Eat, Pray, Beans.
Tension. I was all stiff & knotted up. My body at the mercy of chronic pain & mental illness, my distant heart yearning for a new avenue to walk my ever elusive “purpose,” & my mind fully addicted to the idea that breaking from the actor grind would completely halt any forward motion in my career & dissolve anything of “merit” that I’d built unto this point. I was lonely, living through a fear state, in deep pain, & subconsciously committed to continual creative dissatisfaction. TL;DR: my neck, my back, my anxiety attack. In my recent final months in NYC one thing became apparent to me: it was time to leave. I am extremely grateful for all opportunities that manifested during my time living in New York & to all those who held a seat for me at their tables. I was not without opportunity or work. Doors™ opened for me; I inched over with a cautious determination & squinted through the searing light exiting the crack. I met People™. I did Things™. I updated my website. When I’d accrued enough regional clout & sweet, sweet exposure points I rushed to the US Embassy of Imposter Syndrome, only to have my deadwood credentials chucked back at me, over my head, and into the Hudson. Actually, I ended up visiting the Embassy a few times. Many times, in fact, my arms clutching pails brimming with Clout Tickets. Often I’d frantically advance upon their steps, ignorant to the Clout Tix flying over my shoulders into the wind.
I’d reach the Embassy’s entrance out of breath, but full of pride. I’d straighten my back and dutifully slide the pails of Clout Tickets toward the resident diplomat. And each time I was met with the same response: “This currency is not useful here. You can try Sears.” And each time, the tickets would dissolve into a dust before my eyes, leaving me with nothing but empty pails & a lot of fatigue. I fell asleep on the subway every time I rode back. I was growing numb. All this potential with no outlet. All these outlets with no connection. “Is there a throughline to my work? Is what I do work? Of course it is. Then why aren’t I proud of it? What is It? What am I even doing?”
I was sick of “potential.”
I was sick of grinding.
I was sick, physically.
And creatively fucking comatose.
My impulses had left me.
My throat locked up & I could no longer sing. The joy of creating had been replaced with panic years ago. My mind like a sputtering hoopdee in the desert. Say hoopdee again. Hoopdee. “Did I really choose this life for myself?” “Actors say things like ‘if I don’t act I’ll die’ or ‘I act because it’s what I must do’ - so why do I feel pure dread any time I even think of a script?” “Whatever I’m doing in these audition rooms… it’s not It. Yet.” That “yet” - the potential to “level up” or become that version of yourself we so earnestly reach towards, under the false pretense that this other version of you is somehow stronger, more lovable, and generally just all around Better.
And that “yet” was what kept me spinning on a cockroach infested mousewheel until life set forward different plans for me. It was February when an intense panic attack brought on by the visual of a soccer ball (yes, you read that right [I’m not kinkshaming r u]) lead to the official decision to leave New York and move to the West Coast. Looking back, I’m so proud to have come to that decision at that time. Either way, I packed up my glamorous Brooklyn closet & headed to stay with family in NJ until I could catch my flight to Los Angeles. Then Miss Rona arrived.
Plot twist. My flight was cancelled, NJ went on lockdown, and the entertainment industry was essentially put on hold until further notice. When the Covid-19 pandemic became our reality, all humans on Earth were forced to reexamine shit. “World, STOP,” Beyonce had cried and her knightly “carry on” was nowhere to be seen.
My father is a Virologist, my brother is a pulmonary specialist, and I am a decorated champion of catastrophic thinking. Personally, I’d like to think that I’ve prepared my whole life for the flaming trash fire that is 2020. The apocalypse had arrived and so had I. To New Jersey. But also to the present moment. Let me explain: All that behind the scenes work of staying relevant and on top of your craft and your game that is expected of us as actors slowly declined from a roaring boil to a dull simmer until finally, silence. I’d been granted a break. Actually, not only was I granted a GrindBreak™, but we were all vehemently instructed to stay the fuck home. Yeah so anyway, those first few *moments of lockdown were pivotal for me. (*lmao “moments” - do I mean days? Months? Literal minutes? Who knows; linear time is fake & quarantine has truly reinforced this fact I DIGRESS) I say this because A) mindfulness really is that bitch and B) it was at the top of lockdown that I asked myself a very simple & powerful question that would change the course of my life: “Aryana, what have you always wanted to do but never had the time or resources to try?” The answer came easier than I thought. I wanted to plant seeds and pour my own candles.
I started slow. Found some dry kidney beans in the pantry, placed them in a paper towel, wet them, slid them into ziplocs, & put them away for a rainy day. Before I knew it, Bean Kween over here had germinated 42 beans in 2 weeks. The beans were thriving & so was my inner child.
Without the immediate pressure of the way things had been, I was granted the peace to explore the way things could be. How simple something so dry could be nourished. Could thrive again. I started dreaming again and approaching my practices with curiosity, not a product-oriented demand. I reconnected with the visceral - which I had so craved during its absence.
In this newfound space & creative titillation, I realized something scary: Until now, Aryana had totally fucking left the building.
I was deferring to “industry professionals” for “marketing” advice. I left my choices up to institutions larger than me. That probably “knew better.” I’d completely excused myself from the equation of my creative existence. A state I’ve since promised never to return to. No one can fuck with me; I’m the motherfuckin’ BeanKween. Drunk with power, I started pouring candles. Spoilers, I love it and it’s now my full-time job. Ironically, the joy of redirecting my creativity to gardening and furthermore into candlemaking & creating personalized care packages lead to the beginnings of deeper connection to our arts community & a successful business brewing on the horizon. A thought doesn’t fill me with abject dread anymore, but hope.
These days, there’s still fuss & there are still scenes. My garden thrives (& tbh you should see my nectarines) but truly, I am telling you the same I tell Kings & Queens: don’t ever, ever, ever mess around with my greens. Especially the beans.