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.

007 | thar she blows.

What the hell are we even supposed to do with anger? Evolutionarily, currently, in reality– what? Are we supposed to pump out its venom until we successfully destroy everything and everyone in our vicinity? Distractions rarely put it out.

Sadness, I can sit in it. It hurts, it can hurt a lot and very deeply, but half the time it almost slows down time to let you figure out what got you there.

But anger. What is the fucking point. It’s seemingly incomprehensible most times. Flares up as quick as the fire imagery its equated to. Completely smoothers and squashes down everything else in its path like a flash flood or tornado ripping through your brain.

And all for what? Evolutionarily, is it supposed to be the kindling that sparks the fight response rather than flight?

But personally, and currently in reality, I want to know to what end I’m supposed to carry this flame torch.

What am I supposed to destroy in my path. What am I supposed to leave in ruins in my wake.

Disclaimer: Don’t worry, I’m not a complete lunatic you need to be wary of working with or friending. December 2016, I tried meditation for the first time and my very next visit to my parents was life-changing. The way my brain and body reacted to my mother’s incessant outdated generational sexist ramblings fully confirmed to me the value of mindfulness and meditation.

But hold on, before I show you the After picture, let me share the Before.

In fifth grade our whole grade took a field trip to Medieval Times. Who knows why, but I’m glad the teachers got to enjoy a show and delicious meal rather than have to supervise kids losing their minds– rowdy levels matching the level of exuberance brought forth by jousting knights was left to the discretion of MT staff to decide upon. My class was placed under the Blue Knight’s care. We got blue flags and blue paper crowns, which afterwards the Blue Knight himself signed for me. I hope that actor felt like the castle’s King that day, surrounded by screaming 10-year olds.

The paper crown being autographed, I kept it in care. Sat it on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Didn’t fold it. There it sat fully curved with its peaks sharp.

You know what’s coming. I got angry one afternoon at my family. I don’t know specifically who, I don’t know over what. I just know my anger was rage in the fullest sense of the word. Whether I was sent to my room or ran away in the middle of my screaming match in the living room in order to gain a power position (he who speaks last…), I have a vivid image in my head of running into my bedroom, slamming the door, pacing furiously, completely worked up, absolutely no clue as to how to, what to, where, what, why to do with this anger erupting out of me. I flung open my closet doors, started yanking and throwing clothes out in all my fury, and up I looked.

Oh, how it sat. A blue, a lovely medium blue, a hint of cobalt, a hint of navy. “Medieval Times” in ye olde font. Not a bend or fold to be seen. And that hurried scrawl in black Sharpie.

How dare it remind me of a good moment in time.

Didn’t even hesitate between grabbing it and that first satisfying rip. A very thin bristle board with a shiny coating, it was very giving under each rip, rip, rip. I shredded the Blue Knight’s honour as if it were my father going to town on a bank document with his full name and mailing address going into the recycling bin. Man v. Identity Thief. No, an electric shredder certainly could not accomplish the task as thoroughly as my father could with his hands– and that is exactly what I did to that crown.

Rip, rip, rip. How dare you exist in happiness while I am completely turned inside-out.

It wasn’t enough though. I remember hundo-p not giving a flying fuck as to how I’d destroyed a sweet memory of a nice day, and continued onwards into a full-body tantrum on my bed. Because I was eleven years old and had no idea how to figure out and fix what I was mad about.

It sits there, burning under my skin and heavy on my tongue.

That’s one incident I can remember very clearly. And throughout my childhood and teenage years and into my twenties, my parents had no qualms about reminding me of my “anger problem.” Which is such a stupid laugh in the face when you think of a child having anger problems– not including drastic physiological factors and disorders requiring medical intervention– can we please look at the people they are modelling within the home. Hot tempers are always very much accepted from those in the power position, but not the one expected to be subservient.

It was always confusing to me as to how I was the one labelled with an anger problem. Outside of the home I was pretty shy, funny, a rule-follower, and later, quite charming and genuine in affection. But with my parents, I was a monster apparently.

