That One Time I Cast My IRL Crush (Kinda) to Play My On-Screen Love Interest

… and then proceeded to have a lot of feelings about it for an entire weekend.

We begin production on the web series this upcoming Friday. In three days, the past four months of writing, sending emails, and creating spreadsheets will culminate in us beginning our first 10+ hour shooting day! I am incredibly proud and excited. I’m trying to ignore the fact that I haven’t memorized my lines yet… and that my hair, eyebrows, and teeth look fucked up. I will have to get over my self-consciousness and body image issues, because nobody got time fo’ that.

We sent out the last of the finalized scripts on Thursday or Friday. I haven’t discussed the project in detail on here, but it’s basically a fictionalized version of our lives and friendship. We’ve changed some names, combined some personalities to make for more interesting characters, and exaggerated/consolidated some events. But for the most part, we are writing what we know: Being two Black women in their mid-to-late twenties, and trying to balance relationships/dating, money, working, and pursuing our dreams. I believe the show is funny and well-written, but I’m obviously biased.

As we both needed a compelling romance story for the season, I decided to write about a “situation” I was in (as in, not really a situation that I wasn’t even really in) a year ago. Of course my friend has her long-time boo thang, who she will probably marry. And of course, they have all their issues and quirks. But in my perpetual single-dom, I didn’t have any of that. I have a lot of crushes who don’t amount to anything, so I decided to write about that. Last summer, I met this guy through aforementioned sistafriend/collaborator/co-creator. And I just thought he was so fine. After a month of asking my friends what to do, I asked him out on a “coffee date,” which is like a real date… except much more ambiguous. (The same amount of anxiety-inducing pressure to not be a weird asshole, though.)

We went on the coffee date. I had a great time. He was funny. He was smart. He was cute. He was interesting and we had things in common, mostly that we’re both (a) Black(-ish); (b) writers and performers; and (c) live in the same general area. He was the first “new” person I had liked in a very long time. And if I’m being quite honest, I felt like he could possibly be someone I could “date” without wanting to be too involved. So, I kept pursuing it because I had a lot of time on my hands and a lot of warm, tingly feelings that I didn’t know what to do with. To make a long story short, things culminated (meaning: fizzled out in anti-climactic disappointment) when he told me he wasn’t interested.

My pride was wounded. My feelings were hurt. I felt embarrassed. And it brought up a bunch of residual, unpleasant feelings from He Who Shall Not Be Named. Mostly, I felt undesirable once again. And honestly, since last summer, I really have closed myself off again to having romantic feelings about others.

Anyways…

I decided to write about that guy in the web series, because it perfectly captures my awkward semi-aversion to dating… but also, it was full of the mystery and intrigue that all great romantic comedies are made of. As we continued to write this first season, I kept envisioning said guy as the character. And when it came time for us to talk about casting and hold auditions, I told my sistafriend, “Hey, I know this may be a bit much… but I think _______ should play himself.” We giggled a lot, realizing how ridiculous—but also, kind of perfect—this thought was. When we announced auditions, we made sure he saw the character breakdown. And what do you know? He, too, thought he would be a great fit for the role of “John.” Although there are some very distinctive, very funny scenes that take place in the series that allude to what happened between me and him, we mostly thought he wouldn’t pick up on it. I am usually way more zeroed in on the small minutiae of relationships (I mean that in the platonic, general sense) than other people, so I didn’t think he’d remember a lot of what happened. And—yes, this is going to sound fucked up—we thought he was too “Guy Dumb” to ever make the connection.

But he did make the connection. And he proceeded to ask my sistafriend and her boyfriend if we had written the show about him on Friday night, when we were all at an open mic. At first, I thought it was hilarious. (I still do. It continues to be a great story that only gets better.) But then, I felt really uncomfortable and vulnerable about the whole thing. I think maybe it just re-triggered those feelings of being undesirable, rejected, and embarrassed again. And also, I’ve never known how to be “just friends” with a guy immediately after I’ve liked him. Yes, he and I are friendly. But we’re not kicking back and drinking brewskies on a Thursday night, nahmean? I usually need some buffering/healing time between, “Hey, I have this enormous crush on you!” and “Oh, you don’t like me back? Let me go crawl up in a ball and die!” And because I kind of retreated after he let me know he wasn’t feeling me that way, I never really got that time. It’s mostly been an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type thing.

