Thursday, January 26, 2012

Girls to Women, People to Gods

Phenomenal Woman

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I wish more women understood their power. I wish more people in general understood their power, but this poem makes me mourn specifically for the woman's tortured mentality. I'm not saying that I am the epitome of self-confidence or that I totally embody the idea of this poem, I'm just as much a victim to stereotypes and impossible expectations as the next woman. But I do understand that we all have our own power, a unique energy that we choose to abuse or nurture depending on our fears and insecurities.

I know how easy it is to let doubt take control of your life, hand over the steering wheel to insecurity, and let fear make all of your decisions for you. We come up with all of these reasons and excuses to construct a life of minimal possibilities so that we don't ever fail too hard or hurt too much. I should know, I've been doing it my entire life. And now that I'm beginning to understand that about myself, and realize how ridiculous it is to live that way, I can see how other people use fear and insecurity in their lives to disconnect themselves from their power to diminish responsibility for their own happiness. I can also see the people who have flung themselves into the chaos of life with full-force, finding certain "successes", but have not yet embraced their true power. Finally, I can see, and admire, the people who know themselves, understand their power, and have made a life dedicated to love, work, and balance. I think my Mother is the best example of this.

I think this poem is about more than just the allure of self-confidence, though that is definitely something valuable to meditate on as a young woman once in a while. It's about the power of the mind, and how easy life can be once your brainless insecurities are domesticated and tamed by a clear conscious. It speaks to women on the surface, but if you stretch its message and wring out other meanings, you can see that it speaks to us all.

Life is much easier than we allow it to be.
Know yourself, and others will want to know you.
Love yourself, and others will want to love you.
Be yourself, and others will want to be you.

That's what Maya, that beautiful goddess, is trying to tell young women with this poem.
But we can all connect to it on a very basic level.

That's all well and good, Jillbo, you say, but how does one begin to live that way? How are we supposed to sever ourselves from the insecurities we've been forming since childhood? How do we even begin to understand what those insecurities are, how they are controlling us, and who we can be without them? It seems very difficult.

Maybe there was a time when you were a child and your parents decided that you had too many toys, and so you had to choose some to give away or throw out. And it seemed like the most difficult, heart-breaking, impossible thing to do because you loved them all so much. But really you didn't need all of those toys, and you kept the ones that really meant something to you. And now as an adult you're glad you aren't carrying around trash bags full of Barbies and Beanie Babies.

Clean yourself out. It may seem hard to let go of some things, but like your adult-self looking back on your kid-self, you will understand the benefits when you're not weighed down with the unnecessary in the future.

There are many ways, I'm sure, to begin doing this, and I'm only just beginning to explore a few. Maybe that's what the next blog will be about, so... you should probably subscribe. Like, now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are we capable of Great Change?

I had a conversation with my best friend in a bar in Prague about the desperation, and whether or not it is necessary to understand it in order to be a great catalyst of change. Over a few beers (including an incredible chocolate beer that could have rivaled Willy Wonka’s chocolate bars as the best version of chocolate imaginable) we circled around to the familiar conversation of what we hope to become and how we plan to get there. My friend and I both fancy ourselves artists, creators, lovers of the unexplored and would-be archaeologists of truth, and we often find ourselves pondering our futures together. And so we stumbled back to this allusive topic like a drunk stumbles to his favorite bar stool, and our recent evolutions began to show. My best friend has a big heart that matches his big brain, and sometimes I have to wonder how he has the ability to carry so much love and intelligence in one body without getting exhausted from the combined forces pulling him in all directions at all times. He wants to know what we’re going to do, what’s the next step into creating something real, important, and helpful to others. We need to figure out how to start changing the world and it needs to be big. I say, Yes, but we have a big problem. Our world at this time is facing the greatest and most difficult problem that has ever been faced, because our greatest enemy is faceless and voiceless. As energetic as we are in our passions, as learned as we are in the ways of revolution, as eager as we are to implement great change, the truth is that Apathy and Senselessness having buried themselves in our lives because there is nothing setting fire to our souls. The great monster we are trying to kill is ourselves. We’ve been too fortunate and too well-taken care of to understand the deep need of change. Yes, we see the problems. We see the homeless and the hungry, we watch the oppressed enact violence on each other, we read about government attempts to kill and dishearten truth. We do all of this as we collect our textbooks, attend classes, interact with people who are exactly like us, and then go home for the weekend.

