dream chasing

Falling With Style

 
The Tower as portrayed in the Morgan Greer Tarot. 

The Tower as portrayed in the Morgan Greer Tarot. 

 

When I drew The Tower for Pisces in the August Tarotscopes earlier this month, I knew things were about to get interesting, and probably not in the way I hoped. To those who are familiar with the tarot, this is one of the most dreaded cards in the deck. While Death sounds scary but actually represents natural changes and transitions, The Tower represents violent and sudden change and the shattering of illusions. Even those who are not wise to the tarot's ways may find themselves alarmed by the dark and disturbing artwork that bedecks The Tower in most decks. (Many tarot readers who grew up reading Harry Potter also call this The Lightning Struck Tower, in reference to that particularly shocking chapter in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince").  However comfortable you are with the meanings of the various cards, it's clear that this one does not foretell sunshine and rainbows. 

 
The Tower in the Thoth Deck has a particularly malevolant and Sauron-esque appearance, despite being painted more than a decade before Lord of the Rings was published.

The Tower in the Thoth Deck has a particularly malevolant and Sauron-esque appearance, despite being painted more than a decade before Lord of the Rings was published.

 

So it came as no surprise to me when things started falling apart. First, a nine-day dog-sitting gig that was going to bring in a decent chunk of change before my trip home to Wisconsin was cancelled. Then a week's worth of walks. Then one client ended a contract completely. All at once, my steady (if not grand) source of income seemed to be disappearing before my eyes. It's been more than a little stressful, to say the least. I like change but prefer to make it on my own terms, so unexpected shifts often take a little time for me to adjust to. 

The important thing to remember about The Tower, though, is that it represents the shattering of illusions. This isn't to say that it wasn't real, but often those things were not built to last. Whenever something falls apart in spectacular fashion, it's never completely out of nowhere; whatever area of life you find crumbling around your ears has probably been imperfect for some time, whether you allowed yourself to realize that or not. In my case, dog walking has never been the end goal, and taking on permanent schedules was supposed to be a temporary situation that I would re-evaluate after my initial three-month commitment was up (so...now). In the meantime, I have learned that having such a permanent schedule is more of a hindrance to me than a help. While it's reassuring to know that I'll at least have a certain amount of money coming in per week and can book more or less walks on top of that accordingly, depending on what I need and what my schedule looks like, it has also prevented me from pursuing the very thing I quit my job to do - acting and writing. I've passed up on countless auditions because I either couldn't attend them or couldn't commit to a full day (or several days) of filming due to pre-booked walks. I've also had to pass up on day-of walks with other dogs whose owners request me at a time that conflicts with my schedule, dogs I can walk again now that I have more flexibility. 

 
Because the cards have a sense of humor, The Tower appeared in my Advice position in last week's spread as well, this time in reverse.

Because the cards have a sense of humor, The Tower appeared in my Advice position in last week's spread as well, this time in reverse.

 

In short, as stressful as these setbacks are, they're something of a blessing in disguise, and they reveal the areas of your life that are worth sinking your attention into. When The Tower has finished falling and the dust settles, you can look around the debris and see what remains, which foundations were strong enough to survive the upheaval and what can be used to build something bigger and better than before. In many ways, it's a fresh start, albeit not one that began in the most pleasant of fashions. In fact, all my best life changes followed the destruction of something I thought I wanted that I had been clinging to for dear life. Leaving school meant finding a job that wound up bringing me some of my dearest friends. Breaking up with the person I thought I was meant to be with motivated me to leave Wisconsin and move to New York. Some of the biggest growth I've ever experienced and most drastic leaps forward have occurred because I fought my way through times of hardship, and that is the inherent lesson in The Tower: this change may be miserable, it may be painful, but it is also 100% necessary. 

There are plenty of silver linings in this particular situation - my schedule has been freed up so I can attend an EPA with my best friend tomorrow that I thought I was going to have to miss; I've been motivated to push tarot readings harder in order to try and make up some of the financial difference and, with the help of some promotion from friends, I booked nine email readings and sent out two handwritten one-card readings in the last two weeks; I was able to walk one of my absolute favorite dogs three times last week, which brought me both money and a ridiculous amount of joy (I am mildly obsessed with this particular pup...). As hard as it may be to face uncertainty once again, I know it will ultimately serve me better.