But alas, here he was on Friday, being all kinds of nosy. (Is it nosy if it’s about him?) This was exacerbated by our all-cast mixer the following night, in which I had to spend two hours in his general presence… and then told the rest of the cast about the whole sordid saga. (They laughed, and so it was more funny than traumatizing.)

To his credit, he is a stand-up guy and very good person. He let me be weird and distant on Friday and Saturday night, as I alternately made fun of him and refused to look him in the eye in the few moments I did talk to him. But it doesn’t change the fact that I have really trippy guy issues… and I wish I didn’t have these trippy guy issues, because I want to be the kind of girl who flirts effortlessly and can become friends with her crushes. Also, I would like to be 25 years old and not having “crushes” anymore, but I guess that’s another post for another day.

All of this to say: Over the next ten weeks, I will be forced to confront what will either be a brilliant plan of creative genius… or a catastrophic failure at trying to be cool and nonchalant. Yay, me! (-___-)

And I didn’t even get to the BEST part, which is… We needed a way to wrap up the story line in a fairly interesting way, especially since we leave it hanging for about three episodes. So, because I like to indulge the part of me that has bad ideas—and I am also tired of the fat, nerdy girl never getting the guy (Hello, projection!)—we end the season with his character deciding that he (maybe?) likes me, and wants to spend more time getting to know me. (I mean, that’s appropriately open-ended enough to not be sketchy, right?)

As a matter of fact, maybe I won’t show up to filming on Friday. By then, I may have drank myself into an irreversible coma to avoid all this fuckishness.

Things to Remember

The past week was rough. I spent most of it stressed, overwhelmed, and disappointed.

It was enough to make me cry today. The only time I cry anymore is while I’m watching TV or giving a heartfelt speech about something. The fact that I cried today because I was emotionally exhausted? Yeah, that was kind of major.

When I was done crying, I was able to remind myself all the things I have to be grateful for. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Over a month ago, a friend of mine lost her father… but she still smiles and laughs and makes jokes.

Last year, my best friend’s mother was diagnosed was cancer. She had an operation and she’s been in remission since, but I forget how scared my friend was. Her mother always hugs and kisses me when she sees me.

Last year, my mom’s friend lost her son to cancer. He was 20 years years old. Parents are not supposed to bury their children, especially when they haven’t gotten a chance to do most of their living.

These are the kind of events I feel like are truly impossible to come back from, but they all did. They have all lived beyond their pain and fear and loss.

And so, the things I have been feeling this week? I can handle them.

On Beyoncé, Shonda Rhimes, and Inspiration

Since last night, I have been immersed in my fandom of Beyoncé. Unless you live under a rock, you know HBO premiered the televised version of her On The Run Tour with Jay-Z last night. Along with most people who have an HBO subscription and are obsessed with pop culture, I watched the entire thing completely enraptured by how perfect Beyoncé is. Like, I know she’s a human being like the rest of us. Fine. But the woman is insanely beautiful and talented. And as her boo said, she probably is the best entertainer of our time. Like, dayum.

The whole thing was just a beautiful experience, even though I was watching it on TV. I danced to all my jams. I laughed whenever she cussed or got a little too ratchet. (Is there such a thing as being “too ratchet” when you’re Beyoncé?) I cried at the end when their home videos played and they wrapped up the show. And once again, I felt like a dumbass for not buying tickets and seeing the show live this summer. (I had four chances… and missed out on all of them. Shameful.) But what’s done is done. And all of the people who saw it live didn’t see it edited with fancy slow-motion effects.

Outside of life in the BeyHive, I have also been re-watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning. I’m currently on Season Five, when Izzie gets a brain tumor and George is still alive. I’m trying to watch it as a fellow screenwriter now—finding those moments when I’m asking, “Hmm, I wonder why she wrote that scene or made that choice with this character?” It’s also fun to find those moments when you can say, “Oh, that’s so Shonda!” Even though the characters and the world is fictional, there is always a part of a writer in their work. I enjoy finding those parts, however small they may be. I’m excited and anxious for this upcoming Thursday night, when Grey’sScandal, and How to Get Away with Murder all premiere on ABC.

