Reflections

Milestones

This is my 52nd blog post. And having published two posts each week since the start, that means I’ve been on my sabbatical and keeping up this blog for half a year!

This achievement got me thinking of other milestones I’ve hit during this sabbatical:

But in addition to looking back, milestones are also a good time to take stock, look ahead, and think about how I want to continue on in this journey. Some new things I want to tackle in the next six months:

  • Do an internship or part-time work in one of the careers areas I’m exploring, in order to get real-world experience.
  • Take on at least one freelance gig so that I can better understand that process.
  • Put together a business plan for at least one of the many entrepreneurial endeavors I have in mind.
  • Create my acting website.
  • Overcome technological limitations to plan, shoot and edit my first full film.

Another big change moving forward: for the time being, I’m going to scale back my blogs to once a week, every Friday.

I find that I’ve gotten to the point where my exploration of careers is now more in-depth and drawn out. This means I don’t always have new discoveries multiple times a week, and I’ve often found myself digging for blog post ideas. I hope that by switching to once a week, I can dedicate the time to writing more thoughtful and meaningful posts.

So with that … see you next Friday!

Reflections

Workspaces

Yesterday, I went to go work at my husband’s shop. Well, not work for them, but just to use their space to get some school work done. This is the large warehouse where I filmed the Christmas presents DIY video. I had a couple projects to work on for my interior design classes, and I wanted a bit more space and better surfaces to work on than what is available at home.

The drafting table at my husband’s work was perfect for my floor plan assignment.

It got me thinking about workspaces. What do I want in a new workspace? I definitely have thoughts and opinions about what I don’t want, based on previous offices. Ironically, it seems the higher I went up in my career, the worse the workspace got.

When I first got started as a development assistant at a nonprofit, I had my own cubicle. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was nice having walls and a lot of desk space. It helped me concentrate on the tasks at hand. But as I continued on in my career, I found myself more and more in open office spaces.

Open offices seem to be very trendy, especially in the tech world. Companies tout bullshit, like: they are trying to foster an open culture. But really they’re just trying to save space and money. These workspaces make it very hard to concentrate, and at my last job, I found myself often booking conference rooms or finding a quiet corner just to have some peace and quiet.

I really loved working at the shop yesterday. I was comfortable and got a lot done. The day really flew by! Part of it was probably the type of work I was doing. I was working mostly with my hands and not so much on a computer. But I think it is also the environment. First, I had large workspaces where I could spread out my supplies. Secondly, I was surrounded by creative projects — sets here, props there. I could feel the energy of creativity and imagination.

Obviously, my future workplace will depend a lot on the type of work I choose to do. But I think I will want it to be something different from the traditional office workspace. Much like I hope to have variety in the type of tasks I do, I hope there is a variety in the workspaces I use. Maybe I work at a standing drafting table for some of my tasks, then I move over to a larger craft table for other assignments, and then maybe I’ll move over to a traditional desk for some quick computer work. And it would also be nice to change up locations every now and then.

All I know is that I don’t want to be just stuck sitting at a desk all day.

Reflections

Update: Sabbatical & Career Exploration

In reality, I don’t really have a — just more of a general direction (or directions!) I want to head in.

It has been almost six months since I started my sabbatical and embarked on this pursuit to explore nine different careers that have always piqued my interest. I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience so far.

Thoughts on Careers

Video Producer

I had quite a few opportunities to learn more about video production. I worked on a full film shoot and got a great filmmaking 101 overview. I even tried my hand at making a couple of videos on my own; however, limitations with technology prevented me from completing the projects.

In general, I find it more energizing working on these videos projects as part of a larger team. Doing the video shoots on my own got a bit overwhelming and eventually became a slog.

There were also pieces of filmmaking that I discovered I really enjoyed — writing and set dressing. I’d love to see how much opportunity there is (at least in this market) to specialize in those areas.

I don’t think becoming an independent video producer is the path for me. However, I could see myself enjoying working as part of a larger video production team.

Web Developer

Web development was the first thing I tackled during this sabbatical. I already had a little background on web development through my past jobs, and there are a ton of free online resources to learn more about the craft.

I went through training on freeCodeCamp. While I found the lessons helpful and easy to get through, when it came to the end-of-unit final projects, I found I didn’t have much motivation to get them done.

