The Boy from Virginia Emerges from the Grave (The Hiatus Series)

“There’s always another chance. Another chance to make a change, to make new choices, to say sorry, to offer and accept love, to embrace responsibility, to understand, to create  romance, to make amends, to escape, to break the chain, to see the truth, to tell the truth, to reassess, to rebuild, to be reborn. Give yourself a chance to live. Give the world a chance to be wonderful” –Rikki Beadle-Blair

Last Friday, I performed a small interpretive dance piece about fair trade gold for Africa Fashion Week. The next day, I cut off my hair and went into work for a Burlsque night in central London. Then, on Sunday, I began my new job as a waiter in a restaurant. Only two and a halk weeks ago was I sitting in my room feeling as if I couldn’t move. Now here I am, moving as much as I possibly can. Things do turn around, don’t they?

The following was originally written on August 3rd

What a hiatus gives a person is the following: 1)serious time to think, 2) a clear head to figure out what’s next, and 3) a refreshing feeling that no vacation has the power to give.

So I thought. A lot. And I tried to pinpoint the root of my problem with God and with my situation and it boiled down to something quite simple. I wasn’t angry with God because I didn’t get a role in a play. I’ve NOT gotten roles before. Instead, I lost faith because all I wanted was a job that was going to help me get out of financial debt before leaving London. I lost faith because I figured that getting a role was such a small thing to ask God for. But He couldn’t do it. Or better yet, he chose not to do it. He’d rather give the rich even more riches and keep the poor, struggling no matter how hard some of them fight to make life better.

So I questioned him. I questioned Him hard. And it made people very mad I feel because of some unspoken rule that says He’s not to be questioned. Here’s my theory:  I don’t think God punishes negative thoughts. He doesn’t reward them, obviously, but why punish when he has bigger fish to fry? The world has tons of negativity. Instead, he tends to show you what he has in store. The more I questioned, and the more insecure I became, the more I began to care less about God and His miracles. But then, calls came in and doors opened and I figured that it would be stupid of me not to put in work to make good things happen for myself (which is why I now have a couple jobs to help me for a bit). So from now on, I will say, “Question God,” because he will definitely show you His answer. I think a cowardly entity would just refuse to show up at all.

I think God showed me an answer through a death. You see, it was Amy Winehouse’s death that made me think, this isn’t it for me. I still have a legacy to leave behind, and a mark to make on this world. To just quit my career (which is what I was considering) would be a testatment to failure, and people who know me well know that I only fail at relationships, not my career.

I love my job waaaay to much to just give up on it. Moments like the one I experienced are considered a “scuffle.” Like any other relationship in which you love something, you are bound to get hurt, and you need to recover from that hurt in your own way. This industry is something that most people love and hate at the same time. To be able to love/hate simultaneously shows the depth of my involvement in the craft. It’s like family; Only real family members know how to piss you off, and then make you smile 5 minutes later.

This is a journey that I am constantly on and the only relationship I know how to manage. I wouldn’t be surprised if I feel the exact same way about the industry in later years. Yes, I recognize how specific my situation is to me yet, for those who’ve forgotten, I write my blogs not just for myself, but for those people who aren’t near me and want to know how I’m living my life. That includes being candid with my readers and not stiffing them on the details that make my journey a real one. Not everything I write will be comfortable, nor understandable to some. Remember, regardless the emotion, the essence of me doesn’t change.

One of my favorite lines of any movie is in Scream 2 where Sidney Prescott says “I’m a fighter.” Her graying drama teacher looks at her with a hint of challenge and disdain and says not once, but twice “I don’t believe you.” She looks at him with a combination of determination and fear, and says with more than enough internal power, “I’m a fighter.” This is how I feel every single day of my life. I start my days with question marks about the things I believe in the most, and by the day’s end, or the next morning, my questions marks have turned into periods or exclamation points.

My personal plea to my friends and family and readers is this: Know me well enough to know that I’m fine and will always pick myself up of the concrete when knocked down. I’m not a hopeless case who will end up in a hospital somewhere for slitting his wrist. That’s too played out. People are remembered most for their actions, how they persevered and lived through even the worst of times.  However, also know me well enough to know that my hiatus was a form of rebellion. I don’t get to rebel often because people think that I am happy and together all the damn time. It seems selfish for people to want meto be happy for them as opposed to myself. So if feeling sad for a week, or a month, makes me feel happy, respect it.

For a time, during my hiatus period, people were suggesting all types of ways to diagnose my “problem” and I kept wondering if they knew that my problem was merely financial. If they had a get rich quick scheme, then I would take that on in a heartbeat. But the question of problems remained. Do I have a problem?, I thought. Yes, I do. It’s called “feeling too much.”  When I get caught up in something, I feel it to the nth degree. But funny enough, there is nothigng wrong with that. Most people don;t feel or care enough. I don’t want to be one of those people no matter how foot-loose and fancy free they appear to be. From my personal experience, I’ve come to realize that being considerate of others is rewarding, even thought it can get a bit stressful as well. Therefore, I need to find a balance between giving and not giving a fuck.

