Hey, You Should Do A Podcast

To be frank- I’m going through a season of discontent. The regular gig isn’t rewarding these days and my calendar is currently very open. So I’m bored out of my mind and going stir crazy. In times like this, it is very easy for me to wallow in self-pity. Which I absolutely have been, I won’t try to deny that. Times like this also drive me to take a step back, and assess my short and long term goals. Am I making active efforts to make them happen? Or am I just soothing my emotional pain by watching hours of YouTube videos?

What am I doing to improve myself as a person and as an artist?

Then once I force myself to look at things differently, I think about what I can do to change the current situation. Go to every audition? Submit to every casting call I find online? Sure. There are some emails I’d really like to see in my inbox this month. But I can’t spend all my time refreshing my Gmail. Thats a pretty pathetic hobby.

So its time to do something new. Something that allows me to strengthen different skills, and maybe even learn some new ones.

Everybody starts somewhere. So this is my new beginning. Welcome to Camp Stories.

Camp Stories is an anthology series, a fictional narrative podcast. Season 1 is written as the personal journal of Liz, a first-time summer camp counselor. Each episode spans a week of her summer at Camp Harwood as she navigates personal and professional challenges and opportunities. Honestly, it reads more like an audiobook broken up into weekly chapters than a podcast, but I have no plans to release a print version.

I know that some listeners will assume this season is a thinly veiled autobiography. After all, once upon a time I was a camp counselor. And if you’ve made it all the way to my blog, you’ve definitely heard me tell stories about my time at camp. But they won’t be a part of this podcast. This is a work of fiction. Are there similarities between myself and our leading lady this season? Absolutely! But her story is one that I hope all kinds of people can connect with. Its about starting a new adventure, self-discovery, and having the courage to live a story worth telling. Those are feelings I experienced when I first started working at summer camp in 2010. They are also feelings I’m experiencing today, as I plan out what the next chapter of my life will look like. There will be plenty of Easter eggs and references to my time at summer camp, but no characters or plot lines are based off specific people or events. Trust me. My time at camp was phenomenal, but it isn’t the story I plan on telling through this project.

Production-wise, I’m experimenting. I’ve been sitting on this idea for years, unsure if it will translate well for an audience. Each script is written in the same week as it is recorded and published, as if we’re catching up with Liz at the end of each week at camp. I’m recording on a $20 microphone from Amazon, piecing the tracks together on GarageBand, and uploading to Soundcloud. Artistically, this allows the character to come through, as if Liz is recording the entries and uploading them herself. Functionally, this makes it possible for me to produce in my desired schedule. It won’t be fancy, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

I don’t know if you’ll like it, hate it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be. I’ve made something. All me! Not under a cartoon alias in someone else’s costume. Written by Maddie Hammond. Read by Maddie Hammond. Produced by Maddie Hammond. Uploaded by Maddie Hammond.

I have a few personal goals for this project. I want people to enjoy it. It’ll be great background audio while you’re driving, folding laundry, or taking a bath. It isn’t meant to be provocative, or make you think. Its just for fun. Easy listening. I also see this as an opportunity to improve my writing, vocal strength, and storytelling. That way, the next project I take on can be even better. I’ll be even stronger.

Plus, my biography needs some spicing up. Xin Xia Ji!

Greatness Comes From Boredom… And Fear Of Not Being Able To Pay Rent

The starving artist trope is part of our collective unconscious for a reason- work for a performer can be very feast or famine. Sometimes, we work three gigs in a day because we can’t say no to an opportunity we to do what we love. Other times, a triple day is the result of panicking about being able to pay next month’s bills. It truly is a glamorous life we live.

I was talking with a coworker about this today, about her three shifts in 12 hours and how I have a crazy two weeks ahead of me. In the beginning of January, I was uncertain of what was ahead of me work-wise. The holidays are a great time to work here in Orlando, but the spring can be… dry. No corporate holiday parties that need stilt walkers, you know? As much as I love what I do, every job has sucky parts to it. The sucky part to mine is that I basically live season-to-season, always ready to pick up a retail job to supplement my income.