I just don’t think that web development provides the creative outlet I’m looking for in my work. While I could see myself doing it for a portion of my job, I don’t think I would find it energizing doing solely web development work.

Content Creator

This is the area of my exploration that has been the most varied because content creation can cover a wide array of media and outlets. While I initially put this career on my list with video in mind (inspired by my favorite YouTube channels), it’s actually been the podcast and this blog that has given being the most insight into the full lifecycle of a content creator.

I look forward to continuing on with the podcast. Once again, it’s been really energizing to work on that project because it’s a team of us. While we all have our special focuses, we always pitch in to help one another and do what it takes to get the job done.

I’m also interested in continuing my exploration of writing. I want to look into some more freelance writing work, particularly freelance blog-writing work. I think the tone of blogs better fits my writing style over more formal, business writing.

Furniture Upcycler

I have not yet explored this career path; it’s definitely the one that will require the most resources, both time and materials. However, through my exploration of interior design, I’ve already been thinking of expanding and/or pivoting this from furniture upcycling to furniture design and production.

There is a market out there for custom furniture, and it can be quite lucrative. My husband and his colleague have the resources and skills to build the furniture, while I could help organize the business, marketing and sales side.

Real Estate Agent

I also haven’t touched this career yet. I have doubts about how much this career would fit in my lifestyle because the schedule could conflict with my theater schedule.

I do like the flexibility the career could provide, and I do think I would have the talent for it. I’m not ready to remove it from my list just yet, but I don’t feel like I’m in a rush to get into it.

Interior Designer

For the last few months I’ve taken a couple of interior design courses, and I’ve learned a lot about the industry. There are so many paths within this field that one can follow. I’m not convinced yet that it’s the career path for me, but I’m definitely motivated to keep exploring.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think getting some real-world experience in this field — through an internship or part-time work — will be key in helping me determine how energizing I find the work.

Major Gifts Officer

I haven’t gotten to this career yet either. I know that I would likely want to be a major gifts officer for an arts organization, and in the Bay Area there may not be as much opportunity as in markets like New York. Much like real estate, it stays on my list, but I don’t find myself in a hurry to prioritize this one.

Theater Executive Director

Now, this is an area I’m really interested in exploring. As part of my sabbatical, I’ve had the opportunity to be much more present in my own theater gigs, and I’ve also had the time to see more theater as a patron. I love the energy of being in such a creative world.

I would probably want to be an Executive Director (or Managing Director) of a small to mid-size theater so that I would still have a connection to the artistic work and not get too bogged down in just the business side of things.

Actor

I’ve had some off and on exploration of acting as a career. Obviously, I’ve done theater for years, and while it comes with a stipend, it is by no means a way to make a living (at least at the level, I’ve been doing).

I have done a little bit of paid video work, and I do want to pursue that more. I’ve also been considering bringing my theater work up to the professional level and pursuing equity status.

Other Thoughts

I’ve confirmed that, in general, I find it a lot more energizing to work as part of a team rather than independently.

I have also really loved how much more time and energy I’ve been able to give to my theater work during this sabbatical, and I’ll be looking for a line of work that allows me that same space.

Lastly, I will lean toward work that allows for some flexibility in the schedule and/or opportunities to work from home.

There’s a lot more left to explore!

Reflections

StandOut

I love taking personality assessments. I think a lot of people do. It goes to our desire to explain and understand ourselves. And it’s nice to find a category we fit into.

Back when I was working at Facebook, we all took this test called StandOut, which is designed to identify your strengths. During the assessment, you select how you would respond or react in a number of work and life hypothetical scenarios.

Based on your answers, you fit into various “strength roles”, and the results give you your primary strength role and your secondary one.

When I initially took it, I got:

  1. Stimulator: You are the host of other people’s emotions. You feel responsible for them, for turning them around, for elevating them.
  2. Provider: You sense other people’s feelings, and you feel compelled to recognize these feelings, give them a voice, and act on them.

At the time, I thought these descriptions accurately described the way I worked in the office and the type of things I gravitated towards.

However, the thing with this assessment is that your results can change based on changes in your own personality and how you work.