It should be pretty obvious by now that I love me some Shonda Rhimes. As I’ve been deciding whether or not I want to go into screenwriting and television, I always look to her as an example. She’s done so much for on-screen diversity. She’s done so much for creating engaging, over-the-top TV with fully realized characters and skilled writing. Even though I have a lot of critiques about both Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, the woman is genius. She is a showrunner, writer, and executive producer—roles that are generally very male and very white in the entertainment industry. I love her. Like, I’ve gotten into heated arguments with my father over Shonda and Scandal. (I’ve also gotten into arguments with my father about Beyoncé.)

As I’m realizing more and more that I am not “choosing” an artist’s life, so much as surrendering to one, I need to look at these examples of incredibly successful, talented, creative Black Women to guide me. They are my role models and heroes. They prove to me that what I envision for my life, what I desire is possible.

As I may have written about yesterday, the past week has been crazy. After not being legitimately busy in months, I actually had things to do and shit to accomplish everyday of this week. And when I wasn’t being a moderately responsible adult, I was actually investing in my writing “career.” (Am I allowed to call it that?) My piece on the Daniel Holtzclaw case at For Harriet blew up this week. It has well over 125,000 views, which is the biggest response out of any piece I’ve posted before. On one hand, it feels awesome and impressive. I wrote something that actually resonated with thousands of people. It’s a small milestone, but it’s a relevant and important one, no less. It’s pretty cool to know that thousands of strangers have read something that I wrote. Like, what? That’s never happened to me before. And for the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been getting tweets and messages about it all throughout the week. It’s beautiful to be supported and commended by complete strangers.

I have always written for myself, first and foremost. I don’t release anything into the public sphere of consumption if I don’t feel compelled by it in some way. But now that I’ve been contributing to For Harriet, I feel a greater sense of responsibility with my work. It’s a great amount of pressure, to consistently produce writing that is sound and well-crafted and will resonate with others. It’s a great challenge. At some point, I can no longer be a perfectionist. I can no longer wait for “inspiration” to strike. Sometimes, there’s a topic I need to write about. And so, I must write it even if I don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about it. This blog is a great example of that. It’s difficult to write regularly, because my regular life is fairly uninteresting. I spend a lot of time thinking, daydreaming, and watching Netflix. I imagine most people don’t care about that. This is the point in my career (I said it without self-mocking quotations this time) where I have to find the balance between writing for myself… and writing things that will resonate with a wider audience. It’s tough.

We start production on our web series in less than two weeks. We sent out the scripts to our cast this week, and some of our crew. I have been feeling very sensitive, now that more than 15 people are now reading and analyzing our work. For so long, we’ve kept these episodes in a safe little incubator. But now, we’re preparing to bring them to life… so then we can put them up on YouTube, for the whole world to scrutinize. To alleviate some of the pressure, I asked my best friend what he thought of the scripts. We cast him in a supporting role for the first three episodes, as my racist coworker. Of course, I was hoping and expecting for him to say, “OMG! Wow! I love them! So funny!” Instead, his response was something like, “They have a lot of potential, but we’ll see how everything looks after shooting.” He also threw in some semi-passive-aggressive comment about also having taken a semester of playwriting in college.

In some ways, I am grateful for his honesty. He didn’t say the scripts were bad. And we also have to be prepared that not every person will love the show. This was a good primer for that reality. But of course, I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit. My bitchiness has come out since. I’ve been screening his calls. (Very passive-aggressive of me, I know.) But also, I’m trying to take it with a grain of salt. I love him and he loves me. And I know that he’s very supportive of my dreams. But I also know we have a very different sense of humor. And quite honestly, he is not the audience for our web series. We’re trying to be honest about what it’s like to be a twentysomething with dreams that don’t necessarily match up with current realities. That part is universal, and I think people will relate to. But we’re also trying to deal with what it’s like to be a Black Woman on a day-to-day basis. The moments of microaggressions and/or blatant racism. The experience of never being fully heard or seen. We’re tackling all of that… in what I consider to be a very well-written, very funny show.

