Read, follow, and investigate with me. Who Am I?

 To those of you who read this blog, thank you for the encouragement (you know who you are). I’ve been putting off posting this for almost a month. It was the kick in the ass I needed!

THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear 

Take 1
Something of a Prologue

Today I begin
a challenge beyond my brain;
one to reach my soul.

From the beginning I am asking that this be a dialogue.  So please follow the blog from the site directly and not just Facebook or Twitter (comments on those sites don’t translate for a blog). I suggest setting the notifications to once a week. I want this to be a shared journey and not just me yacking at me (I already do that).

I did it – I made my “ASK” (thank you Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking). That was my first big risk on this journey, the second is this post! Please post comments and ask questions, I would love this kind of communication and sharing. And lastly if you see a post that means something to you, share it (anywhere and everywhere).

So here it goes. I am making a declaration. I am going to commit one year to self-exploration and writing a book documenting my journey. I have been thinking about this for quite a while and after reading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin I see it is time to do something different. I know this certainly is not a new thing, but I am inspired by the idea of a yearlong dedication and research of and to one’s self. I started my journey in March without realizing it. I had challenged myself to commit to 3 things for 3 months. Honestly, I was not sure I could do it. The reality is that with a few glitches here and there, I was successful…until the discovery of a brain tumor that is. I admit my priorities and commitments moved elsewhere for a bit but here I am back on track.

I ask myself: How am I going to do this? What is my end goal? Do I take it on all at once or do a month by month thing? How do I assess myself as I go? Is it a “Happiness Project” or something else? I had all these questions. I am not a psychologist or a researcher. I am not a doctor or a professional writer. But, I am ready to share my voice, to commit. I love the idea of dedicating a year to self. So what the hell….I will give it a shot.

The expedition I am embarking on is one of truth and self-discovery. For years I have been fighting myself in so many aspects of my life with no idea why. I have taken classes, read books and seen a shrink. All of this work has helped. I now realize the wall I keep hitting is me. Over and over, as I start to move forward believing I am on the right path that voice in my head steps in and says; are you sure? Is that what you really want? Maybe you’re just on the bandwagon again.

Really…just REALLY?

So, in spite of the doubt and questions I commit one year to writing a book for me. I will examine my choices and decisions. I will do the things I say I want and explore why I have a self-sabotaging (or self-punishing) pattern.

Each month will have its own goal…yes Gretchen, that’s your inspiration. What would this entail? I will start with a list (by the way I love lists)! Here is a quick draft of my monthly commitments.

  1. Jump and Start (August)
  2. Health and Well-being (September)
  3. Home/ Foundation (October)
  4. Focus (November)
  5. Goal Setting/Education/Priorities (December)
  6. Time Management (January)
  7. Projects (February)
  8. Balance  (March)
  9. Review/Remind/Reset (April) 
  10. May (TBD)
  11. June (TBD)
  12. July (TBD)

It’s a start. As soon as I know May, June and July I’ll let you know. I will get more specific in my intentions as I go from here, but this will serve as a good platform to dive in. The working title is “THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear”. It is an extension of an art project I have been organizing over the last year. However, this is more personal since I am the subject. The art project asks the question of all who experience it (more on that later around month four).

The reality is that I have somehow lost track of who I am and what I want for my life. I do know “who” I am but not in the existential way I am seeking. I want to know why I’m here and my purpose in this life. I want to find passion and heart in all that I do. The only way to really accomplish that is to truly understand myself and to figure out what I want. For me this starts with why. Why do I continue to get in my own way? Is it that I really don’t know what I want or is it that I have told myself so many conflicting things over the years that I’ve confused my soul? Is it that I honestly don’t have the ambition or drive? Is it that I deep down know my purpose and it terrifies me? Or is it that my need to know WHY is my problem?

