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A Letter and a List to Myself 5 Years Ago

September 18, 2012

Age 22.
Hi Ashley,

Since the most effective way you communicate with yourself these days is by list, I have compiled a list of 15 things I’d like you to consider over the next five years.

1. Congratulations! You’re about to graduate Pace University in May with dual majors in theatre and anthropology and minors in women studies and Middle Eastern studies. Your dream is to be a political artist and to create theatre with marginalized groups in conflict zones. You’re reminded on a daily basis that there is no money in theatre, let alone political theatre but this doesn’t seem to bother you. Recall how people tell you that you should have double majored in something useful like business? Next year the stock market is going to crash and there will be no jobs in any industry. You made a good decision by following your passion. Pay the haters no mind. Continue to smile and nod because you end up doing it all.

2. Speaking of “doing it all”, let’s discuss your conflict over whether you’re an actor, director or playwright. Actually, let’s not. Spend less time being conflicted and more time updating your separate resumes because you book work in all three. You never stop working. Own it! Prepare more resumes. Add Artistic Director and photographer to your list. Make an academic CV too. If people are confused by it or don’t like it, chalk it up to their own ignorance and move on because you have a musical to direct, a Shakespearean leading lady to play and are commissioned to write a documentary play.

3. You have $75,000 worth of student loan debt but don’t really understand what that means yet. We’ll let this go for now because ignorance is bliss for only a few more years until Sallie Mae calls.
(If this were a letter to my 18-year old self, we’d have a long talk about student loan debt and college but since the loans have already been taken out at this point there is nothing we can do…)

4. What’s up with your excessive feelings of unworthiness? Seriously, girl. You feel unworthy of speaking up in class? Unworthy of being in the room with so and so? Unworthy of sharing your opinions? Unworthy of asking for things? Unworthy of the fully funded scholarship and graduate assistant position you have in your graduate program? Unworthy of making new friends? Unworthy of being loved? Stop. It’s going to ruin your time in graduate school and is the demon you will spend a lot of time fighting in the years after with your therapist who will be particularly helpful in finding the origins of these feelings but only you can change your thinking to empower yourself.

5. Get out of the habit of saying/thinking/believing “If I only achieve _________ then I will finally be worthy of _______ “. This will make you appear very ambitious to your friends on facebook in the years right out of college and grad school because you’re always busy with something (See #2) but don’t get into the habit of running on a hamster wheel because you’re chasing some imaginary idea of what you think will bring happiness, self-worth and love. Those things will not be found in material objects or jobs.

6. The prospect of being called Dr. Marinaccio is cool but do you really have a burning desire to get a PhD? Is that really your dream? Are you even in it for the right reasons? (Hint: Wanting the title of Dr. is not a good reason to enter a PhD program. See #4)

7. Remember that mentor you wanted so hard to impress that you applied for 10 PhD programs because you were so afraid she wouldn’t want to be your friend if you didn’t pursue an academic career? Guess what, she doesn’t want to be your friend because you do not pursue an academic career. And you are fine without her in your life. Better off, in fact. Congratulations! You are surrounded by people who love you for who you are and respect the decisions you make for yourself.

8. Don’t give people different versions of yourself you think they want to see so that you’ll be accepted in their circle. Don’t get in the habit of telling people what you think they want to hear. It’s more important to have honest relationships with others and most importantly, yourself.

9. You are not “fat”. You have never been “fat” and in 5 years, you still won’t be “fat”. There has never been anything wrong with your body. Media, industry pressure and social constructs will make you feel otherwise but ultimately, you are your own worst enemy. Stop the self hate talk. Embrace your body and the curvy shape it is. Reaching a goal weight on the scale will not make you any more or less happy. (See #4)

10. The relationship with your first love ends and you get your heart broken. It takes some time to recover but that relationship evolves into something else and you fall in love with the boy you met for two minutes in a brief introduction by your theatre partner in front of the Starbucks at Washington Square South right after grad school while stealing rehearsal space at NYU. He doesn’t remember this introduction but you never forgot his smile.

11. Write more often.

12. Practice stillness. Don’t squirm when you talk to people. Don’t twirl your hair or fidget with your bracelets. Be still.

13. Will you just take that dance class already? Nobody cares about your imaginary fat ass, they are too consumed in their own issues. Stop replaying all the negative things people said about your body when you were a kid. (See #9)

14. Not everyone is going to like you or your work. That’s how it goes. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Spend less time worrying about what people think and more time being the kind of artist you want to be.

15. Be kind to yourself. I can’t stress this enough. Please. Just.Be.Kind.

Good luck with graduate school. Take your work seriously, but try not to take yourself seriously. Don’t lose sight of why you have chosen this career or what you want your place to be in this industry, and most importantly this world. Don’t let your ego get in the way of the work that needs to be done. Sometimes all you need after a hard day is a good night’s sleep and to start again in the morning. And don’t even begin to think that by age 27 you have mastered any of these things on the list above. There is always growing to do.

We only move forward.

– Your Older (and somewhat wiser) Self


11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2012 7:54 pm

    Welcome! It’s really, really great to have you with us. Really great; I’m reading this and I keep saying…you had dual majors, dual minors, are a actor/director/playwright….what is the secret to your success?! Ah, glad to be reading and learning from you!

    • September 19, 2012 8:55 am

      Can I brag that I also had dual majors and dual minors? It doesn’t get much play in the real world, so I can only drag it out once in a awhile 😉

      • The College Theatre Dork permalink
        September 20, 2012 9:59 pm

        I am also impressed 🙂 The number of hoops I’ve jumped just to get my singular major and minor and the credit hours straightened out with the Registrar’s office leads me to admiration for you ladies.

        • September 21, 2012 1:29 pm

          Haha, thanks. I feel better now. We can all go back to being impressed by the person we’re supposed to be impressed by now 🙂

    • September 24, 2012 2:28 pm

      You guys are so sweet! I’m so excited to be on board. =)

  2. September 19, 2012 8:55 am

    I’m so glad to have you with us, too, lady! Can’t wait to read all the amazing things you have to share 🙂

  3. September 19, 2012 10:19 am

    Welcome to the blog! I can’t wait to read more about your work!

  4. September 25, 2012 5:30 pm

    #13 should be blasted from a loud speaker in Times Square!

  5. Tattooed Theatre Student permalink
    August 30, 2013 5:22 pm

    This is such a good idea – may have to do one of these myself (: and I must say I’m thinking of keeping some of these in mind – they’re very sensible ideas!


  1. Sunday Summary — September 23, 2012 « The Green Room

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