I was 8 months pregnant when I got the news that one of my acting students booked a series regular role on a tv show. I was 8 months pregnant and at my baby shower. I was supposed to be celebrating new life: my coming personal triumph of becoming a mother and her coming professional triumph of becoming a star. I wasn’t happy for either of us. I was jealous.
The Student was going to go off and launch her career, and I was stuck having a baby. I hadn’t even had a small tv role yet, and I was a part of helping someone achieve massive success. I felt stupid. I felt stuck. I felt left.
I figured out how to enjoy the baby shower, but I spent the next few months loathing the idea of pausing my non-career to take care of a baby. I wanted to act so deeply, yet my life was moving in the opposite direction. When I should have been taking it all in, I was just getting through it. Nursing. Changing diapers. Clothing him. Carrying baby bags. Yuck. I wanted to be on set.
She was living my dream, and I was playing house. I’m laughing right now at how utterly ridiculous this sounds, but this is truly how I felt. I believed a lie.
There have been a handful of times I’ve felt jealous of someone else’s success, and they all felt terrible. When I get jealous, it’s normally of another actor. It’s professional and rarely personal. It SUCKS. On the outside, I am gracious. The week of my baby shower, I’m sure I congratulated The Student because this win was a HUGE accomplishment, and in this case I was extremely proud. I just wished I could experience what she was experiencing.
So, I’ve never figured out a way to get rid of jealousy for good. I don’t have a four-step strategy for getting rid of it in the moment, but I can tell you what I learned from this experience that gives me perspective when I start to feel jealousy creeping in again.
1. My eyes were on her journey when they should have been on mine. Learning about The Student’s win made me discontent with my own career, and I focused on that discontent. I will never get those first few months of my son’s life back, no matter how hard I try. I completely missed the point of that season of my life wishing for another season. I had a miracle right in front of me and couldn’t see it. I pray I never do that again.
2. I wanted something I didn’t even work for… The hard reality is that until The Student booked her role, I didn’t even know that was a real possibility. I hadn’t been working towards that goal, and she had. She didn’t do anything wrong. She worked for what she wanted, and she got it. It’s simple. If I wanted a version of what she had, I needed to first make it a goal and then work towards it. The Student’s win wasn’t something to be jealous of. It was something to be inspired by.
3. Her win was my win. When I teach acting classes, I really give my students everything I have. Seriously. All of my tools. All of my knowledge. I’m not holding back for fear that they’ll pass me. I want them to win. In this case, it happened. And that means I’m good at what I do. When The Student got on set, she did a good job. That meant she was well-trained. I’ll drink to that!
I can honestly say I am not jealous of The Student anymore. She continues to win, and I’m extremely proud of her. Since working with her, I’ve helped groom other BEASTLY young actors with full confidence that they will win in a big way too. My motherhood journey is a story for another day, but I will say I’m mentally present for my son’s life, and I’m thoroughly enjoying being a mom.
Lastly, I’m proud of what I’m accomplishing in my own career. When another young black female actor gets a role that I’m right for, sometimes I feel it. But I’m honest with myself about it. I pray about it and ask for perspective. I remind myself that their win doesn’t take away from who I am and what I’ve accomplished. There is plenty to go around. I’m winning in my own way and in my own time, and I will not miss my life wishing I had someone else’s.
He pissed me off… The Man (my man) took me from zero to a hundred in a matter of minutes, and I didn’t know what to do. It was the beginning of my day. I had a little while before my therapy session, but I did NOT want to use my precious hour on this fight. There were other things I wanted to work on. BUT I can’t BS my mood when I arrive in my therapists’ office. I just can’t, so if I come in feeling a way… I have to at least address it. And I did NOT want to address it in therapy.
After a couple minutes of reeling, I remembered The Man and I were supposed to go to my friend’s birthday party that night. I texted her to give her a heads up, “Happy birthday love. The Man and I are going through a thing. Not in the mood to go out tonight. So sorry.” I know how selfish that sounds, but I knew I couldn’t be one hundred percent present. I would rather take her out on my own another night than fake it. Her response, “Sorry hun. Do you want to talk about it? If not, I understand.”