 Like anyone faced with The Tower's shocking message, I can either choose to sink my energy into fighting the inevitable change and exhaust myself in the process, or I can take a deep breath and leap on my own terms, doing my best to weather the metaphorical fall with grace. I know which one I'll choose - once the initial shock wore off, I was more than ready for the change. Bring on the plunge, I'll embrace it with open arms. I may not be flying, but in the words of a pair of beloved animated toys, I am falling with style. 

Story of my life. 

Story of my life. 

If you would like to help me survive this transition with more ease, you can do so by purchasing a tarot reading through the "Tarot Readings" menu at the top of the page. Thank you! 

Dreaming in the Trenches

Chasing your dreams can be difficult. When I quit my job to pursue my passions, I was under no illusions about this. I knew the upcoming year would be one of the hardest years of my life. That being said, there's a difference between intellectually preparing yourself for difficulty and the feeling of actually being in the thick of it. And, let's be honest for a second - sometimes being in the thick of it sucks. You work and you work, you try and fail, you push forward blindly without any guarantee that things will work out even remotely the way you hope, and most of the work you do isn't the part of the dream that you love. Regardless of what your passion is, you wind up spending more of your waking hours on administrative details - cold emails, resumes, figuring out finances and taxes, figuring out how to promote yourself on social media, applying for auditions or jobs, and the list goes on - than you do on the exhilarating parts - acting or reading tarot in my case. That's the nature of the beast, and when you love something you take all parts of it, even the frustratingly mundane ones, but it can still be disheartening at times. 

In dream chasing, like in anything else, you will have good weeks and bad weeks. Last week was great - I had an amazingly productive meeting with my writer's group that allowed me to get helpful feedback on my screenplay and move forward into the next portion that I'm writing as well as help my fellow writers with their own projects; I applied to a ton of film and theater projects and even got called in for an audition for one of them; I was contacted out of the blue by a friend of a friend and asked to read tarot at the closing party for her art show, which was a huge success for both her and me; I had successful nights of tarot reading for tips at the bar; I made new friends; I found a new monologue to work on; I walked only the dogs that I love walking and still earned a decently sized paycheck. The weeks leading up to that? Less great - I handled a stressful situation poorly and upset a dear friend; I completely blew an audition by forgetting a monologue that I knew backwards and forwards so thoroughly that I couldn't even fake it and move on; I had a few weeks of not getting many tips at either of my main jobs; my cat was continuing to lose weight for no discernible reason as we continued to pour money into vet visits to try and help her; and to top it all of, I was in such a well of self-pity that I wasn't even reading tarot for myself, despite the fact that I know full well I feel better when I do. 

 
When I finally sat down and did a reading for myself, it basically told me to get my shit together. Whoops.

When I finally sat down and did a reading for myself, it basically told me to get my shit together. Whoops.

 

In the meantime, I was watching my friends knock their goals out of the park. I am fortunate to know so many incredibly talented and creative people, folks who inspire me and push me to want to be better because they are such badasses themselves. Of course, when you're wallowing in that ditch of self-pity and despair, it's easy to feel like they are talented and you are not, like they are breezing through life while you try and fail to gain even one inch. This is not at all true, by the way. I know for a fact all my friends fight and claw their way to any successes that they have gained, that they have failed as much as they have succeeded, and that often they find themselves wallowing in that very same pool of despair that I had found myself in. Still, despite my pride at all that they were accomplishing (and it is truly incredible and well-deserved), it was difficult to ignore that little sting of jealousy and the knowledge that part of the reason I was not right there with them was that my time was being taken up by frustration and distraction rather than motivation. Yes, I was doing a lot to take care of myself and the realities of life, but sometimes it just felt like I was making excuses.

My biggest fear is not that I will fail, but that I will fail because I did not try hard enough. It's a thought that has plagued my brain for years while I worked myself to exhaustion at day job after day job in order to make ends meet and put my dreams on the back burner. It's on my mind every day as I muddle through my new schedule and try to balance a dog walking schedule that will cover (most of) my bills with scheduling auditions and building a client base for tarot readings. It's the fear that I beat myself up with every time I think about how much more I have to do, how much more I could be fitting into each and every day if I just committed to working harder, and everything that I have been putting off - redesigning my website, applying to more auditions, promoting my Etsy shop more vigorously, reaching out to venues and party planners so I can make more money as a tarot reader, even writing this blog post which has been kicking around in some form or another for the better part of three weeks. 

