“You nervous? Don’t be. ” -Donny Wahlberg to me, one time.
My apartment is not very large.
It is not a shoebox — not like my first NYC apartment on 158th street that I shared with two girls, several mice, and a stray cat that used to climb in my window from the fire escape when it rained. But still, it is small. Petite, you might say, if you were kind of pretentious.
The point is, you don’t have much room when you don’t have many rooms, and therefore, the rooms you do have can take on multiple personalities. Currently, my bedroom is my office, my living room is my fiancee’s office, our kitchen is sort of a distribution center for wine (she’s a sommelier at a wine startup and cooler than me), and my bathroom is the only room actively serving its intended purpose.
As I sit here at a desk, which some might more generally refer to as a “bed”, with the blue light of my monitor bouncing off my exceedingly pale face, buried behind a mountain of open VScode projects and labs discussing the proper application of Rails (which, for the record, is magic.), my ADHD takes the wheel, much the way Jesus might when Carrie Underwood operates a motor-vehicle.
My focus catches on an unremarkable, 11.5"x15" cardboard envelope. It stands upright, shoved against a shared wall by multiple IKEA storage boxes. Within that envelope is the single most expensive thing that I own. A Masters of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in the City of New York.
Let’s flash back, shall we? Imagine a flurry of images rushing past you in reverse. Scenes from what look like dark bars, elaborate theater sets, florescent hallways and was that Donny Wahlberg saying the quote from above?
It was. But we’ll get to that later. If we have time.
I have wanted to be an actor since I was in Middle School. For my non-US readers: first of all kudos on not living in this dumpster fire of a country, and second of all, middle school is like… 10–13 yr. olds? But it was my sophomore year of High School, when I was 15, that cemented in my mind my trajectory toward a career on stage.
I had been cast in my first leading role, Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, presented by The Rivers School of Weston. And let me tell you, reader: it was exactly as life changing as those kids on Glee make High School things seem. The production was a smashing success, I got to kiss one of the most popular girls in the senior class on stage (Kadie, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry it never worked out between us, but hopefully you can find solace in your husband and child. I know the thought of me probably still hurts), and more important than any of the attention and praise — and there was a lot of attention and praise — I got to create something that the entire world (or what felt like the entire world to a 15 year old) took in, analyzed, and actually enjoyed.
That feeling, the feeling of building a unique thing, a character that only I could have created, was exhilarating. It did so much more than just inflate my ego (though it did, admittedly, and I could devote an entire blog post to the dangers of that, but I’m sure you’ve already seen that movie), it showed me that I could make an impact, an imprint of a memory, within peoples lives.
This obsession with artistic creation is the dragon that I have been chasing since I was 15. It has guided me through a B.A in Theater and American Studies with a focus in Film and Culture, training programs and apprenticeships at Williamstown Theater Festival, The Eugene O’Neill Theater, The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company of Boston and The British American Drama Academy. It led me home after college to Boston, where I lived with my three best friends and acted non-stop in shows at some of the largest as well as some of the smallest houses in the city. And eventually, it lead me to audition for and enroll in Columbia University’s MFA Acting program lead by the legendary avant garde director Andrei Serban, whom I would go on to personally assist for the duration of my time there.
I left Columbia with an Off-Broadway show on my resume, a membership to the Actor’s Union, a manager, a bi-coastal commercial agent, and a sense that I was about to launch my career in earnest for the first time. To tell stories on Broadway stages and in feature films. To log in to Netflix, scroll over my own face and think “Honestly I’m just not in the mood for that right now, let’s keep scrolling for two hours, eventually rewatch New Girl for the 9th time, and go to bed.”
I auditioned, I took meetings at Warner Brothers, Sony, Freeform, NBCUniversal, ABC and CBS on both coasts. And I had some success! My acting career so far has taken me everywhere from the East-Village to Paris. You can even find me on Hulu.
But life as an artist - it ain’t what you see in the movies, folks. There are no agents roaming around Times Square saying “Hey, kid, I’m gonna make you a BIG STAR!”, no happy coincidences where a Broadway casting director hears you singing in the shower through an open window and puts you in Les Mis.
Also in the movies, the struggling artist always lives in like a two bedroom penthouse apartment with views of the park and no roommates.
No. The last apartment I lived in had rats. Outside of the actual art, an artist’s life is typically devoid of much whimsy.
But I digress —
Remember that diploma sitting on my shelf? Yeah that thing cost a lot of money. And the people who lent me that money wanted me to start paying it back.
So I got a job.
And then there was rent in New York City.
So I got another job.
And then there was also the basic cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
So I got another job.
Soon, I started to see why this career crushes the people that try to take it on. And why the rich children of celebrities so often replace their parents in the business.
In order to afford to be in the place where I could audition to make art and create, I had to take on 2–3 jobs that filled my schedule so completely that I had started to turn down opportunities to make art and create.
The dragon started getting further and further away. I was not creating anything anymore. I was simply waking up to punch a clock and auditioning for what I truly wanted to do only when my clock-punching jobs’ schedules allowed it.
Enter Covid from camera right.
I lost every single one of my jobs on the same day in March of 2020.
This just took a bit of a dark turn. Let’s bounce back towards the inspirational stuff, yeah?
Quarantine has been a gift that I didn’t want but truly needed. It allowed me to slow down, take a look at what was happening in my life, and make a change.
The thing that I have always been the most passionate about is creating. I want to put something out into the world that has my own personal mark on it, my own spin, and see if it resonates with others. This has always been my favorite thing about being an actor. I am able to take words off of a page, infuse them with life, and speak them to an audience. And hopefully, when shown, they resonate with even one member of that audience confirming for them that they are not the only person who has ever felt that feeling or thought that thought.
So while I waited for the Entertainment world to restart, I resolved that I needed to find a new way to create.
And now, from camera left, we see a new character enter the frame: Coding.
I have been a student at the Flatiron School for a little over a month now.
I must admit, the work load is sometimes overwhelming. New concepts are being thrown at me in a non-stop barrage of VScode and READMEs. I often feel like this:
Though in reality I probably look like this:
Regardless, I am having a blast.
Let me tell you, the rush you get when your program runs the way you imagined it would is euphoric. I am absolutely hooked, and while so far I have only been able to develop a basic app that runs in CLI using Ruby (it’s called Munch, and it uses the Zomato API and the Geocoder gem to generate a restaurant recommendation based on the user’s location, price-point and desired cuisine), I am so excited to be learning a new skill that will allow me to create in a similar way to my acting career: to observe something, take action to create my own unique version of, or solution for, that thing, and then put it into the world.
The limitations of this new interest of mine seem boundless. I so look forward to a few years from now, when I have the skills enough to create anything I want to with code. I promise that when that happens I will put it out into the world. I hope that it will resonate with you.
Oh yeah and the Donny Wahlberg thing, I played a cop on Blue Bloods. Here’s proof —