. This will gain you respect, self confidence, and an over-all feeling of well being that will send you much farther, faster.
Nothing is Worth Being a Jerk
It doesn't matter if you have the most experience, if someone made a silly mistake, or if something happens that wasn't according to plan - DON'T BE A JERK. There is no reason to be mean to anyone or make them feel inadequate, regardless of your experience. Take that opportunity to educate without seeming uppity nor making them feel bad. Also, just in general, it's exhausting to go out of your way to make someone feel badly about themselves. It won't make you any friends, people won't want to work with you, and it's just unnecessary. If you have something to say - think about it before it comes out of your mouth. This goes with facial expressions and body language too. There is no hiding that and it makes so many feel uncomfortable. Cut the drama. Also - being passive aggressive is childish. If you have a problem, confront someone with a genuine and mature question, listen, and create a solution in a positive and adult-like manner. Anger is a wasted emotion that takes up too much time and energy otherwise.
Let It Out - It's Necessary to Cry
Sometimes, things just become way too overwhelming and it's hard to get out of bed in the morning. Building up the stress, sadness, anxiety, and anger just leads you into an emotional spiral that can create someone you don't even recognize anymore. It is SO necessary to just cry and scream every once in a while - or dance, take a walk, or do all of these things at the same time. Just let. it. out! Who the fluff cares what anyone has to think about it - especially you. Don't stop yourself. If you want to continue on and be healthy and create your art - get what's bothering you out of your body and into the air, where it can blow away and slowly disappear.
You don't know everything, and if you think you do, that is a problem - because absolutely no one does. This is why you must ask questions. Ask those who are where you want to be how they got to where they're at, and what they advise for you to do moving forward. Ask how something works. How to do a skill. Tricks to create effects. What the business side is - whatever under the sun that comes to your mind that you want to understand further. The questions you ask tell you a lot about yourself, and the people you're asking genuinely find it meaningful that you want to enhance your career or your work- sometimes they'll even take note of it for possible opportunities in the future. Also - be sure to ask people questions about themselves outside of just a career focus too, especially in a more personal setting or a "typical networking event." No one likes to be used, and not everyone always gets to talk about themselves and the things they care about. Make them smile and realize how great they are too. What I mean by this is asking something like, "what kinds of things make you happiest outside of what you do for your job?" or "What's your cat's name? Where did you find her?" things that are genuine and personal. Life is more than just work - and sometimes people need to be refreshed and reminded of that.
Make It. Don't THink. Just do It
If you feel so much passion for something, just go for it. Put the time in, don't think, just create. That's when the best stuff happens. <3
Mary Gabrielle Strause
Okay, I have to gush. This last year, my boyfriend and I found a place SO magical and SO incredibly special that I absolutely cannot help but share it with the world. My love of Old Hollywood, glamour, musical theater, ambiance, and Italian food all paraded into my heart in one sweet and irreplaceable combination by the name of "Miceli's." Open since 1949 in the heart of Hollywood, this Italian treasure has been loved and visited by all, including those like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and the like for 70 years! This place is filled with the magic of what Hollywood was and is meant to be, with all of the heart and soul you could ever imagine. If that isn't enough to sell you on your next trip to Los Angeles, let me make Miceli's your obvious dinner choice for your first night in town, and the thing you dream of until you get here.
Singing Waitresses and waiters!
You know I mentioned musical theater above, and here is where that comes in. Not only are the waiters and waitresses here phenomenal at their job - feeding you endless amounts of delicious, carb infused, magic, but they also sing their faces off! In order to work here, you must be either classically/operatically trained in voice (or audition) to be able to give your guests dinner and a show - because you're in Hollywood and you should never expect anything less than to be entertained. Accompanied by an excellent grand pianist who plays throughout the day and into the night, these talented servers and possible future starlets sing stellar musical theater songs along with classics by Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, etc., and jazz favorites. You won't be able to refrain from your jaw dropping while slurping up your spaghetti, because boy, these folks will take your breath away.
open in 1949 - The history
Did I forget to mention that this Hollywood landmark opened in 1949?! Within the midst of the Golden Age of Hollywood?! In other words - the best and most becoming years of cinema?! I'm talking Rear Window, Sunset Boulevard, Singing in the Rain, All About Eve, Some Like it Hot - that Hollywood. Founded by singing shoe-shiner and war vet from Chicago - Carmen Miceli, Hollywood's first and now oldest Italian restaurant blessed the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Las Palmas Avenue. His brothers and sisters pooled their money together with recipes handed down to them by their Sicilian parents and relatives, to be able to open up shop in 1949. They sold 35 cent pizzas, which was a new and increasingly popular and loved trend among those living in Los Angeles at the time.
