Friday, July 27, 2012

Being a part of the bigger picture

I recently got in the habit of jotting down ideas, aspirations and personal notes as soon as they cross my mind. I don't want to forget them. Why? Because I want to act on my thoughts and ideas. I want to carry out these visions in my life so I can never say, "gee I never had the opportunity to do x, y, and z." In the past year my journey of self exploration has really allowed me to take a look at my life and begin to navigate my own future. Constantly reminding myself of my goals in life have helped me seek the stepping stones that arise in front of me at a given moment. Instead of just taking routes blindly as many young adults do, my eyes are open and on the prize!

The other day, I tried to pinpoint when this self exploration began but I couldn't. I believe it was solidified in the last year and a combination of being in a cast of dancers and singers and feeding off of their inspiration and drive, as well as several books and articles focusing on the power of the self. Going further into the past, I also believe that this could have been birthed/stemming from back in college. When I made the decision to leave UMD and return to NY for my last 2 years of college, I really took hold of my life. I still sometimes can't believe how mature I was to not only apply and get accepted to another school, but more importantly, to have the realization that I wasn't in the right place. I was only 19 and kept to myself until I got the acceptance email! From there I think the sense of "you're on your own" began to kick in because I wanted to prove that I did in fact make the right decision.

So yes, now I have a degree in Communications, and yes I definitely have a dream of working for an organization or company "behind the scenes" but first, I want to dance. As I navigate through that world, I also keep an eye out for my future down the road. I've come across the idea of working in the health and fitness world, definitely (or rather hopefully) for an organization that promotes these subjects. There's also the world of fashion. But today, I've been inspired to expand that list to include, the Olympics. I'm sitting here watching the opening ceremony and I'm truly moved. What a way to unite the world. Moreover, this opening ceremony is a salute to theater. It boggles my mind how well thought out and planned this is. How, I'm assuming, locals(doctors and nurses for the GOSH section) have united to participate. It's also, as opposed to other years, not a spectacle. I'm a dancer, and I love to watch dance, but wow how much more complicated it is to have to choreograph pedestrian movement. I love seeing turns, jumps, and leaps, but I'm LOVING seeing the acting and simplicity of movement to illustrate an idea. Visions don't always have to be executed with difficult moves.

Ok, I just sidetracked but what I'm saying, in terms of career choice. I want to be a part of a bigger picture. Somewhere that has a positive impact on lives around the world. What a feeling to see the anticipation rising from around the world as we get closer to another Olympics. There's SO much planning involved, I want to be a part of that. Even the commercials from sponsors are impressive! That's another thing, the Olympics is sponsorship-based. It unites the world. What other event includes almost everyone in this universe??
Once again not proof reading this, my goal continuing forward is to be reminded of the bigger picture in life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Pal, Snickers

For the past 12 years, my cat Snickers has been by my family's side. We got Snickers at a shelter way out in Deer Park after our first cat passed away from cancer of the eye. Now, the first time we went, I chose a cat who I think was pretty and nice named Longfellow. Pretty and nice he was not. He came in our house and hid under our mother's bed and would never come out. If he did, he would race to the food and then go back. He also crapped in my mom's room which still makes me laugh. When we decided he was a no go, we had to block off our living room area was a matress in order to get him. To see my mother clawed and attacked by Longfellow was when I finally realized maybe he wasn't well-adjusted enough for us. I've never lived down that cracks me up. Typical me would pick a cat like that! haha
When we went back, we tried again. We went into this little 'house' at the shelter that had tons of cats everywhere. One cat named Polaski, found on the Polaski Skyway/highway, was following my sister around. Since our first cat, Chloe, was pretty much her baby it was quite fitting that this new fellow would seek her out. He chose us and we decided to change his name to Snickers.
To this day, he has been the best cat. He loved everybody and didn't hide when we had guests over. He definitely wasn't a lap cat, no matter how many times I tried to hold him but he was such a pal, a buddy. Even when I went to school and came back, went on a dance contract and came back, we picked up where we left off.
A few months ago, we noticed he was gaining a lot of weight but also constantly throwing up. Throw up everywhere! We took him to the vet, they didn't know what was wrong. Then later we went in because he had a growth/open sore on his paw AND the vet happened to notice he had a rotten tooth. We decided to let them do the surgery to remove the tooth because maybe that was the source of his problems...and of course they also removed the growth on his paw. He had a little cone on his head after surgery but he seemed to be fine after a few weeks.
Then, out of no where, he was rail thin. Oh, and he's still been throwing up but because the vet had no guesses so it was just not addressed. Now that he's so thin, we take him back and low and behold he suddenly has Lymphoma. Now, I don't want to get all Anti-Vet, but why oh why did it have to take SO long for this to be the conclusion?? I get that because he's not a human, you can't physically ask him what's wrong but I feel like this could have been detected before it was realized that he had lost half his weight. He was once about 14lbs, which is insanely large. A week ago, we found out he was 8lbs!
From the Vet's suggestion, this past Monday Snickers went in for an ultrasound and his tummy was shaved so they could do it. It's now 3 days later and he  has begun to deteriorate at a rapid pace. They even said they gave him a steroid to get him up and eating but I have yet to see him return to his old self and I think I sadly never will. He barely walks anywhere, definitely doesn't eat, and recently today, he just lays with his eyes open. It's absolutely heartbreaking. I've been bawling my eyes all night.

