Camille Schenkkan is a theatre management professional and educator, passionate about career development for artists & arts managers.

You tried very very hard after many months of preparation. You read a lot of Ina May Gaskin. You listened to hundreds of hours of birth story podcasts. You took a hypnobirthing course and practiced diligently. You took classes in childbirthing and pain management.

You massaged your perineum every night for ten minutes.

You ate many, many, many dates.

You did all of that, and you felt ready, and you failed.

But it’s okay.

It’s okay that you didn’t push through the pain. It’s okay that you weren’t strong enough to rise above it, that you didn’t channel your inner goddess, harness the natural power of your womanhood, give in to the natural sensations of childbirth, tap into your ancient mammalian instincts and birth like a cat or a monkey.

Your inner monkey needed an epidural.

And it’s okay that the pain was so great, for so long, that you gave up on the natural birth you wanted.

It’s okay that you arrived at the hospital screaming. That you begged for that epidural, and when you got it, you napped for two hours, right there in active labor.

And then you woke up and it was time to push, even though you couldn’t feel those “rushes” of “pressure” that you’d trained yourself not to call contractions, but which, in practice, had been too excruciating to bear.

It’s okay that you gave birth on your back instead of squatting.

Because you know what? He is perfect. And as you held his tiny body to your chest the first time, time stood still and everything changed.

It’s okay to feel embarrassment or not-good-enough when you see stories of those who were successful at what you tried, and failed, to do.

You read those words:
she let her body do what it was designed to do
she trusted herself and her baby
she breathed through the pressure 
she gave her baby the gift of coming into this world unmedicated and peacefully

And it’s okay to remember what it was really like, for you, and that you truly felt you were dying, and that you did not give up on what you’d worked so hard for on a whim, or because you were weak, or because you are not enough of a warrior mama.

It did not feel like pressure for you.

You read the other words:
all birth is natural birth
modern medicine is a godsend; do you want a ‘natural’ root canal?
there’s too much pressure put on women to endure great pain
a healthy baby is all that matters

And yes, that all makes sense intellectually, and that’s what you’d tell another woman in the same situation.

But telling yourself to stop feeling your feelings is, you have to admit, spectacularly unhelpful. And you have felt, over the past 18 months, a tiny but present sense of failure, and as much as you try to look beyond or around it, it’s still there.


noun: failure
              1. lack of success

Yes, you failed.

It’s really okay to say you failed at the natural birth you wanted.

It’s okay to tell people that you went to a hospital and got an epidural because it hurt too much, instead of trying to rationalize or explain your decision.

Every day, your son fails, over and over again. He tries to put his shoes on and fails. He tries to peel an orange and fails. He tries to tell you what he wants, but he’s eighteen months old and his mouth won’t form the words and he just: fails. And you encourage him to try again, but you also want him to know that failure is normal, and part of being human and trying big things, and should not be cause for shame.

And just as you allow him to fail, you need to allow yourself to fail and still be okay.

Because your son came into this world, and he is perfect. You failed at what you set out to achieve, but you did not fail at birthing a beautiful, resilient, sassy, curious little person.


This Shit is Hard

The white noise machine in my son Ezra’s room has a repetitive underbeat that sounds kind of like the hook of California Love– but over and over, and without Tupac.

I listen to this loop for several hours a day as I sit on an exercise ball, holding Ezra. Bouncing on the ball is the only way he will fall asleep, and the only place he’ll nurse. I sit and bounce and fantasize about how I’m going to destroy this ball when this phase is over. My current plan is to cover it in lighter fluid and ignite it while inflated so I can watch it crumple in on itself while it burns.


Artist’s rendering.

My back hurts. My back hurts so badly by the end of the day that lying on my stomach to sleep is painful– ironic, considering how much I looked forward to that while pregnant.

Ezra will only nurse on the ball because I have what’s called an overactive letdown, which means nursing can be a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose for him. He developed a breast aversion even though I tried everything anyone ever suggested to manage overactive letdown, went to two lactation consultants, even tried cranio sacral therapy (don’t ask me what it is as I’m honestly still not sure). Everyone tells me he’ll come around, grow out of it, and yet nearly two months have passed, and here I bounce.

FYI, with enough practice it’s possible to nurse a baby while answering emails, playing Farm Heroes Saga, or writing a blog post, one-handed, all while bouncing on an exercise ball.

I have cried on the ball. I cry silently so I don’t disturb the baby. I cry because my back is on fire, because I’m exhausted, because I’m lonely. I cry because I’m a new mom, and this shit is hard.

Ezra also enjoys the Mommy Group.

Ezra also enjoys the Mommy Group.

I go to a weekly Mommy Group at my birth center– where, despite my best intentions, I did not have a beautiful natural labor. Instead, I ended up as a hospital transfer, arriving at Huntington from the birth center in full hardcore labor screaming “GIVE ME DRUUUUUGS.”


I go to the Mommy Group every Thursday, and last week, things got real. I’m not sure how it started, but suddenly these women holding tiny perfect humans began to share the darker, not-Instagram-ready side of new motherhood.

Postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, even postpartum psychosis. Guilt, fear, and comparison. And the crippling loneliness of spending nearly all of your time alone with a new person who needs you very much, but who cannot speak or say thank you and tends to be wide awake just when you most need him to take a goddamn nap already.

20161024_081453I listened and thought about my own first days postpartum. I had horrible nausea and could eat only smoothies and crackers. My alarmist OBGYN told me the slight pain in my side might be appendicitis and I should go to the emergency room (the midwives at my birth center correctly guessed that I had just pulled my psoas muscle during labor). I had what I now realize was a panic attack at Ezra’s first pediatrician appointment, shaking and nauseated and unable to stand, scaring the shit out of my husband and my mom. As soon as possible, I went on a low dose of Zoloft to help with the crippling anxiety that made my teeth chatter and prevented me from sleeping when I most needed to.

