Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Retrospective ... In Questions

I originally got this idea from Bonnie Gillespie. Every year, this casting director answers the same batch of questions, and I've taken it on for myself. (Check out this blast form the past from 2010 - I was such a baby back then!)

So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2017...


What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

I traveled by myself to Italy! I took advantage of an offer from the Daniel Ferro Vocal Program to work in their office for 6 weeks in exchange for rom and board in Tuscany. All I would have to do was pay for my own ticket to fly. It was an amazing experience - I was there for 10 days and was forced to use a language I didn’t know and meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can’t wait to do something like that again.

A view of Positano, Italy

I met these fiesty Australians in my adventures on Florence

Did you keep your 2017 resolutions? Will you make resolutions for 2018?

I always have the same resolution - “This will be the best year of my life.” I came up with this on New Year’s Eve 2000/2001 (holy crap- 10 years ago.) I had listened to the old song, “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams, and there’s a refrain that says, “Those were the best years of my life.” I realized that I couldn’t claim this -- I had no “best years” and, by god, I wanted to create some.

What I really focused on in 2017 was reclaiming my life from cancer. I committed to making enough money to cover rent with performing gigs, so I auditioned more frequently and by October I reached my goal! I’m now singing at a church once a week and am the standby on two Off Broadway shows. Amazing!

My 2018 is all centered around working less and earning more:

• For my coaching business it means moving a lot of what I do online so that more people can benefit, and then I can make sure I have enough time for the in-person coaching for those who really need it.
 
• For The Seeing Place it means applying for more grants, building a board, and delegating to more ensemble members so that we can raise more money with less work hanging over my head.

• For my acting career, this means that I want great representation and the ability to do TV and film projects whose residuals will make a better lifestyle much easier.

• And personally, this means that I want to treat my body like the temple it is and create energy and strength now so that I can keep it healthy for years to come.


Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not "close" close, but I know a lot of people who had babies or are pregnant and I can’t wait to hold them?


Did anyone close to you die?

Not terribly close, but there were some incredible losses in our community


What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

December 23 - the day I went on as a standby in SISTAS - my first commercial Off Broadway credit!



What countries did you visit?

Italy, though I didn’t fly through Germany and went through customs there...


What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More physical strength, which has been hard to get back after surgery for cancer. I also would like to have more money.


What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Definitely going into the two shows Off Broadway. I didn’t have a formal rehearsal for either project, so my time on stage in front of an audience was my first rehearsal for both musicals. But I rose to the challenge and had a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again!


What was your biggest failure?

I had to borrow money from my mother earlier in the year because I was having trouble paying rent. My coaching business ebbs and flows, and as I was trying to get my acting career to the next level my coaching career suffered. It wasn’t until the fall that things started to stabilize. That was a really hard time.


Did you suffer illness or injury?

I’m still dealing with the fallout of cancer and its treatment, and I was diagnosed with anxiety and major depression. Luckily I have therapists and medication that are helping me navigate everything.


Whose behavior merited celebration?

My boyfriend. We’ve been together for 6 years and he never ceases to amaze me. He took a huge step forward at work by becoming one of their best and most well loved employees, and he also does great work with our theater company. Not to mention that he also has worked hard to keep our relationship strong.


Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

A certain president who shall not be named, as well as a certain speaker of the house and that person’s cohorts. Boooooooooo...


Where did most of your money go?

Rent. For sure. Eating out is a close second.


What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My gosh... getting cast in THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS and then actually going on in the show were the best experiences! It felt like the culmination of so many years of work finally fulfilling on a dream.




What song will always remind you of 2017?

“This Girl Is on Fire”


Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? Much much happier. Medication really helps with that - the first 9 months of the year I would have said sadder.

thinner or fatter? Fatter - medication causes weight gain so I’m still figuring out how to handle that.

richer or poorer? Richer! In money, health, and love.


What do you wish you’d done more of?

Grantwriting. We finally got our 501c3 for my theater company and I expected that I would immediately have started writing for grants but I haven’t done much of that.


What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being depressed. What a hard time that’s been...


How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent Christmas in Florida with my mom, my aunt, my sister, and my mom’s best friend. It was a house of 5 women, and it was fabulous!


Who did you miss?

I miss my dad, as always. I miss my dog Denver, which passed away in 2012.



Did you fall in love in 2017?

I feel like I fall in love with Brandon a little more each day. Also - I reignited my love for bing a paid singer this year. ;)


What was your favorite TV program?

SO MANY! I can’t even choose.


Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t really hate anyone. There have been several people this year who have (directly or indirectly) hurt my feelings so I have had a hard time communicating with them.


What was the best book you read?

I just started reading again this year - I really liked “Never Let Me Go.”


What was your greatest musical discovery?

Hmmm... after watching the Lady Gaga documentary I have a newfound respect for her. I also found the TV show The Voice, which I love!


What did you want and get?

I wanted paying work as an actor and singer, and I got those. SO AMAZING.


What did you want and not get?

I wanted to finish creating my online coaching program but my focus was split with prepping for the shows (both for my theater company and the musicals I’m doing.)


What was your favorite film of this year?

“Get Out.” I’ve seen it twice now and I really loved it.


What kept you sane?

Punk-colored hair, Netflix, Hulu, the women’s and #MeToo movements, the Slow Carb diet, good snow boots, Duolingo for Italian practice, Brandon Walker, Candice Oden, Sarah Rice in church, Blair Brown with her diet tips, Zach Wobensmith with late night bourbon, my theater company and a few key people who really made a difference this year, and finally my mom.



What did you do on your birthday? How old were you?

This year I turned the 30-35 age range for actors. :)  I performed at church, and then did two performances of JACK GOES BOATING with The Seeing Place, and then I enjoyed bourbon and New Orlean's style food for a late night dinner.


What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If my mom had been able to travel to NY. If my boyfriend had been able to travel to Italy with me.


How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

My personal style has changed since I got short hair, so now I’m a little more romantic/bohemian with a little bit of hipster thrown in.


Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I think we’re all about Prince Harry right about now.


What political issue stirred you the most?

My gawd. Women’s rights all the way. #MeToo


Who was the best new person you’ve met?

I met a ton of great people this year. David Levy in Italy, Traci Bair and Robert Levinstein in “This One’s For The Girls”, Cait Weisensee and Clinton Powell via my theater company, and every one of my students who I met this year. It’s really been a good year, all things considered.


What valuable life lesson did you learn in 2017?

That I’ve suffered a great deal emotionally/mentally from having cancer, and I deserve to have that treated. Anxiety and depression are no joke, and they have made it a very difficult year. But it is a year where I also triumphed in huge ways.


What song lyrics sum up your year?

“This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys

She's just a girl, and she's on fire
Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway
She's living in a world, and it's on fire
Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away

Oh, she got both feet on the ground
And she's burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she's not backing down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire

Looks like a girl, but she's a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you'll never forget her name
She's on top of the world
Hottest of the hottest girls say

Oh, we got our feet on the ground
And we're burning it down
Oh, got our head in the clouds
And we're not coming down

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire


Everybody stands, as she goes by
Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes
Watch her when she's lighting up the night
Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl
And it's a lonely world
But she gon' let it burn, baby, burn, baby

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She's walking on fire
This girl is on fire
Oh, oh, oh,

She's just a girl and she's on fire


Happy New Year!

GET IN HERE 2018!
Erin  :)




Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The New Me

As I have talked about in previous blog posts, one of the hardest parts of getting breast cancer is dealing with the physical changes due to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. And there a double whammy with these changes. Not only have they taken a physical and mental toll, but they also wreaked havoc on my career. Because as an actor body image impacts just about everything. It’s not just what you look like, but how you feel in your own skin that makes a difference.

For a few years I put “making money” as an actor on hold as I worked to build up The Seeing Place (my theater company.) But at the beginning of 2015 I made a new commitment to dust off the ol’ headshots & resumes, get back onto the casting websites, and start submitting myself for paying work again. And just as I started to do that, I got my cancer diagnosis and everything stopped. Just stopped. First, it was recovering from surgery. Then, it was being sick during 5 months of chemotherapy. Then, it was having to find the energy to drag myself to radiation treatments every single day for 7 weeks. Once all of this was done in April, one would think that I would be able to start auditioning right away. But the side effects lingered on, and not in ways that I anticipated.

It’s been really upsetting knowing that I had the time to pursue work as an actor but the psycho-emotional/physical impact of the disease and treatment have kept me from putting myself out there. First, I don’t know if I can adequately describe what it’s like to look in the mirror and see someone you don’t know staring back at you. I felt like my identity was ripped from me and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I’d look in the mirror and see an alien - puffed up skin with no eyelashes or eyebrows, short stubby hair, sunken eyes. I hated myself so much that I didn’t take any pictures during this time. I actively avoided the camera unless I was making some kind of funny face - because then at least we could all laugh about what I was doing and we could overlook the way I appeared.