So picture me sitting at my laptop a few weeks ago, EIGHT browser tabs open with half-complete job applications. An exciting start to 2019. I had four days off that week, four off the next, and I was starting to get concerned. My brain is happiest when I’m working (as is my wallet). I minimized the tabs out of boredom and started scouring any and all audition resources, and submitted my information to some projects that were a little out of my comfort zone.

I’m sharing this not-so-fun time because I know there are people in my community who look at me and think “wow, she’s really made it”. I’m sure there are plenty who look at me and think “wow, she’s so new to all this”. I’m comfortable with that. Honesty is the best policy, and this is my true life as an entertainer.

Because I threw my name in a lot of metaphorical hats, I’ve had some really cool work opportunities come up. I know that what I’m about to do in the next two weeks is basically a full resume for a performer. I’m cartooning, spokeswoman-ing, PA-ing, and doing a parade. I get to work out of town! This month, my greatness is coming from a need to pay the rent. Fun and exciting times, all as a result of being scared about my bills and adult responsibilities. And I didn’t even have to get a retail job (yet).

But what about the other times, when money is good? Isn’t it easy to just show up to work, perform a little, and leave? Go home at the end of the day, make some mac ‘n’ cheese, and watch Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! again? Maybe. I can do that for about a week before I get bored out of my mind. Sure I can change it up, watch Sex and the City, eat a salad, and go to the gym. That really spices things up… for another few days. But the boredom quickly creeps back up, and I’m looking for my next new thing to get excited about.

I attribute my success as a performer to my constant drive to do new things. To be better. To book every role I can. The big fun gigs, and the silly little ones. Anything that lets me put on a different costume and live as a different character. Not every role gets me a great Instagram post, or the respect of those higher on the professional ladder than me, but every role I’ve done has been wonderful in its own way. I become a better artist and a better person with each new opportunity, which is why I’m always chasing the next big thing. And to me, that is the key to achieving greatness.

 

Choosing Love Over a Desk

In the summer of 2013, I decorated my flimsy brown camp counselor clipboard with all sorts of things. Triangles, anchors, and sailboats are pretty much all I’ve ever been good at doodling, so those images were visible to everyone on the backside of the clipboard. On the front, beneath all my attendance rosters, camper evaluations, attempts at new signatures, and lists of what to buy at Meijer, I had written a quote to keep myself focused on life post-camp. “A life lived for art is never a life wasted” -Macklemore. I’d catch myself staring down at it a few times a day, reminding myself that performing is what I loved, and if I worked hard enough, I might have a shot at making it my profession after college and my summers spent teaching sailing.

One day, I asked a friend (who would later become much more) to call attendance while I figured some boat stuff out. He and his buddy felt the need to flip through my papers afterwards, and found my quote. They thought it was lame, and spent a big chunk of time on the sailing porch that day making me feel bad about being inspired by a Macklemore song. Those boys really succeeded in making me feel small that afternoon. For the rest of that summer, I avoided looking at the lyric that had once given me hope and focus. I felt like a pathetic loser every time my eyes fell on those black letters.

I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential.

Fast-forward a few years to winter 2015. I was grinding HARD at UCF. I was directing a pageant, leading a publication, blogging every day, working part-time, and taking “more than the recommended number of credits”. With a few business internships under my belt and a standing job offer in an office for after graduation, I had a lot going for me as “Business Maddie”. The big problem? It wasn’t where my heart was.

I had been aggressively getting involved in college activities outside the classroom in an attempt to move out of the business space. Because I was so close to finishing my marketing degree, I was determined to get it done. But even then, I knew that post-graduation, I would not be working in an office. Traditional works for a lot of people. A lot of people wanted traditional to work for me. But traditional has NEVER worked for me. By this time, I’d worked a few little performing jobs, and I was hooked. I didn’t know how I would make an entertainment career work, but I knew there was no other path for me. Every time I saw a live performance, I would cry thinking about life chained to a desk. Dramatic? Probably. But performing has always been my one great love. Entertaining has always been my everything. I had some critical adults (and peers) try to trick me out of chasing my love, and could finally recognize and process that. The only way I’d ever ACTUALLY be a pathetic loser is if I gave up on that dream. I started to pour all my energy into auditioning for everything I could, and in January 2016, I finally got noticed. It was the beginning of a new life.