All of this to say, I have immersed myself in the work of Beyoncé and Shonda Rhimes in the past few days, because they are two powerful, brilliant Black Women artists whom I admire. Even though they are very different women engaged in very different work, they are very similar in many ways too. They are both known for their strength of character and impressive business savvy. They’re not just artists, but they’re skilled business women. They’ve both built brands that reach millions of people. And the thing I love most about entertainment, media, and pop culture is how seamlessly they blend artistry and entrepreneurship. Yes, the art is important and meaningful. But it’s the business and branding that draws people in, that ensures you don’t go broke. Then there’s the fact that these Black Women are two of the biggest pop culture influencers in the world. Like, I can’t say enough about Bey and Shonda.

So, I’mma go watch some of this visual album and some of these episodes on Netflix and feel good about life and art and the magic of Black Womanhood.

I Am Enough As I Am

The past week, I received a little divine affirmation… and that little bit has gone a long way.

In the past week, I have begun learning that I am “enough”. It has taken me a long time to get here. Through my adolescence and early adulthood, I have always compared myself to others and been hyper-critical of myself. In some ways, this has served me. Having a competitive core, it’s a motivator and catalyst to get shit done and do it well. For this, I am grateful. But often, it leads to feelings of inadequacy and self-indulgent existential crises. For the most part, it has tricked me into thinking that I am not happy… and I won’t be happy until I am as near to whole, balanced, good, perfect as I can be.

Y’all, this is a shit way to go through life.

Three years ago, I started seeing a life coach and spiritual practitioner. I love going to therapy. I think everyone should go to therapy. But when I moved back to Los Angeles after graduation, I knew I wasn’t giving Kaiser and their sorry psychiatry department a dime. A close friend suggested this woman. I bonded with her instantly. I’ve been seeing her on-and-off since, usually to work through the same issues. I’ll choose to end our time when I feel I’ve made a breakthrough… or when I have run out of funds.

Two weeks ago, I returned to our sessions. Between the work I did during the past year and my summer of unemployment, I was feeling some type of way about my life path and self-worth. It’s hard for me to trust friends and family with these feelings, so I elected to see my coach. More than anything, she just has a gracious and open spirit. There is a kindness to her that I haven’t experienced with anyone else. It’s not so much that she tells me what to do… But she listens to me. She really listens to me, with patience. And a lot of times, it’s hard for me to really hear myself. And I definitely have no patience. So going to her is a necessary experience when I’m having all the woe-is-me and why-can’t-I-get-my-life feelings.

She has said the same thing to me over and over throughout the years, in different reiterations. Basically, that I have to be present with myself and stop focusing all of my energy outward. For the first time, I’m starting to understand what she means. I’m starting to put it into practice.

It is hard. It is such a subtle thing. Instead of thinking I will be “enough” when I have lost a bunch of weight or progressed in my writing or gotten a dream job… I have to open myself up to the possibility that I am enough. You know, I sound like a hippie as I’m writing this. And in this particular moment, I don’t feel very “present” or “enough.” But throughout this week, I have experienced an insane amount of love—most of it from strangers. And the Universe has offered me some very special blessings. And in those moments of love and offering, I did feel enough. I felt my usual messy, ridiculous self. But I also felt that I was a valuable person, despite all my messy.

And so, here I am. Here I am.

I’m moving into the next few months, which will be hectic and busy. And instead of thinking that I could better handle all the busy and hectic if I was more organized or had more energy… I’m choosing to accept that what I come equipped with is enough for me to get shit done.

On The Importance of Just Doin’ You

I am currently co-writing two web series.

My friend and I are co-creating a web series based on our lives and friendship. We begin production in October, with the release date of the first episode sometime in late January. We have written nine out of ten episodes of the first season. Even though we haven’t started shooting yet—and how something translates from page to film is a huge jump—I have never been so proud of a project. 

Yes, it can be frustrating and overwhelming at times. But when we are volleying ideas and jokes back and forth, when we are writing and revising our scripts… There’s nothing like it. I often leave our writing sessions thinking, “I could do this for the rest of my life.” I know I am lucky to have found something that I love doing so much. I know that I am lucky that I happen to be somewhat talented at doing this thing. I am hoping that this project opens doors for us, that it leads to more opportunities. Let’s be honest, I’m hoping that this project leads to us getting paid those beaucoup bucks.

