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Emory Wire Interview

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Check out this interview I did for the Emory Alumni Association’s Emory Wire publication.

EricaSmiling1How did you know you were meant to be an actress?:
Subconsciously I  think I knew all along.  Performing Arts in various forms has been something I’ve been drawn to as far back as I can remember:  I used to walk on my toe-knuckles around the house to feel like a ballerina in pointe shoes (in hindsight not the best idea), I would put a towel over my head and sing into a hairbrush in the bathroom mirror (what is it about little girls and towels on their heads), and if there was a camera of any kind within 30 feet, forget it!:  I was stealing the show.  I even had dreams of me being onstage that seemed so real I woke up ready to sign autographs.  I think we get distracted from our spirit by the outside world (i.e. parents, teachers, friends, media, etc.) which is why meditation has become such a sensation.  My parents had other plans for me:  like most parents they just wanted to see me successful and happy.  In their minds it meant being a doctor or lawyer: enter Emory University.  But even though I was smart and could do the work easily when I put my mind to it; the trouble was keeping my mind focused on it.  I always felt there was a different path that would make me happier.  I would get little spiritual nudges everytime I performed from elementary school plays and choruses, to dancing in highschool football halftime shows, and Emory’s AHANA and Gospel choir.   When I really started performing it clicked!  Sort of like finding the last number in a combination lock and opening the safe.  I just felt so open to possibilities and really alive!

You’ve said you rely on your spirituality to guide you. Can you explain?
Yes.  As I mentioned before I believe we get distracted by our parents, friends, media, society from who we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to be doing.  I believe people are born with an innate sense of purpose and as they are exposed to a variety of things they begin to uncover that purpose.  However sometimes parents (with the best of intentions) have their own agenda for their children and guide them away from their true purpose.  Or friends will judge and make you feel uncomfortable pursuing your purpose.  It’s only when you begin to separate yourself from that “need for approval” from parents, friends, society and really go within to discover what your spirit feels is right for you that you can free yourself and truly become the person you were meant to be.  I did that.
No one starts out perfect  (that’s why there’s growth) and  I was no exception to the rule.  I would sing and have friends tell me to shut up because they didn’t like the way my voice sounded;  I would have my parents tell me to focus on academics and keep my head out of the clouds, I would have people literally laugh at my dreams (friends!) when I told them that I was going to be an actress and singer and dancer and model.  And for a while it worked.  I doubted myself.  Then I realized the problem: I was relying on other people for validation when they were just as lost as I was!  It wasn’t up to them to decide what felt right to me it was up to me.  I moved to a place where I could get away from the influence of everyone I knew:  Japan!  It was perfect.  I knew no one, could not speak, read or write the language and literally had no one but myself to rely on.  It was very scary but that’s precisely when I started to recognize my spirituality and learn to truly rely on it my for answers.

Do you rely on your spirituality in times of stress?
I rely on my spirit in times of stress, peace and everything in between.  When you are really in tune with your spirit it is your best advice and greatest comfort.  My spirituality has grown to the point that if I have a question about anything at all my 1st step is to find a space where I can be alone and quiet.  I meditate over the issue then say a long prayer and simply wait.  I have said no to jobs that people would kill for several times because my spirit showed me that there would be something better if I held out:  it was right.  I have lost jobs and been devastated and my strong spirit kept me in the game.  I have relied on my spirit in relationships, friendships, family, health, personal and career issues big and small and it is the one thing that has never let me down.  I am so grateful to have found my spirit and am still discovering the magnificent boundless power of it:  just when I think I’ve got my spirit all figured out I discover a new abysmal depth of it.   My spirit is kind of amazing!  I call my spirit GOD.

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