I have been friends with The Bestie for over a decade, and I can count on one hand how many times one of us has reached out for help. Our normal mode of operation is to drown in whatever issue we’re dealing with on our own until the bestie sniffs it out. But your girl is evolving… This time I said something within the hour. I didn’t drown in my issue first. I told her while I was still mad. I picked up the phone and called. “I feel like a jerk. It’s your birthday, and I’m not supposed to be mad.” I was laughing and crying at the same time.
She quickly moved past my introduction. She laughed at me and asked me what was going on. I described the argument I had with The Man, and she quietly listened. When I finished ranting, she told me that she and her man went through the same thing for years but in reverse. Turns out she understood The Man’s point of view because they had the same personality type! She laughed and said, “Cyrah, you do realize he’s the male version of me right?” Of course. The Man made a decision that frustrated me to my core, but The Bestie would have done the same thing. Instead of siding with me, she helped me understand what he was thinking. She also offered some advice based on how she and her man got through their similar situation. My whole vibe changed from pissed to understanding. She was right! He was just doing what he thought was best.
I didn’t have to process the issue with my therapist because my friend was there for me. I gave her a pat on the back for just being a dope person, and I gave myself a pat on the back for surrounding myself with people who really care about me. She didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear in the moment. She told me the truth. In this moment I am giving myself another pat on the back for speaking up when I was feeling hurt. I didn’t pretend to have it all together. I spoke up in a safe environment, and I got through it.
The Man and I talked things out and had a blast at The Bestie’s party. I am slowly but surely learning that I have a support system. For years I prided myself in being there for my people, but I didn’t let them in when I was struggling. That’s stupid. That’s ego. That’s weak. True strength is vulnerability. So…I’m going to share my life with my loving community, the good and the bad.
Who are the folks in your life who know you at your worst and still love you? Write down at least 3. Call them this week just to thank them for being amazing!
It was a Tuesday. I was supposed to leave for LA the coming Sunday, and I had no meetings on my schedule. I spent money on flights and an Airbnb room in Venice. I did this all on a wish and a prayer that I was going to get a manager in LA. In a matter of days, I was going to be in the city, and I didn’t have a thing scheduled. On the outside, I pretended I had everything under control, but on the inside I was spiraling.
“What were you thinking Cyrah?”
“These agents and managers aren’t responding because they don’t want you.”
“You knew you weren’t ready for LA yet!”
“You don’t have enough credits for people to take you seriously.”
How did I get here? Let’s go back four months. I took a trip to LA at the end of the summer with some industry friends. I had a meeting with an LA agent and manager. I left Atlanta feeling good about my monologues. I paid for coaching. I shopped for cuter clothes. I showed up to that meeting feeling like a star. I went into the room expecting to kill it, but I didn’t. My acting was just okay that day. No magic. My work wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t stellar. I left LA feeling confused and defeated. What happened?
Then depression… Yep, this trip sent me on a downward emotional spiral. I was sad. I was frustrated with my lack of progress. I didn’t understand why I didn’t fully show up in the room like I know I can. On top of that, I was mad that I even cared.
“Why are you down about this?”
“This is a rejection business! You know that.”
“Man up and move on with your life.”
I felt so stuck. Looking back on this experience I now realize I was too attached to the outcome of this one trip. But at the time I didn’t know how to deal. I wanted to lie to myself so badly about how I felt, but I CARED. And I was disappointed in myself.
Then therapy…. After I recognized I was depressed, I stopped giving excuses and sought out help. I went on my insurance company’s website, found a therapist that was covered and started going. THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING.
