Where the Arrow Went is a group of three creatives on a journey of artistic development, progression, and relocation.
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"The narrative is, of course, the most fantastic of voyages" -John Wood
I love a good story. Not the one you find in a bookstore but the one you find in the lives being lived by some of the bravest people: those going after their dreams.
Characters such as the seasoned overcomer, the brave pioneer, the fortitudinous gypsy, the bare-knuckled climber, the vagrant pilgrim, and the valiant survivor—all of these are the inspiration behind my art, my leadership, my professional goals, and my brand. My passion for our lives as narratives is what drives me to make, create, write, lead, and contribute. It’s why I tell others to write their narratives. We may be totally unaware of what life is doing in us until we pick up a journal and read what we overcame or survived ten years down the line. The endurance and strength of the human spirit intrigues me.
My appreciation for narrative started to develop five years ago. Up until my father’s announcement that he no longer wanted a family I’d never paid attention to my life as a story built upon by strategic events that would make my character more dynamic. I thought that with hard work, drive, passion, and integrity I would eventually end up where I saw myself. I never took the custom structuring of narrative into consideration—what I would need to go through to be the person I saw when I reviewed my vision. Sure, a bad thing might happen here or there but life-altering, psyche-rattling, faith-shaking, world-crashing events? I never factored those into the equation.
My parents’ divorce, countless tears, 10 months separated from my mother, parting with 80% of my possessions, a bout with homelessness, and many more unexpected chapters later, I now see everything I discounted when compiling my life plans: The cost of my vision; the narrative that would shape me.
Whether because of fear or innocent planning I think so many times we tend to discredit the narratives shaping us such that we forget there is beauty in what I call the “en route” spaces. Loss, hurt, failure, bludgeons, sacrifices and hardships all have their place in our narratives.
As finite beings we have no way of knowing specifically what is necessary to happen in our lives to carve out of us the capacity to handle what we wish for; beings able to arrive at destinations to which we see ourselves en route. We can miss being shaped by our narratives if our focus is on destination and arrival and we forget the departure necessary to make a journey.
The narrative is not wonderful because it’s easy. It’s wonderful because of all we discover in ourselves when we endure that through which we never thought we could. How we handle our narrative determines whether we’ll live as brave, individual voices or mass-produced slaves in the throng of mediocrity.
Thus we learn: Life is not about arrival, it’s about how we view the events we’d call setbacks, interruptions, life altering, or destructive, and functioning constructively in each of those circumstances. God has made us dynamic characters too special to wake up one morning with every good and perfect material gift laying at our feet. Being shaped by our narratives is our allowing Him to add depth to our souls and finesse in the design of our lives so we not only have things but we have substance.
What good is it to have something if you have no story to support your having it? What good is it to arrive to a place if you cannot say where you’ve come from? What good is it to have things if you’re nothing when it’s all gone? We cannot balk our narratives. We must let them shape us.
Once I allowed my narrative to shape me I was freed to work diligently, see clearer, and find some measure of direction for my next steps. I became satisfied not only with who I am but-oddly - with the ugliness of my journey. Because my focus shifted to what the narrative is doing IN me and not to how being en route makes me look. It has allowed me to receive the gift of identity and art.
The inspiration of our narratives is the inspiration behind my new perspective in photography and my indie business, Vagabroad Journals. Everything we go through takes us into a new place where we are confronted by new language, culture, currency, and norms. We are all triple and quadruple citizens of hardships and struggles, rough times and barely good days. But each of us has a blessing in the narratives that shape us: custom stories only our work, art, skills, or words can tell, should we choose to embrace them.
Our narratives are amazing; they’re beautiful! And we are all so well traveled. Everything we’ve persevered through is a place that is an indelible part of our journey, stamp on our lives’ passport, and portion of our narrative. Isn’t it amazing?
Let your narrative craft in you the person you need to be to arrive to where you envision yourself.
I love you,
Chimene A. Jackson
Actress/Singer/Dancer/Voice Over Artist/Professional schedule juggler
A new thought/approach: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”- Confucius
I’m a hustler. I’m a “Jane of all trades.” I’m the part-time job queen.
I’m an artist.
When people ask me what I do, I take a deep breath. It is not a simple question for me to answer. I am pursuing a career as an actress and a voice over artist. In order to pay the bills, I have 8 jobs. I get paid as an actress, teach acting classes for kids and teens, work as an actor and reader for an educational playwriting outreach program, I am a freelance graphic designer (what I have my degree in), a retail sales associate, a tour guide, a standardized patient and a voice over artist.
I think I have been busy the majority of my life. I thrived on it. “Being Busy” had become part of how I defined myself. I’d run from one job to an audition then a rehearsal to go to bed then get up for a different job, come home, do freelance work leave for yet another job, come home pack, sleep, get up go to New York City for voice over coaching, 3 dance classes and a meeting with a potential agent etc. etc.
