I have always been a busy body with a mind that feels like it races ten miles a minute. I'm notorious for multitasking and fidgeting if un-entertained. (ADHD? Probably.)
My personal relaxation and downtime is usually filled with one of my many hobbies. I've learnt to recreationally prioritize developing skills and interests with the intention of reinvesting my energy back into myself. (One of my favourite concepts when energy budgeting-i'll save that for a later post) "A relaxed mind, is a creative mind".
Sketching and designing my own pieces, photography, script writing, teaching/studying karate, dancing, makeup tutorials and makeovers are just a few of my favourite past times. I don't believe its just ironic that for the most part they relate to my professional career, but I do think that it further demonstrates that I naturally gravitate to the show biz industry for the right reasons.
Being in the public eye and with everyone's everything on social media, I try to keep some of those secret hobbies of mine private for myself. Creating and designing is therapeutic for me and I want to keep it that way. Stress free, expectation free and free of judgement. I have a very healthy public profile as it is a necessary component to my marketing, but I realized early on that I need to differentiate between a private life and public lifestyle in order for me to maintain a balanced, happy mindset. Not just for me, but to respect and protect those closest to me.
How others choose to share their lives/lifestyle is their own choice, but I pick and choose selectively what I share with the world.
After an intense week of private acting coaching, castings, premieres and bridal shower planning for my sister (Maid of honour duties are no joke), I was really looking forward to my trip to NYC.
My boyfriend lives in the West Village and planned some much needed quality time together. Right after I landed, he thought of taking me to a recap date of places we've been to from each of my NY trips since we've been together. Starting at Agave- where we met and ending at The Reservoir (one of my personal NY faves) and many stops along the way. It was such a sweet, thoughtful idea which made getting three hours of sleep the night prior feel irrelevant. I was just happy to be back to being SJP with Mr. Big A la Sex in the City. Although truth be told we could be in the middle of no where and have just as much fun. (I know that after spending a week deep in the forests of Long Valley, NJ with our biggest stress being not to get attacked by bears.)
After my surprise pub crawl, I needed to recoup the next morning. (By drinking Soylent for breakfast and watching the Amanda Knox doc before hitting the gym.) When i'm in work mode I eat clean, drink only for special occasions, workout a lot and try to stay low key in social activities. Sometimes I feel guilty for indulging in calories and chardonnay but then I remind myself that i'm human and I am allowed to enjoy real downtime.
My suitcase is packed differently for leisure trips than when travelling for work. (Main difference being I get to choose my own attire vs stylists. Downside- Bigger luggage than my usual "purse and passport".)
While in NYC I got to see some really talented artists and met some incredibly sweet fans at the Meadows Festival in Queens, spent a day in Jersey, hit the meatpacking district, saw my current tv crush DAMIEN LEWIS at the Soho house rooftop and most importantly- spent a lot of time hugging my long distance man. (Quality over quantity is the main lesson i've learnt since starting this relationship.) I was expected to take a couple of work meetings while there but felt like I should allow myself a trip dedicated to mon amour. Not long ago the only travelling I did was for work, having my scheduled be crammed with anything else but relaxation. While I loved every second of it and I am always happy to 100% dedicate myself into projects worthwhile, my personal side was craving some time to play. So I allowed myself some fun.
The night before NY I attended the red carpet premiere of Kim's Convenience invited by CBC. A hilarious comedy surrounding a Korean family and the trials and tribulations of balancing modern and traditional culture clash. Being of the first group to screen the first two episodes, I can say it reminded me of my baby- How to Be Indie. We shared some of the same creative team from my show, which was no surprise.. it was truly well written. I was rocking a blazer, my energy was refined in "work mode" chatting up industry friends, exec producers, press, smiling for photos.. and generally "ON" for hours until I left at 11pm. I invited my great friend and talented actor Dalmar Abuzeid to accompany me to the event. I had to leave him to schmooze solo while I rushed out to pack for my 630am flight. Although I love a good industry mixer, I was SO excited to get off that plane and land in one of my favourite cities.
"WHO HAVE I BECOME?"
It scared me to think that there would be a time when I wasn't in front of a camera every second of my waking hours, with bright artificial lights in my eyes, multiple pairs of hands all over me adjusting clothes, touching up makeup, pulling my hair.. and now here I am... developing MELINDA. Finally. Designing myself and life the way I want it. Why did it scare me? Because I didn't know anything else.
I wouldn't change growing up working full time for anything in the world. But I am grateful that I listened to my intuition when there was a thirst to develop my adult, personal self. I've worked on sets during the past couple of years but the difference between films vs TV series is completing a project and moving on vs constant and reoccurring shoot days. My priority was learning How to be Me. I was excited to have time to reflect and share my experiences with you all though the Miss Conception Society. Now after making this much progress I feel like i'm ready to dive back into working insanely over full time hours dedicating all of myself to my craft, but i'm certain that without this precious, special development time to make my own memories.. I would have felt like a lost soul. My personal theory on why many child stars are a statistic to breakdowns and addictions are due to the lack of time dedicated to developing themselves. I understand their pressure to perform and always be vibrant, present, on camera, smiley, saying the "perfect" thing, full blown hair/makeup ready the second they wake til bed, going on a schedule created for you and not by you. While this pressure and gift is all a blessing, BALANCE IN ALL THINGS is the key! Maybe not for everyone, but it certainly is for me. I know this because i've lasted with longevity in my time so far in the public eye and maintained my clean reputation and soul still full of love and life. I've managed to protect myself from negativity which would possibly lead to succumbing to inner demons and not so healthy vices.
Two years after consciously focussing on life skills, real human skills, self development etc, I can say without a doubt that I would have felt a little lost without being aware of what it was that I needed in my life to be whole and feel real. In just a short time I feel like i've grown into a well rounded adult (getting there anyway), with more skills than solely portraying fictional characters. I've learnt to converse without my words being pre-written or my talking points being pre planned by publicists. I must say that i've been blessed that all of my roles have been unique and groundbreaking with purpose, but as you can imagine- I longed to create MELINDA.
I think I figured her out or i'm at least on my way. What I know for sure, is that i'm proud of my ability to listen inward and bond with my mind, body and soul to stay on the path that feels the happiest. After all, isn't that the goal?
The Miss Conception I had to break for myself was that if I took some time to myself, that I would be doing a disservice to my career.
I've had fake boyfriends way before having real ones, lost my fake virginity on a film set in front of a crowd of adults for the world to watch (my parents included), had fights and makeups that were written to be performed.. How would I know how to emote naturally if I never experienced life for myself?
Long term I can now observe that had I not, I would have felt like a little set puppy being passed from production company to character, dressed up for play time and forgetting exactly what it is that I loved about acting, what it was to be human with real life experiences and How to: Prioritize Downtime. And not feel guilty about it. Balance in all things is the point to this article. Enjoy working hard, enjoy playing hard. You deserve it.