I was curious if my strength roles had changed since going on my sabbatical, so I took the assessment again. Here are my results:

Primary strength role: Influencer

You engage people directly and convince them to act. Your power is your persuasion.

When I first took the StandOut assessment, Influencer was actually a very close third when it came to the rankings of my strength roles, so it’s not too much of a surprise to see it up top.

Here are some interesting bullet points from this strength role that resonate with me:

  • You are, in general, impatient; but you are especially impatient when you know that a decision should be made. You see what will happen if we don’t act. You see around the corner, and so it burns you to think about what inaction will cause.
  • You are driven by the feeling of progress, and are acutely sensitive to momentum. You sense when it’s building. When it’s peaking. And when it’s gone.
  • You can be a charmer, and are good at winning people over so that they like you. You do this because you know that people are willing to do more for those they like. Liking is a powerful (though not the only) precondition for getting the other person to make a decision.
  • People sense your desire to move forward, and it comes across as self-assurance. Even confidence. Occasionally as arrogance. Sometimes you might even put others off by challenging them more than you should–meaning “more than they would like to be challenged.”

Secondary strength role: Advisor

You are a practical, concrete thinker who is at your most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems.

I don’t remember where this ranked the first time I took the assessment, but when I read the description, I can definitely see parts of this that align with the things I like to do. For example, I’ve helped a number of friends talk through important career decisions.

Here are some of the bullet points that I felt most connected to:

  • You are a problem solver. You are not fazed by complex situations, because, when faced with a challenge, you break it down into its component parts. You are a sequential thinker, someone who excels at “delayering” problems, “unstacking” them.
  • You ask lots of questions because the answer can be found in the details of the situation. You are intrigued by the detail of other people’s plans, problems, lives. You are not voyeuristic–voyeurism is too passive. But you can be nosy.
  • You like distinctions between two things that seem quite similar. These distinctions help you know how to choose which path to take–“Take this one, not that one.”
  • You like being seen as the expert. You like being needed in this way. When people say to you, “You have such great insight. You give me such a useful perspective on my situation,” this is the highest of praise.

My ideal career?

Well, this is what the StandOut report said about my ideal career:

You are a superior salesperson, and the more competitive the field, the better. Outwit, outplay, outsmart: this is your motto at work. You will excel in any role where there is freedom, change is the order of the day, and where what you did yesterday is fast forgotten. For example, in law, you are the defense attorney. In finance, you are the market maker, the stockbroker, the “money gatherer.” In media, you are pitching the idea, selling the show, or even investigating the story. In real estate, you are the agent. In business, you are the entrepreneur, the one we send to the venture capitalists to secure the initial funding. Wherever you are, you are making rain.

It’s interesting because I have been in sales. I also have real estate agent and, in general, entrepreneur on my list of careers to explore.

Obviously, assessments are not the answer to everything, but it’s interesting to see patterns in your own behavior, how you react to things, and what types of things drive you.

Reflections

Resisting Comfort

In my last post, I talked about embracing fear. It was about attempting the things we usually talk ourselves out of before we even try because they seem too hard or we aren’t confident we’ll do them well or we’re worried we’ll fail altogether.

I think the companion to that tactic is resisting comfort. By that I mean avoiding the things we try to talk ourselves into because they are familiar or easy. These are things we gravitate toward because they are predictable and we know we can accomplish them. But many times, opting for the things that are comfortable comes at the expense of trying the things that scare us.

I’ve been getting a lot of ads lately for job openings at Facebook. And my friend also recently sent me a link to a marketing job at the start-up she’s working at. Shockingly, I found myself tempted to read more about these jobs that were in the same field I just fled!

Even after five months of leaving a career path I found unfulfilling and a work environment I found draining, it was almost like a knee-jerk reaction to consider these openings. And the thought that went through my head? “Yeah, I bet I could do that.”

Not “Oh, I bet I’d enjoy doing that.”

During this sabbatical, I’ve felt freer, lighter, more energetic, and more inspired. I’ve learned a lot about what invigorates me and what drains me. But I guess muscle memory is hard to shake. For so long, I pursued opportunities that I knew I could get or easily do, regardless of whether or not it was something I’m passionate about.

But you know what? I didn’t click on those links. I didn’t even want to tempt myself with the comfort of the safe and familiar.

