Tax Tantrum

Ah, ‘tis the most taxing time of year – pun intended. I’ve always loved filing my taxes (because I always get money back, even when filing as a freelance artist), and this year I approached filing with the same enthusiasm. I had all my spreadsheets organized and ready to go and was eager to get (and invest) my refunds!

If you haven’t already inferred from the title, my taxes did not go at all as I planned.

I use TurboTax, which is a total godsend and very user friendly. Plus, the program has a fun, little money ticker on the side of the screen constantly adjusting based on your entries. It shows you in happy green numbers how much you will be refunded or it calculates in dark, angry red numbers how much you owe.

Usually the numbers start off in red before settling in the happy, green zone indicating a return. Thus, I try not to pay the numbers much mind until I get toward the end of filing. But as I approached the final pages of my entry, with red numbers still glaring prominently at me displaying a balance due of nearly $2,000…

Cue tantrum.

I wish I could say I took this surprise in stride and handled it maturely, but I would be lying to you, dear reader, and I don’t want to do that.

My chest began to tighten, my stomach dropped, and I repeatedly dragged my hands down my face as one does when in a state of overwhelm. Not only did I owe, but I also incurred a penalty for not filing quarterly which I am now required to do from this point forward.

I started whining: “This sucks! Taxes are stupid! This is unbelievable! Why is this happening? I always get money back! I had plans for that return!” My eyes teared up and there was a bit of profanity finally followed by the exclamation of, “I NEED A BIG GLASS OF WINE FOR THIS.”

Once I came to terms with the fact that my lovely tax refunds betrayed me and that I lost $2,000 instead of earning money like I anticipated, I endeavored to find the positive in the situation.

Looking over my documents I noticed that from 2017 to 2018 I more than doubled my income as an actor & model. MORE. THAN. DOUBLED. That is incredible growth for a business in the span of a year! A number of my projects had me on a W2 with taxes already taken out, which is definitely a luxury in the freelance world. I also realized more than half of my income came from projects filed on 1099s, which led to the fine and balance. However, more importantly perhaps, those 1099s came from exciting projects with some new clients but many repeat clients, which is cause for celebration!

The hit to my bank account hurt. A lot. Plus, now I have research to do about filing quarterly, which is a learning curve I did not anticipate nor desire. Whining aside, this all indicates growth. Oftentimes we mistake uncomfortable and annoying obstacles for inconveniences rather than recognize them as growth. It is a simple matter of perspective. By shifting perspective to consider an obstacle in a new way, and not lashing out in a tantrum like a big baby (*cough* like me *cough*), we might become more adept at recognizing the annoyances as growth worthy of celebration.

I learned a lot of lessons from this experience, but the most important one may be this: the next time an unforeseen obstacle comes along, look at it differently. I urge you to do the same, try not to react on instinct as that frequently turns out to be a negative response, but rather alter your perspective. If you do, you may be able to see you are growing!

The Most Important Thing

It’s no secret – we’re all itching to find the formula to success. We’re constantly scrolling through various articles touting the best tips for negotiating, proper business wardrobe, greatest resume formats, supplemental skills to acquire, and more. We’re hoping that by implementing all this research we can elicit success.

While these all play their own role in amassing success, I was recently reminded of one key element that is easily the most important.

But first, some backstory.

If you’re in the entertainment industry you know the first part of the new year is known as pilot season and is the busiest time in the television world. While shows that are already on the air gear up for the second half of their season, a whole new slew of shows emerge to film one episode. This one episode serves as a pitch package with the hope that it garners enough interest to be purchased and picked up as a series.

Emotions run high during pilot season; sleep is scarce, coffee is stocked by the barrel and practically everyone works. Some people work for the very first time and some work double time to finish out their regular shows and then hop on a pilot. It’s a beautiful and also insane time.

This was my first year as an active participant in pilot season. After a whirlwind of screen and lighting tests I was selected to be Rachelle Lefevre’s stand in for the duration of the pilot she was filming in Chicago. I auditioned in the morning with a couple other lovely redheaded ladies, and at the conclusion of the audition, just as I began to put on my coat, the 2nd Assistant Director pulled me aside to ask if I could stay for the rest of the day. And just like that, we were off.

