010 | the first cut is the deepest.

I was waiting for it. I knew it, I could feel it. I wanted to put a disclaimer on my good news. I wanted to say “Don’t tune in. It’ll just be a disappointment.” And it happened. And this was me trying not to feed my insecurities, to “love myself” as I’ve been continuously advised to over and over. This was me not indulging the harsh critic in my head and sitting back after having put in my time and effort, and letting the world do what it will with my work. And it did what it does: Taught me yet another lesson. 2021 just don’t quit. Actually, it’s this creative life, this choice of the arts, that just don’t quit. The thing itself is doing what it does best: Kicking our sweet lil’ butts and making us want it more because like the delusional fools we humans are, we find hope and positivity in the failures or else we’d wither away to dust.

I shot a role for a pretty big deal show. The episode aired. They cut me out of the scene. My scene co-stars are in the end credits, I am not. There’s a lot of clichés and phrases the average person knows about the Hollywood grind, and this here’s one of ’em: Left on the cutting room floor.

Why are you so positive, Bree? Seems you’ve had a shit year, could’ve used the win, no? Hells yea, imagine the sweet impressive intro to my updated acting demo reel that nice plum of a scene would’ve created. Imagine the tasty screencaps that would’ve littered my Insta & IMDb. The hashtags. The comments. The follows. The algorithm salivating at my jump in popularity. One audition notice from my agent, one day preparing a song and my voice, two amazing minutes in the audition room, one whole weekend in another city– while on vacation– being put on hold, then booking it, paperwork, making plans to cut my trip short to get back to Toronto ASAP on a bus through a blizzard in order to get on set the next day, borrowing my friend’s car because the set’s out in the middle of nowhere and I can’t call a Lyft to a closed set at 3am to pick me up, waking up and warming up my singing voice at 5am, sitting through a hair and makeup transformation, keeping my voice warm for over 16 hours on a freezing cold set with heat-packs under my toes in the uninsulated shoes part of my costume, taking off and putting back on a big bulky winter coat with each take, and most importantly, getting to meet and work with some of the most amazing people putting their all into their own art, whether it be acting, hair, makeup, wardrobe, directing, audio, set design, props, culinary, or just organizing the whole damn thing– and I would do it all over again. And then again, sit here in the now, a full year and a half later, with 5% sureness of seeing myself on screen and then laughing out loud because, of course.

“Huh. We’re intrigued, let’s try you” casting

That credit on my resume has paid me back tenfold as other casting directors have decided to give me a try based on my being able to book this role. And that’s exactly what the goal of booking is at this stage of my career. To keep playing this game, you gotta have a player moving around the spaces. And it wasn’t just any ol’ day-player role. I think they were only supposed to book one actor, but I was actually able to awe them in the audition room, made their heads snap back. So much so that they added my character last-minute to the scene (my co-stars were #43 and #44 on the callsheet, I was #44a). In essence, I got to serenade the 300+ extras on-set that day, throughout each take, throughout this massive warehouse that was silent except for my voice floating through the rafters. I got to perform for a crowd, I got to perform for a director at the top of his fuckin’ game who I never could’ve encountered otherwise. So I wasn’t a fit for the tone of the episode as it was shaping up to be in the editing room, but I was a fit that day on set.

The long game. That’s what this thing is. Not an “I’ll try this for a bit and if I’m not the next Angelina Jolie in three years I’ll pack it in and go back to school” detour that romance book writers seem to think it is (why I can’t seem to enjoy the movie/rock star trope despite suspending my disbelief for practically everything else for them sweet feelings). I already did the school thing, twice. I did the full-time office career thing, three times. There’s a reason why my brain and heart couldn’t settle, why this is for the long haul (with side-jobs, of course). Keep awing. Keep doing what I do best. Bit by bit. One day I’ll be everyone/most people’s fit. Sure, that production had the money to pay me handsomely for a “Huh. We’re intrigued, let’s try you” casting. But guess what– they did. Keep going, Bree.

If anything, I did it, I achieved this rite of passage. So many actors, so many cutting room floors. Couple of years back, a co-star drove me back to Toronto from Hamilton where we had been shooting, and he told me about this awesome multi-episode guest spot he’d shot for a major network show– and that entire storyline got cut. If he can get through that… And a couple of weeks back, one of my favourite podcasts, The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos, featured the heartbreaking casting/re-casting story of the lead role of Full Metal Jacket. Just fucking beyond brutal. So if this disappointment was my lesson for whatever return to equilibrium I needed, I’ll gladly take it. Because I know it’ll only get me ready for the bigger mountains, and perhaps I won’t get sideswiped by the monstrous avalanches that come at me then and get right back up on my feet to hitch a snowmobile ride down the mountain.

To keep playing this game, you gotta have a player moving around the spaces.

Can I say though… I feel worse for my loved ones who’d been waiting with me for this episode to air. I almost feel like they’re more heartbroken than me? I wish I could take that disappointment away for them, that they could only enjoy the highs in this acting career. I’m the one who signed up for the lows, they shouldn’t have to feel bad for me. But goddamn, their support throughout everyday is something, something huge. Because on the other hand, it’s jarring when you have important people in your life that don’t support your life choices, and I’m finding out that even with this career low, their negativity doesn’t get proven right– I’ve learned too much this year to let that happen. They just get to continue sitting out of my life.