No longer do I want to resign myself to, “Well, I have the experience and knowledge, so I guess I should just do that.”

I’d rather say, “I’m not sure I’m qualified, but it seems like I would really enjoy doing that, so I might as well try.”


Reflections

Do the Things That Scare You

I sit on the couch in the audition green room, silently gripping my music book. The other two auditioners nonchalantly browse their phones, as we wait for the auditors to return from their break. I try to calm myself, but familiar thoughts start flooding my mind:

“Why did you sign up for a singing audition? You should have just done two monologues — your acting is much stronger.”

“It doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced. You’re going to get nervous and screw up like you normally do.”

“I bet those other auditioners are much stronger singers than you.”

A little background — I got my start on the stage doing musical theater. I did it throughout high school and a little in college. And when I moved to the Bay Area and decided to get back into theater, I did musicals.

My very first play in the Bay Area – Oklahoma! Jud, Laurey, & Curly

But I almost always get nervous during singing auditions. I suddenly lose my confidence, drop all my support and slip into bad singing habits. I also get so preoccupied with how I sound that I forget to actually act during my audition song.

I would consider myself a decent singer, but not amazing. And I am definitely a much better actor. So, quite a few years ago, I made a conscious decision to shift my focus to straight plays.

I will always love musicals. And I do enjoy being in them. I love singing. I just hate singing auditions.

But one of my big rules during this sabbatical is to do the things that scare me. If there’s a choice between the familiar, something I’m comfortable with vs. something new and a little scary, I am determined to pursue the latter. Because if I don’t, there will always be that nagging thought in the back of my head: “What if?”

So, whether it’s producing a podcast even though I had no experience or taking interior design classes after being out of school for over a decade, I want to embrace it all.

And the little mantra that helps get me through it: It doesn’t matter how well you do it. The accomplishment is in doing it.

So, as I sat on that couch, doubts and fears bombarding me, I took a breath and just reminded myself that I will succeed as long as I go in there and just do it.

And that’s what I did. It wasn’t perfect. I definitely sang it differently than I had practiced. I didn’t have the proper breath support for some of the notes. And I could have acted a little bit more. I don’t anticipate being called back for their musicals. But it was also the most relaxed I’ve been for a singing audition in a very long time.

And when I left that audition and hopped into my car to head home, I couldn’t help but crack a huge smile. Because I had done it.

Reflections

Shedding the Mask

Tonight is opening night for the newest play I’m in, Sojourn at the Pear Theatre. I portray an astronaut on a one-way mission, and the show dives into the psychological ramifications of this type of isolation. This play has forced me tap into some pretty intense emotions, has pushed me as an actor, and has really made me grow as an artist.

Sojourn at the Pear Theatre. Photo by Michael Kruse Craig.

I’ve been reflecting on whether or not I would have been able to do this role justice, if I had never quit my job and gone on this sabbatical. For the past two shows I’ve done during my sabbatical — both new works, both requiring me to do some wild emotional and physical gymnastics — I given more of myself and grown more in skill set than I’ve done in probably my entire acting career.

And it’s not just the fact that I have more free time to rehearse and develop my character. It’s also not solely the fact that I now have much more mental energy to be present and and give my all during rehearsals and performances. I think an equal contributing factor has been the fact that during this sabbatical, I have found myself being more open and vulnerable.

I think a lot of us experience this — we have a “work self”. The version of you that is a little watered down, buttoned up and guarded, especially when you are in a corporate environment or just a more conservative workplace.

Now, I’ve always prided myself in being pretty open, honest and quick to speak my mind, even at work. But there was also a lot I kept to myself. It’s one thing to be the passionate theater kid in the office that is quick to voice her opinion on a project, but it’s another thing to admit you’re going through serious things like anxiety and depression. It was always calculated and measured outgoingness, with a lot hidden beneath the surface.

But what I didn’t realize, until this sabbatical, is how much I kept that mask on outside of work. I spent so much time being guarded and shielded in the office, that it actually spilled over into my everyday life — even theater! I was always cordial in social situations, but never really animated and open, unless it was with people I was really close with.

It’s been amazing and a bit shocking to see this change in me since the sabbatical. I am more relaxed, open and raw. And I’ve been able to bring that to the rehearsal room and on stage.