But a word to the wise, when it comes to me, I ask my friends to let me come to conclusions on my own. I have to live with myself 24 hours a day and no one knows me like I know me, so don’t try to solve me as if I am some sort of emotional equation. I can usually solve myself with silence, some well thought out words, and my laptop.

Sidewak drawig at the Southbank

The Boy Virginia Made Dies a Little (The Hiatus Series)

“If you’re brave enough to say “good bye”, life will reward you with “hello.”–Paulo Coelho-

Last weekend I decided to die. Not in the literal sense, as I’m quite aware that’s never the route to go. But I did need to let go of the “me” that felt bottled up. The hiatus has been a long time coming, if you ask me, and I’m just surprised I didn’t think of it sooner. But the elements of a “good bye” were clearly in place as far back as last Tuesday.

July 19th, 2011

“Thank you. That’s all we’ll need to see today,” said the woman from the audition panel. I gathered my black H&M duffel bag from the floor (the one with my dance clothes and shoes inside “just in case” they called me back to do a dance call) and started my journey from the Dance Attic Studio space in Fulham back home towards Clapham. I called my agent (as is the usual procedure) to tell her that I’d sung the song they gave me to learn, but that I unfortunately still needed to use the words (because upon first sing, I got nervous and they all went from my head). while we ended our conversation very cheerily, I began to think, ‘well maybe this door closing is for the best. Maybe God is preparing me for the next best thing! Maybe I’ll be able to get this role, pay my bills, and leave London on the highest of high notes!’ So I got on the tube.

Somewhere between Fulham and my full thoughts, I found myself alighting at Piccadilly Circus. A celebrity on my Twitter feed had tweeted about an art gallery in the area, and I decided if I couldn’t be a part of art, I would go look at it. I spent about twenty-five minutes strolling around, looking for this suggested gallery and felt more or less like I was trudging towards the gallows. You see, the whole time I was walking, the more and more, I was thinking “I’m never going to get the life-changing call. Oh my goodness, I am going to be stuck in retail, giving out free sugar scrub hand massages to every old woman and pretentious teenage girl for the rest of my duration in London.” As a thunderstorm started in my soul, an actual dark cloud began to hover over Piccadilly. So I walked with as much speed as I could muster, and made it under the Ritz awning as the first droplets of rain began to fall.

I weaved my way around a school of Spanish students  and in-between Chinese tourists taking pictures of themselves in their newly purchased Wellies. Then it was back out into the drizzle to try and stop the thoughts that were catapulting to the front of my mind.

“No news is good news.” My mom said this to me once…and when she said it, it turned out to be true. Sometimes, she’s a prophet. But in this instance, she was a false one. That phrase “No news = good news” makes me think immediately of the word “hoax.” Think about it; if a person, company, or any interested party legitimately wants you, I highly doubt that they’d leave you in limbo about their enthusiastic desire to have you on board. On the contrary, I believe that you’d hear from  them as soon as humanly possible. Silence, to me, confirms rejection.

That was how I felt as I somehow ended up walking through Hyde Park, where people rollerbladed blithely around me and horses trotted respectfully on side paths. That same feeling continued as I somehow ended up in Mayfair trudging thoughtfully past homes I would never be able to afford. Then, the music on my iPod changed and Jill Scott’s voice was filling my ears with serenity. Unfortunately, the sounds of Jilly from Philly weren’t synching up with the aesthetic of London town. The sentiment of her song “Slowly, Surely” however, was resonating someplace deep in my soul. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was a message in her lyrics that I wasn’t quite hearing…

But then the thought came so suddenly, it was as if I’d been hit by an oncoming black cab in the middle of Grosvenor Square. If there was ever an epiphany for me it was this: Both in business and love, I want to be what someone wants. I don’t want to have to alter anything about myself, nor should I feel the need to lie to make myself more appealing. I want to be enough for someone, period.

Eventually, I’d made my trek to Covent Garden, where, because my job was short-staffed and I was in desperate need of cash, I signed up for more shifts. And immediately after I took them, I wondered hard to myself, if this hard work and willingness to help was genuinely appreciated. I went home, and prepared myself for work the next day.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that same week were very similar. I would work, come home at around 5 or 6ish, and immediately go to sleep. I did not eat. My appetite was non-existent and all I seriously wanted was quiet. I could’ve cared less if anyone needed me. I just didn’t want to be bothered. My blackout curtains remained closed. Dried laundry remained uncollected and I refused to contribute to making dishes as that would mean coming downstairs, bumping into a roommate, and having to make idle chat which I had no energy to do.

I would wake up late some nights, around 2:30 am, hoping to have received some messages from friends, or responses to Twitter postings, and I realized that NO one was contacting me. So on the Friday, I figured it would be a wonderful idea to remove myself from Facebook for a while. It’s not as if it’s serving a purpose for me at the moment, I thought. So with the click of a button I was “deactivated.”

The fear came immediately. What was my removal from the social world meaning? Was I hoping for peace or was I crying out for help?  I think I was so jumbled up inside when I made the decision that I couldn’t find a coherent answer. All I knew is that a weight had been lifted in some manner. The only thought I had from that moment was, ‘if my real friends want to contact me, they will find a way. Facebook isn’t the only way to communicate with me. It’s the lazy person’s way out.’ I was clearly in meltdown mode and I was going to discover who my real friends were soon enough.

