I like to think that I am a strong person. In fact, I believe that sometimes I am too good at being strong, or at least what I’ve always previously believed strong should look like. I’ve spent a lifetime being the person all my friends come to for advice, not because I know everything but because I listen and try my best to give non-judgmental advice from the perspective of what I would do. I like to think I am pretty good at handling the rejection of the acting world. As a make-up artist, I don’t take it personally if I am asked to redo someone’s make-up, I mean hey, we all have our own preferences right? If I felt an emotion I actually let myself live in that moment. In a lot of ways I used to live my life in the kind of truthful way I strive for in my acting work. However, like with all things in life, something happened that changed me, and I’m just recently realizing how much.
October of 2013 my boyfriend’s defibrillator shocked him 23 times. During the week he was in the hospital he was so drugged up and terrified that he was unable to pay attention to what doctors were telling him, so I had to be the one to listen. After 5 days of being in the cardiac ICU too scared to sleep, I went home to try and sleep for 3 hours. When I returned I found him unable to talk and on the brink of a stroke. If I had arrived 20 minutes later it might have been too late. During that week I went into a survival mode I didn’t know I was capable of. I would go to the bathroom and give myself 2 minutes to cry and then I would take a deep breath, walk out the door and be strong. That week changed my perspective on life, it made not booking a role seem less important, it made not having my make-up kit stocked with Armani trivial. It made me appreciate how fleeting our human lives really are. But in that week I also lost a part of me, the side that let myself feel.
Going through a traumatic experience results in different outcomes for everyone. For me, I subconsciously taught myself a breathing technique that literally helps me push down every painful thing I’m feeling. Unfortunately I didn’t leave it at the hospital. For the last 2 years I have pushed down every painful and fearful human emotion that I so easily used to let myself feel because I thought that’s what strong needed to mean; going into an autopilot of fake smiles and stinging eyes. I didn’t even realize it until I went back home to Seattle and stared at the building I grew up in that was now boarded and condemned for demolition. My stomach dropped to the floor, my eyes stung with tears threatening to fall and just like clock work I took a big ol’ breath and pushed it down. I remember looking to my parents whom were both crying and asking me how I was dealing so well, the truth was, I wasn’t dealing at all.
I always tell people when they get mad at themselves for feeling something (like missing an ex when they feel they should already be over them), to give themselves a break because they’re only human. We are WIRED to feel. I am an actor because I’ve always loved playing in that world where you are open to all emotions and by doing so allow the audience to vicariously live in that world of “what ifs?” I am realizing now that I have been denying myself the most human experience of all because I have convinced myself that feeling is weak and at my core that is the OPPOSITE of what I believe.
It’s hard to hold up a mirror sometimes, but I’m really glad I am seeing myself clearly for the first time in 2 years. My last trip to Seattle was hard because I stood looking at the hole of where my childhood home stood and I let myself feel every knife cutting pain. It wasn’t just the sadness I was feeling from seeing that, it was the release of 2 years of pent up pain that had been begging to be let out. That hole was the crack in the dam of my emotions and it poured out. Truth be told I haven’t really stopped crying since but it feels good to cry, hell, it feels good to feel.
With any lesson learned I am going to try and not judge myself too harshly, I am however, going to embrace what real strength is.
Hello, my name is Malia and I am human.