And this brought me to my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street. I think Occupy Wall Street is a good sign that we’re finally getting riled up enough to really try to expose the consequences of our apathy, and I think our government is as good as a target as it has ever been. What I find disconcerting and frustrating about Occupy Wall Street, however, is the lack of focus. It seems that The Problem is actually a myriad of thousands of problems, and each discontented person can pick and choose which is most important to him, make a sign for it, and join the large symphony of voices shouting over each other to be heard. According to, a website dedicated to spreading the practices of civil disobedience and occupying public spaces peacefully in protest, their goal is establishing “a universal and accessible database made up of documents related to peaceful civil disobedience and grassroots practices, spreading it physically and on-line to the very assemblies, occupations and groups around the whole world.” The website acts as a meeting place for anyone interested in getting involved to find some capacity where they fit in, and it seems there are a lot of interesting groups and forums that people can get involved in. I think Occupy Wall Street has served as a good starting point for people who really want to do something about something but can’t figure out what it is that needs to be done. Now people can go online, look up Occupy Wall Street, and find tons of other people just like them trying to do something about something. That is cool, but I don’t think it’s enough. But at least it’s something.

And this is why I think desperation, hopelessness, and, ultimately, recklessness are vital experiences one must have in order to really make a difference. When you think about the great artists and activists of the past you have to consider the time and place in which they found themselves that drove them to do the great things they did. Even people who may not have made a great difference in their societies but where considered a genius in their craft usually had some adversity to face, something in their lives or in their minds that created a deep need to create something that made the world at least slightly different in order to bear it. My worry, and my blessing, is that we have not been forced to change our world in a drastic way because, deep down, we are really comfortable and content with the way things are, as much as we are truly angered by the way the system treats others. It’s one thing to see desperation; it’s another to truly understand it.

And this is what I mean about finding that real desperation, something big and fatally important that absolutely forces us, beyond any ability to doubt or hesitate, to really do something. To think outside the box and come up with something radically different that radically changes the world for the better. I think what will end up happening with Occupy Wall Street is that these young, passionate, fiery protesters will keep pressing the police resistance, pushing them to further limits, until something really terrible happens. If this movement doesn’t die out from lack of momentum soon, it will scratch and crawl to a point of starvation and exhaustion and erupt into something unhealthy. And perhaps that is what I’m saying is what we need.

Maybe if change really must happen, it will happen organically. Those among us who feel the calling will rise to his/her potential and take charge, but I find it a little frightening that our generation hasn’t yet produced any outstanding leaders. Is it possible that there are no Che Guevaras, Martin Luther King Jr.s, Joan of Arcs, or Gandhis left? Has the Universe exhausted its resources of Greatness? Are we doomed to our quiet contentment, as much as it disturbs us? I think the only thing we can do is continue to search ways to push ourselves in all ways. To higher understandings, to better views, to deeper love, to crazier ideas, to wider tolerance. Find the ways in which you are comfortable and do things that make you desperate. Bring yourself to hopelessness and then fight to get your hope back -- it is a valuable lesson that might help you make the world a better place.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year, New Me, New Blog

It's 2012. In the past year I've lived in Los Angeles, had my first internship with a casting agency in Hollywood, roadtripped across the U.S., graduated college, lived in Boston, was cast in my second non-academically associated play, and FINALLY traveled outside of the U.S./moved to Germany to work as an Au pair. Needless to say, I'm thrilled with the start of this new post-academia chapter in my life, and I feel like this new year has brought about the beginning of a new section in this developing chapter.

Some of you may know that I started a blog at the beginning of my adventure of moving to Germany, but I would like to start over. I wasn't keeping up with it, which I felt bad about, but I I realize now that I shouldn't feel bad about my lack of inspiration because the blog totally lacked a point. I wanted to record my thoughts, feelings, revelations, and transformations as I set out on this new journey, but I think I knew deep down that without a real goal or reason to present this to others makes the writing just plain boring.

So I'd like to welcome you to a NEW blog that follows the events of a NEW me. Living in a new country is amazing in many ways, but one of the greatest things it has done for me so far is giving me new a perspective on what I really want to do with my life. To be clear, I'm still not sure specifically what I want to be, but taking a step back from my artistic and professional pursuits has given me a lot of insight into what it takes to begin figuring that out. I cannot express how valuable it has been to step outside of that world to look at it from the outside - it has given me a desperation and desire to be a part of it that I've never had before, and I understand now how much I will need to do and how focused and passionate I must be to find work that is really meaningful, fun, and rewarding.

So I've started a new group on Facebook called Düsseldorf Writers' Workshop ( to find people in my area who a) speak English and b) are creative, and hopefully from here I can figure out more ways to develop my creativity. I've also gotten a Twitter account to keep up-to-date with Boston/Theater, you can find me on barryjrose8.

Keep up with this blog to see how I'm doing with my many new pursuits, including learning German, traveling, my new writers' workshop, play/movie/book/music reviews, thoughts about acting, theater, and film, and much more.