July 24th, 2011

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I had no clue that it would be my final day of work, but it was. Granted, I’d put in my month’s notice about two weeks prior, as I was going to look for a job as a waiter (a job I have secretly craved since December 2009). During the week, however, I’d been reminded that I actually don’t like dealing with customers who constantly complain that our shop “smells too much”, that “your shampoo still uses sodium lauryl sulfates”, and that we “don’t have enough options for liquid soap.” I also got a bit tired of unsupervised children coming into the shop and basically having our staff babysit while they continued to shop elsewhere. Last time I checked, I wasn’t a father and I’m damn for sure not a father-in-training for pretentious children. On the way to work that Saturday, I decided “no more!” So I quit, and made my emotional load even lighter.

There should’ve been fear about how I was going to manage with bills and whatnot, but there wasn’t. I just knew that deep inside, my personal happiness takes precedence over everything else. As lovely as my colleagues were over the past year and a half, I needed to move on. My chapter at Lush was over and the thought of stepping into the unknown was delicious.

I must point out that I don’t think I had a clear thought process during my mini-meltdown. I was acting as I felt purely based on instincts; instincts that I’m sure no one would understand unless they were me. But I was also acting with one goal in mind: to make myself feel better. Then during the day, after I’d made the announcement that “today is my last day” another announcement came through that would be heard around the world. In the staff room, a colleague exclaimed with slight disbelief and aloofness, “Ohmigod, Amy Winehouse is dead.”

Talk about an exit. My figurative death definitely had nothing on her literal one. However, I (being who I am) instantly began to search a lesson in her life from which I might learn.

To be honest, Amy’s death is partially responsible for the clarity I gained over that weekend. She’d caused me to do go back to my old methods of “removing and assessing” to start planning my future. So when I left work that evening for the last time, I decided that the next stop after my graveyard shift would be to pull myself up out of the grave I dug and into a new life.

I was about to experience a personal renaissance.

The Boy from Virginia Criticizes the Best (Session 1)

There are times when I wish that artists like Beyoncé didn’t exist. Not because I don’t admire her commercial appeal, work ethic or overall packaging, because Ido. I just wish she didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t find myself pondering the many contradictions she represents to me. Yes, there is the whole, “country bumpkin” who is actually probably “the smartest-business-woman-we-know” thing she has going on. There is also the, singer/ actress thing (side-eye to that one…) And then there are songs like “1+1” and “Best Thing I Never Had.” Drum roll for my conundrum, please.

Beyoncé’s newest album has only been out for a couple of weeks. I’m not particularly sold on the new material, but I have a feeling that her songs (whether great or mediocre) will soon be trumpeting from iPods or the modest speakers of a trendy retail store near you. Unfortunately, I’m also certain that her “Put yo hand in his face” type lyrics will be blasting from thousands of mouths of women, and even men who feel that she is singing their lives. I am one of those people, normally. But why am I one of those people? It has more to do with the woman’s artistry  and singing rather than what she, herself, has to say about an issue.

As I mentioned earlier, Beyoncé is a package. She does write her own material, sometimes…but there is a huge part of me that feels she doesn’t truly feel what she is singing about. Oh, yes, she sings hard. Harder than any singer I’ve heard to be honest. At day’s end, however, singing hard is hardly the same as having empathy for another person’s suffering. I guess at this moment, I’m speaking about the current single “Best Thing I Never Had.” How do I analyze this track?….Hmmm.

From the cutesy tinkling of the piano-intro, and her growling the words, “What goes around comes back around,” I’m already thinking…uh-oh, another “Irreplaceable.”  But I surrender myself to listening to the lyrics and melody (coupled with Bey’s infamous vocal acrobatics). The more and more I listen to the song, I realize it is a revenge song, or shall I say a song to “teach you a lesson.” It’s an “I-did-better-than-you” song, so Ha! In other words, it’s juvenile. It’s playground fodder for young girls to stomp on their ex-boyfriend’s sandcastles so they can say “I win, you lose.” (Bey would quickly say that men can relate to her lyrics as well, so they are universal…Okey doke then!)

My issues with this song are many. Firstly, I think that the song gives a false sense of security to people who have been broken up with. Let’s be honest, Beyonce is in a position to sing a song where she is the best thing someone never had because…well look at her! She is the best thing someone never had! She has the right to go, “look how far I’ve come since you.” But if that new music video is any indication, her high school sweetheart was clearly not the one she was going to end up with. And if this new love and the high school love was all she had to compare, then great. The song fits her situation perfectly.

I feel that this song is dangerous because it will be a fall-back song to rely upon after a break up. Irreplaceable was a “warning” song which inspired confidence. Women (and men too, I guess) could say…”wait a minute, I know what you’re up to and if you think I’m stupid, think again.” With this song (“Best Thing…”), it’s implies that you should be a guaranteed success since your last lover. In other words, if you are not THE best thing someone has NEVER had, this song should not be sung by you…

Let’s  be honest: in the real world, what goes around does not necessarily come back around (“Hey, my baby,” my ass). Real people who’ve been hurt (and who are observant enough to not allow naïveté to cloud their lives) know that you can still be “alone and looking” while your ex is living it up with someone new and living successfully not thinking about you. Since this is the case, sometimes more often than not for a lot of people, the question becomes, NOW whose the best? Is that person the best thing you never had? If they aren’t, their circumstances surely exhibit otherwise.