FAvorite of Marilyn and frank...
...and dozens of other iconic celebrities. Miceli's is where Lucille Ball learned how to spin a pizza for her show. Not to mention Elizabeth Taylor, Joe DiMaggio, Dean Martin, Richard Burton, and THE BEATLES ( on top of Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra) ! I mean, come on... For such iconic and legendary individuals to visit such a place on more than one occasion, it has to be so gosh dar special - and that's just what Miceli's is. A legend for legends - a place where Hollywood never dies, and the heart beats stronger every day.
The Food and free smells!
Holy moly, it's hard to go wrong with the food here...and the wine...and the garlic bread...and okay - if you want an extra meatball, you should probably get it. With their infamous pizza, phenomenal chicken parmesan, sensational cheese bread, pesto fettuccine, and my favorite, fettuccine carbonara, there is no way you'll leave this place without having to unbutton your pants and eventually wipe a satisfied smile off of your face. The food here is amazing, and so are the smells. When you walk in, it's like a cloud of the most enticing garlic has given your face a mouthwatering hug of love. As you sit down in your booth, the butterflies (or ping of hunger) in your stomach will only grow stronger with each plate that passes you.
The Atmosphere - the heart and legacy of old hollywood
The atmosphere here is by far the thing that outweighs the rest of Miceli's incredible features. When you walk through their heavy double doors into a dimly lit, checkerboard floored, wooden paneled and brick-walled dining room that eventually opens into a warmly snug three level restaurant with wooden railings, red and white table clothes, whicker and glass flasks hanging from the ceiling, and the smell of garlic bread dancing through the air with the melody of "A Whole New World," being serenaded from the grand piano. The hostess takes you in and greets you with a kind smile. You see framed photos of famous legends eating a slice of pizza lining the wall to your right as you absorb the energy of this place. This is a feeling you can't find many places. It is one of going back in time. You can't help but feel your heart warming and the corners of your mouth beginning to rise. You look from left to right to see couples and families spending time with one another, waitresses and waiters singing their hearts out doing what they love most, walls that hold the cherished memories and passion of what this city was built off of, and the understanding that you're entirely present in the moment, standing there, with the ability to just be and feel.
This is what Miceli's is to me, and I know, that when Carmen Miceli and his family built this place - that's exactly what they intended it to be and how they lived their lives creating such a special place. This isn't just another Italian Restaurant - it's home for those old souls who love to bask in the moment and the music. Those who cherish and celebrate times spent with friends and family. Miceli's is a place for the ones who's souls dance to the melody called life, and see it as a gift - smiling through the good and the bad. Most of all - it's for those who love - which is each and everyone one of us if we let ourselves.
So please, I beg you, if and when you come to LA - go to Miceli's. I will go with you in a heartbeat. You won't ever regret it, and chances are, you'll make memories there that will last a lifetime.
To read more about the history of Miceli's click the link below! (this is where I got my info from):
To visit Miceli's or make a reservation, click here for more info:
Mary Gabrielle Strause
Fair warning, this blog post may be a bit on the dreary side, but it's honest. After I left my home in Rio, Wisconsin and my family, friends, and everything I knew at 19, I experienced a LOT of things very quickly that I never once considered being possible. Granted, I went to UW-Madison which was only forty-five minutes away from home for a year before I came out to LA, but most everything I list below is relevant to both Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. That being said, I recently had a deep conversation with someone I love so much, and realized all of these things had ultimately impacted our relationship and my worldview today. With looking back at my college experience, I wish I would have been even the slightest bit mentally prepared for the life that had hit me so hard. With that, I wanted to share my thoughts with those going to college next fall, and also to let everyone who has experienced or is experiencing these things now, know that it's all going to be okay.
You're incredible. Keep pushing through, even though it feels like you can't. The world needs your gifts.
You Lose A lot Of High SChool Friends
Though it may be, this wasn't obvious to me when I graduated high school. I grew up in a town of 938 people and was in class with the same kids since I was five years old. I thought the friends I made there and the depths of our relationship would withstand the sands of time, but even a few months away from one another proved me wrong. As you grow in different places and have different things happen to you, you slowly realize that the friends you had in high school were merely your friends because you were within the same environment at that time. Once you go out and are exposed to people from all around the world in a bigger city with more opportunity, it's only a matter of time before the people you surround yourself with in college become the ones that fill up your time in this chapter of your life. On top of that, the friends you had in high school are discovering different interests that no longer align with yours, and you are doing the same thing on your own path.