First of all, this business can take you on an emotional rollercoaster if you don’t have proper perspective and a way to process thoughts in a healthy way. I was taught to not let this business get to me. To not care. But the truth of the matter is that I’m invested. I CARE. I can pretend not to care, but I can’t lie to my soul. My insides know when something matters, so I learned in therapy to stop with the BS and align myself with what I really wanted.
I love Atlanta, and I love the business in Atlanta. But I wanted to expand and challenge myself. I wanted LA. So, I contacted my Atlanta agent and asked her how I could get ready for the LA market. She said that she thought I was ready for LA now, and the agency could start submitting me to LA managers and agents.
Pause…ready for LA now?! In my heart of hearts, I felt like I was ready, but on paper I didn’t know if people would take me seriously. My agent believed in me! And she confirmed what I knew all along, it was time to make some moves.
So, with no guarantees, I cleaned up my casting profiles, got new headshots and booked a ticket. This happened over a span of two months.
Then… less than a week out, we had no one on the calendar. One of my agents said that the market was getting very competitive, and if we didn’t get any responses to just assume they weren’t interested. My heart sunk… This was going to be a repeat of my last LA trip. Pointless. But I’d been doing some personal emotional work. This time I was much more aware of the downward emotional spiral…
Instead of waiting 3 weeks to get help, I waited 30 minutes. I called my godfather to get some perspective. I told him how I was feeling, and he helped me to look at what was happening from different angles. This was the first time in years that I didn’t try to process something alone. I was so proud of myself for asking for help!
After talking with him a little while, I took action. I wrote “You are ready for LA” on pink sticky notes and put them up all over my house and car. Everywhere I went I was reminded that this was my dream, and I wasn’t going to let fear or rejection stop me from moving forward.
I called my agent. She put in a good word for me with an agent and manager in LA. I called my industry momma, and she got me a meeting with a manager I already had a good relationship with. (She’d seen me perform before and loved me.) Within a matter of days, I had four meetings on my schedule. I went from no meetings to more than enough. The day before my flight was scheduled to leave, I had my regularly scheduled therapy session. I was reminded to not dim my light and to go get what I wanted.
One of my goals for 2019 was to get a good LA manager. I flew out Sunday morning. I had my first meeting Sunday afternoon. Within 24 hours, an LA manager offered me representation! By the end of the week, I was offered representation by two managers and an agency. LISTEN! I was on an emotional high for like 24 hours… I got exactly what I wanted and then some! This process and trip was packed with so many lessons, and I just had to share them with you.
So here are my take-aways…
1. I don’t have to be limited by the expectations of others. If I believe in my heart of hearts I’m ready to do or be something, with God’s help I can create what I want despite what it looks like on the outside.
2. Feelings aren’t reality. The truth is that I felt like the entire LA market was rejecting me just days before I was supposed to go. That wasn’t true. I just needed to connect with the people who believe in me. The truth is that sometimes I will be rejected, and that’s okay. Eventually, I will get what I want if I just work through my process. So, I need to call up my support when I’m feeling a way. Perspective is everything.
3. I have to stretch my faith! If I sat around and waited for someone to tell me that I was ready to take this step, it would have never happened. Even though my Atlanta agent believed in me, I had to initiate the conversation. All of my wins happened because I stepped outside of my comfort zone and believed for more. Note to self, “Keep doing the things that scare you.”
Okay, so now that you know what I’ve been up to the last couple of weeks, what’s up with you? What is your next scary faith project?
"I'm going to stay home, get a job and help my parents pay some bills." This is what I told my godmom after I received my Spelman College acceptance letter. I got an acceptance letter and no scholarship money, which was a problem because my family had no money. My godmother encouraged me to keep working towards my goal of going to school, even though I was facing a huge barrier called tuition.
It took a few weeks, but after I got over myself I decided to believe God to provide for me to go to school. It felt like an impossible task because Spelman College is a private institution and ain't cheap. I found a scripture about God honoring my desires and held on to it for dear life. Every time I was in the car, I repeated affirmations over and over again. And for the most part, I kept moving forward as if I was going to school. I didn't know how it could possibly happen, but I just kept moving forward.