Also, how many times will this song be sung by the same person who has “moved on to the next?” The average person tends to date more than one person. Therefore, my question becomes, how many times will this song be used as a response to a break up? I swear, I would get so sick and tired of hearing a friend say, “oh well, that just means that I am the best thing they never had.” Wrong. It just means you’re not good at relationships, or that you don’t know what you want. (I’m generalizing here, but it’s a pop song…I’m talking about. How much more general can we get?)

I think my key problem with the song actually has nothing to do with people using the lyrics as leverage, or as some sort of empowerment anthem. My issue hits a bit closer to home. For me this song implies that the person who you are singing about holds some sort of regret for having left you in the first place. You both need to have been through the mill a couple of times, but you will need to seemingly come out on top as the successor. If you have been successful at becoming the “best” over a period of time, while the other person is deteriorating in some fashion, then that would be reason enough to shout the lyrics of this song to the top of your lungs, especially if that person treated you sub-par. But what if that’s not the case?

For me, I don’t have anyone to sing this song to. I don’t think there is anyone I’ve ever dated who regrets leaving me behind in any shape way or form. Every single person seems to be so content in their own lives that I don’t cross their minds. I would love to love this song and be one of the many people saying “It sucks to be you right now” with a smug face, but that’s not how I feel. To be honest, when it comes to love, many days, I feel like it sucks to be me right now.

But what is interesting is that I’m sure what goes around will come back around again. However, when it does, I don’t think it would be beneficial for me to rub someone’s face in my personal triumph. Victory usually speaks for itself. Instead, I’d rather forgive a person for having mistreated me. Why? Because that’s the best way of saying “I Win.”  There is no dwelling, nor sleep lost over someone. Instead, it’s all given away to a higher power to deal with while you thrive. My belief is that you can only be your true best when you let go of unnecessary baggage. What’s more unnecessary than hate?

I guess once you let go of the hate, it allows more space in the heart for songs about love and a positive future. If I were a guest at Beyoncé’s Wedding in her video, I’d say “Here’s to the happy ones who know the power of forgiveness.” Then I’d clink my champagne glass, and down my drink for all of those who believe that “what goes around eventually goes away leaving you with a clean slate!”

Best Thing I Ever Had (Video)

The Boy from Virginia Listens to Clown Music

Two days ago, on a very blissful and relaxed Sunday, I found myself thinking the following (which I typed into my IPod 4 just so I could remember): “You ever wake up one morning, look around atthe people you pass on the way to whatever location, and dread the idea ofgetting older?” It is a topic that precedes the body of my mental paragraph every day. I watch people who insist on making their lives more difficult by not using common sense, or by taking the longer route instead of the shortest route, or by allowing themselves to easily get worked into frenzies over nothing. I notice how these things play into people’s adult lives. Often, I find myself inquiring as to these people’s origins. How were they as children? Did they always have such bad teeth? How did they get so fat/so thin? Was there a pivotal moment in their lives that caused them to pick up a bad habit? How did they end up here/now/in this moment as the person they are?

On the same day that I pondered this, and was headed to visit a friend who lives in Harrow-on-the-Hill, I came across a very odd, yet “normal-for-London” sight: a clown. This wasn’t just any old clown, but instead a melancholy clown who was playing the guitar in the underground corridor of the Charing Cross station. There was something about his absurd presence that spoke volumes to me and I still can’t figure out why his placement in my line of vision was so powerful. Was it simply because my ordinary, rainy London Day would’ve been boring without him? Or was his existence symbolic of something? To be honest, the sight (though a bit jarring and odd) was still beautiful in a surreal way. Yet, it was actually real.

If only I could be younger and not have to deal with reality…maybe my life would be full of those absurd, guitar playing clowns.

I turned twenty-six this year. I didn’t expect any trumpets or anything special to come my way as, with age, you simply become grateful for getting older. You don’t need gifts. You only need the rent paid and/or food on your table (and the occasional money for transportation to and from work so that you can continue to pay the rent and put food on the table). My sister is ten years my junior and her birthday is roughly, one month before mine. So when she turned sixteen this year, I knew that her walk into womanhood would go one of two ways. She would either “straighten up and fly right” or she’d give me a reason to want to break her neck.

It seems she has chosen the latter.

There have been three moments in my life where I’ve been in bliss, or fortunately busy with loads of artistic things on my mind, and I’ve received disturbing phone calls from my mother, concerning the younger sister. Call number one happened when I was early on at Temple University.

Tom, your sister has run away from home.” That’s the call I received when my family was still living in Virginia Beach. This situation arose because my sister, who was causing trouble in school, accused a teacher of something inappropriate, almost causing him to lose his job. Her guilt was so much that, at 9 or 10 years old, she bailed. The hullabaloo ended with the police (and other homegrown search parties) having to find my sister and bring her back home. (Lives affected: about 5 or 6.)