Though the memories you all had together were so incredibly special and unforgettable, the time comes where you need to flip the page in your story to make more memories happen with different people. Like they say, don't be sad it's over, be happy it happened. Also, of course, there might be one or two that stay - and nothing will ever be able to change that!
Loneliness is Your Shadow
If you're in a new space, especially if it's a big one and you have trouble fitting in or connecting to people, there's a chance that loneliness will creep up by your side and be a hard one to shake off. This comes with the inability to truly feel yourself with those around you, and if you try to be something else to appease them or fit in, it becomes exhausting, and ultimately leads to feeling even lonelier.
The trick to this is learning to understand yourself in the silence and fall in love with what you take in. In fact, being alone is necessary. The most consistent part of your life will be you looking in that mirror to the reflection of yourself every day, so might as well work on liking who you see first. With that, it will make everything so much easier. Then, when the time comes along for the right people to come into your life, it won't matter, because you'll already be your own best friend.
needing to make money gets all too real
I was blessed with parents that have always helped me out, but that doesn't change the fact that they raised me to earn everything I wanted. What I wanted was not to have to depend on them for everything, and also, when you're living out in Los Angeles, everything is SO expensive. Really though, being able to afford the essentials like rent, utilities, groceries, and the like anywhere packs a punch when you didn't have to pay for any of those things (possibly) in high school.
The dollar (or whatever currency you may use) sign truly adds up and up and up as you go on, and so do the hours you need to associate to making money outside of school. After a while, and trying to balance everything, this factor of life can stress you out beyond belief and can honestly shift your personality and shape you into an entirely different and ugly person. Don't let that happen. Learn to breathe, understand that it will all be okay, and find a way to make money by doing something you enjoy - that way it will make everything that much more worth it.
You miss out on a lot back home
Being 2,000 miles away from home, I missed out on a lot. I missed out on my cousin's wedding. I missed my brother graduating from college. I missed conversations and the celebrations of people I loved passing away. I missed watching The Voice with my mom on Monday nights. I missed going on midnight drives with my brother, and jamming out to our favorite songs. I missed having hour-long conversations with my Dad and watching Grease for the 50th time. I missed my best friends' birthdays, and didn't get to be there for their 21st's. Of everything that has impacted me while being away from home, missing out on the day to day life I used to have is the most painful to cope with. Though it only may be for a few years, it doesn't make it any easier to look back on and see you weren't a part of those moments.
Call and talk to everyone you love as frequently as you can. Let them know you love them. Facetime them. Send goofy notes or cards in the mail. Stay close and ask questions.
time management is everything!
Good lord, I couldn't stress this enough. This lesson hit me hard every step of the way. With every opportunity you want to take while going to school, hopefully making some money along the way, getting enough sleep, finding time to eat and eat healthily, finishing all of your homework, preparing for presentations or performances, squeezing in exercise and extracurricular activities, and last, but not least, any sort of social life. To be honest, I still find it hard.
Managing your time means choosing your priorities day by day, balancing some time here and some time there, and sometimes sacrifice - though you should never sacrifice your health or mind.
Finding a place to belong is difficult
There are obviously so many opportunities to try new things when you get to college that call to some sort of facet of your being. The thing is, there are so many people in each of these groups that what you maybe just "enjoy," that they absolutely live for! That being said, you'll like being around these people to an extent, but it will take finding the thing you really like (maybe) to feel one with the world around you.
There is a lot of trial & error (learning)
This is the constant with everything you do, but especially in college when you're trying to find the right major, AKA the "the thing you want to do for the rest of your life." You're not going to know something is what you want to do unless you try it! Sometimes, you're not even aware that what you love to do is a career, and you don't discover it until someone else you run into is doing it. That's what happened with me! When I was at Madison, I met a guy who was studying film. Little did I know then that it was a real thing to be able to make movies for a job. After I found out, I shifted gears as working with storytelling was something I always had a passion for, and pursued a degree in film instead. When I moved out to Los Angeles, went through film school and worked in the industry for a little while, I realized I love making movies, but what was most important to me was telling the story. This is why I'm now focusing on writing the books first and then adapting them into screenplays after. I'm sure I'll change my mind a few times down the road after I've tried writing books - but until I do it, I won't know if it's for me or not. When I do find that thing that I'm meant to do though (I think it's what I'm doing now), it wouldn't have been found out without going through everything I've done up until this very moment for me to realize it.