Plain words– where the heck was I supposed to learn anger management ’cause it sure as heck wasn’t happening under the very people who taught me the power of a bad mood.

The phrase “water rolling off a duck’s back”? Me. I was the duck. I’m never the duck!

So, December 2016, I was wrapping up my first year of acting classes. I’d been going heavy and throwing myself into the deep end of this career transition looming on the horizon. By night, I was attending acting classes or memorizing lines. By day, I was at my corporate office job, fully immersed in one acting book after another (at lunch only, I swear), one acting podcast after another (throughout my entire day at my desk, working). I filled my brain with what to expect, how to manage my career, how to find non-union gigs to start off my resume, how to not ruin first impressions with the very few casting directors in Toronto, how to build my community of actors, how to juggle side-jobs, how to receive acting notes, how to take direction from a director, how to train, how to be on set, how to… imagine the ludicrous career I’d first declared to myself almost twenty years prior.

So I was in it. A sponge fully dunked not just in the kitchen sink, but the Pacific Ocean.

And one podcast featured a guest. An actor turned meditation coach. She spoke of how she once sat in awe of her co-star backstage, an actor who was juggling multiple understudy roles without breaking a sweat, without freaking out. She herself was losing her mind. She asked how. And her coworker let her in on her secret: meditation.

To me, the person who so craved the limelight, but barely handled the nerves, this definitely caught my attention. When I’d get on stage for a stand-up set, I’d leave the mic on the stand for at least the first minute, just to let my hands calm down and stop shaking. So why not give it a go? Got this quick 5-minute meditation from this coach right here on this podcast…

Three days later, my friends and cousins were in attendance at my term-end performance. Mine the first in the showcase, a scene from Storm Warning. After a quick few minutes of alternate-nostril breathing backstage, I made my luscious entrance. Performance? Great, I enjoyed it thoroughly (my mom, begrudgingly viewing the tape later, “overacting”). But what I remember sharing the most was my shock in how my nerves were reduced by “at least 70%, I swear.” I didn’t need much else to continue onwards with meditation and mindfulness, in order to assist me on this new career path I was on. You keep on a great employee, you know what I’m saying?

Few days later, I was at my parents. We’re in the kitchen. Mom’s spouting off something or other about how I’m not living up to my potential by being unwed… and I felt fine. I mean, I could hear her words. I definitely heard them. But they weren’t landing on my nerves. They had no power. The phrase “water rolling off a duck’s back”? Me. I was the duck. I’m never the duck! (Not in hockey, either, sadly.)

The moment when your world shifts into perfect axis, boots up to the optimal speed, and lets you float.

It took my parents a long time to stop faulting me for my “anger problem” as it is difficult for people to unconsciously fall out of habits, you know, especially when they’re not consciously trying to stop said bad habit. But they’ve had to, because I really don’t give them much ammo anymore.

But when I fall out of my meditation practice for a few months too long? You better believe I’m quickly alerted to an overreaction.

And right now, I’m in a really fragile moment, speaking of the emotional aspect of my journey on this earth. I’m grieving, I’m mostly isolated like so many others (52% of my urban provincial riding, apparently, according to my Member of Provincial Parliament’s enewsletter early on in the pandemic), and I’m doing my best to give myself designated moments of relaxation and laughter and joy, to keep myself patient and calm.

Because in this frenzied time of anxiety and grief, when I feel triggered, when I get riled up, it’s not always sadness, or despair, or grief, or panic, or boredom. It’s anger. It sits there like a burning under my skin and heavy on my tongue, ready to lash out at those who are supporting me and treating me with kindness. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this anger beyond exercise and/or barf up my poison through talking or writing.

So. What’s the purpose of anger? What am I supposed to do when I get angry at the world for carrying on while I feel stuck in tar? I’m at the end of this post and I can still feel it simmering, little zaps. This achieved nothing. I clarified nothing. Guess I’ll just wait.