It's almost December 31st, which means it's almost New Year's Eve. Thinking about 2018 really started for me on December 26th. December 26th has always been a really fun day in my family’s traditions. It’s most commonly known as Boxing Day, but in Irish culture, it’s known as St. Stephen’s Day. In Ireland’s past, there was a ritual that took place where a wren would be killed and placed atop a pole. Nowadays, it’s become a more humane tradition of parades and fanfare that is symbolic of the killing of the wren.
But why does this tradition even exist? I, for one, love studying other cultures, religions, and philosophies, especially in regards to how it informs communication. I also love meaning and symbolism and how symbols are really just representative of bigger, collective ideas.
In Irish tradition, the killing of the wren symbolized the killing off of Old Time. The main idea in ancient Druid culture and ritual was that the wren was actually killed off by the robin, which represented the New Year. A robin would kill a wren to symbolize the New Year killing off Old Time.
Regardless of how something is presented, its base definition is usually a very relatable, universal message. No one needs to specifically prescribe to the tradition of St. Stephen’s Day to want to look forward to the New Year. We may no longer go around killing wrens, but we do love to bring out the saying “New Year, New Me” right about this time.
New Year's Eve and Day is usually a time when people think about all the things they’d like to change about the past year in order to better themselves in the coming new year. It’s a beautiful thought, but it also often takes away from all the good that came in the previous year. It can also put a lot of pressure on people to force changes more quickly than they need to take place. Change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s gradual and an accumulation of a lot of small efforts.
I’ve written (and sung) before that there's no such thing as small things. The small things are the day-in and day-out efforts that lead to big things - good and bad. Small kindnesses lead to love and warmth and joy. Small shames and attacks lead to anger and resentment. It’s fun to look at this time of year to set a goal for yourself like “lose 10 pounds” where you are focused on a result, but in order to achieve a wanted result, there has to be a plan of action. And the process is so much more important than the result. The process can get you the result that you want, but it can also open your eyes to so many different results and new opportunities you didn't originally consider.
I’m sure we’ve all read the Aristotle quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The best part about that quote (besides the truth of it) is that it wasn’t Aristotle who said it but Will Durant. Will Durant studied and adapted Aristotle’s teachings into a much simpler, easy-to-digest phrase, and he didn’t even get the credit! But I doubt Will Durant cares because what’s important is the message.
Excellence is a habit, and so is non-excellence. Breaking patterns of behavior can be difficult, especially when it’s letting go of something comfortable. But comfortable doesn’t always equal happy. For many, myself included, happy equals growth and change and discovery.
New Years is difficult for many people because there’s a lot of collective pressure to change. But you know what’s great? Growing and changing all year ‘round, focusing on joy and positivity, and saying goodbye to the negativity and chaos.
Life is what you make it, which is why it’s important to make it what’s best for you. Mistakes are important, and so is failure. If you’re not screwing up and failing, you’re not trying new things or stepping outside your comfort zone. Challenging yourself is how you grow. Let go of past mistakes, but love them because you grew from them and learned not to repeat them.
The “New Year, New Me” mentality gets things backwards. We’re conditioned to change the things we don’t like about ourselves in order to love ourselves when, in reality, if we learn to love ourselves first, changes for the better will come much more easily. Of course there are things I want to improve about myself, but it doesn’t take something like a New Year to make those changes. Once you’re finally happy and at peace, every day feels like a New Year. And although it’s great to honor that New Year clean slate, don’t let it negate all the amazing things you accomplished in the previous year. Remember to give yourself some credit!