The summer of my senior year, I got a part-time job as a receptionist in real estate broker's office, and I called the school to see if any new scholarships were available. They weren't. I was panicked, discouraged and frustrated. In my heart of hearts, I felt like Spelman was where I was supposed to go, but why did the school have to be sooooo expensive?! I couldn't choose some community college that I could afford on my own? I just had to choose the school in my home town that required some serious cash or debt to attend. Even though I was frustrated, I kept going. I told the school I would be there in the fall and kept receiving my materials in the mail.
Three weeks before orientation, I still had no money. I was still meditating on scripture and doing my affirmations, but something inside me shifted. I didn't care anymore. I wasn't quitting, but going to Spelman didn't feel so dire anymore. Somehow, I knew deep down inside that I'd get the money, and I stopped worrying about how. I felt a gut impulse to call the school again (even though I had already called them multiple times) about scholarship money....
This time, there was money. I still don't really know how that happened. Maybe someone turned down their academic scholarship or something last minute, but over the phone I was offered a scholarship covering half of my tuition. That was the exact amount I needed to get started. I was going to school!
I was over the moon excited. I still didn't have the total amount to go to school, but God got me this far, so I was going to keep going. During my first semester at Spelman, I dedicated at least an hour a day to applying for scholarships online. At the end of the semester, I was awarded more money, and I was able to continue my studies.
This part of my life taught me such a valuable lesson about faith. In high school I was a straight A student, but my SAT scores were just okay. I wasn't the first pick for scholarship money at my school of choice. I could have easily just chosen a cheaper school and gone on with my life. But there was something magical about believing for what I really wanted even though it seemed impossible. There was something about taking a step with no guarantees and seeing the path materialize for me right under my feet.
I'm learning to be THAT girl every day of my life, stretching myself to dream big and take a step, especially towards those dreams that feel impossible and scary. Fun fact, I graduated from Spelman College with a 3.9 GPA, owing only $4,000 in student loan debt. Crazy.
I'm learning that this stuff works, so I'm practicing it right now. I have a huge goal in front of me that seems impossible and feels scary, but I'm taking a step right now. I have no guarantees, but I'm sure this will be another faith victory story I'll get to tell you soon.
What about you? What goal or dream do you have that feels scary, but you know in your heart that you should be doing it? Comment below, and let's push each other to take that step.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a Starbucks in LA getting ready to "take a meeting." Take a meeting. That sounds nuts. My man told me that ten years ago, I would've been going crazy about these opportunities to meet with Los Angeles based agents and managers. But the truth is...ten years ago I would've had any context for being in LA to "take a meeting." Ten years ago, I didn't know who I was or what I wanted to do.
I'm a natural planner, so I like to know what I'm doing ahead of time. But the problem with also being creative is that there are a lot of different things I could be doing and a lot of different directions in which I could be heading. I was passionate about a lot of things, and my parents had no idea how to point me in the right direction. So, I spent most of my teenage years being confused and frustrated because I had no plan. I spent a lot of years hating myself for NOT knowing.
Sidebar: this is not a post about how I have it all together, and how I've arrived. I'm an actor, and in many ways I'm just getting started. I told my godfather a couple months ago that I feel like I'm stumbling through my life blindfolded just feeling my way around until something makes sense. There is no map or blueprint to get where I'm going. BUT I do know this: I am finally clear on my purpose. I love what I do. I'm good what I do. I feel alive while I'm doing it, and I'm finally getting paid to do it.
I hope by the end of you reading this post, you'll be okay with not knowing and give yourself permission to just stumble around and try new things until you figure it out.
Here's my crazy journey to figuring out I wanted to be an actor.
1. I started as a figure skater! That's right, as a kid I wanted to be a young black Michelle Kwan. I wanted to be a legend in the USA skating world and eventually win Olympic gold. While training as a skater...