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint // the greats were great because they’d paint a lot.

Now, nearing the end of 2018, I feel incredibly grateful. I have made a living almost exclusively as an entertainer this year. I’ve had a few side jobs here and there, but mostly to keep myself entertained between gigs or have a change of scenery. It isn’t always easy waking up and dragging myself to every audition I can find, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. I’ve had some wonderful, weird, and wonderfully weird work experiences this year. I’ve tested my limits and discovered some weaknesses. Occasionally I think about how doing something else would be easier in a lot of ways, how some stability would be nice. Maybe I could do some more “normal” 26-year-old stuff for a bit. But for me, true joy is making other people smile, giving them (and myself) an escape. With some new projects on the horizon, I couldn’t be happier to live an “alternative” life. I’m out here choosing love over a desk every single day.

Macklemore’s Ten Thousand Hours came up on a Spotify daily mix yesterday, and I nearly cried hearing the first note. To me, that song is everything. From the first time I heard it years ago to this morning on the way to the coffee shop to write, every listen has filled me with hope, inspiration, and the motivation to put in my ten thousand hours. I’m reminded of everyone who has ever made me feel small, and am given a renewed strength to rise above.

A life lived for art is never a life wasted.

Finding Joy In A Routine

“The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.”
― Vilayat Inayat Khan

Working as a performer makes finding a routine… challenging. Some days, my hours are similar to a “normal” 9-5 job. I’ll make a stop for coffee on my commute to work, have scheduled times to eat, and be able to get to bed at what an average person would call a reasonable hour. Other days, not so much. It isn’t uncommon for me to work three places in a day, travel out of town, or have an overnight rehearsal. This schedule variety is both as freeing and nerve-wracking as one might imagine, though I tend to focus on being thankful for the adventure.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the unique pleasure of developing a routine for certain types of days- the days where my mornings are free and I work in the afternoon/evening/night. I’ll wake up, make myself breakfast, light a candle, and settle in at my bedroom desk. I put on a movie and play with my makeup. I drink tea and experiment and daydream and practice my skills. I check out from everyone else’s reality and enjoy my alone time. Last week, I discovered the trick to winged eyeliner on my uniquely shaped lids!

I find that on work days where I practice this routine in the morning, I am happier. I can tell by the actions of my coworkers that I am more fun to work with (I’m a big believer in receiving back the energy you give). The little challenges I might encounter seem even more minute, and I enjoy performing even more.

Now, I’m working on a nighttime routine. I haven’t quite hit my stride yet, but so far it involves tea, candles, face masks, and time to be introspective. Time to practice gratitude, time to reflect, time to write and journal. More time in my own little world. A creative routine to recharge my spirit.

Now Playing: Front Porch by Spotify

Now Burning: White Pumpkin Latte

Now Drinking: Raspberry Hibiscus Herbal Tea

Buy The Damn Dress

Do you ever have those moments where you put on a dress and think to yourself, “Damn, self. You look great.” I do. Rarely. But when I do, I fall in love.

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I spent a year in college “fashion blogging”. I liked writing and creating, and it definitely scored me some internships, but it totally turned my love of fashion off. I wasn’t writing for myself, I was writing to gain popularity in a world of Insta-worthy bloggers. There was a strict formula to follow, and it never felt genuine to me. I still have the site URL active, but have all the posts hidden. This is better for the world, really, it turned to absolute shit toward the end. I also stopped loving getting dressed in the morning. My uniform of basic tanks and cutoff denim shorts has remained routine for the past two years.

But lets get back on track. Last summer, I was walking around Disney Springs, wasting time and scouting photo shoot locations. I wandered into Free People, as one does. I planned on buying nothing, as one does. Then I fell in love, as one does. Toward the front of the store, a rack of gauzy dresses pulled me in like a Venus flytrap. I’m a sucker for dresses I can twirl in.

I pulled two off the rack- a white tank dress that looked like it was made for a Coachella mummy, and a little periwinkle number that screamed fairy princess. “Just to try on” I assured myself. LOL Mads, good one.