It just sucks to see this happen right before my eyes. He is withering away and I do believe that every-time he's come back from the Vet they've made it worse. I never want to know what goes on behind those walls. My main issue is that with animals you have to play God and make the decision to wait it out or put them down. I hate that we have to sit here and wonder do we want him to try to remain living for as long as he can even though he is in pain? Or do we potentially put him down earlier than he should have been? Ultimately, I don't believe he can make it through the weekend. He just lays there, eyes open. I feel like I'm suddenly staring at an old man wearing away.
He has an appointment today and I'm thinking this is it. I'm glad for the moments I had with Snickers, he was SUCH a great cat. There's no better way to describe him other than spunky...he was my buddy, my pal. I find it so painful that I wonder if I'd ever want to have a pet if I had kids. I didn't react this way when our first cat died bc as a kid, you bounce back. I know my sister was soooo upset. Now, knowing how it feels, I think when you are older, you feel it more. Maybe I'll have pets but when my kids hit a certain age we won't have pets anymore. I just don't want to pass on the pain. Yes it's a cat but I've come to realize how attached one can get. I have compassion for the "crazy ladies with all the cats." I get it now. It's interesting how life's lessons work.

So this is my crazy cat lady post and I'm not ashamed. I'm really going to miss Snickers. He'll be my angel shining on me.

ps, didn't proof-read this so, my apologies for the spelling and grammatical errors.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Acne Issues, end in sight?

Acne has been a major issue for me since maybe 7th or 8th grade. It used to be prominent only in my T-zone aka forehead, nose, and chin. I would comment on how lucky I was that it hadn't spread to my cheeks...yet. Then, once I got to college, it seemed to switch and suddenly I was breaking out all over. I used every cleanser/wash/toner under the sun and nothing had worked for me. I became an addict for buying skincare products. Anytime I saw a commercial or ad for skincare I was sucked in. I would research them and read all the reviews. I don't know how many times I bought a product and thought, wow this will be the one, and it wasn't. It's very disheartening. All I could do was shrug and attempt to cover up my zits with makeup What's worse was hearing friends talk about the one pimple they had or their one scar. When my face is full of breakouts, how am I supposed to respond to you??? My peak, where my acne was at it's worst, was in the last 2 or 3 years. I think it was the combination of continual breakouts AND scars that literally just left me feeling helpless. It didn't help that I was a dancer which meant constant sweat and, if I was performing, sweat with makeup.
There were some instances where a face wash like Neutrogena's Rapid Clear would seem to work for a little bit, but ultimately I would get to a point where my skin would be immune and I'd have to switch to a new product. I even saw a dermatologist for a little bit but she was really expensive and I wasn't seeing any results. Yes, I tried Proactiv several times, no, it didn't work either. I guess my skin is really stubborn. The hardest phase for me was when I was working as a professional dancer and having to put on all my stage makeup, multiple times in the day. My skin never had a chance to breathe. It didn't help either when I would be wearing a wig or accessory that would sit right on a zit, talk about pain. It's a major weak point for me in terms of self-esteem and confidence. Your face, especially in this industry, is "the first thing most people see." Sad to say but I definitely learned of a new side of  certain "friends" when overhearing comments about my acne. I'd call it a low blow but it's really not worth harping on since, at least for me, I've gained a tougher skin from knowing that my acne is an obvious setback.
So, after going through my usual cleanser/toner/mosturizer phase, I finally learned of a new remedy that's actually working. A friend at work told me of natural, at home products that can produce the same if not better results for acne. I did some research, because clearly I was skeptical, and then ultimately decided that I had nothing to lose my trying it. Here's what I use:
Wash/Exfoliater- Dove sensitive soap bar, water, and a little bit of baking soda. In the links provided, you'll see a description of why these products are used. I first rinse my face and clear it of all make up. I used the Dove soap bar as a base on my face. Then, I sprinkle a little bit of baking soda into my hands and mix it with a little bit of water to form a slight paste. I rub it on my face and it actually feels like an exfoliater. After about a minute, I wash it off with warm water.
Toner- 1/3 water, 1/3 witch hazel, and 1/3 apple cider vinegar. Using a cotton ball, I pour a small amount onto the cottonball and wipe my face down. I made a mixture of this and put it in a bottle so I would have to keep combining the products each time.
Moisturizer/Lotion- I don't have a home remedy for this so I just use either Garnier Fructis  Dark Spot Corrector or step 3 in the Olay ProClear line(Complexion Renewal Lotion).
If I spot a breakout, I've been using La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo.

