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Thursday, February 27, 2014

He Who Knows When He Can Fight and When He cannot, Will Be Victorious



He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
~ Sun Tzu
When the enemy (forces within or with out) is closing in and the battle seems un-winnable, when the odds are good but slightly stacked against you, when giving up the fight seems like the only course of action to take—this is the time to ask for help, a help that will help you hold onto or win a crucial victory.

Conversely the idea to strike the proverbial iron when it’s hot is always a good idea.

I’m using this post to do something I’ve never done before in the 1.5 years of this blog's existence—ask for help. 

This battle I write to you about seems winnable, but the odds are heavily stacked against me. I can’t be the single flag bearer on this battlefield. I need your help.  I need a regiment, a brigade, an army, YOU

If you know me, then by now you know I’m a huge advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. I lost my grandfather (1966), my father (2009), and nearly made an attempt on my own life (2011) before getting help (More on my personal story HERE). On a global scale, 1,000,000 (one million) people die each year by suicide— it’s a deadly, yet preventable public health issue (In the US, the number is 38,000 deaths by suicide). 

This particular battle I speak of is one where I’m putting on a benefit (funding and awareness) for suicide prevention May 16-18... and I’m using theatre to do it. I’m bringing back to New York City my very own one-man play The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, Off Broadway, and with a new script. 

Why? The iron is hot. The Gospel... has been on an international tour for several years and it’s been helping save lives (A sample list of testimonials HERE). But we can do MORE. It’s time to bring it back to the biggest stage in the world—New York City—and it’s time to bring suicide prevention and the emotional wellbeing of humans into the public conscience. I... no WE can do this together. 

How can you help?  Simply, you can tell someone you know about The Gospel’s ... return to New York City in May... and of course I’d love to have you there as well. We’re also working on an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to raise funding so we can stay open for longer than one weekend in New York City. With your help we can stay open for eight more weeks!! Theater rent along with marketing and advertising costs are quite large but we can do it together. Check out our IndieGoGo campaign to learn a little more about what we’re trying to do (and to get tickets to the show!!). If you can drop in a couple of bucks, or if you know of someone else in your world who can help—it truly makes all the difference in the world. We only have till April 1, to complete funding on this. 

No celebrity will lend their name to the cause of suicide prevention, no organization outside of the non-profit or government arena will do this work, and so it’s up to me, no US to do this work in such a unique way using the power of theatre.

I know when I can fight and I know when I can’t. And I can’t do this one alone. I need your spirit and your voice—to help me honor those who we’ve lost and to help those people speak who need an extra helping hand to stay alive. 

With humble thanks,
Josh



:)

PS. in bounds of good taste, I promise not to continually ask for help with this nor will I spam you about it either. Small, brief reminders will be at the bottom of blog posts only through April 1

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Last Day of my 20s, the Next Hurrah, and a Salute to my 30s




Honestly, I’ve been mulling this one for several weeks. The last day of my twenties. What to do, who to reach out to, what to write.  So much to do before crossing the threshold of the unknown and into my thirties.

The last stanza of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening popped into my head. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/
But I have promises to keep/
And miles to go before I sleep/
And miles to go before I sleep.

I’ve got a lot of promises to keep while moving into my thirties—promises to people past, present, and future in my life. 

1) Help will always be a dominant presence in my life—freely giving and receiving. For much of my twenties, help wasn’t something offered or asked for… and it was sorely missed. I found that asking for help improved my quality of life not just on a survival level but on level that helped me thrive—the process can be compared to a human inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, both are a necessary part of keeping a person alive. I promise to always ask for help and always do my best to provide help.  

2) You will always know how I feel about you and it will be spoken with compassion. Miscommunication is the kiss of death. If I love you, I will tell you more often and more importantly will show you with my actions. If something is bothering me, I will mention it and also work to see it as a moment for self-reflection. I promise to be explicit in my words and actions. Life is too short for anything else

For some, thirty can seem like a large flashing number the size of a Times Square billboard, reminding them of a life unfulfilled. However, the time for redemption and action is now—little moments that will one day add up to a mountain of evidence that you took control of your life. 

There’s so much work to do tomorrow, much less an entire decade, to be worried about one’s legacy. On a personal level, I have people to see, relationships to water, books to write, shows to put on, new places to see, and time to be a part of the healing process. The large flashing “3” and “0” are there only to remind one to look up every now and then, to appreciate the trail you’re currently on, and to drink in the sights and sounds. 

An enormous “thank you” for being a sign-post or even a full-fledged partner while I chart the path on which I currently forge. You own a piece of the lessons I learn and the successes as well. I’m truly grateful.

--

We need your help! After a three year, sixty city tour we're bringing our "Little Engine that Could" The Gospel According to Josh back to the biggest stage in the world: New York City, Off-Broadway in May 2014. We're using the Off-Broadway run to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health services. Please consider donating to our IndieGoGo campaign (HERE) to help bring this back to NYC and help save lives.
Please help me show the world that it's possible to fall down, to struggle, to come to the edge of hitting the self-destruct button... and to fight and claw your way back to find love, hope, health, and life.
I need your help! Donate HERE or consider sharing it with a friend or loved one. Every little bit of support counts!! Thank you!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Sem (12)

This is the twelfth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.)  Here we have Sem (and edits by Emily Zeng) with "An Oasis of Friendship that Revived my Soul."
--

In the winter of my sophomore year of college, I felt like a cliché. I was in a slump - socially and scholastically. I was sleeping less and eating more, isolating myself from making new friends, and alienating longstanding ones through ignoring calls or sending passive-aggressive instant messages. I was missing class and nearly missing due dates of my class assignments. I felt bad that I did not have the emotional energy to be as supportive as I wished to my family as my maternal grandmother was recovering from a heart attack. During some evenings (and even mornings), I considered withdrawing all of the money (about $460) from my bank account, taking a train to the other side of the nation, and trying at least to start again as a blank slate, or at least one whose ink did not feel quite as wet. 

In the midst of one particularly intense period when it was hard to face the outside world, I would not answer the door for people who wanted to visit my dorm room for the next year to decide if they wanted to live there. The fact that they wished to see my room, a collection of inanimate objects, and not me, was a reminder of the pathos I was feeling. In response to their knocking, I literally went into the closet, shut the door, and called a friend at another school. As we talked, I imagined the confused facial expressions of the people waiting outside. I felt bad but not bad enough to let them inside. I consoled myself with the fact that next year I would be living with one of the few close friends I had on campus.

Having felt this way and sought therapy previously, I was aware that I was experiencing the signs and symptoms of depression. I looked for help in a myriad of ways. Upon the recommendation of a kind practitioner at campus Health Services, I purchased a humidifier to help with sleep. Despite never plugging it in, I eventually began sleeping better. I resumed counseling with a seasoned therapist who provided a safe space in which to describe my often negative emotions and thoughts. My supervisor at work, for whom I am eternally grateful, validated my experiences of the school, particularly of not fitting in among the privileged, and at times, elitist atmosphere. I connected with classmates, mostly older graduate students who directly and indirectly challenged the loneliness and pessimism that had dominated my view of myself, the world, and the future. Speaking to and seeing friends and family of like minds and hearts who did not attend my school was also an oasis. Praying and listening to music (particularly the 10,000 Maniacs “In My Tribe” and Sheryl Crow’s “Tuesday Night Music Club”) lifted my spirits as well. 

Within this dysthymic era, there is one moment that helped propelled me into wellness. I had been trying in vain to study in the library when I learned very disheartening news. The person who had been my closest friend, and indeed the reason I applied to the school in the first place, was saying that she could not live with me next year as I was stressing her out too much.

I was fighting tears as I was ironically re-reading a passage about the applications of social psychology. As I was trying to cram into my already full mind information about theories of the power of the situation, I looked up and saw a classmate with whom I was beginning a friendship. I ardently respected and admired her – she was assertive yet still warm and had worked much harder than me to get and stay in this prestigious school. 

She approached me in the computer cluster and inquired if I wanted to study together later that evening. Desperately looking for companionship and motivation, I immediately agreed. 

En route to my new friend’s place, while listening in my Walkman to an audiotape of Sheryl’s “Leaving Las Vegas,” the clouds above seemed to become fluffier amidst the few stars peering through them. 

We had a great time and learned more about each other and social psychology. We consumed Lucky Charms, which she was able to procure given her dining hall position, while reading each other’s class notes and then watching “Something about Mary.” I had laughed for the first time in weeks and was able to put aside the sense of being betrayed, which had felt so palpable only hours earlier.

After that night, I felt like I had the energy to keep going and even sustain that momentum.  My friend’s support, without knowing much about what I was experiencing, showed me that despite my strong fears and beliefs, there were new caring people to meet and even befriend. Learning more about what my friend had endured was also inspiring and helped put some of my concerns into a larger perspective. I also realized that I was capable of change and reflection:  I could go from hiding in a closet to genuinely connecting with another soul and I could understand how I contributed to my friend not wanting to live with me. However, I also realized that I could still live with myself. 
--
Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 

Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.




Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Dodo Graveyard. Evolve or Die.


This is an open letter to myself on self-evolution. If you find something useful in it, then I wrote this for you as well...
If you work to maintain the status quo, the old way of doing things, you will experience your demise. Your demise might happen quickly but more than likely it will be a slow one—years full of disappointment and failure, maybe sprinkled in will be a few creature comforts.
But that is a self-imposed exile, a prison whose warden is fear and distrust. 
You have the power to change and to live in that fear. What is that fear by the way? Of failing? That no one will like you? That it won’t be good enough? My answer: so what. Everyone has failed at some point in their lives and gotten back up. Not everyone likes you (or me). And rarely is anything or everything good enough—just about every company has a return policy.Go out and learn a new skill, refine the quality of your services, set boundaries, keep in touch with old friends, change what it is you’re doing till it’s closest or is what you want to be doing and contributing to the person (or business) you want to be. Otherwise I’ll save a space for you in the Dodo graveyard.
--

We need your help! After a three year, sixty city tour we're bringing our "Little Engine that Could" The Gospel According to Josh back to the biggest stage in the world: New York City, Off-Broadway in May 2014. We're using the Off-Broadway run to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health services. Please consider donating to our IndieGoGo campaign (HERE) to help bring this back to NYC and help save lives.
Please help me show the world that it's possible to fall down, to struggle, to come to the edge of hitting the self-destruct button... and to fight and claw your way back to find love, hope, health, and life.
I need your help! Donate HERE or consider sharing it with a friend or loved one. Every little bit of support counts!! Thank you! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Irene Gonzalez (8)

This is the eighth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.)  Here we have Irene Gonzalez with "The Young Actress Who Lost the Part But Still Won Big "
--

My name is Irene, I am nineteen years old, and I live in New York City.  From the time I was a toddler, I’ve always loved performing on stage, a creative outlet that has now morphed into a fondness writing and running my site, Theater4Teens.com, where I share advice and interview Broadway stars.  

In middle school, I was living in Orlando, Florida and I took a road trip down to Miami to go to an audition for a television show on Nickelodeon with some friends. Me and eight of my friends waited in line together with several thousand other people. Everyone was dressed in his or her casual best but it was clear that everyone was trying to imitate what they were seeing on television—bright colors and perfect hair, each person a slightly different version of the next, borne from the same cookie cutter. 
I and each of my eight friends performed our respective auditions and no one got a call back. I was pretty upset—furious that I didn't show them the true “me” and worried that I came across like a total robot.

My mom, who was one of the chaparones on our trip to Miami, asked me and one of my friends, "What happens if you go back in line again?" We had come all this way and I knew that I could do better than my first try. The line was miles long and without telling the rest of the group, my mom took me and my friend to the back of the line and we joined in again. By this time it was 11:30 a.m. and the line completely covered the entire parking lot in a snake pattern. I looked at my mother with a blank stare and asked, “Really?” It seemed absurd to line up again, but she answered, “Why not? We will get as far as possible until someone says something and if they ask, we will not lie.”

After about another four hours in that line, we got to a point where they gave out stickers with numbers which guaranteed that we would be seen for an audition that day. The lady giving the numbers out asked her colleague, "Weren't those two girls here this morning?" My friend and I turned around quickly so we would not have to answer because we knew we couldn’t lie. My mom didn’t hear the question so we let her deal with the stickers. After that, my mom sent us to change our clothes into something less Disney Channel that displayed much more of our normal personality. 

Once we looked like ourselves again, we relaxed and practiced our auditions the entire day, and felt much more confident in the work we were doing. At about 8 p.m. we got close to the front of the line again and had to fill out a form with a few questions including "special skills." I had another big decision. I thought, “What in the world could I do that might stand out and be really memorable?”
Then it hit me. In middle school, I thought I could beat box so I wrote that down. In reality, I could barely do it. But I had nothing to lose so I scribbled “beat boxing” into the box that said “special skills” and left my fate up to the audition gods. 

My friend and I finally got in the audition room at 10 p.m. that night. We were among the very last people to be seen.  My second try was completely different than the first one earlier that morning. I walked into that room totally relaxed, confident, and just me. The lady behind the table commented on how she loved my dress and said they had just bought the same style for one of the shows they were doing. After that, I started reciting and acting out my lines. At the end, the character was supposed to say a line like a prisoner and instead of delivering the line like a robot speaking and making the same choice everyone else did, I got a little physical and put myself in this imaginary cell. They totally laughed. Then they surprised me and said, “Now do it beat boxing.” Without thinking, I did the line like a rap  This second time around, I was having fun and so was the casting crew. We had all had a long day, but we were all just normal people wanting to have fun at work. 

This time (wow), I got a call back to come in the next day to do more scene work, plus sing and dance. I stayed up all night studying the side and practicing the song I was going to do. The next day I went in wearing the same outfit I wore the day before. I wanted to make sure they remembered me. They put me on tape and I made everyone in the room laugh again and I belted out my song with no fear at all. 
Once I was completely myself and never held back or second-guessed myself, I rocked it! Everyone finally took notice of me and I was no longer just another kid auditioning. 

From then on, I knew that in order to really make it in this business, I had to be true to myself and never let others tell me how to act for the audition or how dress for the big day. Be fun and be natural and it will always set you apart. I got called back several other times but didn't get that coveted role on a Nickelodeon television show. But now that same casting director who auditioned me has become a great friend. It just goes to show you that sometimes you win even when you don’t get the part.

--
Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?" 
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 

Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.




Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Recap of Month 1, Writing for HuffPo



In the last month, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of writing regularly for The Huffington Post. For the moment, I’m writing on a smattering of topics that include mental health, men’s health, and the arts. Since not everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, or G+ I’ve decided to post parts of the first two articles here plus one bonus, which is the German translation of the first article that made it all the way to HuffPo Deutschland. In the coming months I'll be writing about the intersection of faith and mental health, more on the business side of the arts, and some TBDs. 
Thanks for reading this first month... and here goes: 
--
Real Men Talk About Their Feelings -- For Real
Men are willing to talk about the size of their prostate glands, or how much Viagra they're allowed to take, but they're still not willing to be open about their mental health.
If men want to live long, healthy and productive lives it's absolutely crucial that the dialogue surrounding men's mental health has to change.
I lost my father Douglas to suicide in 2009. Douglas lost his father Haakon to suicide in 1966. Each suffered from undiagnosed mental disorders and each suffered in silence because of the stigma surrounding men talking about and getting help for mental illness.
Haakon was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after having been shot down in Hamburg, Germany, in 1941. Douglas may have been clinically depressed for a very long time, but... READ MORE HERE
--
How to Create a Long-Term Legacy -- As the Protagonist of Your Own Story
When writing a play or book, there's always a least one character who qualifies as the story's protagonist. Some like to think of the protagonist as the hero of the story. For others, the protagonist is the chief, the principal or the title role. At some point very near to the beginning of the play, this main character should clearly state or imply what it is that they want and how they intend to get it. To amplify the drama and to make for a compelling tale for the audience or reader, it is our job as the writer to beat up on the protagonist and put obstacles in their way of getting what they want.
When writing scenes and dialogue, it is imperative to think about how each component furthers the storyline along. Does each written moment move the protagonist closer or further away from their goal or initial want? (There are no right answers here, just as long as you know where you're going.) But just because you can write snappy dialogue between four characters at once, or you're great at writing comedic foils, it doesn't necessarily mean it belongs in the piece you're writing. If you can make it flow, great, but shoving a square peg into a round hole doesn't do anyone any good.
The same goes with life and your legacy. The work you take on, the people you spend time with, the relationships that you enter -- do any or all of these further your personal story along, or are they a hinderance? READ MORE HERE
--
Depression: Echte Kerle reden über ihre Gefühle
Für Männer ist die Größe ihrer Prostata kein Tabuthema, auch nicht wie viele Viagras sie nehmen dürfen, aber wehe es geht um ihre geistige Gesundheit - da machen sie dicht.
Dabei ist genau dies der Schlüssel zu einem langen und produktiven Leben und daher muss sich die ganze Art ändern, mit der wir über die psychische Probleme von Männern reden. 
Mein Vater Douglas hat 2009 Selbstmord begangen. Sein Vater Haakon beging 1966 Selbstmord. Beide litten unter nicht diagnostizierten psychischen Erkrankungen und beide versuchten dies mit sich selbst auszumachen. Die Gesellschaft ließ nicht zu, dass Männer über Geisteskrankheiten redeten, geschweigen denn Hilfe dafür suchten.
Haakon war im ersten Weltkrieg 1941 über Hamburg abgeschossen worden und litt deswegen an einem Posttraumatischen Stresssyndrom. Ich glaube, dass Douglas schon lange klinisch depressiv war, aber dass meine Mutter die Scheidung einreichte, war der Auslöser (nicht der Grund) dafür, dass er sich das Leben nahm. READ MORE HERE

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Gerardo Bambu (7)

This is the seventh edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Gerardo Bambu with "A Brief Ode to Fatherhood ."

--

There is absolutely no better feeling in the world for me than that of being a father. My name is Gerardo Bambu, a transplant from Panama now living in New York City. I am a proud twenty-six year old father and husband. Each day I strive to give the best—all of me—for my family and the people whom I love, especially for my baby daughter, Saraii. 

Before discussing the topic of having children with my wife, I couldn’t even fathom how incredibly rewarding it is to be a father… but I also had no idea how much work it would be. When my daughter was just a few weeks old, I would stay up late for early morning feedings or to calm and hold our crying baby. This alone made me realize that it takes an incredible man to take on the responsibility of fatherhood. 

I see my daughter, Saraii, develop in beautiful ways that my eyes can barely believe. She giggles over things that an adult would never think was funny. Her smile makes me realize how precious it is to spend time playing with her. Taking care of her, bathing her, changing her, and being there for her matters more than even making millions of dollars (though that would be nice to have too).


She's now walking at a fast pace and I find myself trying to keep up. Days with Saraii turn into months and I see myself growing emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. She runs towards me as I come through the front door after I’ve spent a long day at work, and all my problems and issues melt away. With a kiss from my wife and a hug from my daughter, my heart is filled my heart and I feel like a complete person and man. I am a parent and I'm proud to be one. I’ll continue working to become the best father I can be regardless of the amount of mistakes that I’ll make along the way. I have to figure it out… for Saraii. 
--

Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 

Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.