Audiences might think that acting is all about wearing a mask. You’re playing a character that’s not you, so you’re hiding yourself behind this role. But, in a lot of cases, it’s actually the opposite. As an actor, I tap into real experiences and emotions to portray the feelings of my character. It is actually one of the most raw and vulnerable things one can do. It’s opening yourself up and giving a little (or big) piece of yourself to the audience night after night.

When I do find that next career path, I hope it’s one where I don’t need to wear a mask. One where I don’t have to be so guarded and cautious. I want to remain open and honest … and yes, even a little vulnerable.

Reflections

Tracking Progress

In early December, I starting dieting and exercising regularly in an attempt to lose weight and get in shape. I figure I should take advantage of this free time to not only focus on my next career path but also on personal goals like my health and wellbeing.

I’ve taken on this challenge many times in the past. The two most recent successful attempts, I had something big to work for, that helped me stay on track — one was a trip to Hawaii and the other was my wedding.

Both times, I used an app to track my calories. I regularly weighed myself and took measurements to track progress. It was nice seeing hard numbers to gauge my success, but it was also frustrating when I had a week where I didn’t see the numbers go down or, even worse, when I saw the numbers go up.

And the problem was — once I hit the big milestones I was working toward, I no longer had anything to motivate me, so I would fall off the wagon and slowly gain the weight back.

This time around, I’m not working toward a specific event; this is a long-term — nay, lifetime goal. Once again, I’ve tracked my calories to make sure that I stay within my limit for the diet. And I’ve set various exercise goals. But I haven’t been weighing or measuring myself. Success has solely been measured by how consistent I’ve been with staying within my calorie limit and with how I feel.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was (embarrassingly) running low on clean clothes. It was a busy time, and I hadn’t done laundry in a while. Facing the possibility of donning heavily Febreezed jeans, I remembered that I had a box of old clothes from the last time I had lost a lot of weight but had since outgrown. I was convinced they’d still be one size too small but I thought I might as well give it a shot.

I pulled out the first pair of pants I could find, and braced myself for the disappointment of desperately trying to pull together that top button and hole, only to find that they don’t quite reach. But to my surprise, they buttoned and zipped with no problem. They actually fit!

Without really tracking and paying that much attention to progress, I had gotten back down to my wedding size. The feeling was nothing short of elation and a renewed, stronger sense of motivation.

It served as a good reminder that sometimes, if you’re just looking at the day-to-day, it’s hard to see that you’ve made much progress. Because day over day, or even week over week, that change can be small. But when you look at a larger period of time — say, a few months — suddenly you can see a huge jump in progress.

And it was made me reflect on how much progress I’ve made in other parts of my life, in these five months I’ve been on a sabbatical:

  • I figured out a career — web development — that I now know that I do NOT want to do.
  • I’ve launched a podcast!
  • I’ve worked on a couple of short films and written even more.
  • I learned to improvise and pivot and not be so obsessed with everything going perfectly.
  • I’ve grown leaps and bounds as an actor, taking on two original roles that really pushed me.
  • I kept up this blog! Two posts a week, without missing a single week. And I’ve written over 40 posts.

I don’t need to see big gains every day or even every week. A lot of accomplishment can be felt in just setting my mind to something and following through. And with that diligence, the progress will reveal itself — even if it takes a few months to do so.

Reflections

An Inspired Life – Answers

As a follow up to my last post, below are my answers to the self-reflection prompts from the An Inspired Life journal.


If my future self came to visit me today, I think she’d tell me to start:

My future self would probably tell me to start to proactively and seriously research ways to make a living through acting. It’s funny — despite the fact that it’s the one career I’ve dreamed about since I was a child, it almost didn’t make my list of careers to explore during this sabbatical. I think I had convinced myself long ago that there was no way I’d be able to get by as an actor, so I didn’t even dare pursuing it.

But one of the greatest benefits of my sabbatical has been how much more time and energy I’ve been able to dedicate to my craft and the quality I’ve been able to get out of my performances. And as I juggle so many projects during this time, I often find myself prioritizing and getting the most energy out of my acting. I’ve even had the chance to take on a little paid work. There are opportunities out there; I just need to more actively and diligently pursue them.