All these products can be found at a local drugstore and I can happily say that I am really seeing an improvement on my skin. Even after just a few days, I saw less breakouts and less redness. You must use a moisturizer or lotion after because you skin can become very dry from the wash and toner. I'm so happy a friend told me about this because I really have seen a change. It's been about a month and I'm definitely going to use this as my main approach for skin care. I can't believe the 'secret' is basically everyday, household items. I don't have completely clear skin but it's a major improvement from the past. At least now my only focus is scars. I couldn't be happier so I HAD to share this with as many people as possible.

Here are 2 links that better explain why these household products work so well:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Just found this on the internet. I wrote it back when I was at MMC. Wow, the internet really does keep everything. creepy.

Moving to NYC: A Dancer's story
A light breeze fills the air as on-the-go, stressed coffee lovers pour into Starbucks to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan during rush hour. Relaxing jazz music attempts to soothe their racing minds but is unsuccessful as the noise of frappuccinos and juice teas being blended interjects every two minutes. Amidst these oxymoron’s sits Jessica Chen, a California-native turned New York dancer and emerging choreographer. It would appear that Jessica would have a hard time finding peace in her chaotic life like her fellow New Yorkers, but she remains calm and collected as she balances surviving in New York, dancing, booking workshops, and choreographing. This, she credits, is the key to success.
“For dancers, if you don’t think about it and take life as it goes, you can be successful. Whatever comes out of the experience comes out of it.”
Jessica’s perspective on balancing her career was a result of the constant changes she has been exposed to; thanks in part to several mentors and teachers. From a last minute decision to attend the Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive upon her college graduation in 2006, to her most recent choice to restart a piece she had been working on for several months, Jessica has a life long history of learning to go with the flow.
Jessica began her dance career in a Chinese Folk Dance company in California, her native state. She performed with this company for eight years dancing in parades and filming videos on Folk dance.  Jessica states, “Most of my training has been group oriented as well. In both junior high and high school I was on the All-Star cheer and dance team.” Aside from dance, Jessica had other interests and went on to major in global studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Although she did not major in dance, Jessica was still able to enroll in the university’s dance classes. It was during her college years that Jessica’s knowledge of dance greatly expanded.
“I saw a documentary on the Ailey Company and after that, decided to get into modern dance.” Helping her explore modern dance was one of Jessica’s teacher’s, Tonia Shimin who previously danced with both The Martha Graham Company and José Limón Company. When Jessica started choreographing at age 19, Shimin worked as her mentor and challenged Jessica to, “think about where the movement was coming from and why.” Jessica believes Shimin allowed her to find a deeper meaning in the movement she was creating. After continuing with modern dance for the next few years by senior year, with the advice of another mentor Nancy Colahan, Jessica applied to the Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive and was accepted. 
Colahan’s advice for Jessica was, “Put yourself in a place where the dance community is really strong because it gets hard and when it gets hard you want to fall back on your community.”  With this in mind, Jessica relocated to New York without knowing that her two month stay would eventually evolve into 3+ years.  
At The Ailey School, Jessica trained in Horton with Earl Mosley who became the gatekeeper of her future successes as both a dancer and choreographer. “He reached out to me right in the beginning,” she comments. The following summer, July 2007, Jessica attended Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts, Earl Mosley’s summer intensive, and was given the chance to work with choreographers such as Juan Rodriguez and Darcy Naganuma.  Both experiences led her to future successes including performing in Rodriguez’s piece at a gala event for the summer intensive and joining Naganuma’s company in the fall of 2007.
Jessica’s unpredictable successes continued in November of 2007 when, after a performance in Atlantic City, she was told about workshop with Live Co, a street jazz/hip hop dance company. After impressing the choreographer, she joined the company and still remains with them to this day. One of her biggest opportunities with this company came from an unexpected text message.
“You got picked to go to Japan. What’s your passport number?” This was the message Jessica received when her choreographer Torey Nelson told her that she had been picked to tour in Japan with urban artist, Lil Mama. Falling in line with her ever-changing life, Jessica left New York to perform in Japan after only one week of rehearsals.  
According to Jessica, her choreography began to take off after her second experience at Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts. One choreographer that helped Jessica mold her choreography was Julian Barnett. “When I worked with him there was this guidance that really helped me. It was his intention and I got to go with it. This got my mind thinking about how my process is.” During EMIA, Jessica created two pieces, one of which she continued to work on and began auditioning for festivals and concerts in New York. 
With influence from past mentors and choreographers, Jessica credits choreography as both an exploration of herself and her dancers. “I understand my body better. I feel more comfortable dancing and can project the movement better.  I am also allowing my dancers to find their own voices.”
Although she has been choreographing steadily, Jessica’s future plans will still include performing.  To balance being a choreographer and dancer, Jessica concludes, “I will choose whether to take a gig for myself and postpone a project or vice versa. At this point I want to do small projects (under the name, The J.Chen Project) rather than have a company. I want to be able to pay my dancers and take care of them which are things that I am still working on. Dancers don’t know their value because some choreographer’s don’t show them. I want my dancer’s to know how much they are worth. I’m not going to bring someone into my process if I can’t help them.”  April 3 2009

