2016 was one of the best and most painful year of my life.
It was the first year in my artistic career that I finally decided to do something about my dreams and put on a solo show, a story I've been writing for the past 2.5 years. It was the first time I experienced pain as an artist, where I was confronted with what it means to be an artist: making art isn't about just making art--it's a business, you have to be an adult and make a living if you want to be an artist. With the show, there was a lot of pleasure but also a lot, a lot of pain and loneliness. And to sum up what I've learned: being an artist means you can pursue your dreams that fulfills you on the inside; but being an adult also means you need to survive and make money to keep the dream alive.
There have been thoughts surrounding what it means to be an artist and be a grown up in the past, but it came to me face-to-face this year because I had to put on a solo show using my most of my savings through working at AALDEF, then spending the next three to four months crossing fingers hoping people will buy tickets and show up. In the end, people did. My gut feeling didn't lie to me.
In the beginning though, it was a sad and lonely journey. I found MC Jin (found = stalk) my director towards the end of January and started heavily rehearsing in front of my refrigerator. In February, I told my brother I'm putting on previews in early May and he told me I shouldn't do it. Why waste money on something that you don't know for sure would make you the money back? I did it anyway. Friends showed up, I got feedback (some great, some hurtful--but the hurtful ones made me reflect and think the most, and helped me during the rewriting process). I spent the next three months revising because I wanted to put on a few more shows for more people to come. In August, I did, and all the shows were sold out. This whole putting up the show was extremely stressful. If you easily crack under stress, which I was a lot of times, it will kill you (if not physically, then mentally). In the end, I learned that you have to believe in your project so much; and most importantly, believe in yourself so much that it fuels you to keep moving forward during the dark times.
The show also put a strain between my relationship with my mom. She came to the show, despite not being able to understand any of the show. A few days later towards the end of August, she asked me if this is something I'd like to do for the rest of my life, and when I answered yes, she told me to find a real 9-to-5. Why go on such a hard road and waste time and money? It was the first time I felt so much pain for pursuing something I greatly believed in, and it was also the first time I fought back. It was painful. It was so painful. But I can't imagine myself doing anything else, and so I will keep going. She can't stop me. No one can. Only I can stop myself. And I won't. I'm bringing the show to Los Angeles: heyjudylei.com/soloshowtour/losangeles in April (04.23.2017 to be exact). And P.S. long story short, I canceled the show in London. This opportunity did allow me to finally have the guts to travel on my own and to two places I've always dreamt of going to: London and Paris!!!)
2016 was the year I finally caved in to the typical actor stereotype of working at a restaurant. I work at Nom Wah Tea Parlor and it drives me insane being on my feet for so long and having to work with so many different personalities. The beauty of it all is the hustle. The nonstop hustle. It makes me feel alive and that's why I like it--even though I cry so hard sometimes in the bathroom or break room. But like my boss said, "you know what else is tough? Life is tough, so keep going." Seriously, keep going.
2016--looking back at all the pictures, a lot of great things happened, in which I accomplished everything I set out to do and more; but for some reason, I realized I spent the entire year being unhappy or indifferent (more like refusing to acknowledge all the good things that are happening and finally admitting how sad I am deep inside--thanks to Chris Gethard's solo show).
For 2017, I would like to practice being grateful and also acknowledge what I'm feeling and why I'm feeling the way I do. I also have a whole list of resolutions I've written down on my planner: worry less, kick ass during LA solo show, write another solo show, rewrite feature film / shoot feature film, be in more film projects, work out once a week, have treat-yoself time once a month, drink more water (I always fuck up on the last one :x).
I have a feeling I'll hit all of these goals in the upcoming year, so let's keep on keeping on, shall we? :-)