Even as I write this I’m thinking…this is silly? Who the hell is going to read or connect with this? At the same time, do I really care? What if no one reads it, but I have answered a key question in my life; if that’s the case then nothing else matters. I am a person filled with ideas and longings. Yet, despite what many think of me, I am also a person who I believe gives up easily. I don’t love challenges and I absolutely despise being bad at things. Failure is unacceptable so it’s better not to try (I don’t really believe that, but it is my perception of how I’ve lived). I’m not sure where it came from, but I have this deep seeded notion that I should somehow know how to do things (all things). I should be a natural and if I’m not, I’ve already failed. I know it’s not true and yet this is how I judge myself. I envy people who thrive in challenge; whose goals are to get better and better with ambition and enthusiasm, the ones who enjoy learning and failing until they get it right. I want to be that person. I wonder though if that’s who I am. I hope so. The goal in this yearlong exercise is to answer my question and teach myself how to embrace and accept who I am. I know I am smart, strong, and sometime courageous but truly believing it is what I crave most.

I will be using my blog to work through a lot of these theories and challenges. At least one weekly post is going to be dedicated to this work. We all need to be heard and I believe that there is something inside each of us that everyone needs to hear. I believe this about myself, but I have been unable to figure out what voice to use; which one is the loudest, which is the one I thrive in and enjoy the most. Is it my visual art, poetry, writing, theatre or something else entirely? Being heard as an artist seems daunting and almost impossible. My mind goes directly to how I make money as opposed to exploration and fun (which is why I became an artist to begin with). When did I start denying myself the fun in art? I am an artist. For me, this has many faces and forms. I am certainly not limited in the creative use of what I do unless I take no risks; I’ve never been willing to risk enough to fail. I never had the confidence. That is the intent of this book, to find that place inside of me willing to fail for freedom.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you will join me on this exploration of self.





I love this picture for two reasons. One is that its a great photo and it was taken in a moment when my creativity recently took off again. Two is that its a reminder. This was taken at Fort Wetherill in Jamestown,Jamestown, Rhode Island. My family and I went there a few months back to get out and chill out for the day. For me it is far more than that.

In high school my best friend Shawn and I would spend hours on the weekends climbing the cliffs and wandering the abandoned fort, talking and laughing for hours. In college I went often with my friends Liam, Gamache or Jonathan and sometimes a group of us. It’s a beautiful ragged place filled with forgotten history and caverns of secrets. To this day some of my most vivid and favorite memories are sitting on the rocks in one of the many coves listening as the waves crashed against the cliff walls. To me it will always be magical and is a huge symbol of creativity, friendship, memories and dreams.

I think I’m thinking of this site, because I am seeking. There is a mystery in the tunnels and caverns of that old fort, places to be re-discovered. These locales have been filled with debris; covered and sealed to keep others out or warn them of possible danger. I’m realizing this is a bit of where I have been. Hiding in the caverns and under the facade of danger.

As I start digging myself out I am realizing that I have covered and hid so much beauty. I have forgotten about the precious secrets and ignored the treasures lying in the debris. Its a puzzle. I am pulling my world apart not to rebuild or change whats there, but so that I can actually see what exists. There is such potential and life behind the walls and within the mysteries. Its exciting! Under and inside all of this is who I am and how I got to where I am.

It’s as if I’ve climbed out from a dark place and there is a new world to explore. It has been a week of acceptance and breath, of peace and true clam. Today I have managed to do a bit of everything I love. I am moved by the simplicity. I have uncovered the joy I feel in a quiet day filled with thought, nature, physical exertion, friendship, love and art. I have a new perspective and clarity. The time I have had for my recovery has been more than physical, it has given me the nourishment my soul has been searching for.




What are your dreams?

“I think what we fear most is not having the opportunity to fill our true potential”               –Dan Pallotta

I love how Ted Talks make me think. Things I forgotten about or let seep deep within come gurgling back up. This time its dreams. Its interesting, about 7-10 years ago I decided that “dreams” was a bad word. That it somehow implied something that would never happen, something that you would consistently seek but never actually reach. I stopped using it.