**A quick definition for “stand in” – Production selects a person to be a stand in who resembles the principal actor as closely as possible in terms of height, weight, hair color/length and skin tone. A stand in watches the principal actor they’re in for as they rehearse a scene and memorizes their marks (blocking) ready to hold their place once rehearsal ends and the main actor steps out. As the main actor steps out, the stand in steps in so that cameras, lights and any additional technical equipment have a body to set up around. Setting up the equipment takes MUCH longer than you think it would so instead of having the principal actor stand there for 20 minutes or so, production uses stand ins. Stand ins fill their actor’s marks and also don the appropriate “color cover” – a shirt the same color as the actor’s wardrobe in the scene. Having a stand in also allows the actor to get hair/makeup touch ups, talk with the director or simply grab something to eat. Second team (the team of stand ins) will often go through a rehearsal with the crew and director to ensure everything is set up correctly, determine timing if the camera needs to move and make any blocking adjustments if needed (which the stand in then communicates to the principal actor when they return). Our team of stand ins also memorized the lines in the morning for the scenes scheduled to film that day. Most productions don’t request that second team be memorized but this production preferred it, and so every morning we’d get there early to get our sides for the day and memorize before filming started. So I guess it’s kind of similar to being an understudy in theatre but understanding you will never, ever have the chance to go on as that role.**

That first day after my morning audition was a prep day to experiment with lights, special effects and camera lenses to make the most of our time during official production days.

As I stepped out of one of the lighting set ups to let Rachelle in, the director of photography motioned me over. At first my stomach dropped, I thought I had messed up on the first day and was about to get a lecture.

He lowered his voice and asked, “Do you know why you got this job?”

I blankly stared back trying to come up with a response. Before I could construct an answer, he continued:

“Your attitude. Yes, you have the look but those other girls had the look too. But when you walked in, you smiled, you were warm, you shook my hand, you were engaged and focused. You paid attention. Your attitude – that is the most important thing.”

His explanation surprised me more than it should have. We all understand that one’s attitude has a tremendous effect on any scenario. Especially when things go wrong, as they often do, it makes a world of a difference to approach a situation with a positive and professional attitude. As you’re reading this you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, duh. Of course you need a good attitude. We all know this.” However, if we’re all honest with ourselves, when we’re reacting in the moment the first response isn’t always positive. When we’re tired and frustrated it isn’t easy to maintain a professional and optimistic manner, but it’s critical for success and must be practiced. And what’s awesome is that your attitude is a trait you can cultivate and enhance anytime and anywhere without spending a penny!

I’m working in an industry that appears to pit performers against one another in a competition of who’s the most talented, the prettiest, the most experienced, or the most connected. That emphasis is terrifying, off-putting and incites a deluge of limiting beliefs. If you only remember one message from this post let it be this: your talent or skill level does not matter if you’re unpleasant to work with. I’m not diminishing the need to train and grow one’s skill set as a performer, or in any career for that matter, but what I’m trying to communicate is a positive demeanor will help open more doors – and keep them open.

For a long time I held myself back from countless opportunities telling myself I wasn’t experienced enough, talented enough, qualified enough, and so on neglecting the power of my personality. I’m sure I’m not the only one to stunt myself in this way. If you’re holding yourself back because you feel you don’t have the right skills or experience, I hope this reminds you that your attitude carries more weight than you think. It speaks volumes and will help you get in the door as you continue to build your skill set to reach new levels of success. It truly is the most important thing.

Every Moment is a Resolution

I’m not a winter person. By any means. Never have been and never will be. But, boy do I love this time of year solely because December always holds such magic and power. Sure, it can be somewhat chaotic as we prepare for holiday gatherings and wrap up loose ends before the new year, but you have to admit, the air is charged with this intoxicating energy. Everyone’s looking toward the future and making resolutions; deciding how they want to show up in 2018. The coming new year is so shiny and pristine, completely untarnished and packaged with endless possibilities. Regardless of what happened during the past year, you’re now given a brand new, fresh year. It’s a great time to reflect, focus and center yourself before the coming year. While I love this time of year and am giddy with anticipation for what 2018 might bring, I just want to reiterate that you can have this restart sensation at any time.

We’ve all been there – we begin January feeling extra empowered and ready to make this THE year! This is the year that everything we’ve ever envisioned will happen and it will be stupendous! We all charge into the year determined to uphold every resolution! And maybe we’ll even find the cure for the common cold while we’re at it! Who knows! We’re unstoppable and ready to take on the year!

But inevitably, our superpower energy starts to wane. We might fall off the proverbial wagon. Maybe other unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances come into effect. Or the life we envision for ourselves may require more patience and perseverance than initially anticipated. Whatever the case may be, the superpower energy that launched the new year dissipates and it becomes a struggle to find more.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Despite the societal emphasis that this power to restart occurs only once per year, remember that within every single moment YOU have the opportunity to redirect and reset as you need or desire. Yep. YOU. You have to ability to change course or get back on course whenever you like. It’s all you, my friend.