I also know that there are millions of people trying to cash in on new media. Everyone has an idea. Everyone is hoping their idea is the next big, bright one to launch them into fame and fancy dinners and fat paychecks. I will remain faithful, but I will not hold my breath. All we can do is love our little baby to death. All we can do is work hard, stay true to our vision, and make sure we produce a final product that we are proud to claim. The rest will happen as it’s meant to…

I was invited to co-write the other web series I am working on. The creator read one of my earlier For Harriet pieces and reached out to me about possibly guest writing an episode of her series. The timing didn’t work out, but then she hit me up about a month ago about guest writing an episode for the new season. The stars aligned, everything worked out, and we’re almost done with the first episode. I needed this. Because it’s easier to write someone you know, who you’re close with and share ready similarities with. But writing with someone with a different style is more challenging. Especially if the project is an existing one.

It’s proving to me that (a) I can do this; and (b) I can do it under a number of varying circumstances. And at some point, that’s what all writers need. I have doubted my writing ability for a while now, wondering why I’m not a better poet… or why my work isn’t as celebrated as some of my friends’ writing. Yes, it is petty. But I honestly believe all writers are hella self-conscious and hella petty. At least I own my shit. When I was in school, it was easy to gain praise. I wrote a paper and my professors and classmates complimented me. I received good grades. I was in a bubble. I was used to receiving positive feedback. 

Then I graduated. I got a full-time job. I started a grassroots organization. Not only did I have to carve time out of my day to be creative, but there wasn’t a readily available audience to provide accolades and affirmation. I moved away from the artistic communities I had been a part of. I got wrapped up in my own fears and self-doubts. My writing suffered. My ideas of what I could do as a writer were limited. I have spent the past year and a half trying to climb out of this self-pitying ditch. I am re-learning what “good writing” is. I am reevaluating what matters to me as a writer, what I hope to accomplish within my own writing process.

Yesterday, my mother and I were throwing shade at certain unnamed family members. And she mentioned how sometimes, it upsets her that people do not acknowledge what good kids my brother and I are. She mentioned how they ask questions about “what I’m doing with my life,” as I still live at home and it doesn’t seem like I’m moving out anytime soon. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve always known a large part of my family thinks I’m weird. I have also known that I have different goals for myself than the people in my family do. We have different values, different priorities and perspectives. I’m OK with this. 

Growing up has been hard. Some people mature with finesse. I’ve emerged into my adulthood clumsily. I have had to learn and re-learn hard lessons. I have had to be honest with myself about my shortcomings. I have had to accept that I have no chill. I’m a hot mess. But I have grown. And I’m still growing. I am still building myself. I am not ashamed to be a work in progress. And I think that’s what sets me apart from some of the people in my family. I’m not interested in pretending to be anything or anyone other than who I am. 

I am doing me.

And yesterday, my mom told me that when my nosy-ass family members inquire about the choices I’m making, she always responds: “My children are doing them. And that’s all you need to know.” And for a moment, I was grateful that my mother is my mother. I mean, I am always grateful that my mother is my mother. But we have a difficult relationship sometimes. She doesn’t always understand me. And I’m not as patient or compassionate with her as I should be. But the truth is, my mother (and my father) have always let me “do me.” When I wanted to go to school at NYU, she didn’t like it… but she let me go. When I spent most of my time there depressed and homesick (but also in love with New York in a weird, magical sort of way), she never said, “I told you so.” She stayed up late on the phone with me and sent me money and reminded me that she loved me. When I took on too much the year I moved back home, she told me I needed to be more self-serving with my time… but she let me work myself crazy. 

And even now, as I am unemployed and not quite sure of my path, she hasn’t cussed me out (yet). I think she finally understands that (a) I am grown enough to make my decisions; (b) I have to build a life that’s right for me; and (c) I will be OK. My choice to pursue a more artistic path scares her, but she accepts it. Reluctantly. But still…

And so, even though I’m not currently making any money… I know I’m on the right path. I know that I was meant to be a writer this whole time. I know that all of this angst and all of these blog posts no one ever reads will amount to something. One day. Hopefully, sooner than later. I know that I cannot judge myself against other people’s successes. I may live at home. I may be unemployed. I may be single. I may be fat. I may be a little crazy, depending on a variety of factors. But I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m where I need to be.

And that’s all you need to know.