It’s just really, really hard.


My baby is cute. He’s not particularly screamy, and aside from the nursing weirdness and a general dislike for sleeping, he’s a pretty easy baby. That doesn’t stop me from watching the clock every day as it creeps toward 7pm, the time when my husband comes home to give me a break and a conversation partner.

When I get out of the house with Ezra, I have to say no to guilt. He seems happiest at home, parked under his baby play gym. But I am a person too and I need more than a squeaky giraffe to keep me sane.

Mommy groups and “play dates” are opportunities for new parents to get out of the house. The babies do not care. For the first few months, they barely acknowledge one another’s existence.

But I look forward to the two or three excursions I try to schedule each week, entering them carefully into my otherwise blank Google calendar. They’re my chance to ask “is this normal?” (answer: yes) and to practice being a functional human for an hour or two.

Everyone acts casual, but I know these meet-ups are the highlight of the week for many of us. We run brushes through our hair, maybe put in contacts, and dress our babies in their cutest outfits. We sit on the ground and compare notes on all of the things that have suddenly become fascinating– growth spurts, childcare costs, and the color and frequency of our babies’ poops.

And behind every conversation I’m thinking, God I hope I’m not repeating myself. I hope I’m making sense. I sound like a human, right?

Because one of the things humans need to survive is sleep, and while my husband and I didn’t draw the colicky/screamy baby straw, we drew the terrible sleeper straw. At 13 weeks, Ezra still sleeps an average of just 2 to 3 hours at the beginning of the night, starting at about 9pm after a long bedtime ritual where I try to get as much milk as possible down his throat. He then wakes up, eats, sleeps an hour, wakes up, eats, sleeps another hour… repeat until 7am, 8am if it’s a great day, 5am if it is not.


Baby. You are so tired.

Sleeping for an hour at a time, most of the night, most nights, for 13 weeks, is not something you can prepare for. My husband and I read ten books between us on parenting and infant care while I was pregnant. None of them laid out the sleep deprivation reality we’ve faced.

The chapters on sleep said things like “the average three-month-old will sleep four to five hours at the beginning of the night, followed be one to two shorter chunks.” They didn’t follow that up with “but your baby might say fuck that and continue sleeping and eating like a newborn for several months.”

We pored over sleep schedules and vowed to set a consistent wake and bed time, try a dream feed to help encourage him to sleep through the night, etc. We were ready. We didn’t realize that in order to do any of those things, your baby needs to sleep longer than an hour at a stretch. If our fifth wake & feed of the night ends at 6:45am, there’s no way in hell I’m getting back up at 7am for a “consistent wake up time.” I’m going to try desperately to fall back to sleep as fast and hard as possible, and pray the little critter decides to give me another hour before he’s up for the day.

In those excruciating first postpartum days– and, to be honest, during the 4am hour a few times since then– I’ve wondered how the hell anyone has a second child after living through the purgatory of early parenthood.

But the answer is simple: you fall in love with your baby.


At six weeks, he smiled. Last Saturday, he laughed. He is alert, curious, and active. My mom tells me I was an equally horrible sleeper (sorry, Mom), and in his nursing quirks and the single-minded focus he brings to a task like learning to roll over, I see his parents’ stubbornness and determination.


“Zack, I think the frog face on his pants goes in the back.” “Well, agree to disagree.”

But he is his own person, too, a social, muscular little man who alternates between silly and solemn. I get to hang out with this cool miniature human, and watch my husband become an incredible father, too. Every day we all learn more about one another.

Did I cry yesterday? Yes. How about today? Does 4:30am count, when I couldn’t get back to sleep after the fourth feeding of the night and the reality of how tired I was going to be for the rest of the day sunk in? Then yes, I’ve cried today.

But Ezra also nursed in a rocking chair instead of the exercise ball this morning, for the first time in over a month. He laughed at the song I made up while changing his poopy diaper (in all fairness, it was hilarious). And when I leaned over his crib after the one successful, 23-minute nap he’s had today, his face lit up in a big, toothless baby grin, legs kicking up with his sheer happiness at seeing me.

A friend joked that if babies had a 15 day return policy, there would be far fewer people in this world. Maybe so, but here at the 90 day mark, I can say we’re pretty damn happy with our acquisition. I can almost see how people end up with more than one.


Now excuse me while I try to put this baby down for a nap for the eighth time, silently reciting the words to California Love as I bounce to the rhythm of the white noise machine, praying that this little person I love so much will give me enough of a break to clean the cat box and do a load of laundry before nightfall.

Wish me luck.




I’m about as pregnant as you can get: 39 weeks, 2 days. It seemed like a good time to write down some of the things I’ve had to cultivate or learn over the last nine(ish) months.



I went into pregnancy thinking I’d stay active throughout, maybe continue to run until I went into labor.

The first trimester, exhaustion hit hard. We weren’t telling people until 12 weeks, so I was trying to maintain my usual busy schedule with half my normal energy. I could barely get myself to work, let alone the gym.

I felt better in the second trimester… for a few weeks. Starting at week 20 or so, I developed pelvic girdle pain/symphysis pubis dysfunction (PGP/SPD), which has been consistently painful ever since. I have good days and bad days and going to the chiropractor has helped a lot, but I’m in some pain every day, nearly all day.

The most awkward thing about PGP is it’s hard to explain without oversharing. The best way I can put it: have you ever gotten saddle-sore from horseback riding or a bike with an uncomfortable seat? Basically, my vagina bone hurts. This isn’t really something you want to tell someone when they ask how you’re feeling.

