I recently saw an old client of mine. I led a private JourneyDance™ class for her bridal shower around this time last year. We had not seen one another since the class and I cut my hair last fall. When she saw my hair she said the most beautiful phrase in her gentle Jamaican accent…”Ah Jeanine…you are growing fresh!” I just loved that. She and her new husband looked so happy with that newlywed glow. She was joining Equinox gym, the same gym I belong to.
I loved that phrase…Growing Fresh.
It’s crazy when all of your deepest fears become reality. I was afraid my relationship was going to end, it did. I was afraid I was going to lose my apartment, I did. I was afraid I would not make enough money to continue leading JourneyDance, it happened. I was afraid my friends would stop calling me, they did.
All my fears became reality and I’m still standing. I’m alive and I have my health and experience.
You see, I’ve spent a ton of time trying to create something to make up for me giving up the actor’s life. Yet none of those things worked. All the time I kept up with my actor peers who did not give up on their dreams and worked on their foundation of personal relationships and they are thriving…working on Television, in Film on Broadway. They took the shitty roles I used to turn my nose up at playing whatever was given and paying their dues.
I’ve always tried to take a shortcut. I never thought of myself as being limited because I am a black woman. The thing is, I am a black woman without a strong community and without a dramatic situation to force me to do whatever it takes to survive. I’m not a single mother with mouths to feed. I did not come from a poor family in the ghetto. I came from comfortable middle class privilege. I was good at living in non-reality hiding behind my smile.
I never wanted to be fake…but I was. Getting a scholarship to a health coaching school I never really wanted to go to… not to help people…but to make money quickly. It did not work. Even doing JourneyDance was born out of a hideous breakup. When I look back even though It was fun, I really wanted it to make money so that I could pay my student loan debt that grows and grows every year.
Living in reality has been a hard lesson for me. But I am, growing fresh.
I’ve written so many blogs where I’ve given unsolicited advice and I’m sure there is wisdom there. But as I wrote, my life was falling apart and it was a distraction from me facing reality.
Winter 2016 I had moved into a roommate situation in East NY that forced me to face reality and decide to make a change. I came to NY to be an actor, I’ve got the training, am in the unions and have a community….why not do it. I’ve actually got life experience, why not tell stories and learn how to share these stories by writing plays and screenplays.
Why not become friends with rejection and go out and audition.
So I did. I’m finally living in reality. Is it perfect? Fuck no. I spend the majority of my free time alone in a part of the city that is filled with couples and families my age.
I refuse to medicate with faux friendships and relationships that waste my precious time on this planet.
I’ve truly learned that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I can count my lifetime friends on one hand and those relationships are precious gems. I have no bad feelings to the friends who have evaporated from my actual life and exist only as images on social media. I understand that most relationships fade and the ones that stick take work. I understand that I am not that person that is popular. If I say the wrong thing it’s remembered and not forgiven. I’m that person who is not drinking, at the party to let loose and who remembers the actions of those who did. I’m that person who brings up race, politics and religion at a dinner party. For so many years I’ve tried not to be that person but she never goes away.
So I’ve decided to let go of pretending to be someone I’m not and just accept the person I am. I’ve got a big heart and those who understand will stay those who don’t will go.
Starting fresh means accepting that the people who love me the most on this planet are my Mother, my Father and my Sister. They have been helping me financially while I’ve been adjusting emotionally to facing reality and maintaining my sanity without any crutches. I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am to have them and how much I respect, love and appreciate them. Even though we have different beliefs, we share authentic unconditional love.
GirlTrek has made it possible for me to be connected to black women from all over the country and just be inspired. My workouts now have a purpose larger than me just getting fit to look good on camera. I look at the vibrance, the stunning intelligence, the determination, the grit, the unstoppable spirit and I know that I can do anything on this planet. GirlTrek provides community on social media to keep me sane. My lifeline to other people lives on these feeds and I am so grateful to Vanessa and Morgan for creating this movement and inspiring me to train for triathlon.
During this time I’ve also reached out to some folks who I don’t see physically but have supported me in small ways that have actually had huge impacts on my life.
Molly S. thank you for opening your home to me last summer for time at the beach and the ability to do a big audition that led to me booking acting work earlier this year.
Jamie M.of Dancing Mindfulness thank you. I reached out to several women I know in the conscious dance community earlier this summer when I needed some part-time income buy food and pay my cell phone bill you said YES without hesitation. Even pre-paying me…before I worked the hours in order to help me when I was down in Florida. I am deeply grateful.
Phil R. you have helped me with emergency funding when I lost my apartment last year and I was at my wit’s end.
Zhenia and Nikki thank you for meeting up with me for tea and support with money for metro cards and basic personal needs and union dues.
Lisel thank you for allowing me to stay at your guest house in Park Slope. Without your hospitality I would not be able to be back in NYC with the ability to train, write and audition full-time.
There are so many friends who I can’t name who have held me in their thoughts and I am forever grateful to you as well. Thank you so much.
Everything I feared happening to me has happened and I’m still here in NYC living in reality with my eyes wide open. Grateful. Growing Fresh.
Thank you J for this gorgeous piece.
You are a beautiful spirit, growing, expanding, reaching for and realising your own enormous potential, with your eyes and heart open. I support you in all the colours and movements of your journey, Jeanine. You are remarkably strong and inspiring. Thank you for being YOU.