Some people are Great, a lot aren't so great
The one person who will always have your best interest, is yourself. Not everyone is trying to put their best foot forward for you, and you'll realize that by how often they show up for you in good times and in bad. Not everyone will be your friend, but when you can fully trust and be yourself with another person regardless of the situation, that you can be honest with and they tell you when you're being stupid, that's when you've found a good friend. Never put everything you have into someone unless they earn it. It takes time as well as many people to screw you over, but when you find those people who don't, you'll be able to count them on one hand. Having quality friends is always more coveted than the quantity. Choose wisely. It's okay not to like and spend time with everyone.
MEntal illness and health issues come into play
With balancing classes, trying to date and being screwed over, not having anyone to talk to about how you're feeling, or not having anyone to talk to in general, to trying to figure out who you are and who you were meant to be, not having time to eat because you have a half hour to get from your class to your part time job, having the worst time trying to make friends, or piling your plate with directing two plays, acting in one, joining the intramural soccer team, and making your short film on top of your 20 credit class schedule, it's a surprise you haven't already had a nervous breakdown. Not to mention, you probably haven't slept because you have a paper due at 8AM and you just got home at 11PM from rehearsal. As a matter of fact, this paragraph is your life on a daily basis and it just keeps running on repeat.
This is when that time management thing comes into effect as well as yourself being your first priority. If you don't practice self-love and care, which include sleeping and eating proper meals throughout the day, as well as getting some sort of exercise and sunlight, everything you do on top of that is going to drive you into the ground. With having no time to breathe and the inability to form meaningful relationships, this is when depression, panic attacks, anxiety, malnourishment and the like happens with no end in sight. This is very real.
Take care of yourself, or there will be none of you left that you recognize.
you realize just how important your family is
When you don't see the people you were surrounded by every waking day anymore, and you start to miss out on all of the daily goodness and memories that come with the life you've lived together, you truly and deeply understand just how important your family is. When you think about how much you miss in four years while being away at college, start to think about those special moments you haven't been there for, the conversations you've needed to have but couldn't, and the limited days given for everyone you love - including yourself. You start to understand the need to make money, the location you're in, and the lifestyle you lead, could never trump being able to see your family on a regular basis.
You understand how cold the world can be
Coming from little ol' Rio, Wisconsin, I would have never guessed I'd walk the streets of nearly 50,000 homeless people on a daily basis. I didn't think I'd see someone walk past a human being lying nearly unconscious in the street without stopping to make sure they're okay or that they had water or something eat. I never thought I'd see places set on fire because of an irrational and emotional difference. I would never assume there'd be public shootings and massacres every other day, and being able to hear gunshots every other night while I lay in bed. Thinking of someone having withdrawals from drug use or someone stumbling home obliterated because they drank too much, was something I couldn't imagine. Also - to witness someone so deeply in pain, who couldn't find help, take their own life right before my eyes. To see death firsthand in multiple situations due to being mortal or someone unwilling to stop after a hit and run.
The world isn't all sunshine and rainbows. We know this. What we need to do instead is exude as much love and positivity as we possibly can, and not allow that coldness and darkness to take us over. Sharing light in a world so dark, is exactly what we need to get us through.
You become more cynical
I mean, if you've read the entirety of this blog so far, you've seen that even I have become a bit cynical. I absolutely hate it, and am trying to be better. In fact, I find things that happen every day that help restore my faith in the world and in humanity, but given the circumstances of what I've experienced out here in Los Angeles over the last few years, it was hard not to view the world in a bit of a darker setting. Especially in the entertainment industry, having your worth judged on how you look or your gender, compared to how you think, only being merely a blur of a face when you're working for someone regardless of how much you put on the line for them, or the need to hurt people in order to seem more powerful just really puts your heart in a place of constant question to human kindness. Of course - human kindness is everywhere - it's just the matter of what mindset you choose to put yourself in, the atmosphere you decide to live in, and the person towards strangers that you're going to be.
Don't add to the darkness, fight against it. Crappy things will happen, but you'll have to decide that you're not going to let it affect you in a negative way and allow it to be a lesson on your journey.
You have to go through a lot of crap to eventually find out who you are