As I’ve mentioned, I lost my hair so it’s taken some time for it to grow to a length that I feel comfortable sharing with the world. I gained about 15 pounds during treatment due to the steroids they had me on to combat chemo side effects. All of the weight that was gained went to my upper body (which is very rare for me but apparently common for steroid weight gain.) Not only did none of my clothes fit, but I hated the way I looked in photos. My face felt fat and my upper body seemed to overwhelm any photo I was in. I was very ashamed of the way I looked, and even though I knew it wasn’t my fault I felt guilty that I couldn’t get my body under control.

It’s taken me about 8 months and I’m just now starting to recognize a “me” that I can relate to and feel comfortable putting out there. I’ve lost almost all of the weight I gained so now I’m working to get to a pre-cancer weight. My scars are starting to heal - they still itch and ache, and I still have tons of swelling that causes pain, but for the most part that can be covered up with clothing. And I’m so relieved to know that my stylist has found a haircut that works for my face and I’m really loving it. I put in a streak of hot pink in my hair as a sort of gift to myself for everything I had gone through. (By the way, one thing that’s weird - sometimes I feel like I have a ponytail and I go to grab it and it’s not there! Is that like a phantom limb? A phantom ponytail??) And in the last few weeks I have started to get some of my old energy back.

So...

It’s time for me to re-introduce myself to the acting community. A new me. And it all starts with new headshots.

I was very nervous for the photo session. I wrote to the photographer that I was anxious about looking heavy in my photos, and I was also questioning my choice to keep the pink in my hair. I just couldn’t bear to remove it, though, and my photographer reassured me that we could do retouching on the photos if I ever took the pink out. So I swallowed all of my fears and last Friday I traveled to the Upper West Side to shoot with Mendez Photography. I had a lot of fun, and though I was a little restrained throughout the process I got some really great shots out of it.

Here are a few from the proofs - they have not been retouched yet so be kind!

Photos by Mendez Photography

I’ve done the task of figuring out exactly the type of work I want to be doing and how I want to promote myself for that work (also known as “branding” in our industry.) So my next step is to update my website and all of the casting websites with my new materials and start putting myself out there. The hope is that I’ll be able to reignite things that way I wanted to before I got sick. And maybe, just maybe, this illness will yield deeper, more expressive work that will bring me an income that will make living in NYC easier and more fulfilling.

---

To see my description of what happened the day I was diagnosed, check out my first post, “Yes, I Have Breast Cancer.” And here is a link to all of my cancer posts.

To experience the art I’ve created through grief, come see me in the play GETTING OUT with The Seeing Place Theater - July 16-August 7, 2016.

---


Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Your Brain On Cancer

When something traumatic happens in your life, the moment it occurs it's burned into your memory and in your body, never to be forgotten. It’s how people know where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, when the Challenger exploded, when the Twin Towers fell.

On May 15, 2015 I received a phone call that is similarly burned into my memory. The phone call was from a radiologist telling me that the breast tissue they biopsied the day before was, indeed, cancer.

Cancer. Me. Cancer.

From that moment on I was whipped into a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments and disbelief, decisions and numbness, advice and anger and crippling fear.

I remember distinctly that the medical team said that in a year, treatment would be done and I’d be embarking on a new, cancer-free life. They said that this year would fly by, but I didn’t believe them. How could a year that would be filled with 3 surgeries, 5 months of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of radiation, and countless biopsies, scans and tests, “fly by”?

What’s so troubling about this whole concept is not only that they were right - it’s that I barely remember any of it.

Of course I remember all of the details and events, I’m not saying that I have amnesia. But somehow my mind has shellacked those details with a layer of “remove” that keeps me from remembering how hard it was, how much pain I felt, how much fear and anxiety I had, and how alone I felt. Someone might think this remove is a good thing, but I’m feel robbed of the experience that has newly shaped me, and shaped me so completely. To be honest, I feel numb. Numb... all the time.

People ask me how it was to go through chemo and I say, “I tolerated it really well, luckily.” They ask about what it was like to try to save my hair and I say, “It was really hard to lose it, but I’m glad I look ok with short hair.” They ask how I feel these days and I say, "I'm getting better and better!" It’s like I’ve forgotten how devastating the whole ordeal was, to be reduced to sound bites of optimism. The day to day difficulties are just glossed over so that my experience is only as palpable as my last headache or my last heartbreak.

And I’m not meaning to do this. It’s how my brain is allowing things to be remembered in those moments.