Here are some things that range from mildly painful to excruciating with PGP, depending on the day:

  • Lifting one foot (i.e., putting on pants)
  • Turning over in bed (at one point, my husband offered in all sincerity to flip me like a turtle if the pain got too bad)
  • Not turning over in bed– the longer I avoid it, the more painful it becomes
  • Getting out of a car or standing up from a low chair
  • Standing still for more than a minute or so
  • Sitting in a normal chair, especially one without padding
  • Anything with a wide stance (goodbye, prenatal yoga)

I have, thankfully, never experienced chronic pain before. Over the past 19 weeks, I’ve reflected often on how insensitive I’ve been in the past. It is frustrating and depressing to not be able to do what you want to do, and to have people judge you for it.

I was honked at in the crosswalk outside of my office for being too slow, and remembered how many times I’ve been mildly irritated by people I thought were crossing too slowly.

I’ve had friends get irritated with me for cancelling on them, doing less than I have in the past, etc., and I could tell they thought I was using pregnancy as an excuse. I wasn’t. All I want to do is have my usual physical abilities back, and not having them and being seen as a flake was rough.

I find myself keeping pace with elderly people while out walking. I’ve been swimming at the YMCA, and it’s usually just me and fifteen senior citizens in the pool.

As a side note, older people are wonderful to pregnant women. They never call you fat (I’ve been called fat/a whale/enormous/etc. by a disturbing number of people over the past few months). They say things like “good for you, honey!” when you swim by them, or “you look beautiful!” when you’re hauling your nine-month-pregnant butt into Vons. Older ladies have a very different attitude toward having children than younger moms, who seem to love trying to scare me about how difficult childbirth and parenting will be. Instead of “prepare for everything to change,” they go with “I loved raising my babies. It goes so fast– just enjoy it!”.

So: humility. Recognizing my own limits, and recognizing that I have no idea of others’ limits or experiences. Recognizing that some of the things I value most– independence, physical strength, having others count on me– can be taken away instantly.

I’m grateful for the lesson and keep reminding myself not to revert to my old exasperation and judgment once I’m on the other side and start to get my mobility back.


Asking for Help

One of my favorite parts of my job at Center Theatre Group is talking to young people about the importance of vulnerability, and being honest about needing help and guidance. Pregnancy is a great time to practice this, because people really, really want to help you.

My favorite thing that someone stopped me from carrying because I was pregnant: a large bowl of salad from a catering company. A fellow staff member grabbed it out of my hand at an event and said “You shouldn’t be carrying that!” I shouldn’t carry… lettuce?

But there have been plenty of things I really did need help with. My husband has taken over litterbox duties, of course, but has also been the only person cleaning the rabbit pen for weeks because getting down on the floor hurts too badly.

I’ve also reached out to friends who have recently had children to get their thoughts on everything from weird symptoms to sleep training to what I needed to pack for the birth center.

I’ve always been proud of my ability to figure shit out on my own. It’s absolutely helped me in my career. Reconciling that ability with the need to ask for help is difficult, but I’m learning that one doesn’t cancel out the other.




I’m naturally very introverted, but pregnancy invites conversation. Everywhere I’ve gone– grocery store, work, restaurants, walking down the street– I have the same conversation several times a day.

Here’s my end of it:

  • “Late July.”
  • “Yes, it’s a boy.”
  • “Yes, our first.”
  • “No, we have a few names we like and we’re going to wait and see when he comes out.”

I’ll then get birth stories, speculation about how I’m carrying, childbirth and parenting advice… pregnancy forums are full of women complaining about these interactions. They are tiring, especially if, like me, you’d rather just buy your groceries in peace, but everyone is well-meaning. With the exception of a small number of people who have taken it way too far– like the woman who grabbed my arm in the mall and clapped her other hand on my belly– I try to stay positive and appreciate that their curiosity comes from a good place.

The other aspect of patience: pregnancy is long. The last few weeks are really uncomfortable. The induction rate for childbirth has jumped from 9.5% in 1990 to 23.3% in 2012, and I absolutely see why. I’m now in this transitory space where I could have a baby tonight, or I could have a baby in two weeks. Any plans come with an “unless I’m in labor” disclaimer. I’m doing a lot of relaxation techniques and trying to trust that this little boy will come when he’s ready, not necessarily when I’m ready.

Which brings me to…


Letting Go

It’s been difficult to accept that while there are many things you can do to encourage a healthy pregnancy and baby, there’s a huge element of the unknown in there. Letting go and trusting nature has been another learning experience for me.

Without saying too much about it, this little one is our rainbow baby: a baby conceived after pregnancy loss. Because of that, I was hesitant to bond with this baby or talk too much about the pregnancy for a long time. For the first few weeks, any symptom or lack of symptom was terrifying.

This is another strange part of pregnancy: almost everything is totally normal, or could be a sign of something very serious.

For example, my feet got super itchy, to the point of waking me up several times at night so I could put on more lotion. This was either a sign that I should buy a really good foot cream, or that I might have intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, a serious liver disorder that can result in stillbirth. I did get tested and was just really itchy (thankfully). Now I just wear super ridiculous moisturizing socks like these to bed.

There are so many of these “could be normal, could be terrible” things in pregnancy. It’s so tempting to obsess over Google results, and I’ve fallen prey to that quite a few times.

Now that we’re in the home stretch, it’s even harder. I know he can survive outside the womb, so I’d like him to come out as soon as possible so I can start actively taking care of him, instead of just taking my prenatals and trying to go easy on the sugar.

But. Letting go.