These are some of the most important mistakes I’ve made in my life:

I hate calling decisions in my life mistakes. Every decision I’ve made is what led me to where I am now. So, let’s call them tough lessons.

For lack of a better word, I would call going to grad school a mistake, mostly because I did it for the wrong reasons. I had wanted to live in New York, but I didn’t have the courage to just pick up and move out there on my own. Also, I graduating college and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next, so I figured going to grad school was a good way to delay entering the “real world”.

And my lack of passion for the path manifested itself in me not finishing the program and ultimately having a nervous breakdown (yes, I can finally admit that).

But although a very expensive mistake, that experience also pushed me to be more independent than I had ever been. I moved out there by myself. And I don’t just mean that I lived there by myself. I literally hopped off a plane by myself, rented a car and navigated the crazy New York streets to buy furniture and other supplies, and learned to get around this bustling city all on my own.

I learned what great art could be and how absolutely invigorating it can be to be surrounded by it. I learned how to be comfortable exploring on my own. And I learned more about what I did and didn’t like.

Sure if I could go back, I’d do things a little differently. But that doesn’t change that I got a lot out of that experience.


These are some old patterns and behaviors I’m beginning to question:

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that one of the biggest habits I’ve questioned and tried to detach myself from is the propensity to talk myself out of things before I even try. This behavior has stopped me from pursuing so many things in the past. But my mantra during this sabbatical has been to try things against all odds, jump into the unknown and embrace the scary things.

Another pattern that I’ve begun to liberate myself from is my obsession with perfection. Actually, it was through the process of launching the podcast that I realized how much I’ve grown in this area.

Because of our limited time, we weren’t going to be able to launch the podcast with all of the bells and whistles that we had originally discussed. However, I quickly pivoted and was able to separate the “must haves” from the “nice-to-haves”. In the past, I would have beaten myself up about not launching the perfect product. But this time around, I was just proud that we had launched something, and I knew we could just iterate on the first version.


This is how I would describe the person I have chosen to become:

I would say that I’ve chosen to become a person that prioritizes creativity and artistic fulfillment. Also, when faced with the decision to do something and not, I will lean toward action, doing something. I opt for the new rather than the status quo.

I’ve also become one that has learned to appreciate the journey, not just the final destination. I appreciate detours as learning experiences. I see the value in trying and failing over never trying at all.

And I’ve chosen to become someone who is honest. Honest with myself and others about what I want and don’t want.


Here are some things I’m afraid of, but I want to try anyway:

I am a bit afraid of pursuing acting on a professional level because major imposter syndrome starts to set in. But if I don’t try, I’ll always wonder. And again, trying and failing is just fine!

I’m also a little afraid about the risk of starting my own business, but I want to try. The freedom and sense of ownership you get through entrepreneurship has long been calling my name. And a lot of the careers I’m exploring can be entrepreneurial in nature. I have a few ideas for businesses that I could get off the ground (even if it’s just a part-time thing), so what am I waiting for?


How would you answer these prompts? Feel free to share in the comments section!

Reflections

An Inspired Life – Prompts

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding an old document where I had answered a number of prompts meant to suss out the type of work and projects I was passionate about. I’ve always loved doing these types of exercises. It’s a great, guided way to do some self-reflection and help organize your thoughts and feelings.

At the beginning of the year, my friend Vera gave me a journal call An Inspired Life, which includes a lot of these types of prompts. The journal contains a wide range of questions that encourage you to think about your passions and strengths, your fears and hopes.

Having just hit a major milestone in my sabbatical with the launch of the podcast, it feels like a good time to stop and reflect about how I’m feeling today. What are the things that drive me? What am I most passionate about?

I’ve gone through the journal and picked out a few prompts that really resonated with me and this sabbatical journey:

  • If my future self came to visit me today, I think she’d tell me to start:
  • These are some of the most important mistakes I’ve made in my life:
  • These are some old patterns and behaviors I’m beginning to question:
  • This is how I would describe the person I have chosen to become:
  • Here are some things I’m afraid of, but I want to try anyway:

I’m going to reflect on these prompts over the next few days and jot down my thoughts. Looks out for my answers in my next post.

How would you answer any one of these prompts? If you’d like to share, leave a comment below.