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When your best is not enough, what do you do? smile

First off, Happy New Year! The older I get, the more exciting a new year feels. It holds so much potential. Expect the unexpected. No one can know for sure what is to come, there are just assumptions, and at this moment I kind of like it that way. It makes me feel like I have power and am in control, which we all do, of my life.
Update on my life:During the holiday season I was working at Gaga's Workshop at Barney's. It was perfect timing since auditions usually calm down around the holiday time. The workshop closed on Jan 2nd and so far there are about 11 auditions I'm planning to attend in January. I'm so excited to jump back into the industry and hopefully get a job!

Now the main point of writing today. What happens if your best, or what you feel is your best, is not enough? You audition and you walk away feeling that you truly booked that job but you don't get a call. It's natural to want to feel bummed but I realized it's not worth taking my pride away. If anything, it boost my confidence because I walked out of the room feeling so proud of myself for really going 110% in that moment. Now, having not gotten a call, but knowing I've done really well, I can only say that I was not what they were looking for. This is different from going to an audition where you really, really, really want the gig and are upset because you don't get the call AND you secretly know that you were not at your best or that someone else really stepped it up and deserved it. Makes sense? To me it does. It's so easy to fall into the typical negativity of all the No's you get at auditions. It can really take a toll on your self esteem but as long as you focus on little achievements in the moment, you'll be able to pick yourself up and head to the next audition. One reservation I did have was when I noticed the same audition company was having another audition for a different show coming up. Part of me questioned if it would be weird for me to go but I quickly dispelled that thought because maybe the show I was auditioning for was not for me, but this NEW show may. I completely understand now how other performers feel when they've been to the same audition 5+ times, you feel a little awkward but you NEVER know what may happen. I'm just going to treat the moment as a fresh new opportunity to book a job!

Since January is a big audition month, what I plan to continue doing as part of my audition tracking is to take note of each audition I go to and write how it went. Some questions I write about include: did I make a cut, how did I feel about the combination, and what can I do to improve? This is a great tool for reflecting on my progress and it comes in handy when the same audition comes up again!