He will come when he’s ready. He’s healthy and moving around like crazy in there. He wants to bake a little longer.


It’s just occurred to me that these four things– humility, patience, letting go and asking for help– seem to be cornerstones of learning how to be a parent, too. All of the books I’ve read, birth stories I’ve listened to, and podcasts I’ve downloaded can’t really prepare me for what’s to come, but I’m hopeful and excited to start this new chapter… whenever this little guy decides to join us.


Every year, I look at arcami5ound 350 applications to the CTG Internship Program. I’m also currently hiring for a full-time arts education position; the last time I hired for a similar position, I received about 300 applications.

I wish people knew how many of these applications immediately land in the “no” pile. I’ve blogged about job applications before, but wanted to re-visit the topic during this particular search as I’m seeing so many applications with the same issues.

Before I start listing these errors, note that like most hiring managers or supervisors, I want to like you. I’m looking for a great associate who will stay with me for a long period of time, fit in well with the rest of our department and organization, and who will genuinely enjoy this job.

Your goal as an applicant should be to use your materials to give me enough information to decide whether you’re a good fit for this job.

Here are four common job and internship application errors that I see all the time:

You didn’t follow the application instructions. I specifically ask for resumes and cover letters to be submitted as PDF documents, and applicants need to submit via HR instead of sending directly to me.

Why this is an issue: There are practical reasons why I want the documents in this format, but it’s also a test of applicants’ reading comprehension and ability to follow instructions. This job (like most jobs) requires someone who can work on multiple projects simultaneously, take great notes in meetings and follow up on them, and is adept at written and verbal communication. If you can’t follow a specific instruction in a job posting, will you be able to read and respond quickly to an email from a teenager who “isn’t sure what time the workshop is lol and also can my mom get parking, okay cool see you later today also miss can I bring my little brother thank you?” This is also why I don’t consider applications with obvious typos, or poorly-formatted materials. I need to trust my Associate to communicate with a broad range of constituents without needing an editor. We’re also a large nonprofit with a lot of systems and protocols, so submitting through HR instead of finding my email and sending materials to me directly shows a willingness to read and follow directions that’s necessary for this position.

You only have music or visual arts education experience, and you don’t tell me why you’re interested in theatre—OR you have as much experience as I do and the same level of education.

Why this is an issue: Hiring blows. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and there’s a lot of pressure to make a great hire. I’m looking for someone who tells me why this job and why this organization so I can try to figure out if you’d be happy here. If you’re coming from a different sector or I get the sense that you might be bored in an entry-level job, I worry you’re only going to stay with me for six months or a year and then I’ll be back at square one. When you’re making a career shift or applying to something that’s a little outside of your comfort zone, you need to tell the hiring manager why you’re making that decision. I’d absolutely consider someone whose experience isn’t totally in line with the focus of the job OR who seems overqualified on paper, but that person would need to tell me why s/he is genuinely interested and what would be gained from this position.

I can’t tell that you researched what we actually do. The job description mentions a suite of programs that the Associate would be working on. You can easily find information about these programs on our website. Many cover letters don’t make any mention of the programs, and barely acknowledge the specifics of the position.

Why this is an issue: All theatre education jobs are not alike. We’re hiring for another position in our department, and the two jobs are very different—one is focused on operations and assisting senior staff, and one on program management, outreach and logistics. Several applicants used nearly identical materials to apply for both (also: don’t think we won’t realize this). When you’re applying for any position, recognize that you need to draw a clear line between your interests and experiences and the requirements of the job. Specificity is key because it shows me that 1. You cared enough to look up what you’d actually be working on, and 2. You can connect your skills/interest/experience to this job. Each of the programs mentioned in this job description has a webpage, articles written about it, and YouTube videos available. It’s not like the information is buried somewhere. The job involves working with teens on a leadership program—why does that appeal to you? How about the college and university internship program—how does your experience lend itself to helping out with that? How about the free workshop series? I don’t need a paragraph about why every program appeals to you, but you need to give me some idea that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

There’s an elephant in the room. There’s an aspect of the job description—outreach, administration, event logistics, etc.—that you clearly have no experience in, and there’s nothing in your materials to address this.

Why this is an issue: I have a rubric where I rate applicants on all of the major aspects of the job. Someone else is going to have experience that hits all of those points. It would be simplest for me to interview only the people who can check all of those boxes. If you don’t have 100% of the skills required in the job description, convince me why I should bring you in anyway. Before you apply for a job, spend time going through the job description and underlining the major points. Look for words/concepts that recur or seem to be particularly important—logistics, data management, collaboration, etc. Brainstorm how your experience aligns with those areas, and address that in your cover letter. Adapt your resume to highlight specific elements of past work experience so I can tell that you’re qualified. For areas in which you have no experience, don’t BS it or ignore it. You can say you’re looking forward to learning about ______ and believe you can use your combination of X past experience and Y past experience to do a great job.

All four of these issues can be avoided by slowing down and being particularly thoughtful about each application you submit. It should take you a long time to apply for a job, and your chances of being called in for an interview go way up if you submit materials that show careful research and attention to detail. Do your research, tell your story, draw that clear line between your background and the specifics of the position, and you’ll help the hiring manager understand why you’re the best one for the job.

The Marathon & the Monster


I live along the LA Marathon route and love running.  When family members and friends asked if I’d considered running the marathon, I told them sure, I’d thought about it, but didn’t think I had the time to train.

That wasn’t the whole truth.  I was nervous that setting a fitness goal as ambitious as a marathon would trigger my old eating disorder.