2. I took ballet classes, and fell in love with dancing. I danced in church and in some classes. Then...
3. My family moved to the metro Atlanta area. The city we lived in was NOT a skating town. All the rinks were too far, and training was too expensive to maintain, so I stopped skating. It broke my heart, but I kept dancing.
4. I went to Spelman college and danced in their dance department. At the time, they required their dancers to take acting classes. I was cast in a theatre production because I had some acting potential, could dance and could sing. I still didn't take acting seriously.
5. Mom passed. My world stopped, and I was suddenly fearless. I jumped into an opportunity working as an assistant to the owner of AGI Entertainment in Atlanta and starting taking acting classes there once a week. I threw myself 100% into that job and the acting class. In that class, I learned that acting was therapeutic. It was my outlet. Between God and acting I made it through those first two years of grief.
6. I fell in love with learning about acting and took other classes. I loved how free I felt when I was acting and figured out that I have a knack for it.
Now I have a crap ton of acting friends. I've worked in multiple productions, and I'm writing my own material. I definitely haven't arrived yet, but I feel like "my thing" found me. It found me because I was open and willing to take risks. I was down to learn and not pretend that I knew everything.
My point is I think our path finds us. We just have to pay attention. My mom told me years ago that she took me on an audition when I was really little. A New York agent was interested in working with me, but my mom didn't want to have to travel back and forth between Delaware and NY for auditions. I used to wonder what would have been if I would've started as a kid, but I don't anymore. It's just another sign that God was leaving me breadcrumbs my entire life. For that I'm thankful.
Look back over your life the last five years or ten years. Have there been any recurring themes or breadcrumbs that could help you identify your path?
Image by Mike Coletta
This week, a conversation I had with a friend brought my attention to something. Early in the conversation, she jumped into how much she was learning about herself and the areas she needed to grow. In 2019, she was going to do better, BE better. This went on for a while. On the surface, it sounded like she was all about self-improvement, which I guess is a good thing, but the more she talked, the more negative she sounded about herself. This wasn’t self-improvement anymore: this was “fixing” herself. She didn’t have one positive thing to say about herself. This bothered me. And I told her that.
Here I was on the line with an amazing individual. She's hard-working, strong, persistent, beautiful, loyal. She completely disregarded her dopeness and jumped into self-improvement mode. With all the chatter around the New Year, I hear a lot of people talking about what they are leaving in 2018, but there was some awesomeness in 2018 that you need to bring with you.
I think focusing on what we do well will give us the energy and inspiration to improve and grow. For example, let's say I'm killing it in the money management department. I'm going to celebrate that! And if I notice I'm not the best at spending time with the people I love, I'm not going to beat myself up about that. My self-talk should probably sound like this, "Cyrah, you are great at budgeting resources. Look at how well you balanced your household budget last year. This year, I really want to spend more time enjoying my family and friends. I know you spend a lot of time working, but my relationships are valuable to me. Time is a resource, just like money is a resource. You can do this."
If I talk to myself this way, I'm way more likely to actually change. Most likely, I'll implement a baby step like putting a non-negotiable bi-weekly date night on my calendar. Then, when I do that well, I'm going to celebrate that too!
I'm not perfect, but I'm getting better at treating myself with kindness and grace. Yes, I want to grow, but I will celebrate who I am on the way to where I'm going.
With that being said, here's this week's exercise; write a list of the things you love about yourself. No negativity allowed. Focus on your strengths. When you're done making your list, treat yourself to something awesome. It doesn't have to be anything complicated or expensive, just something you enjoy. (I normally treat myself to a fruity smoothie when I do something awesome.)
Here's a little bit of my list.
1. I am kind.
Someone in my inner circle just told me I’m too nice. I was offended at first because I don’t want anyone thinking they can take advantage of me, but the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed the thought. I’m kind. Warm. I love being around people who make me feel good about myself. I'm one of those people, so I should enjoy that.