Therapy’s still going. Two very loved people in my life are still gone. And I’m still struggling. And I’m being told I have to “love myself.” It’s not some self-help bullcrap. I have to legitimately love myself for the human I am, and place myself in a better place in my heart and mind. So if today’s setback was an opportunity to start putting that into motion, I hope I treated myself a bit better than I normally would’ve.

009 | still on the hunt.

Every night I fill up the humidifier on my bedside table with a large plastic jug of water, up to the marked line indicated by a sticker holding up its own against the well of water and moisture, and have the same thought, “Sarah’s no longer alive. You won’t see her again.”

And every time my brain retorts, “Well, that’s absurd.

“But yea, that’s accurate.” And then I get scared.

Because it is so very absurd and it came true. Five months post-“the news that night,” six weeks of weekly therapy sessions in, I’ve gotten to a point where the daytime finally again has its distinction from the nighttime. The daytime, the lightness, the sun and even dark rainy clouds, offer the opportunity of time and space to focus on the here and now and do my taxes, the hunt for joy through collaborative fulfilling work, and feeling panic ease away as I engage in daily sessions of relaxation– Disneynature documentaries are the current drug of choice. Observing animal behaviour we’d ordinarily never otherwise have a chance to witness really drives home that oh-so-healthy notion of not being alone, that what we are and feel is universal, no matter how we all do it, and will continue to evolve and change, in that I won’t always be stuck in this glue.

But it’s that nightly routine of wrapping up our days and bringing it to a close, and we naturally incline towards an unconscious review of our day and assign a satisfactory grade or a disappointing sigh. An exuberant excitement in the past five months is something I’ve yet to etch into my brain during this examination period. And that’s a given. But it’s a yearning that’s popped up in the past week that I can’t seem to squash. Like a teasing ray of sunlight from between the cracks of heavy dusty window drapes that I can’t seem to locate in this room. I want to whip them open and feel excitement and love and a thrill that I know will be contrasted by the most depressingly low of the lows the following day– because that’s how I interpret my deservingness of joy, apparently; a mandatory immediate return to a balance of debts and credits. But I still want it. I’ve felt the lowest of lows, the bottom-depths of pressure exploding from within your temple kind of hell. And now I want the high. I want the high that makes those lows… not “worth it” but more… acceptable.

Because if anything, I know there’s a balance. That low I was at, it could not be sustained. That low might revisit me, no doubt it could, but my ultimate fairy-clouds hopes and dreams on Gumdrop Lane would be to have achieved and experienced a joy like none other before the next lowest of lows.

My last post (008) was me attempting this post and topic, but redirecting and ending in a quick joke. So I’m back, trying again. I want joy. I tried to find it in savoury puff pastries and Toblerone chocolate tortes and countless other delicious temporary hits. No. I’ve felt joy. That wasn’t it at all.

I listened to the recording of my set on my phone that I left with you. It was all of you laughing.

Cathy Boyd, after her stand-up set at Comedy Bar

Then I embarked on funny videos on the internet, a classic for a reason. I’ve gut-busted a few times and the fact that every instance of those belly laughs was a remarkable moment is depressing on its own, when you are in fact known within your comedy community as the one to invite to your show if you want the audience to immediately get on your side. Professional Laugher will likely be my backup career, that’s how loudly and easily it comes to me, to the dismay of my mouse-like parents (which they are not, so I don’t know where this detriment built from). Numerous times I’ve apologized to my colleagues for accidentally sitting next to the camera and almost making their footage unusable, but they swore I made it sound like the audience was completely onboard. I don’t know. I think most room acoustics and recording devices would prefer such outlier sounds be evened out by a mid-room placement. Yes, I will sit right up front in the first row and be your proud mama hen.

I heard your laugh after our first joke and immediately thought, “Oh, phew, Bree’s here! We’ll be fine.”

Rob Michaels, after sketch comedy troupe Woke ‘n’ Broke’s first Fringe performance

I want to feel good. I want to crave amazing something so badly.

Do you have images in your head of memories long gone… but they’re of scenes from books you read (or fanfic) or TV shows (or fanfic)? Might not even be a significant scene, but the rush of memories you feel from the emotions tangled up in the tiny details of how a character stood, not knowing what to do with their arms, or an overarching theme of implications of the moment. Sometimes it feels easier to revisit Sarah through those scenes. It’s got me hunting for an Ugly Betty fanfic about her loving the heck out of an ugly blue and yellow sweater that Daniel loathes, then comes around to loving because it simply makes her happy. I think it’s gone, taken offline in the decade since I absorbed the images into my cortex through incessant re-reads. But I just have to accept it. I have to accept that I won’t have certain things in my life again. I have to accept that my most enthralling and weirdest and fulfilling relationship ever took a nightmare of a detour, dragged eighteen months, and then before even a hint of closure or a gift of resolution could be felt through her own unique Sars-like ways, she died. Of all the loved ones grieving this human, how am I the one left with this particular mess. I don’t get why, after decades of cherishing this human, I’m left holding this godawful bucket of vile fish heads gaping up at me in horror and fear, all wondering the same, why the fuck did this happen to me.

-The way to repair a rupture-- in your case, a massive gaping hole-- in your fabric is through communication, leading to receiving an apology.
-What happens when the person is mentally not able to and you know it so you were never expecting it. Or, what happens when the person dies?
-Then... well, ideal would be communication--
-What happens when they die.
-You accept it.

Sourcing out joy, v.2.0 didn’t pan out. I’ll try again in a future post. For now I’ve got a flock of flamingos to go get lost in on the Disney+ app.

Oh no, I just noticed you’re filming. Should I move?