From ages sixteen through twenty-two, I struggled with anorexia, compulsive over-exercising, and bulimia, roughly in that order.  This was such a big part of my life that when someone mentions college, my mind immediately flashes to images of disordered eating: microwaving a giant bowl of sweet potatoes and ketchup for dinner in my lonely apartment, eating three pieces of cake at a graduation party and desperately searching for a place on campus where I could purge, lacing up my running shoes not because I wanted to but because my brain told me I had to.

The night before college graduation.  I was miserable and had driven myself to the ER earlier that day because I thought I was having a heart attack (it was a panic attack).

The night before college graduation. I was miserable, stuck in a cycle of restricting and purging, and had driven myself to the ER earlier that day because I thought I was having a heart attack (it was a panic attack).

My preoccupation with food and exercise were so all-consuming that I feel like my other memories from these six years are gray, faded.  I was too busy with my compulsions to pay attention to the rest of my life.

As you can imagine, this sucked.  I have no words to describe the suckiness.  Have you seen that commercial for anti-anxiety medication where the woman is followed around by a little black cloud?

It was like that, except I was inside the cloud.

Books and movies portray eating disorders as all about control—striving for it, maintaining it, losing it, a cycle of willpower and excess.  Yes, that’s true, but to me, the struggle for control wasn’t the worst part of eating disorders.  It’s the time I lost.  They took up so much time and energy.  You’re never away from them: it’s like a parasite takes over your brain and convinces you that it is you and this life is normal.

When I opened up about my problems with bulimia and over-exercising to my then-boyfriend (now husband), he said, very matter-of-factly, “You should never do that again.”  And he helped me find a remarkable therapist, and supported me while I essentially sobered up from my disordered eating.

First came the recovery period, where I was as into being in recovery as I’d been involved in the disorder itself.  I contemplated getting a recovery tattoo.  I read lots of books about eating disorders, recovery, etc.  I started writing a book about it.

And then… I sort of forgot about it.

I’d started developing a palate again and discovered I hated foods I’d regularly eaten because they were on my ‘safe’ list (red onions are disgusting, FYI).  That led to interest in cooking, and soon my kitchen was filled with things like coconut milk, flavored oil, dark chocolate with cayenne, and basically every kind of sauce, oil, vinegar, and spice I could get my hands on.  I thought about food when I was cooking and eating it, and thought about lots of other things during the rest of my day.

Meanwhile, I came back to running and re-discovered the joy of running fast, the moments when I felt like I was inside a video game, hurtling through pathways and over obstacles.  I did yoga and hiked and took spinning class with my best friend.  Or I skipped the gym and slept in instead.

I was free.  It was awesome.

Because no pancake should be left uneaten.

Because no pancake should be left uneaten.

I stopped talking or thinking about eating disorders because they’re boring and I had other stuff going on.  When old friends asked if I was still doing okay, it felt like such an irrelevant question—like someone asking if I was still sad about a high school breakup.  I was no longer in recovery.  I had too much else to do.

As a sidenote—especially for anyone reading this who has disordered eating issues—I weigh less now than when I was restricting, binging & over-exercising.  I treat my body with respect, and that means when it wants chocolate (which is every night, by the way), it gets some fucking chocolate.

I’m not tempted to binge, because I know that I can have anything I want without guilt, at any time.  When I’m hungry, I eat.  I eat the food that sounds good to me at the moment, so I’m satisfied and happy.  Then I move on with my life and can think about other things.

This post-recovery me was still scared my disordered eating would return.  It was like the killer in a horror franchise.  Is it dead?  Or is it waiting for me to trigger some switch, say some combination of words that’ll bring the monster back from the netherworld, throw me back into the cloud?

And that is why I’ve been scared to train for and run the LA Marathon.

Running a marathon is a big commitment.  You need to follow a training program, eat in a specific way, push yourself physically.  When I made the decision to run the 2014 marathon and started training, I was all too aware of the similarities between training and my past disordered eating.  I was writing numbers on a calendar (but miles, not calories), working out nearly every day, and paying more attention to nutrition, although my changes were mostly about increasing complex carbohydrates so I could power through long-mileage runs.

How would a recovering alcoholic feel if they needed to re-enact their ritual of coming home, putting ice in a glass, pouring liquid in the glass and sitting in a specific armchair to drink it?  Doesn’t matter if it’s iced tea—would the pattern alone cause a relapse?

Even as I felt myself getting stronger and more confident in myself as a runner, I kept looking over my shoulder, wondering if the monster was waiting, about to attack.  Do you really need to eat that chocolate?  It might say. You’re running so much.  Think of the weight you could lose if you just… cut… a few… calories…

But the monster never arrived.

Overlooking Mulholland.

Last Saturday, I did the longest training run of my beginner marathon program.  It didn’t go smoothly.

I was supposed to do 20 miles, but my MapMyRun app lead me into a gated Beverly Hills community, from which I was promptly ejected by security.  I had to backtrack about two miles, and then ran up Coldwater Canyon to reconnect to the route I’d carefully planned.

When I looked back at MapMyRun, I realized sticking with the route at this point would result in a thirty mile run—way too much for a beginner.  Around this time I realized I’d forgotten to wear my FitBit tracker and hadn’t brought money to buy a second Gatorade when mine ran out.  My run was not working out the way it was supposed to.  For a moment, I felt frustrated.  I felt out-of-control.

And suddenly, as I crested Mulholland and looked down at the city sparkling below me, everything made sense.

This run was supposed to remind me to let go.

So I did.  I coasted down through Coldwater Canyon park, filling my bottle at a water fountain along the trail.  I enjoyed the adventure of running through unfamiliar neighborhoods and discovering new parts of the city – my favorite part of my marathon training.  And as I wound my way back toward my apartment and realized I would come in right around 22 miles, I felt strong, happy, and calm.