It was never dull and it was working. I’d been working consistently as an actress for a year and a half, one show after another. I was managing to pay my rent and buy groceries. I had settled into the erratic pattern of my life. I was content…
At the end of May, on a rare trip to my parents’ home in Lancaster, Pa, I sat talking to my mother on the back porch. I suddenly started crying. Not being a big crier, I was caught off-guard, unsure what instigated the water works. As I talked through the tears, I came to the conclusion that I was much too content with my life. I was not feeling particularly driven, inspired or passionate. I had been too busy to even recognize that this was how I really felt. Coming back home away from the city, away from the schedules and appointments and to-do list, sitting on a porch under the trees, slowing down, sitting down and breathing provided me with this insight.
I was suddenly face to face with the truth that I wasn’t unhappy but I wasn’t happy either.
Something had to change. I immediately did what gives me comfort in any overwhelming situation- I made a list. After scribbling, categorizing, editing and re-ordering I came to a conclusion. I still had the same ultimate goals. I just had to go after them in a different way.
I came back to the city to an inspiring lesson with my new voice teacher/mentor. Our conversation affirmed my thoughts and emphasized the need for a new approach. This would require reprioritizing, reducing my commitments, less hustling, more learning. I needed time and space to breathe and accomplish these new tasks and to explore. I needed to slow down. I exhaled, relieved to have identified the problem and drafted the outline for the new plan of attack.
Then I looked at my planner… the next two months were completely filled with obligations. I was ready and excited for my next step but could not possibly begin it until mid-August. It was discouraging, but I also knew the months ahead had great opportunities in store- a wedding, a show, 3 teaching opportunities, my debut assistant directing for a camp at a regional theater and a workshop of an original musical. 2 months of insanity and then I could regroup.
It was a Sunday night in June. The show I was working on at the time involved a big roller skating number. Yup, you read that correctly. I’ve been skating since I was 7 and was pretty comfortable. I was doing silly, potentially dangerous tricks- weaving in, out and around moving targets. I’d fallen but gotten right back up again.
We had the framework for the number and were about to run it one last time.
I was sitting on a stool and got up to get into place. I stood up the wrong way and lost my footing. My skates flew out from under me and I fell. Hard. My left arm desperately tried to protect me, attempting to stop the floor palm first with the rest of my body weight crashing down behind it at a perfect right angle. Too perfect.
I didn’t break my wrist.
I destroyed it.
At 2 am I gaped at the X-ray as the nurse in the ER explained that I would definitely need to have surgery, possibly that night. For the first time all evening, I started to shut down. Surgery? This was worse than I thought.
Injuries and ailments are not good for anyone but they are particularly frightening for actors and dancers, of which I am both. Our bodies are our business. Yes, much like hookers, I know but in all seriousness, our bodies are the vessels of our craft. They can make or break you in casting, especially in musical theatre. I was lucky. The injury, recovery and physical rehabilitation would put me out for a few months but I would be able to regain my mobility and strength 100%.
I was out of the show. I had to take care of myself. The universe had literally slowed me down, as if to say, “Yeah, you were right, you were doing too much. Stop and take inventory you crazy speed demon!” After surgery, a week of initial recovery and starting physical therapy, I went out to face the world with a metal plate in my wrist, a soft cast and a sling.
The tornado that was July set in with so many new experiences, opportunities and big auditions, navigating it all with a wrist that was out of commission. I was challenged, exhausted frustrated but I wasn’t booking anything. I couldn’t help feeling a bit defeated. I began to question if I was good enough at any of it or if I was ultimately running myself into the ground? Was I chasing this idea of voice over in vain? Were the other people in the acting community passing me by as I ran on a treadmill? Would I ever be able to break into the group of actors who worked consistently with the big companies in town? Was I a terrible teacher? Was the break in August what I needed or did I need to completely rethink my career paths?
One day it all felt like so much. I found myself sobbing in the back of a cab, late to work, overwhelmed with the thoughts of my future. I took a deep breath, gathered myself and went in to face the day. At 3:30, I grabbed my bag and my phone to head to my next obligation. I had a voicemail. I had booked a 20-spot contract with a well-known national company. I started to cry but with tears of joy. This whole voice over thing just might work. I knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing but wasn’t all in vain.
July came to a close. The summer gigs wrapped up and suddenly I was faced with the time I had been so desperately looking forward to. Open days with very little that I HAD to do. It was unfamiliar territory. Instead of relief, I was feeling foggy and flustered. I thought we’d figured this out in May?! Apparently not.
Feeling lost, I headed to another lesson with my voice teacher, which raised some tough questions. What did I really want? Were the auditions I was going to REALLY taking me in the right direction? What were my ultimate goals and what was the most direct path to achieving them? This led to further discussion, a lot of self-reflection and yes, more crying. I thought I could define my goals but the truth was, I wasn’t really sure. I had to let things settle, allow the dust to clear.
As I began to truly unwind and slow down, answers began to reveal themselves.
I hadn’t realized that the benchmark goals that I had previously laid out for myself were based on suggestions from other people; unspoken rights of passage set by the theatre community. I had been going about my business, doing what I thought I SHOULD be doing. I was defining my success on someone else’s definition, not my own.