2. I enjoy learning.
Give me a cozy place to sit and a good book, and I'm in HEAVEN. I can’t help it. I love learning from people who've gone before me. I love challenging my brain to engage.
3. I’m a planner.
I used to HATE this about myself. Why do I always have to feel like I'm in control of everything? Why can't I just go with the flow? Why do I always have to have a plan for everything? As an artist, I thought I needed shed that part of my personality, but that's not true.
I've just repurposed it. I can't control the outcome of the audition. But I can control being prepared and doing my best work. The more often I am prepared and do my best work, the better I feel. I've also found that when I'm acting or creating in some other capacity, the creative act is the one place where I'm free from having to have all the answers. I can just play when I create. And that is refreshing and freeing. I can be my true planner self in my life and let myself run wild when I'm creating.
4. I’m quiet.
My immediate family might argue with this a bit because I can get loud when I want to, but I genuinely enjoy observing and speaking only when necessary. It makes me feel wise to not have to be the loudest in the room. I’ve learned how to be interesting without being noisy.
5. I’m spiritual.
I take my spiritual life very seriously, and I like that my beliefs are mine. I like that I feel unapologetically close to God and have been that way for years. It grounds me and brings me so much joy.
I could go on and on, but I will say that I feel lighter and happier after writing this small list. Focusing on the good has a way of doing that me. In the coming years, my prayer is that we continue to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves room to grow with grace.
What's on your list?
If I could write a letter to the person I was ten years ago, it would go a little something like this….
I’m Cyrah… the future you (the 2019 version). For the sake of time, let’s skip the part where you try to figure out how this is possible. I've boiled down all of my advice for you into four points. I think these ideas are the most important for a pleasant journey to your future.... Here we go.
1. Take risks. You love to have it all figured out, but here’s a spoiler for you… You don’t. And that scares you, but it shouldn’t. Being a planner has gotten you this far. Congrats on being a straight ‘A’ student by the way, but there is no blueprint for where you are going. My advice is to be okay with discomfort and discover. Follow your curiosity! Try new things. If you want to move to New York for a year, do it. If you want to study abroad, do it. If you want to build a company from the ground up, give it a shot. It’ll be easier for you to figure out what you DON’T want than it will be for you to force your brain to make a hard core career decision. Instead of being in your head, try stuff, and use the process of elimination. You will bump into your passion, no question about it.
2. Trust your gut. There will be times when the people you love will disagree with your life choices. It’s okay. Having a different opinion doesn’t make you disloyal. It makes you an individual. When your spirit is telling you to go left, go left, no matter what others tell you. Looking back on the last ten years, I can tell you, that inner voice has never been wrong. I’ve never regretted following that voice, but I have regretting ignoring it.
3. Love yourself. Putting your desires and your needs at the top of the priority list does not make you selfish. I’ve learned that I’m better at loving others when I take care of myself. Depending on someone else to make you feel loved all the time will make you miserable, and that’s an unfair expectation for the people in your life. YOU are responsible for what you think and how you feel. Take responsibility for your own wellbeing, and you will be a much happier person. Do the things you love to do. Read. Travel. Perform. Spend time with friends. Spend time alone. Listen to music. And do these things unapologetically. I know you don’t have a whole lot of confidence yet, but keep taking care of yourself, and the confidence will come. You are brilliant, beautiful and have a servant’s heart. Don’t apologize for any of it.
4. Enjoy the journey. It’s cliché but super true. The next ten years will change your life, but you don’t want to miss any of it, even the bad stuff.
That’s it for my advice, but I have a couple more thoughts to share. Life will get harder, but you will handle it like a pro. There will be a time when you’ll be angry at God, but you talk to him about it (a lot) instead of running away. You don’t let go of your faith. Thank you for that.
You will also feel courageous and jump into a job in entertainment that challenges you beyond your limits. It will exhaust you, but it will also show you what you’re made of. It will give you everything you need to get started in your career of choice. Thank you for that too.