Call number two happened as I was about to audition for a new play at the Walnut Theatre. It was 2008. I was still in Philadelphia and nearing my final year as a student. I had literally wished the person ahead of me “good luck” on their audition when my cell phone rang suddenly.

Tom, there are tornadoes touching down all over Suffolk (my family had moved), and your sister is home. She could be in great danger and I’m no where nearby.That situation ended with my sister being found in one piece (Thank God!), but our newly built house having been left in ruins along with other houses in the neighborhood. My family was left homeless for a month, and received no government help to repair their home. (Lives affected: hundreds-due to the tornado). My Theatre department at Temple University, however, clandestinely raised money to give to my family who basically lost their home about a week before my graduation. To this day, I am still grateful for the arts community!

The third call (that has jarred/riled me to the point of finally taking the time out to write this entry here in the dressing room of my latest show, “Six Rounds”) I received yesterday. I was nearing the end of a long day of tech rehearsal, which involved me basically sitting/sleeping in my dressing room from 1:30pm until 7:00pm (when my feet actually touched the stage). I was feeling very hungry and contemplating how much money I would need to catch the Tube home when I noticed I’d missed a call and had a voicemail message. I listened to the message and it was my mother’s frantic, yet oddly controlled voice.

Tom, I’m calling because your sister is pregnant. I been asking her for months if she was, but something made me sit her down today…” The message went on in a bit more detail than was necessary, but I stopped listening after the opening statement anyway. The news was a tornado that I wouldn’t feel the effects of until much later. I couldn’t have heard her correctly. Pregnant? Pregnant?!?!?!?! The meek little chick who I used to sing to, and give hugs to when she was crying? The little girl who was so mousy that I wanted her to break out of her shell? The little girl I took to see Shrek 2 and Dreamgirls? You mean to tell me that this little girl is going to have a little one? She’s pregnant. (Lives affected: we’ll soon see.) I can’t deal. But it seems I will have to. Of course, this isn’t about me, though. I’m not the one carrying the baby.

Or so goes the thought process. But it’s like when a person goes to jail; not only is he/she serving time, but so is everyone else who he/she affected. With this baby, my sister will not be raising it alone. We (as in, my family) all will and for some reason that makes me very mad. Why? Because I didn’t plan on being anyone’s Uncle! (And before anyone says anything on the issue of how I feel…I have a RIGHT to feel the way I feel)

It hit me today that whenever I see an under aged girl with a baby, I immediately shake my head in judgment. I’m sure many people do. The first thing we think is “This fast ass girl was laying up with some man, didn’t even use a condom, *sucks teeth* and this is the consequence.” It almost seems like we think “oh well, she deserves a baby. If she’s going to be careless with her body, let her deal with the aftermath.” In other words, I just figured my sister’s gradually growing belly would be her scarlet letter and that she should bear it, since she brought it upon herself!

My main gripe with this underage baby situation is that I feel that anyone underage couldn’t have possibly planned to have a child. Right? It made me think to myself…wow, having a baby should be planned, because a child (though a blessing) is a very huge financial, emotional, and physical commitment. Sheeeit. I know for a fact that I can’t be making any of those commitments when I don’t even feel all that successful in raising my damn self. (A good friend of mine once said, “When you become a parent, your aim is to keep that child alive.” THAT statement alone was enough to make me hold off having children until I felt like I was ready)

What also gets me is that I now feel obligated to try and provide for my future niece or nephew and I don’t have the money to buy clothes or food for myself
even. (Where’s my pacifier, dammit?) But I know, already, that I will be expected to help out or provide in some kinda way because something tells me that the father of the child will pull the denial card and I might have to fly back to America and use my deep voice for what it’s actually worth! And if my sister isn’t able to identify the father…then my family will have a whole ‘nother set of issues on our hands.

I’m also livid because neither of the youthful parties were thinking about the effect their 5-minute actions would have on their future. This boy did not think of the damage he could’ve caused my sister’s future, nor did he think about how he would be contributing to the world’s almost endless number of young, aloof, unprepared fathers. My sister didn’t think about how having unprotected sex would affect our already stressed out mother nor her own body. Not to mention, her education, her dreams of being model; her overall potential.

Because she was so eager to grow up, she won’t have the luxury of growing up. She will be forced into motherhood and forced into a life where she is no longer the center of her world. She will be revolving around a different planet called “baby.”

Her innocence is gone. And that’s why I’m mad.

I’m not one of those oblivious big brothers who thinks young people aren’t having sex. Puh-leeze. Girls were getting pregnant at twelve and fourteen when I was growing up. Why I’m mad, however, is that the sex was unprotected, and I wonder as to why that is. Was the ‘family life’ portion of health education not up to par? Has there been no emphasis on how the body works when there are lessons at school? Is my sister one of those people who was duped into thinking that sex would be better without the use of a condom? What the fuck!

Also…I tend to wonder why there is just no fear today among youth. I grew up with fear of doing anything that would bring shame to the family name (even
though some part of me always felt/still feels that I am shameful in some kinda way…that’s a different blog topic, however
). I was afraid to bring attention to myself unless it was academic or artistic.

Why was I so afraid? Because when I used to do wrong, my mother would tell everyone about what I did. I hated the “tut-tut-tut” looks and the “I can’t believe he did/said that” type of statements that spouted from the mouths of others. Basically, I was a 7-13 year old who hated being judged. So I tried to remain good. I’d still like to think I’m good but I’m getting a bit tired of staying on that pedestal alone.

I got tired of it when I was a kid as well, which is why I had many mini-rebellions. Still, my little rebellions were nothing compared to the amount of warfare caused by other members of my family. I used to count talking back to my mother as the ultimate form of rebellion.  Here’s a better example: when I was at Milton Academy, I used to pride myself in finding ways to beat the curfew system. So I found ways to come back late to my dorm…or stay up late to do some work when I couldn’t get it done during study hall. Others at my prestigious academy found ways to sneak in marijuana into their dorms, get shit-faced drunk on school nights, and even run businesses out of their rooms (a true story). When I used to tell people…”Oh…I got to come in at 11pm or 12pm”, most people were like “Oh…but you know, you’re actually allowed to do that. So you’re not really breaking any rules.”

Time to bring up another topic: my cousin. I have a cousin who’s been to jail twice. (In there as I type, to be quite honest) He and I grew up so close that he was
like my big brother. I hated him and loved him simultaneously, as only family members who are that close know how to do. I looked up to him, and at the same time was so concerned for his well being that if he fucked up, I blamed myself for not being the good influence on him that he needed. For some reason, I always felt that when I was in proximity to him, that he’d do his best to stay on the right path. Once he started hanging with the wrong crowds and making
poor decisions that would eventually land him behind bars and away from his family and friends, I was disappointed in myself. I figured that if I hadn’t gone to  school away from home at the age of 14, or if I hadn’t stayed away to get a good education that maybe I could’ve saved him in some way.

In many ways, I’ve always felt responsible for my cousin, and I see that those feelings of responsibility are trickling down into the way I feel about my sister’s pregnancy. What could I have possibly done, though? Been a psychic who knew she was about to go have sex and try to stop her in advance? Go back to America on a whim and be the Superman I sometimes claim to be? No. I live my own life and I’m learning every single day that the way others act is not a reflection of me. I can’t hold myself so responsible for others acting out of character. But I do…

The reason I do so is because I’ve been seen as this beacon of hope for my family. I’m the first to do so many things and I keep trying my best to not fuck up. I have mini-fuck ups, but nothing that would alter my life so much as to ruin my future. I try my hardest to stay on the beaten path. I work hard and I’m diligent. I try to stay positive even when being in this industry really makes that difficult. Still, I feel like no matter what I do, it isn’t enough to change the world. Maybe if I lost my mind for just a bit, then I’d feel better. But I feel like I don’t even have the luxury of being wreckless. It’s unfair. I can’t be wreckless with my mind, my body, or my decisions. Why not? Because I’m scared. And it’s that fear that keeps me good, I guess.  If only more people had that exact same fear, then they’d know why I dread getting older and why I wish there were more clowns around.

Maybe that’s what the melancholy clown is about; why he existed in my world. He is a walking contradiction. The sadness and the hilarity of him confirms his
absurdity. But it was his guitar playing that told his true story. I expected him to be juggling or getting a pie in the face, and yet here he was playing music; doing the unexpected and throwing me off.

We are all sad clowns playing guitars. We’re expected to live our lives a certain way, when in fact we all know how difficult it is to just follow one path with a clear sense of self. We play instruments when we should stick to our day jobs. If we began to listen pedantically to the melodies we play on our personal guitars, might we discover a new chord? Or might we hear the emotion behind the journey our notes make? Or would we recognize how a song is being heard by others. I think the song we play is ultimately our own. And though we may be afraid to play a different song, or do what is unexpected, a change of tune is what makes life the adventure it has always been. My sister is creating her own song to play in underground tunnels. Instead of passing her and jumping on my next Tube, I should listen to her play.

The Boy from Virginia Discusses the New Monarchy

Last week, Beyoncé released a single asking what she must think is the most important question ever: Who Runs the World? “Girls” was her answer. But today, it was quite evident that Love was running the world as everyone around the globe tuned into the royal wedding. It still amazes me how people can become so swept up in the lives of people they don’t know. Why should we care about Kate and William? They are just like anyone else, right? If this was any other wedding, it wouldn’t get this much hype, so why them? Well, simply put, they are royalty. What’s more important is that they are young royalty. With that being said, their youth represents so much. Then again, so does their obvious love and affection for one another.

            Up until today I was dreading the idea of a royal wedding. I was sure I was not going to be able to get to work on time (luckily, I didn’t get called in to work),that there’d be loads of sappy, teary-eyed, hand-holding couples dressed up as the royals (if that happened, I was lucky not to see it), and the people-congestion would just make me grumpy. But, after waking up around 11am and realizing (thanks to Twitter and Facebook) that I wasn’t going to be able to avoid the royal wedding at all, I gave in. The coverage was live on YouTube, so I was able to watch from the vows being made up until they got in the horse-drawn carriage to begin their royal waves. Then I left the house to do my anti-royal wedding day activities which I’d planned earlier this week. Only, as I walked along the Southbank and eventually to St. Pauls Catherdral (friend in tow), I was no longer feeling anti-anything. I was feeling as if I’d witnessed one of the greatest moments in history. And I was very much pro- love, for once.

            Tradition is the word that sprang to my mind today. It is also something that highly intrigues me when it comes to weddings. I think so many people try to out-do or not-do tradition when it comes to the matrimonial ceremony, but as the world has seen, a traditional wedding can be beautiful, classy, and enough. Watching the expensive simplicity of everything kept me enthralled, yet curious as well. No doubt Kate was prepared for all this, but now that it was actually happening, what was she thinking about her life before “I Will” and after “I Will?” She is, as they say, representative of the common woman marrying the Disney Prince, but judging from what has been said about her relationship history, there was nothing fairytale about how they met. To be honest, it just seemed like “down-to-earth Will” met “down-to-earth Kate,” they developed a relationship, fought, made up, made it work (a key factor), and made the big decision to unite as one. Why is this so inspiring? Isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be before marriage? I guess I’m so inspired because I do know many relationships that have such sustainability.

            I now, sit here, exhausted from a day of walking around London (and having stumbled into a very awesome street party) asking myself all these questions about love and marriage and about my romantic future because I fear, unlike others in my life, that I will not be granted the same privilege of marriage. I’m not trying to be negative or throw a pity party (because I’m sure no one would attend). But it baffles me how the art of romantic selection (i.e Love) works. God (or whichever deity you worship) brought two people together, gave them free will to flesh out a life and 8-year history together, and now they’ve sealed the deal. I can’t even find someone to make 4-week history with, let alone 8-years. But it’s a clandestine desire I’ve had for a long time: to meet someone, grow immensely, and then…well…who knows…live together forever? I never imagined getting married, but having had one of my best friends recently jump the broom made me look at things differently.

            My theory: if you marry for love, then your marriage (no matter what it looks, sounds like, or costs) will be perfect because it’s everything you both want. Or at least this is the assumption.

            When it comes to me, and living in this world, I am slowly accepting that I am becoming more and more cynical by the day. Earlier this year, I was all too ready to embrace whatever came my way. And I was also willing to water it, fertilize it, and make it grow so that my love could blossom with somebody else. After making that pledge to myself, I got a taste of what it would be like to feel bliss with someone. Everything about the development was organic and natural. Things progressed in a very friendly, orderly, and fun manner…

            …And then a week (5 days to be exact) after my birthday, I received an e-mail saying that we were incompatible and “could we be friends?” Hmm…I immediately thought to myself, This is the equivalent of a post-it note.

            Clearly, love was NOT dating someone for a month. Nor was it sharing time together and phone calls and texts. Nor was it, it seems, being honest up front. I only wish I’d have known beforehand that there would be no future for us or I’d have not wasted so much time. Investing in someone is not a process to be taken lightly and when it comes to me, I’m the first to say when you fuck up my heart, you ruin it for the next one.

            I, now, do. Not. Want. Love. But if it comes…and it’s genuine…I might change my mind.

            But people promise all the time, “ I’m not like anyone else.” Great. I know that. No two people are ever exactly the same…but it would be foolish to say that we don’t all, to some degree function the same.

            Firstly, as a rule, we must SEE someone we like (Attraction), we must have something IN-COMMON, we must know that, at some point, sex needs to be on the menu (Lust), and that TIME must be invested to make it work. Ideally, that someone will also ACCEPT you for who you are.

            Having recently been rejected, I’ve discovered that I’m not the right type for a lot of people. People see me and have a lot of misconstrued notions of who I am. People think I’m not supposed to have a deep voice. People have told me “ You’d be so much better if you had muscles.” People expect me to be shallow. People expect soooo much from me and I just want to tell them all… “I’m skinny, deal with it. I will always invest more time into my career than someone else as it’s my true passion. More importantly, a normal person would love me to death.” The question is…who or what is normal these days?

            I despise the fact that I have so many issues with love. I despise the fact that I understand love is what we all need. I hate the fact that I love making other people feel loved, but yet, I can’t manage to make one single person love me back. When it comes to love, I am powerless at creating it or taking it away, it seems. So when that awful, repetitive, kintergarden-esque tune comes onto the radio, “Who Runs the World”… I have to reiterate: the answer is LOVE. And that’s the true monarchy in this world that we should all recognize.

The Boy from Virginia Recaps

When I look at Facebook photos of myself smiling all toothily, I sometimes say to myself, “that gap is too wide.” It’s a flaw I blame on genetics. Sometimes, however, I think, “ah, it’s no big deal, it’s just a gap,” and I accept the uniqueness of my grin. In regards to my career as an actor, though, I’ve never actually thought about gaps. (Well, maybe financially, but that’s to be expected, right?) Nothing has truly ever seemed out of my reach. Instead, things have just been either “right for me” or “not right for me.” There is no in-between, unless it’s being in-between jobs. That’s the only “in-between” I know.