Allow yourself to feel this invigorating charge of the coming year and let it propel you into the new year, but remember to carry this unstoppable energy through to every single minute of 2018. The seasons will change and before we know it 2018 will be well underway. Understand that not only are you able to carry this energy with you constantly, but you are able to create this “new year sensation” for yourself any time. You have everything you need within you to have the most fantastic year and can recreate the energy you have at the cusp of 2018 for yourself every moment. You simply have to recognize this ability within yourself and pledge to recommit to your new year intentions multiple times throughout the year. Heck, sometimes you’ll have to recommit multiple times throughout the day. And trust me, that is A-OK.

I like to write (obviously) and I write down everything and anything I want to bring into my life. I tend to write the most at the end and beginning of the year as I evaluate my past year and define how I want to show up in the coming year. As I wrote out my vision and resolutions for 2018 I wrote this reminder for myself:

Resolution Quote

This mantra allows me to forgive myself when I don’t feel like things are working out. This mantra gives me an energy boost when I feel my drive begin to slow. This mantra reminds me to listen to myself and determine my next best move to keep moving forward and continue creating the best life for myself.

If this helps you, feel free to borrow it. Print it out and place it somewhere you’ll see it whenever you may need the reminder. Or use this as a starting point – modify it, make it your own. Write whatever suits you to remind yourself it doesn’t need to be January 1 for you to kick start your life.

Be good to yourself & cheers to the most magical 2018!

Thank you for being kind

It was early morning and I was leaving my apartment for the day, exiting down the back, outdoor stairwell of my building. When I reached the gate at the bottom, a woman, a fellow tenant, was on her way inside after taking her dog out for a morning walk. We met facing each other on opposite sides of the gate. We both moved away from the door simultaneously as if to allow the other to pass first and then both stepped forward to walk through when we realized the other would wait for us…I’m sure you’ve done this dance before with another stranger –  “After you.” “No, please, after you.” You get the picture.

We chuckled at our mirrored movements. I went through the gate first and exchanged simple pleasantries with the lady – said good morning, remarked on the beautiful, sunny day ahead, petted her dog, wished her a good day and went along my way.

As I’m walking through the back parking lot toward the blue line station, I hear the woman shout after me, somewhat timidly yet sincerely:

“Thank you for being kind to me!”

My footsteps slowed and I glanced back over my shoulder to ensure she was speaking to me. Sure enough, she was looking directly at me and waving. Caught off guard, I paused for a moment before waving back and shouting “Of course!”

I was baffled. She thanked me for being kind? It was simply small talk…

Our whole interaction lasted probably less than three minutes. To me, it wasn’t a big deal, to me it was second nature. But this brief, simple, friendly conversation obviously made an impact. Her response reminded me that for some, perhaps many, common courtesies and kindness are a rare occurrence.

As I recall this particular morning, I realize this isn’t the first time someone thanked me for being kind. It’s actually happened quite a few times before. Often the circumstances are generally the same in the sense that there’s nothing exceptional about the scenario or the act of kindness. The giver of the kindness mentally chalks it up to “Well, it’s what anyone else would have done.” But in today’s world I feel that statement is tested constantly. Especially when you consider how recipients of kindness react, like the lady in my building. There’s something about the way these individuals express their gratitude for the kindness they’re shown that stops you in your tracks. Something in the expression on their face and the tone of their voice that conveys that kindness is not extended to them often.

I wish I were writing with the knowledge that kindness is extended to everyone, without question and without hesitation, and although I’m an optimist I’m certainly not oblivious. I understand that kindness is currently not as prevalent of a force in our world as it ought. It doesn’t take a genius to deduct that we’ve lost something along the way. While I acknowledge that truth and accept it for what it currently is, I also believe that what’s lost can be found. I believe that kindness can make a comeback. Perhaps more importantly, it needs to make a comeback.

I know, I’m sounding a bit like a hippie, and no, I’m not asking for everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” That’s way too cheesy, even for me.

But what I am asking, better yet challenging you readers to do is to offer just a bit more kindness to those around you. It doesn’t need to be grand gestures, sometimes less can definitely mean more.

So.

I challenge you to glance up from your ever-so-captivating phone as you walk down the street and say “Hello” when you pass another person. I challenge you to say “Pardon me” when navigating your way through a crowd. I challenge you to truly listen when someone speaks to you. I challenge you to say “Hi, how are you?” and mean it; be invested in hearing the response. I challenge you to say “thank you” to your bus driver. I challenge you to help a mother lift her baby stroller over a curb or stair. I challenge you to hold the door. I challenge you to leave the closer parking space for another driver. I challenge you to send a thank you note. I challenge you to introduce yourself to your new neighbor…

I challenge you to allow your kindness to make an impact on someone else.

You never know, you may be the only glimmer of kindness someone sees all day.

 

Thank you for being kind.

 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi