THE UPTOWN COLLECTIVE – ARTIST STORIES

DREAMING TOO BIG?

tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

When I was a child, I used to tell everyone I met that I wanted to be an actress on television when I grew up. My dreams were so big, I just couldn’t keep them to myself. I was fearless. I was proud of who I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was unashamed of all I wanted to accomplish in this world. But somewhere along they way, I started cutting my dreams short. I continued to dream but I kept them inside.

I remember the first week of classes in the Professional Acting Program at Wright State University; we all went around and shared our wildest dreams and career goals with each other. Of course, I mentioned that I wanted a career in theatre but I shared that my biggest goal was to have my own television show one day. Later that evening, a classmate told me that I was “in the wrong business if I was here to make money” and that hurt me. That was not at all what I was saying. Even though now I look back and wish I had the words then to express that there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring work that actually pays you a living wage, but I digress. From that moment on, I kept my dreams and goals to myself. I kept my head down and did the work. But I ultimately kept the truth about how big my dreams were to myself. I was no longer that little girl who would walk the halls of her arts middle school telling her friends that one day she was going to be a star like Gabrielle Union.

I look back on my childhood and remember how free I was. The older I got, the more self conscious I became about who I believed I was truly destined to be. I felt foolish for dreaming so big. I felt silly every time someone asked me what my major was; I told them acting, and then they suggested I study something “that could get me a job”. But now I know, that I was encountering people who stopped dreaming. Receiving advice from peers, elders, family members, and wannabe mentors who no longer dream is dangerous for anyone no matter what field you’re in.

I was deeply moved by the sermon Pastor Mike at FCBC taught on the first Sunday of December 2021 entitled “The Beauty of Dreams and Hope”. I was reminded that I used to be bold about my dreams. I was bold before life hit. Before rejection and responsibility smacked me in the face. After listening to the lesson, I made a vow to stand tall in what I want out of life and my belief in who I know I was created to be. I made a new promise to myself to remind everyone around me to continue to dream, no matter what stage they’re in their life.

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My mother is one of the most talented human beings I know. She can bake, sew, decorate, and design. If you walk into my childhood home, you’d think you were walking onto the set of a new HGTV series that involved everything from cooking to decor. I mean, Regina gets DOWN, okay?! But I can see that she’s struggling with the magnitude of the dream that can come out of her God-given gifts. She inspires me and I want her to inspire others. I want her to truly dream again. Even at 64 years young. Because what is life if we don’t hope for more? Who do we become if we don’t dare to dream? I want to encourage you to start speaking your dreams out loud. Write them down. Share them with people you trust. And then actively work to make them a reality. We only get one life on this Earth, don’t waste it trying to fit in with those who stopped dreaming.  [Dec’21]

Word to the Wise:
1) Write down your dreams in a journal. Then, write out a hopeful plan that will set you on the path to accomplish the many small goals it will take to reach your ultimate dream.

2) Find an accountability partner. Make a promise with someone you trust that you both will work harder to be more conscious about what you speak into the atmosphere. Specifically about yourself, your life, and your goals.

3) If they’re still here with us, talk to your grandparents, great aunts & uncles, or elders in the community about their life and their dreams. Ask them what they wish they’d known when they were your age. Learn from their journey. Like Pastor Mike said, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” 

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1) In what ways have I silenced my own dreams?
2) How can I be sure that happens less and less?

Suggested Read: You Got Anything Stronger? By Gabrielle Union

EXPECTING IT

tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

Transitions have always been hard for me. Transitioning from private to public school. Transitioning from suburbia Ohio to living in New York City. Transitioning from life before loss and life after loss. It’s never been easy for me. If I’m honest, I’m often afraid of entering into new seasons in my life. Sometimes, I can feel it coming before the transition even actually begins. Most times, it feels like my head and shoulders have entered a new realm but my knees and toes are still planted on the ground of the last chapter. I’m currently transitioning from a world where I only performed on stages to adding performing on screen to my resume. The weight of this transition feels heavy. The pressure of visibility is looming in a way that it never has before. The safety and security of the sanctuary that is the theatre seems far off in the distance and I’m yearning to get it back.

Everything isn’t always what it seems. Have you ever prayed for something for so long, get it, and then you realize that your life didn’t instantly change as much as you thought it would? Or did you meet a major goal of yours but the moment didn’t feel as big as the one you imagined in your head for so long? Like, when you received the promotion, you imagined you’d do a cartwheel, cry the Kim Kardashian ugly tears, call your mom and cry some more? But then the moment came and it was more like, “Thank you, next” or “About time” or whatever, just simply not how you thought you’d react? That’s me. Right now.

A few months ago, a friend told me that she didn’t think I fully processed my recent success because I didn’t “seem” excited. Like, what does that even mean? I was excited. I AM excited. I just think excitement looks differently on different people. I think excitement can look differently when you’ve worked really hard for something for so long that all you have left is a big sigh of relief. A relief that that chapter is over. Relief that you can pay your bills. Relief that maybe life can slow down for just a moment before it picks back up. (Because it always does.)

After my friend said she didn’t feel like I processed my new job. I told my therapist and per usual what she said was gold. She said, “I think you HAVE processed your new job. But maybe your excitement presents differently because you’ve been expecting this.” And she was right. I DID expect this. I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how. But I knew it would be mine one day because it was promised to me. Because I prayed for it. Because I manifested it. I did all the things we all do. On top of expecting it.

There’s something about expecting to see goodness in your life. It really changed how I experience life. Prior to this chapter, my therapist suggested that every morning I imagine the life I wanted to live. Even though I was on unemployment, food assistance, and far away from my family because of Covid, she told me to imagine the opposite. To imagine the life I wanted to live. And then proceed to move about my day as if it were already true. I lived in a closet but it felt like a ranch on five acres. I was riding a cheap stationary bike from Amazon but it felt like a Peloton bike. Nearly everything I imagined had little or nothing to do with my career. It mostly had to do with how I wanted to feel every day and I learned how little that has to do with the work I do.

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Of course I want to influence and make an impact through my craft. Storytelling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But if I’ve learned anything these past five years in New York City, is that it’s not my whole life. I had to learn to value myself whether I was working or not. I am worthy of goodness even if there’s no platform for others to witness. I can’t gain fulfillment from whether someone else chooses to “give” me something or not. So, when I’m granted a new blessing, (these days who knows how I’ll react when I get a call to play opposite Denzel Washington) it’s more of a big smile and a “thank you, Lord” and less of a cartwheel. And that’s simply because I expect to see goodness.

The summer of 2020, during the search of new representation, I reached out to an actress I admire deeply. I had never spoken to her on the phone and honestly never said more than five words to her in person because she’s just that amazing to me. But I called her. I asked her if she could give me a list of agents and managers that she feels would be a good fit for me and who also have a strong muscle when it comes to television and film. There was a brief pause after I asked. Then she said, “ You know what I like about you? You ask and you EXPECT an answer.” I was a little bashful when she said that until I processed it and realized that it was a good thing. I ask and I expect to receive. And so should you. Cartwheel if you want. Cry if you choose. But expect to see goodness in your life and it will come in its time. [Nov’21]

Word to the Wise:
 1) Journal. Sounds corny but it’s not. You can write lists of ideas. Affirmations. Dreams and goals. Prayers. Whatever it is, just write.

2) Practice the art of imagining yourself living the life you want to live.

3) Find a therapist.

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1) How do I want to feel every day?
2) What can I do with the resources I have right now to insure that I am experiencing goodness in my life?
3) In what areas of my life can I be more specific about the things I want? Career, relationships, health, home?

Suggested Read: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

THE POWER OF NO

tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

Transitions have always been hard for me. Transitioning from private to public school. Transitioning from suburbia Ohio to living in New York City. Transitioning from life before loss and life after loss. It’s never been easy for me. If I’m honest, I’m often afraid of entering into new seasons in my life. Sometimes, I can feel it coming before the transition even actually begins. Most times, it feels like my head and shoulders have entered a new realm but my knees and toes are still planted on the ground of the last chapter. I’m currently transitioning from a world where I only performed on stages to adding performing on screen to my resume. The weight of this transition feels heavy. The pressure of visibility is looming in a way that it never has before. The safety and security of the sanctuary that is the theatre seems far off in the distance and I’m yearning to get it back.

In our last panel (The TalkBack Artist, Choices & Values), we discussed core values and how they influence the roles we pursue. The conversation was timely because it’s something that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Every decision I make feels heavier than ever. There was a time when I didn’t have any auditions at all, and now, thank God, that is no longer a problem. But there is a new problem. The problem is the new challenge of learning when or how to say no. No to a specific character and their requirements. No to the giving of my time. No to sacrificing my peace. No to anything that doesn’t serve me and my desired trajectory of my life and career. I’ve had to learn how to exercise the Power of No. In college, my instructors often told us as young artists we’d have to say yes to work. Free work. Small work. Whatever. Just say yes to work to build your resume. Needless to say, I’m in a season that is in full disagreement with that advice.

I’m transitioning from yes to no. I’m transitioning from doing for everyone except myself to pouring into me and those who do the same. The more I grow, the more I see every audition, every meeting, every choice I make as significant. I can’t do everything and neither do I want to. I’m working on constantly checking in with myself and making sure I’m honoring the woman I want to be in the Earth. And it’s hard. Sometimes I change my mind. Most times, I don’t. Every time it’s scary. But irregardless of how scary it is, I do it any way. I’m more afraid of losing myself in the process. Television or no television. Fame or no fame. Work or no work. I’ll be me all day every day and I’m working to make sure no matter the circumstance, no matter the transition, I’m still proud of me and how I show up. [Oct’21]

morning-meditate

Word to the Wise:
1) Create a morning routine and stick to it. Wake up, pray, meditate, drink coffee, exercise, eat breakfast, practice yoga, have a dance party, call your mother, whatever your morning routine looks like, stick to it. Creating a morning routine helped me when things started to pick up and get hectic. Instead of disrupting my entire morning routine with last minute work, meetings, and/or auditions, I made the commitment to pour into myself every single morning even if that meant waking up earlier in order to do so.

2) Get a therapist. Your friends are not your therapist. Your mother is not your therapist (and you’re not hers either). Artists experience a ton of rejection on a weekly basis. Artists go through more dry spells than most professionals in other industries. So, um, get a therapist. There’s no shame. Learn the tools to help you navigate the ups and downs of your career. Address your past and the reasons you are the way you are. It’s scary but do it any way.

3) Watch interviews of artists who inspire you. Read autobiographies. Ask a seasoned artist who you admire and respect to be your mentor. Give yourself permission to learn from others. Then pass it on when you have the chance.

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1. In what areas of my life do I need to practice saying “no” as a “yes” to myself and my needs? 
2. Who in my life can I healthfully lean on to remind me to pour into myself by saying “no”?
3. What have I learned so far about myself so far in the current transition that I’m in?

Suggested Read: Boundaries:When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud

  

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