The thing I keep coming back to is that we all have our own journeys and that each of our journeys is valid. I can never change the fact that I struggled in school, that I come from a family without much money, that I have spent the last eight years working to support myself, that it took me years to learn how to manage my finances even somewhat responsibly, that I took time off from my dreams, that I dropped out of college... And the thing is, I'm not sure I would want to. They made me who I am and brought me immeasurable joy, connections, and experience. As my remarkably wise friend Carlotta said on Facebook recently, "Know that those years aren't wasted...they were years of finding yourself and progression in your art. Everyone is always saying that time can be wasted but I am not so sure [...] I really believe that each step is there to bring us closer to the things that we want and serve us lessons in life. It's how you behave now, not what you did in the past (though we can learn from the past) that matter." 

 
An affirming message that I found on a street light in Brooklyn at a time when I really needed to hear it.

An affirming message that I found on a street light in Brooklyn at a time when I really needed to hear it.

 

So I'm thinking a lot about what I'm doing now, about when to push myself and when to ease up, and in particular about taking care of yourself versus making excuses. It's a fine line between self-care and excuse, so fine I'm not sure you can ever find yourself firmly on one side or another. Take this week, for example. I've been incapacitated by a cold that just won't quit, the kind where your head feels like it's full of cotton and you feel like you're tearing your lungs out every time you cough, and it's taken all I have to drag myself out of bed to walk a dog or two and make sure my cats are fed. I had to make the decision not to audition for the production I had submitted to because I couldn't get through an entire sentence without dissolving into a coughing fit. Even my Instagram posts, a fairly low-effort endeavor, have fallen by the wayside as I've stared at that blank box, unable to formulate even the simplest of captions for my daily tarot draws. A lot of this week has been dedicated to self-care, but it's also been an excuse not to think about my to-do list, and there are certainly low-impact projects I could have been crossing off while I lay in bed chugging tea and blowing through an entire box of tissues (gross runny-nose pun intended). 

At the end of the day, being in the trenches with your dreams is as much a balancing act as it is a slog - attempting to push yourself just a little bit further than you think you can go while still learning to come to terms with how far you have come regardless of whether it's as far as you think you should be. Acknowledging your accomplishments and setting your sights on a farther horizon. Gaining inspiration and motivation from the success of those around you while striving not to compare yourself to them. And pushing, ever pushing, forward. All you can do is show up and try in some form, big or small, and trust that it will be enough for one more day. Do the work that needs to be done at whatever pace you can, even when you're feeling low, and give yourself a break now and again. The fact that you're even fighting for your dreams at all is a success in and of itself. Don't rest on your laurels, especially when there is so much more that you want to accomplish, but pause now and again to appreciate how far you've come and let it fuel your constant progress onwards and upwards. I'm no expert at this. I wouldn't even say I'm doing well at it. But I'm trying, and that's what counts. I'll never stop trying, and on the days when I'm so blinded by my frustrations that I can't see my success, I'm lucky enough to have a chorus of amazing, talented, loving people who will remind me of how far I've come and then kick my butt back into gear.

Today's card from the "1 a Day for 78 Challenge" on Instagram. A fitting reminder.

Today's card from the "1 a Day for 78 Challenge" on Instagram. A fitting reminder.

I certainly don't regret making the choice to pursue my dreams. It may be difficult, disheartening, and misery-inducing at times, but I am still happier than I have been in years. Even when I'm stressed out and feel like I'm failing, I would take this life over sticking it out in a job I don't love every time. I get to fill my weeks with auditions, memorizing monologues, writing a script that means the world to me, throwing tarot cards, and walking through the park with adorable dogs. When I step back and really look at where I am now, I have to say it's a pretty great life even if it doesn't always feel like it day to day. I may not be as far along as I wish I were, but I'm much farther than I was a year or even six months ago, and that's something.

So if you find yourself stuck in the miserable parts of dream chasing, just know that you're not alone. If you need someone to remind you of all the ways in which you're kicking ass, I humbly offer up my services. After all, you've probably done the same for me at some point in time. And whatever your journey is or has been, know that it has value even if it looks nothing like that of those around you. Keep fighting, my friends. We'll get there eventually.