Have you ever gone through life just trying to connect the dots, or praying for a sign to make a move or just understand what the hell is going on? You have? Great, me too!
We just moved to Charlotte, NC from Buffalo, NY and I hated my new city. I remember being about 12 years old and my grandmother sent me a box with a bunch of gifts but I remember this beautiful bookmark, that had pretty patterns and floral designs. I loved that bookmark. Why? Because had my name on it and it was spelled correctly B-R-E-A-N-A. Not Briana or Brianna. It was my name but right underneath, it had the meaning of my name “Strength & Honor.” Though I’ve since lost that bookmark the gift it gave me is embedded in my brain.
The last few months as I made up my mind that I was going to move I needed a sign that I was making the right decision, I needed to connect the dots. The only way I could do that was reflecting on my life and journey over the last 18 months.
January 2018 my best friend, Deon Releford-Lee was (and still is) my biggest inspiration. He was traveling the state as an actor and he was so so strong. One night as we were talking about being creatives/actors. we talked about him moving around acting in different cities. He told me (as he still does) how great of a writer he believes I am, how much he believes in my work, and I should really pursue it. My response was filled with excuses about stability and being uncomfortable. He responded, “you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Gee thanks.
So somewhere in my uncertainty and fear, I found a way to push myself out of my comfort zone and I started to confront my fears and anxiety. It’s by claiming for 2018 that I was going to focus on doing my creative best and calling myself an artist. Low key o felt like a fraud because I felt like I haven’t done anything to deserve such a title. I started to produce my own stage readings and the turn out was mind-blowing. From there I went to my first audition in 7 years and booked as an understudy in "Eclipsed" by Danai Gurira. Though I was an understudy it gave me such a beautiful opportunity,I got to learn under an amazing director and build a relationship with two women who are truly like my sisters (Toni Oliver and Tracie Frank). But with so much growth and opportunity last summer, I believed I should leave Charlotte to grow into the artist I wanted to be. I decided that after I finished my 3rd year teaching that I should resign and move, my lease would be up and it seemed like would be perfect timing for summer 2019.
May 2018 my best friend moved to NYC and booked a broadway tour within 2 months. To say he was my inspiration would be an understatement. He constantly challenged and pushed me to step out but I looked at him and the courage he had and questioned if I could ever find that type of courage and bravery. While on he was on tour, I flew out to LA to visit him and see his show. When I got there I went to an event called “conversations with playwrights” featuring Dominique Morisseau ("Ain't To Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations") and Jocelyn Bioh ("School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play"). I shared I had trouble finding my tribe of writers while living in North Carolina. While at the event I had a chance to meet both of them and they both gave me words that I’m still carrying 10 months later. Jocelyn said to me “So you know you need to leave NC, right?” I replied, “I’m working on it.” I then walked up to now Tony-nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau and she grabbed both my hands said: “What’s your name!” “Breana C. Venablé,” I said with a smile. She smiled back and said, “I’ll remember that name.” At that moment I knew to grow as a writer and actor I needed to move. Just knowing wasn't enough. You have to put action with the knowledge but the courage still wasn’t there.
Every year I pick a word that I’m believing God for as we got closer to 2019 I knew I had to move Charlotte but I had no idea where I was moving to. So there it was MOVE was the word I was believing God for. But I felt like I shouldn’t ask or believe it because I didn’t deserve it. December 31, 2019, I watched Elevation Church Praise Party and Pastor Steven Furtick preached a message called "Came Through Dripping". He preached from Exodus 14. My ears perked up because it was a familiar scripture. It reminded me of the day I realized I needed to focus on my career as a writer. A year prior, my auntie called me one Sunday and said God gave her a word to give to me, it was Exodus 14. Moses is at the Red Sea, Pharaoh is coming and he cries out to God. God says “why are you crying out to me? Use what’s in your hands!” She told me I needed to use what was in my hands and focus on the gift he gave me, my writing. Fast forward back to the present day as I'm watching Pastor Steven at the very end of his sermon, he began talking about 1 Samuel 15. Samuel was mourning at the fact the Saul would no longer be king. God to him to stop crying over what I rejected and move on. That was it! I that was the confirmation I needed to move on. It was time to stop crying that my career wasn’t taking off in Charlotte, NC. It was time to stop being bitter about the difficulty of trying to get produced or seen in NC. It was just time to move on. But where? I was stressing myself out about LA or NYC. One day I was studying those same verses from the sermon and read a commentary say that “Samuel didn’t know where God was telling him to go, but he didn’t need all the details all he had to do was obey. Just get up and go.
Everything was connecting, all the signs were in my face. I made up in my mind I wasn’t renewing my teaching contract and I wasn’t renewing my lease, I was going to move! I spent months applying and submitting my scripts everywhere and booked 3 festivals. I packed up my apartment, moved everything into storage. Packed up my suitcase and bought a one-way ticket to New York City. I've been here for 2 weeks, living in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Learning The Heights (as they're filming "In The Heights") and just enjoying this part of my journey.
But here's the kicker of this beautiful journal, I don’t have confidence in my decision. I don’t even know what I’ll be doing past August 31. But I trust God. I trust he told me to go and I made the best choice for now. I don’t think it's permanent but I don’t need the details of everything I need to do. I just want to enjoy this journey day by day and believe that God has laid out a plan and I just need to submit to His will and just walk. I'm going to submit my scripts, apply for jobs, make connections, network, and just grow into the artist I believe he called me to be.
God called me by name to do this work and I want to make sure I do everything through the best of my ability and the strength He gives me. And I want to make sure that I honor him in everything, every step, every place, every person, every meeting, and in every script.
“For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me, there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,”
Isaiah 45:4-5 NIV