At first I was angry with myself and with those who had pointed me in certain directions. Why had I wasted that time?! Then I realized that everything I had done in the last few years was incredibly valuable. When I had graduated from college, I had no idea where to start. There were so many opportunities and so many that I didn’t even know to look for. I went to seek guidance from any and every theatre contact that I could to help sort it out, where to even begin. Their suggestions led me to more people, opportunities and advice. With their help I had built my own arsenal of knowledge. There was no reason to be upset with myself or anyone else.
This was just a turning point. Now I had enough experience, knowledge and connections to go my own way, take the training wheels off. I wasn’t going to follow the textbook steps to “A Theatrical Career in Philadelphia.” My life and career was going to be made by my own yet-to-be-defined formula.
Over the last few weeks I have settled into a slower pace. I have found myself being able to stay focused on the moment, not jumping six steps ahead in my mind. I have taken time for myself. Time to write down thoughts, listen to music, sit outside. I have taken the big questions and observations and put them in the back of my mind on “tumble-dry.” I don’t stuff them into a corner to be answered another day. Nor do I sit them down and demand that they resolve immediately. Instead, I have come to give them time and space to explore. I have found that this way, the answers, solutions and best ideas reveal themselves when they are ready.
A change has come over me. I have been learning how to relax. How to truly stay present. How to listen to myself and to others more deeply. I soak in silence and stillness instead of trying to fill it. I am exploring many of the creative projects I have been putting off, many of which are beneficial to my career path but appeared to be less significant. My creative ideas are much more free and frequent. I do not feel stifled or stiff. I carry less tension. As a result my singing has improved, my problem solving is more acute, my conversations are deeper, more articulate, more rewarding. My art has improved. My life has improved.
In this time and space of self-reflection I identified how much I am really enjoying voice over work and that I want to delve deeper into it. I want to study more and commit more time to it instead of fitting it in when my schedule allows. In terms of acting, I have discovered how much I love being a part of the development of new work, not just remounting old favorites. I want to seek out more opportunities to be involved in workshops, developing and originating characters, not just portraying what I hope a casting director wants to see. And I plan to only pursue projects, old and new that I am passionate about and that will move me forward.
I have redefined my goals but I have also given myself permission to change these goals.
Being “busy” implies success but does not quantify it. If I worry so much that I am running out of time, I risk wasting all the time I have. I must focus on my well-being, focus on my craft, open my mind and heart to learning and leave room for the possibilities. I don’t want to be “too busy” on the day that destiny knocks on my door.
I don’t have all the answers and I never will but now, more than ever, I understand a few things:
Let yourself cry. It is your body’s way of detoxing and sorting things out.
Seek Advice. Get inspired. Take in as much as you can but don’t forget to check-in and listen to yourself. At the end of the day, you’re steering this ship.
I am open and ready.
Slow down for a second…. are you?
The past few years have been really pivotal about what it is I do. I’ve been a photographer ever since the day I fell in love with working in a darkroom in 10th grade. Photography projects just kind of fell into my lap, to be honest. I always thought I would keep it as a hobby but I guess fate decided otherwise.
Last year, I received a degree in Advertising at Temple. To be honest, I had trouble finding a job with an agency so I took matters into my own hands. I decided to mix the business of ‘advertising’ with my hobby of photography and created a blog. (unique, right?!) I realized that my so-called “portfolio” from college was filled with stuff that just wasn’t… me. I wasn’t confident in it, and needed something to set me apart from the average portfolio. I wanted to showcase that I could strategize, create, manage and maintain something from the start. So, Latelyblog.com is what came out of that. It’s a mishmash of my strengths.
The story of Lately:
Upon moving back to Lancaster after college, I found an amazing community that constantly inspires me and realized this stuff needs to be publicized. Lately is a place where local people, places, & things deserve to be shared in Central PA. Thats our mission: to share peoples stories of where they’ve been and how they got there. On lately, sharing someones story can inspire others but also boost confidence in the people we feature. I always found that reading the process of successful career paths left me dreaming big but starting small. It’s okay to take baby steps, because it will ALL be worth it in the end.
Where the Arrow Went is a project I fully believe will bring great things into these artists lives. Their marketing and PR has been amazing, and they even allow other artists to share their story. In a way, Lately and WTAW is pretty darn similar. We’re here to inspire, and create. They certainly deserve to go for what they desire to do.
I’m still in the beginning stages of Lately, but it has already led to partnerships with other businesses, and even landed me a dream job at an agency. So, make the small things count. They will always lead to bigger things.
- Katie Schmitt of Lately
At it again we are. Every vote counts hugely! Thank you. @americanmademsl for direct link go to Facebook.com/pegandawl or email is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to working with Peg & Awl on Where The Arrow Went. Vote for them in this contest to win Martha Stewart’s American Made Contest!
Roadtrip en We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/75850317/via/WonderlandFG