Finally, you will fall in love, trust that love and fight for it. That means the world to me. If I could hug and kiss you to tell you how much I appreciate you for that, I would.
I’m so proud of the person you are today, and you will absolutely love who you become. Let’s make the next ten years magical.
With all my love,
A woman I admire taught me how to "review" my experiences. I love this exercise, and I use it for almost everything now. Here's how it works.
Take a piece of paper, create four quadrants:
1. What worked?
2. What didn't work?
3. What's missing?
4. What's confusing?
Then you dump everything you can remember about that experience into the four quadrants without judgment. It's best to do this when the experience is fresh on your mind. When you're done "dumping" everything you can remember into the four quadrants, you can go back and see what you learned and how you can improve next time!
In the spirit of the New Year, I'm going to do this exercise to review my 2018, and I'll share something from each of my quadrants with you! I pray that this inspires you to do some reflecting on your 2018 too.
Okay, here we go.
What worked for me this year?
1. Greenleaf! Yeah...first network TV booking. What's dope about this is that in 2017, I really wanted to stretch myself and believe God for something I thought was impossible. I didn't have any network TV credits, so I decided to believe for a recurring role booking in 2018. That was the goal.
In November, I wrote my goals down for the new year, and put them up on my wall. Then, the craziest thing happened. I started getting auditions for recurring roles. I'm serious. I'd been auditioning all year, but the moment I wrote down what I wanted, I started SPECIFICALLY getting auditions for recurring roles for network TV. It was almost like the right role was looking for me, not the other way around. BANANAS.
January 11, 2018, I got the call from my agent that I booked a recurring role on Greenleaf. INSANE. I barely dipped my toe into the new year before manifesting my biggest goal of the year.
What did I learn from this? Keep stretching myself and my faith. Reach for the things that feel impossible. Believe and execute!
What didn't work?
My small business. (Insert deep sigh.) I've been running an after school performing arts instruction company for over a decade. It's small, effective, and a consistent form of supplemental income.
At the end of 2017, I told myself I was going to go hard in the paint, and make this company grow. I had a good company and all the tools to make this thing a national success if I could just FOCUS. I did the work. There was some growth, and then I hit a wall. I kept running into issues with hiring new teachers and building relationships with schools.
So I went harder. I read books, took business classes, talked to friends, and I figured out I don't want to do it anymore. Ha! By doing the work, I learned that it was time for me to pivot. I was putting time and energy into a business that I was no longer passionate about. The mission was noble, but my heart wasn't in it. So, I'm closing that business after the current school year. Done.
What did I learn from this?
Not to be overly attached to an outcome. I let go of one business and discovered another that I'm actually passionate about. And you know what, I started making money in the new business the moment I let go of the old one. I could look at this as quitting or starting a new chapter. I choose the latter. For the first time in a long time, I feel inspired every day.
Dance and singing. I've been dancing and singing my whole life. When I discovered acting, I stopped doing the other two. I'm not trying to be a professional singer or dancer, so I figured I'll get back to it when I have extra time. Um... I never found the extra time. Every time I see someone dancing or singing, I get low key jealous because I miss movement and music.
What did I learn from this?
No matter what, I need to make time to do the things I love. No excuses.
Asking for help. I realized last week I was completely overwhelmed by my obligations. Someone suggested that I get an assistant. What?! Where am I going to find the money to pay an assistant? I just started building my brand. Who is going to take me seriously?
But....when I look at my time and my responsibilities, sometimes I really do need help. I'm not at the place where I'm comfortable yet with the idea of getting an assistant, but I can start by using some tools to help me get things done. I can also look into starting small. Maybe having someone work with me once a week on some of the administrative tasks, so I can focus on the projects that actually need my attention.
What did I learn from this?
I need to ask more questions and have more conversations to figure this one out. The one-woman show isn't going to work long-term.
Bonus: One more thing that worked.
Therapy. I've been dealing with depression and anxiety off and on for years, but this was the first year that my acting career sent me on a serious emotional roller-coaster.