Running a charity 5K in October 2013.

Running a charity 5K in October 2013.

The monster was not running behind me, or hanging out somewhere in the back of my brain, ready to pounce.

The monster is dead.

I’ll run my first marathon on March 9 and am hopeful that I’ll be able to finish.  For me, running is meditative, and the long hours I’ve put into my training have given me a lot of time to reflect and dream.  Although the six years I spent in the fog of disordered eating certainly influenced the person I’ve become, it no longer defines me.

I’m a wife, an arts manager, and a runner who likes to cook.

I am not “in recovery” from an eating disorder.

I just don’t have time for that.

I wrote this blog post to contribute to the Purple Project: Eating Disorder Awareness Month.  You can learn more about the project, eating disorders and recovery at Where I Stand.

Several people have asked for my thoughts on the unpaid internship controversy.  I love Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a compelling look at ambitious women in the workforce and the factors that have traditionally kept us out of the highest-paid and most senior-level positions.

I also run the internship program at the nonprofit Center Theatre Group, where all of our internships must be taken for credit or are compensated with a stipend.

Here’s what Rachel Thomas,’s President, had to say via Facebook after a job posting for an ‘unpaid internship’ at the organization started making the rounds:

Like many nonprofits, LeanIn.Org has attracted volunteers who are passionate about our mission. We’ve had four students ask to volunteer with us. They worked flexibly when they could, and often remotely.

These volunteers helped support our message and community, and gained valuable experience doing so. They did not displace or delay the hiring of paid employees. The posting that prompted this discussion was for a position that doesn’t fall within LeanIn.Org’s definition of a “volunteer.”

This non-apology is so strangely written that it’s hard for me to know where to start.

Here’s the main thing I take from it, and it’s actually pretty disturbing: is using ‘intern’ and ‘volunteer’ interchangeably.  Thomas, speaking on behalf of her organization, is confusing two distinct categories.

This comes immediately after this patronizing intro:

“We recognize there is an ongoing public debate on the appropriate use of unpaid interns. So we want to share the facts with you and our community.” 

This word, “fact?”  And “intern?”  And “volunteer?”

You keep using these words.

I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

Ms. Thomas, nonprofit volunteers do not need to “gain valuable experience,” and they can and often do “displace or delay hiring of employees.”

That language refers to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) criteria for internships. 

Here are some basic differences between the two categories:

  • Internships are training programs, and the “training must be for the benefit of the trainee,” to quote the FLSA. In fact, “The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded.”  Read: they are not cheap or free labor.
  • Internship learning experiences must include close observation (mentorship), so working remotely is not a good indication that you have provided a rewarding internship experience.
  • Volunteers, conversely, usually do work that directly benefits the nonprofit.  They do not need to be mentored, do not need to be trained, and can be utilized in lieu of paid, regular employees.

There are many blog posts and web resources that go into the differences between volunteers and interns at length.  For example, this excellent Blue Avocado article spells out additional best practices and quotes relevant parts of the FLSA.

In a nonprofit setting, it can be difficult to ensure internships are crafted to not only fulfill legal requirements, but also to serve the best interests of each intern.

Much of my job running CTG’s internship program involves saying no.  I say no to supervisors who want their interns to work “as much as possible,” and to interns who are so happy to be involved that they try to expand their 10 hour/week stipend position into 20 or 30 hours.

Here’s what I say to them:

The internship is for the benefit of the intern.  It is a learning experience, not free labor.  If your department needs help with basic tasks such as stuffing envelopes, filing, or data entry, I empathize and suggest you think about getting a regular volunteer to help.

Because volunteers are different. Outside of CTG, I am on the staff of an all-volunteer small theatre company, Circle X Theatre Co.  As a volunteer, I can do whatever I want, and whatever is needed, for as many hours a week as I care to give.  I clean bathrooms.  I stuff envelopes.  I do hours of data entry.  It’s my choice as a volunteer, and I’m doing it to help the nonprofit organization, not for a learning or career benefit.  Right now, Circle X has a (paid) summer intern, and she will not be cleaning toilets.  The internship.  Is for the benefit.  Of the intern.

And to the interns: this is bigger than you, so no, I will not make an exception and let you work full-time.  Up until a few years ago, CTG almost exclusively took interns from a large, local private university with very high tuition.  As the program has opened up, we’re starting to see more people from public schools, including the two-year community colleges near our organization.  The reason our positions are designed to be super part-time (10 to 16 hours a week for undergraduates, with the schedule built around the intern’s) is the stipend amounts we have available are quite low ($500 – $700 for ten weeks).  They’re designed to allow a student to also hold a part-time job that pays the bills.

I do not want lack of economic privilege to be a barrier to participation in this workforce development program.  When we raise the stipends for these time-bound educational opportunities to a living wage, we can increase weekly hours.  Programs such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s FAIR pay interns $1,000/month and provide housing.  When CTG is able to do that, we will absolutely create additional opportunities, likely full-time, 10-week summer internships.

I don’t foresee a time when we would extend those opportunities beyond 13 or 14 weeks, though; the point of an internship is to train & release, allowing the intern to ‘lean in’ to the next career opportunity.

The more I think about’s posting and strange response, the more it seems indicative of the widespread misunderstanding of the role of interns in the nonprofit sector.  We have a pressing need for workforce development, especially career training opportunities accessible to young people of color (research suggests that executive nonprofit leaders AND current students in nonprofit management Masters programs are 80-90% white) and people without economic privilege.

Unpaid internships and the increasing number of low-paying nonprofit management jobs that require Masters degrees can price people out of nonprofit management careers.  Humane, student-focused, and compensated internships introduce emerging professionals to the field and can provide a leg up in the competitive nonprofit landscape.