I know why the mind does that. It’s such a miraculous thing - it shields the psyche from giving us too much to deal with. How amazing is that? The brain has a way to cloud memory so we don’t remember the depth of physical or emotional trauma. And I could go on very nicely under this guise and just rebuild my life, but I always have this nagging feeling that I’m overlooking something, and I don’t want to do that. The intuitive empath in me won’t let me ignore myself for long.

After treatment ended in April I began seeing a therapist, because I knew that finding healthy ways to manage stress would be important in maintaining my health going forward. What I learned was that there was far more to deal with than just stress management. Unfortunately, I learned that there’s a new battle on the horizon, one that rears its head only after treatment is over -- the battle for my mental well-being.

One of the things I had been beating myself about was the fact that I didn’t “take advantage” of the extra time I had to reflect and plan while I was in treatment. I had reduced my work schedule and had every intention of being proactive with my down time to really focus on my emotional needs. (As I type this, I recognize the oxymoron of that last statement -- being proactive with my downtime? Hello!!) What I found was that I was too tired, physically depressed, and emotionally numb to focus on anything other than surviving the damned treatment. And the workhorse in me has seen that as lazy and self-indulgent.

Is it turns out, there was no real way to deal with my mental health while in a physical battle for my life. We all know that chemo and radiation have devastating effects on the body, so naturally all of my effort went into into merely staying alive. My therapist invited me to see my first year post-physical treatment as the time to be in emotional/mental treatment - which means I’m right on schedule, and at least 8 more months of mental healing to deal with.

So I’m going to be spending some time reflecting on my experiences and posting them here. I’m sharing on this blog for a variety of reasons. One - I hope that other cancer patients & survivors might find some comfort and solidarity in what I'm writing. Two - I hope that I can help people understand what happens to someone who goes through a trauma like this - just because treatment is done we are not "fine" or "finished." Three - I want a place where I’m forced to be open, because it’s way too comfortable to shut everyone and everything out (especially for introverts like me.)

So... I thought I would share some stream consciousness I wrote on the anniversary of my diagnosis:


May 15, 2016.
One year ago today was a Friday.
It’s the day I found out I had breast cancer.

I lost my innocence that day.
The innocence that made me believe that if you do all the right things you’ll be safe.
Because cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Being good doesn’t get you a pass.

I became isolated that day.
Doctors don’t always know the “right” thing to say.
Their focus is on getting rid of the cancer first. All else comes second.
Friends. Family. Colleagues...don’t always know the “right” thing to say.
They just want you to be fine.
And you’re a jerk if you tell them just how un-fine you really are.
Because no one wants to know the truth.
They say they do, but then you have to take care of them, too.

I became a “warrior” that day.
And all other kinds of ridiculous nicknames.
I don’t want to be a fucking warrior for fighting a disease.
I want to be a warrior because I fight for my theater company to have a voice, I fight for actors to find empowerment, I fight to be the best friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, aunt, boss, coach I can be.
Not for getting cancer. Fucking cancer. I didn’t choose that fight.

I became a sage that day.
Because when I was in high school I had this small inner voice that told me that I would get cancer. That statistics can be in my favor all they want to be, but someone is always on the wrong side of those numbers, and I knew that would be me.
Years later I now accept that my mind and body just know things sometimes.

I became lost that day.
The path has always been obvious, and when it hasn’t I created one for myself.
Now, I know I’m still moving but everything is murky.
Everything has weight. Everything has meaning.

As I type innocence, isolation, warrior, sage, lost - I experience these things like they happened that first time. I’m grieving. I’m aching. And a new experience starts to grow.

If I’m lost, that means there’s nothing left than to be found.
I lost “innocent” but found “sage.”
If I was called a warrior, it must mean I had something to fight for.

Damn it.

I don’t want to be a better person for having had cancer.
I don't want to be an after-school special on self-love.

But even when I want to revel in the darkness, I recognize that’s only defined by the light. And as I allow myself to grief, I start to feel healed. I start to feel lost, and then I realize that I can take ANY path I choose because I can’t see the old one anyway.

So this blog may reveal pain and anguish as I trace my steps at each milestone a year ago, but I’m starting to see that it’s the only way to find my way back to center.

Thanks for bearing with me.


---

To see my description of what happened the day I was diagnosed, check out my first post, “Yes, I Have Breast Cancer.” And here is a link to all of my cancer posts.

To experience the art I’ve created through grief, come see me in the play GETTING OUT with The Seeing Place Theater - July 16-August 7, 2016.

---

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.


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