Happy New Year!
check out my website:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The best partnership known to man

What could be the best partnership known to man, er, me?? AMC Theater's "Smart Movie Snacks."  I have never been more impressed by a theater's push towards being healthy. Yes, you always see the magazine articles about what to eat at the theater or which snack has the least amount of fat so you can get 2, but now you don't have to worry! The best part, if it isn't already spelled out for you, is that this snack PACK(tons of stuff inside) is only $7. That is a STEAL with the amount of snacks you get verses an average size of popcorn and soda.
The Snack Pack includes: Chiquita Fruit Chips, POPCorner's Popped Corn Chips(minor obsession with the kettle flavor), Odwalla Trail Mix Bar, AND 20oz Dasani water. Are you frigin kidding me? You can get all this for less than 500calories. Even better! Why? So you don't have to sit through the entire movie secretly scolding yourself for having eaten those chicken fingers and cinnamon rolls.
Now the one problem is the lack of promotion of this amazing product at some theaters. I was recently at the 34th Street Loew's Theater and don't even recall seeing this on the menu but I knew it was offered, so I asked.  Luckily they had it but they gave me the impression that they weren't even sure. The only time I remember this being on hand and advertised was at the AMC near, I believe, 18th Street. What's the deal?? This is a great product, acceptable price, yet it's almost hidden. I know there are people that go to the movies and KNOW they don't want to eat the greasy, fattening theater food but do anyway because they feel they don't have a choice. I think there should be another promotional phase for this product because it seems forgotten. I guess it's my duty to promote it as much as I can because I care about what I eat! If AMC doesn't want to spend the money to advertise, they could at least offer this on the menu.
I do still however want to give a BRAVO to AMC for at least making an attempt to hit a new target audience. A second BRAVO goes to Odwalla, Dasani, Ciquita, and PopCorners for partnering together to create this little movie lunchbox.

Other recent tastes from heaven that I've recently come across:
Planters Nutrition Omega 3 snacks  Perfect for on the go! Walnuts, dark chocolate, and dried cranberrys, yummy :)
Vita CoCo Peach and Mango I thought I HATED coconut water. I never understood how people were guzzling it down after yoga but, put a little flavor in it and it becomes more than bearable. I honestly can't have it any other way. It's just a hint of flavor but also keeps the original "light taste" of coconut water.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is that a no?

Since I've been back in NY, I've been auditioning regularly but have also been applying to, what feels like, a million jobs; thank you craigslist. As I look at the amount of emails my "Sent" box, I wonder how many of my resumes were actually received, read, considered, and rejected. Sounds like a lot but when you don't get a response, you begin to wonder.

With auditions, even if you don't hear from casting, you hear through the grapevine that so-and-so got the gig. If that's not the case, it's still more tangible to believe that someone was a better fit than you, whether you agree or not. With submission via email, if you don't receive a phone call or return email, it's as if you clicked the send button and your resume disappeared into thin air. I am really curious what happens on the other end. Does my email get received, read, but rejected? Does someone actually read my resume and decide that I'm not a good fit or that the previous sender would be better?

I would love to hear from several employers as to what actually happens "on the other side." I always read in the newspaper that there are no jobs and the unemployment rate is rising.  Then, on the next page, there will be an article saying "x" amount of jobs have been approved. Since all that does is confuse me, I'm more interested with what's happened when an employer receives resumes and cover letters. It's not about the college diploma, that's almost always a given even when some of the jobs I see and submit for don't list high school diploma as good enough . If not that, could it be experience? Here's an example:

I submitted for at least 12 coat check jobs at various clubs/restaurants about 2 weeks ago and heard back from none. I have coat check experience, in a museum, but still, coats are coats. From auditioning, I can only assume that the other submissions were from people with 5+ years coat check experience or just experience from somewhere more appealing than a museum. Since I've gotten no response I'm left playing a guessing game as to why I haven't heard back or just forgetting that I ever submitted. The other possible idea is that employers pick the first "x" amount that fit the description, delete the rest, and don't look to see what they may have missed. Considering that the majority of jobs I apply to are from craigslist, I could see this as a possible reason for not hearing back. Either way, this topic is one that plagues me every time I get ready to submit my resume for an entry-level type job. Let's not even get into the amount of frustration felt by those who were previously at the top of the chain, lost their job, and are now over qualified.