Lean In talks about the importance of equity– and of recognizing when systems are inherently inequitable.  The best thing for Thomas, Sandberg and the organization to do would be to use this opportunity to clarify the roles of interns vs. volunteers, apologize, and vow to do better.

Unfortunately, it looks like they’re trying to justify their bias by manipulating language, defending their actions, and refusing to admit fault.

Which sounds a lot like the tactics that keep women out of top-level, high-paying positions.

I’ll end with some quotations from Lean In:

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”

“The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.”

“Larry implored us to exert more control over our careers. He said McKinsey would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line.”

“I feel really grateful to the people who encouraged me and helped me develop. Nobody can succeed on their own.”

Here’s hoping Sandberg will take her advice, and provide equal and accessible opportunities for training and mentorship within her own organization.

Ashton Kutcher’s 2013 Teen Choice Awards acceptance speech is making the rounds on Facebook, and for good reason: Kutcher takes the opportunity to talk about the value of hard work, creating your own opportunities, and acknowledging your power to shape your life.

It made me think about my experiences working with teens and young adults.  I love it.  I love them.  They make me proud and give me hope that the future will be better than the present.

But there’s one thing that makes me cringe: their tendency to ask other people to help pay for what they want to do.

This is especially prevalent among theatre and arts students, as summer programs, arts schools, and classes can be extremely expensive.  I remember feeling that combination of excitement (I got into this amazing program!) and dread (how the heck am I going to pay for this?).  Had Kickstarter or IndieGoGo existed when I was a teenager, I would have jumped on the bandwagon and asked friends and family to help pay for my education, my travel, even my move to LA after graduation.

I am so glad these options didn’t exist.

Now, a lot more has changed since the early 2000s than the availability of online fundraising platforms.  The economy has tanked while the cost of education continues to rise.  In the arts and arts management fields, having a Masters degree has become more and more of a necessity for many jobs.  I would argue it’s more difficult to be a young adult in 2013 than it was in 2002.

That said, here’s what always comes to mind when I see these Kickstarter requests.  First, I picture myself at 17 or 18, big with the sense of my own talent and intelligence.  And I think:

There is only one person in the world in charge of your success.

Your parents do not owe you anything, nor do your relatives (even if they have money).

Your friends love you, but they do not need to help pay for your cat’s surgery, for your trip to Europe, or for the summer arts program that will change your life.  And it will change your life.  Your life.

See, the difference between a charity asking for money to bring joy or reduce pain, or an artist asking for money to create an art product that will be enjoyed by others, is that your ask is fundamentally about you: your growth and development as a person, an artist, a citizen.

Asking for people to fund your life makes you a product.  It crowd-funds you away from the driver’s seat.

If you are waiting for other people to make your dreams come true, doesn’t that feel just a little scary?  It takes away the certainty– I will succeed, no matter what– and adds a conditional– I will succeed, if other people come through and help me do so.

It also– and here I’m really speaking to 17-year-old-me– presumes that you are worthy of being funded, just for being you.

Millennials already have to fight against our “Trophy Generation” perception and older generations’ complaints about our overdeveloped sense of entitlement.  Just Google “millennial entitlement” or “Trophy Generation” and you’ll see litany after get-off-my-lawn litany about people born in the past 30 years.

You are entitled to a damn good life and a successful career.  You get those things by believing in yourself and fighting for them.  Even if you do get people to pay for your education, your travel, your unexpected expenses, eventually those opportunities will fall away and you will be standing alone on the merits of your accomplishments.  If your college resume shows no work experience or volunteer service, every accolade in the world won’t get you a job.

Before you set up that Kickstarter, ask:

1. Am I doing everything in my power to make this opportunity happen? I see many students fundraising for opportunities while also posting about how boring their summer is.  Are you working?  First jobs suck.  Second jobs suck.  But they can make a little money, and show you’re serious about getting what you want.  This summer, I saw nearly a dozen young people post Kickstarters.  I saw one person post about needing a job to raise money for college.  Guess which person I helped?  Also: guess which one was most successful?  That student is on his way to an excellent school, with two flexible jobs, and will not need to take out loans for his first year.

2. Does this experience benefit others, or only me?  If you’re creating art, doing volunteer work or community service, or generally helping others, please ask your network to support you.  If the experience solely benefits you, see #1.  If you are doing everything you can and are trying to close the gap, make that clear.

PS: You, as a person, are not art.  Even if you’re planning to write about your trip or become a better actor through the experience, solely being you is not a reason for people to pay for you to do so.  I don’t care how talented you are. Here’s the beautiful and terrible part about being an artist: someone is always better at it than you are.  If they’re working harder, you’re fucked.

So work harder, be kinder, embrace humility, and know that the power to be successful is in your– and only your– hands.

And paradoxically, that’s when people will go out of their way to help you succeed.

Random Bunneh Photo


(Originally posted on ARTSblog, accessible here.)

Rambling ten-page resumes. Headshots submitted for management positions. Cover letters written in one big, messy paragraph in the body of an email. And one resume that was somehow, inexplicably, saved as a series of stream-of-consciousness bullet points in an .RTF file.

I coordinate the internship program at Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest—and most prestigious—theatres in the country. These are just a few of the bizarre, sad, and shockingly common application faux pas I saw in our last application cycle.

Most undergraduates aren’t introduced to career options in arts administration within an academic context. An internship can provide an excellent introduction to the field. Many of the applicants I see are undergraduate theatre or acting majors, curious about career options in the discipline they love.

And many of them are woefully unequipped to apply for any job.

It’s tempting to fault schools for this lack of preparation. However, nearly every two-year and four-year college or university has a career center with free services. I’m also a big fan of personal responsibility.