In 2017, I chose to cut ties altogether and give myself closure from an unhealthy relationship. I relearned how to give myself the love I needed and vowed to not accept anything less than what I’m worthy of. I rode a horse! I completed my Saturday night work study shifts at UCB and recently started interning at iO West. I continued the Advanced Study Improv Program at UCB, finished Sketch 201, and took, completed, and passed Basic at the Groundlings. I got accepted into the Second City Conservatory. I booked my first lead role in a feature film (but lost out on way more auditions/jobs in comparison). I practiced twice a month with Garage Band and performed with them in New York City at the Del Close Marathon - where I also got to celebrate both birthdays of my best girl friends. The Camp Hickory Players performed on the UCB Sunset main stage as part of ‘The Very Important Improvised One-Act Play Festival’ and started co-hosting our own monthly show. CARL musical improv went 4-1 at the iO West Cagematch. I joined an amazing female-dominant musical improv team called The B-Side. I performed bi-weekly musical improv as part of the 1607 show and also completed a musical bootcamp. I performed a solo at a musical cabaret. I was on two separate podcasts: one in LA about growing up and one in Philadelphia where I got to talk about my love of "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." I was a mentor as part of the Young Storytellers program. I went and saw friends perform. I learned a lot more about my camera and the magic of which it's capable. I worked on multiple film and television sets, meeting new people, networking, and also forming friendships with people I’d worked with before. I hiked nearly every week through spring and summer, exploring so many parts of Southern California I’d wanted to see. I wrote my third screenplay and was also published in my boarding school’s alumni magazine. I wrote music with friends, recorded in a studio, and learned to love/hate my piano again. I consistently went to the gym 4-5 days a week. I played in a basketball league. I signed with an agent. I got MoviePass and saw a bunch of films. I attended four weddings. I cooked most of my meals at home because not only is it rewarding and delicious, it’s healthier and less expensive! I read a new book every couple weeks, knitted myself a scarf, hiked, camped, surfed, and enjoyed the beach with friends. I started some new traditions of my own. And, although it’s become such a part of my routine that I often forget that I do it, I started this blog, branded, marketed, and met my goal of creating original content blogging and vlogging 2-3 times a week. Who knows what this blog will turn into in the future, but 148 posts over the course of a year (including this one) is a heck of a lot more than zero. And I’ve seen concrete results in terms of growth in other areas in regards to this blog, as well.
Most importantly of all, though, is that I didn’t give up on my dreams and don’t plan to do so anytime soon. I don’t think anyone should give up on the things that bring them joy. If you find something that makes you want to grow and get better, follow that thing while remembering that you have everything you need to succeed already inside you. Not just improv but musical improv has been that for me above everything else.
And, of course, in honor of the robin killing the wren and the New Year 2018, here are the things I’m looking forward to the most: taking Intermediate at the Groundlings; continuing Advanced Study Improv at UCB and finishing their Sketch Writing program; learning different perspectives at iO West and Second City; continuing to blog and vlog about Los Angeles and positivity; continuing to hit the gym 4-5 times a week (and forgiving myself if I fall short!); editing the three screenplays I’ve written and writing the new one that literally just popped into my head the other day; writing a musical about boarding school; meeting even more new people and friends; failing and making lots of new mistakes; learning from new mistakes; hiking and exploring and camping even more since I got a National Park Pass for Christmas; performing even more improv and musical improv; becoming a better guitar player; and volunteering more at the couple places in LA I love to volunteer. I also vow to give myself more credit and to be kinder to myself (but to be meaner in improv scenes since that was my big note/takeaway from Groundlings).
There’s a lot about me in this blog post, but only because I want others to see that they’re capable of all the things they set their minds to. One of my favorite all-time quotes is one written by James Joyce in Ulysses. He wrote, “The movements which work revolutions in the world are born out of the dreams and visions in a peasant's heart on the hillside.”
We’re all - in one way or another - the peasant on the hillside. Some of us more literally than others (hey, ya girl LOVES to hike), but all of us figuratively in some way. So, above all other goals I have for myself in 2018, my biggest one is to not get in my own way or to hold myself back. Let’s turn all our tiny movements into larger revolutions. There’s no such thing as small things. Won’t you join me?
Have a safe, happy, and healthy New Years' Eve and New Years' Day! I can't wait to see what 2018 has to bring for all of us!
Thank you so much for reading, and, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further with me, please subscribe below, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so grateful you're here and that I’ve been getting a lot of really challenging questions and even better feedback from a community all over the world. I couldn’t do this without you! So THANK YOU! I’m here for you, and I love hearing from you, too! You’re the best, and you have everything you need inside of you! Please believe it! Starve your ego, feed your soul - and follow your heart!