            For the past 3 months, I’ve gone from being a working man, to being out of work, to having 3 projects. This, as I have said many times before, is the life for which I signed up. I’m no longer surprised by an empty bank account. It seems to be quite standard, actually. But, I made a vow ages ago to never be in this business for financial gain. Yes, it’s a plus to make money doing the thing you love, but my mission in art was always to redefine the image of what it means to be a black man in this world. At the end of the day, I need to make sure that people who look like me, or people who are fascinated with me, know that I’m not one “type” of man. There are no labels that fit me, except the one I so lovingly embrace on Facebook: Tommy C. I’ve spent years establishing myself as a human being first and foremost and art is just my way of giving back to the world which so inspires everything I do. Let’s recap the things I’ve done since January.

January:

  • Made a resolution to make every day an adventure. I have been adhering to this train of thought all year.
  • Told myself to be smart and not compromise. This seems to be working well for me.
  • Been broke. A lack of funds in January spilled over into February and I was forced to use my security deposit as a rent payment.
  • Been de-friended by people on Facebook. I guess people have felt that I am not an assest to them, or they got tired of my rantings and statuses…who knows. More importantly, who cares. If you remove yourself from my life, I need to trust that decision and not try to keep you in mine.
  • Smiled despite the low points. I found that even when things are shit, good friends, music, the occasional drink, and watching TV online sure do make up for dry, dull days.
  • Starting submitting myself for castings. I understand that my agent can only do so much, and because she helps me so much, I wanted to help her as well!

 

February:

  • Auditioned left and right. I had an audition for a 1930s musical revue, an all black-version of Macbeth (which I’m in), an innovative production of Little Shop of Horrors, and a play called Six Rounds.
  • Worked on new pieces. A friend of mine called me up to see if I was available to be an actor in a short play she was writing. Because she’s my homegirl, I said yes. The process is the most thrilling thing I’ve worked on since Topdog/Underdog this past October.
  • Started dating. Self explanatory (still in tune with having an adventure everyday)
  • Dealt with a very traumatic family experience which helped me learn loads about myself. (I will speak about this at a later date.)
  • Worked on motivating myself and others. In this business, actors tend to be so fucking insecure that they forget to uplift themselves and others. I’ve made it my business to be encouraging because to be honest, I didn’t get here because of negativity, but because every person I’ve ever encountered has believed in me. I want to give a bit of that back!
  • Taught. By far the most important thing I’ve done in London is teach. I taught August Wilson (as well as dialect and acting) with some students aged 18-22 and it was the best experience. These students are more professional than “professionals” I have encountered and they want to be in this business. And they are hard-working, diligent. And they remind me of the spark of hope I had when I was their age. That spark in me has never died!

 

March

  • I lost a friend to Singapore. My roommate and one of my best mates over here had to go go back home to find his dreams. I totally support him in all his endeavors.
  • I remembered my grandmother. March 2nd will always be the day that I remember getting the call, having the breakdown, and finding the strength to keep going. It is now an anniversary that I dread, but love at the same time because I get to remember my grandmother’s greatness.
  • Started rehearsals for Macbeth.
  • Got called back and casted in Six Rounds (a show that excites me)!
  • Saw my students perform August Wilson! They really did him justice. And unfortunately, that was my last day of teaching them, but they surprised me with a gift card to Selfridges!!! Now I can eat in the food court!
  • Welcomed a new roommate into my life. She’s a great addition to my life!
  • Been a bad friend. I have been neglecting a good friend, and though my reasons aren’t all too clear as to why I’ve separated myself from him, I hope that we gravitate towards each other eventually because he’s a good guy. I just think energies have pulled me in a different direction. But like all good friends, you come back  around….right?
  • Modeled clothes. That was a thrilling experience! I felt like I was able to do something I always dreamed about, but felt too average to actually do. The modeling was part of the promo for Six Rounds. Luke clothing is sponsoring the show. www.luke1977.com  For those of you who know me well, I have never considered myself model material. I am average in looks. My body is thin. I have no tone or muscle. I’m not anyone’s fantasy. The only time I actually feel great is when I wear decent clothing. So when I was at the shoot…I was wearing decent clothes (which I get to keep) all day long…therefore, I felt attractive all day long!

So there you have it…the reason why I haven’t been able to write a blog since February. I have been getting a bit of grief about my lack of consistent entries as of late, and I feel this need to say this: yes, I love writing, when I get the time to do it, but from this moment on, I can no longer classify myself as a writer. Writers wake up and think about writing, they actually write, and they can do so all day. It’s what they breathe. I breathe art, in general. Some days, I wake up with lines in my head. Some days I wake up with music playing. Sometimes, I wake up thinking of a brilliant line for a play or a great topic for this blog. I am not ONE thing! Actor, Singer, Dancer, Writer, Student, Teacher, Son, Brother, Friend, and overall MAN. These are ways I describe myself.

            In about a week, I will be turning 26. I will not enter into that year with fanfare, but instead thoughts about how I can wear these hats more effectively. How can I be a better actor, friend, family member, etc.? I will not be celebrating on my day as I will be in rehearsals. Instead, I hope that getting older makes me a bit more wiser than yesterday. More importantly, I hope to continue to have a busy career that makes me happy. I also hope that the decisions I make in the future are ones that I will never regret. This year is all about adventure and I’m going to keep exploring the world and aspects of myself that I’ve yet to discover.