So hey, arts major. Here are five tips for applying to internships or entry-level jobs in arts management.

Assume the position is extremely competitive. Actors, have you ever walked into an audition and seen 40 people waiting to try out for the same role? That’s what’s happening virtually when you apply for an internship. In my experience both at CTG and for very small arts organizations, it’s common to receive dozens of strong applications for a single paid internship. Hot entry-level jobs in arts management can attract hundreds of applicants. I say this not to discourage you from applying, but to discourage you from applying with sub-par materials. Which brings me to…

Write a new cover letter for each application. Talk about why you’re interested in the position, why you would be a good fit, and, if it’s an internship, what you hope to learn that will benefit your career. Research the organization, the supervisor, and the position. I can’t tell you how many applicants for development (i.e., fundraising) internships talk about how much they love script development. Cool, man. I love avocados.

Formatting matters, both for your resume and your cover letter. Visit a career center, or look at examples of resumes and cover letters online. I don’t care if your letter is block or semi-block. Here’s what I’m looking for: Does it look professional? Can I find your basic information? Does it reflect you, or did you plug your name into a template you bought online? Am I confident you will be able to write an email to a patron or send a thank-you letter to a donor without embarrassing my organization?

Follow the instructions. Our internships require a cover letter, resume, and a PDF application, all emailed to me as attachments. This is clearly stated on our materials. Almost 25% of applicants do not do this correctly. The most common errors are letters written in the body of the email, blank PDFs, and applications from people who are ineligible. The first two look sloppy. The third—the “will you make an exception?” application—is worse.

Look, internships and entry-level positions are designed for people without a lot of experience. Let’s say I were to let someone who’s been out of school for four years and has held several marketing positions have an undergraduate-level marketing internship. To quote South Park, you’re gonna have a bad time. I understand it’s rough out there, but when I see someone grossly overqualified I assume they’re either going to be miserable, or they’ll quit after two months when they find a full-time position. Think about whether you’re going to be happy in a position before wasting time applying.

Be honest about your goals and experience. The cover letter says: “I have always been passionate about theatre.” The resume lists internships in galleries, involvement with mural organizations, and a pending BA in Fine Arts, with no mention of theatre. Regardless of the applicant’s intent, she looks like a liar. We’re going to notice discrepancies between past experience and the focus of your application. This also goes for unexplained gaps on your resume, no work experience, or academic issues. We’re going to see it, so make it a part of your story.

She could have said: “I’m currently pursuing a career in visual arts marketing. However, this semester I helped with a friend’s theatre production, and realized I was interested in performing arts marketing as well.” If that’s true, that moves her out of the “not a good fit” pile to the “makes a good case for herself” pile. If it’s not true and we hire her based on it, well…she’s gonna have a bad time.

There’s a common thread in these five tips. Submit targeted, professional materials and think critically about whether you’re passionate about the position and a good fit before applying.

These tips come solely from my experience overseeing application processes for about forty internships and entry-level positions, and reading approximately eight hundred applications in the process. I welcome additional thoughts or disagreement in the comments.

And I look forward to receiving your application.

(Originally posted on RAWartists’ I am Indie blog, accessible here.)

I love my career. At 28, I have a job I love as the Educational Programs Manager at Center Theatre Group. I also serve as the volunteer Director of Development for Circle X Theatre Co. In late 2010, I joined the national Emerging Leader Council through Americans for the Arts, and have Co-Chaired the council for the past year.

Everything is great, but then I try to balance one– more– spinning– plate– like agreeing to help with a friend’s really cool art project, or assisting with the coordination of a local conference.

And all of those things are great too. That’s the hard part. Because as much as I want to do them, sometimes taking on one additional project is what pushes my life from awesomely fulfilling to overwhelming and stressful.

I am a strong proponent of volunteering for events or projects within the community where you want to work, whether that’s geographic or discipline-based. In 2005, I started volunteering within the Los Angeles theatre community, and it helped me find my creative home and hone the management skills I’d use to build my career. Hours spent behind check-in tables continue to pay dividends; at a recent Los Angeles County Arts Commission grantee event, the Circle X board member I’d arrived with was impressed that I seemed to know everyone in the room. Becoming this kind of ‘known quantity’ did not happen overnight. I have been successful as an arts manager because I say yes to things, and then do them. (That last part is the important bit.) I like being someone my colleagues reach out to when they need a reliable, organized person who gets stuff done.

To say no to an opportunity seems anathema to how I’ve carved a niche for myself in the LA theatre management scene. Eventually, though, I need to become more strategic about saying yes to things.

How do you know when you’ve reached the point in your career when it’s okay to politely decline a high-profile, but potentially high-stress, request?

I think the key lies in selfishness. This can be a dirty word for artists and arts managers used to valuing collaboration, putting the group above the individual, and ensemble creation– all hallmarks of theatre and many other disciplines, too. But each member of an ensemble is still an individual, and that individual’s physical and emotional health has a major impact on the success of the group.

I love cooking, and curating a career and artistic life seems much like improvising a new recipe. I know I want to include family, my job at CTG and my volunteer gig at Circle X. That leaves room for perhaps one or two more flavors each month. One month maybe it’s a mentorship opportunity; the next, helping a colleague produce an event.

Just as in cooking, though, adding everything to that recipe spoils the balance and detracts from the quality of the individual elements.

We emerging artists and arts leaders need to honor that balance by saying no, even when our gut reaction is yes. It’s a skill that will become increasingly important as we become leaders of our field. We– I– need to trust that opportunities will continue to come, and giving 100% to the projects we take on is more important than spreading ourselves too thin by trying to take on the world.