I've always wanted to go to therapy, but I told myself it was a luxury I couldn't afford. Well, I dealt with a bout of depression this summer and just got fed up. I was going to get help. I did the research and found out my insurance covered the cost, and I just needed to pay a $25 copay. I got started immediately.
Overall, my mental health is in a good place, and I'm going to keep doing the work I'm doing.
What did I learn from this?
If there is something I want to do, decide to do it and figure out the details from there. When I finally decided to go to therapy, the provision showed up. I could've been going years ago, but I procrastinated because of my own limiting beliefs. So, I know not to tolerate any of that nonsense in the new year.
There you have it! That's a little of my annual review. My challenge to you is to grab some paper (and maybe a glass of wine) and do this for yourself. Let me know what you come up with!
On Christmas morning eight years ago, my family went to an early church service and came home to spend quality time. My dad wanted us to hang out and open gifts as a family, but I really wanted to hang out at IHOP with my friends. So... I went to IHOP for a couple hours and came back home. My dad was over me, but I didn't care. Technically, I was grown, and I didn't do anything wrong. Looking back, I now realize how insensitive that was, but at that point in my life, I just wanted some space. I don't remember if we had a fight, or if we just did that passive-aggressive, radioactive silence thing that we used to do. As always, my mom tried to keep the peace. I don't know what my sister was doing, but she was around, I'm sure.
My mom looked at us all and said, "This year, let's not do this. I have a feeling this Christmas is a special one." I had chills. We stopped fighting and enjoyed the day. That was mommy's last Christmas. She died in the summer of 2011.
And that was our last Christmas as a family, I think. At least that's the last one I remember. I grieved by working. I pushed myself for two straight years with very little down time. Somehow I managed to create a healthy relationship with my boyfriend. I honestly think he was sent by God to help me keep my sanity, but that's a conversation for another day. Most of my life then was hard, but it felt like a blur. I can't remember much of it, including the holidays. Somewhere in there my boyfriend asked me to be his wife... I love him with all my heart. I said yes.
After that, I spent almost every holiday season with his side of the family. Every once in a while, we'd change it up and visit my extended family. But it was never my old family nucleus. I was normally with my man's family. Doing Christmas their way. Enjoying their company. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my man's family. But holidays are interesting. Being with someone else's family put me in neutral. It wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It was different. And I wasn't 100% there.
We both noticed this pattern, so we decided to do Thanksgiving differently this year. We were going to just be with my side of the family. I was so excited! We were even going to recreate a thanksgiving we had with my mom years ago. It was time. I thought my family and I had grieved the appropriate amount of time and were ready to be together. Just us. Like old times. I was ready to be with my people.
That's the best way I can describe it. For the life of me, while we were eating and playing games I couldn't figure out why it didn't feel like old times. It was cool. I was grateful. Still am. But I didn't know how to feel while it was happening.
The next day it hit me like a ton of bricks. Mom was missing! This was the first time I went into a space where she would normally be, and she wasn't there. All the other holidays, I was in new environments, so I didn't feel it nearly as much. I grieved all over again and felt stupid for doing it. It's been 7 years! Get over it already.
This is what this Thanksgiving taught me about me. I've been just "getting through" the holidays the last 7 years. Just coasting. Not wanting to be effected. Then I accidently faced my pain and learned just how little I've enjoyed the holidays since loosing mommy. This year, I actually MISS her. And it's okay.
I also learned that I thought grief would stop completely after a few years. It hasn't. I'm not hurting every day like I used to, but it still hits me in the gut every now and then. That's not a bad thing. It just means I miss her.
I told my man I want to keep Christmas really low key this year because this is the first holiday season I'm actually feeling the loss. Will it look like this every year? I don't know. But this year, I will be kind to myself and my family. Love in truth. And figure out a way to honor God and my mother's memory, even if it hurts a little.
Christmas and I are beefin' this year, but it's okay.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.