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SURPRISE, BITCH! YOU LOOK FAB! The dresses were made for my thin frame, and made me feel like a summery mermaid. But could I justify spending upwards of $150 on a single dress just because I finally felt self-confident for the first time since getting back home from vacation?

I left the store with a handful of photos I’d taken in the dressing room, and booked my inspired ass to the fabric story in search of some airy cotton fabric. I was going to make my own little knockoff. $27 later, I was home, armed with five yards of fabric and some assorted lace trim. I started cutting, no pattern. I could calculate mentally, right? I had a vision. Two snips in, and I knew my imagination wasn’t gonna cut it. I could probably make my own dress eventually, but I had been texting photos of the FP dresses to my friends all night. It was like in every romantic comedy where the ingenue has her first encounter with the hottie of her dreams. Those dresses were all I could think about until I fell asleep, and they were the first thing I thought about when I woke up the next morning.

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You know what I did next? I went back. I got my periwinkle dream dress. Did seeing the number on the credit card authentication screen bum me out? A little. But I had just gotten a long-awaited paycheck, I was going to be fine.

I went to a bathroom, changed into the dream dress, and felt a wave of calm confidence wash over me. I felt like a queen again.

So what’s the moral of this story? #treatyoself

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Ultamate Rewards Haul

To my friends- if you don’t shop at Ulta for makeup, you’re a moron.

To any strangers out there- see above.

Ulta Beauty’s rewards program is the best out there. You receive points per dollar spent, which can be redeemed for free stuff THAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT in the form of money off future purchases. For a full breakdown of how it all works, check out Ulta’s website. The way I see it though, there is one way to redeem points. Save them up! 2000 points equals $125 off a purchase, aka $125 of any store merchandise that you pick. Not just a sad thumbnail-sized blush sample (looking at you, Sephora).

Points add up quickly, especially if you take advantage of deals like 2x, 3x, 5x, and even 10x points when Ulta offers them. When I get an email saying “5x points on all Neutrogena products”, you’d better believe that I stock up on face soap and makeup wipes. I buy everything at Ulta that I can (razor blades are expensive and I’d rather get points at Ulta than buy them elsewhere), and use the Salon at Ulta on the rare occasion where I get my hair done.

I’ve hit the 2000 point mark a few times now, and every time I’m excited to redeem them. A lot of my makeup collection comes from point redemption, including my Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette, Too Faced Sweet Peach Eyeshadow Palette, Urban Decay Full Spectrum Eyeshadow Palette, five Urban Decay Vice Lipsticks, a handful of brushes, a few foundations, eyeliners, and mascaras. Last week, it was time for another shopping spree!

This is probably my most reasonable haul to date. I’ve been thinking about buying a 1″ curling iron for awhile, and was pleasantly surprised to find this one on sale. The razor blades were on sale too, so I stocked up. The two items I’m most excited about are the Too Faced Natural Matte and the Ardell Magnetic Lashes.

I wear eye shadow almost every day, and prefer more “earthy” and “natural” tones. Too Faced makes my favorite shadows (I love that they’re scented), so this little guy was what I wanted to bring home next. I’m loving it so far!

The magnetic lashes are… interesting. There is a learning curve involved with getting them on that I definitely haven’t mastered yet, but I believe in myself! They looked good enough for me to perform with them on the other day, and I really liked how clean they are. I left my makeup on between jobs, and it was nice to be able to remove my lashes for a more casual job #2 look. I would recommend them to anyone who is up for learning something new!

And all of the above I got for free because I know how to use the system. Occasionally out of convenience I’ll pick up a nail polish at Target, and sometimes I need a product that is exclusively sold at Sephora. Nine times out of ten though, I beauty shop at Ulta. The shopping sprees are worth it!

Thrift Store Treasure: Black Midi Skirt

Midi skirt for me at least…

This XXL black maxi skirt wasn’t even a diamond in the rough, I just gathered the fabric tightly around the drawstring and viola! A fluffy, flowy, witchy black midi skirt. No alterations required and perfect for a tall girl!

Naturally the only photos I have of this skirt on my body are mirror selfies I took on break at work, but they do the trick! Pairing the skirt with a casual tee and packing on the accessories made me feel like a fortune teller. This casual work outfit is perfect for keeping my legs warm in the air conditioning of the store!