I swear each month I discover some belief that I had absurdly convinced myself of. This is one of them. When I think about it, the day I made this ridiculous decision is right about the time that I also stopped believing in my own creativity. I gave myself goals and tasks. I learned about business and discipline. I sought success and not meaning. I forgot what it was that made me want it all to begin with. It was the slow demised of my spirit.

I sit hear now after watching this talk thinking about how important what he has says is. I was so afraid that I would never achieve my dreams that I became one of those lost souls wandering and waiting; wanting someone to find me. I gave up a huge part of my personality. I have always been the girl who always smiles, what I became was intense. A word used to describe me quite a lot a few years ago. I didn’t like it or who I had become in that sense. That’s when I started rethinking my path.

Its not that I was mean or miserable, but I somehow forgot this was all supposed to be fun. I had this notion that I needed know everything and that if it didn’t come easy I was a dud, a failure, a fraud. This mask of security kept me safe, people thought I knew and I was happy to let them think it; at least that’s what I told myself. Everything became about knowing as opposed to exploring. As a camp counselor I won the “Give Peace a Chance Award” for my teaching style. Where did that willful, excited and incredibly inspired girl go…fear I suppose. Back then fear didn’t stop me; I would say, I know a lot, I’ll figure it out. I always did.

The past few years have been filled with growth, change and challenges. The past 2 were especially hard and yet I can honestly say this past year I have been happier than ever. I have become incredibly self aware. Now though as opposed to dissecting everything I do, decision I make, stupid thing I mistakenly said I sit with it. I question why I’m upset and think…okay, you’re okay right? Then its okay. I am more than okay, even when I’m not. I am blessed in fact.

I have begun to see that in my search for success, I lost what was important. I needed more than the idea or symbol of connection, I actually needed to connect. That part has been hard, but I’m doing it. After all, how can I change the world if I feel alone. I want to see the significance of each and every person I meet. I want to be open. On some level in some way I do want to change the world. I want to do it by opening doors and creating bridges both personally and in my art. I want what I do with my life to be meaningful. I want the stories I tell to be real stories about people who are misunderstood and have a hand in healing. I want to get over my own judgement and understand the unknown. Perhaps really its simply my world I want to change, I don’t know? What I do know is that even if that is the case, that if I change my world it will open a door and build a bridge to changing others one world at a time. A chain that can link us soul by soul, heart to heart.

My dream is to be a person who moves others with her words, her actions, her art and her life. My dream is to know and live who I am meant to be. For the first time in years I believe I’m on the true course, rowing in the authentic direction for my life. Today I dare to dream again.



Letters to Loved Ones

Dear Grandpa Petros,

I do say I wish I had had the opportunity to know you.  I didn’t even get Grandma long enough, as I’m sure you know she died when I was six. I want you to know I loved her with all my heart. She never did learn English, but we understood one another in our own ways. It would have been great if she taught me Lithuanian, but she wanted me to be an American; language and all. I would have loved if she could have told me about you in her own words.

What I knew of you was through the black and white photos she kept on the windowsill. They were covered in writing I didn’t understand, but it felt meaningful. Unfortunately a few of them were of you in your coffin. I can’t say I understood why those pictures were taken never mind displayed. I learned later it was a common thing in the old country. I tell ya, it’s creepy! Fortunately there were others. There was one of you in a uniform and another with a group of people, your family. You always reminded me a lot of my cousin Jimmy minus the height (he is quite tall). My understanding is that you were far under six foot. On the other hand your strong jaw, jet black hair and pale blue eyes would have made any young lady swoon.

Many of my mom’s memories are from after you got ill. They are seen through the veil of a heartbroken teenager who had to care for aging and fractured parents. I’ve heard tales of your strength as a young man and lifting a horse on your shoulders, that you were one of many brothers and sisters, that you were grandma’s second husband and that you helped others to escape before the war. The biggest and oddest fact being that I was born Feb 1, 1972 at 3:45pm and you died Feb 1, 1962 at 3:45am…very weird, a little creepy and coincidentally creating a very cool and unique connection for us.

I know when you came here you had big dreams that failed and that you never recovered. I’m sorry life was so hard for you here. It’s heartbreaking to know how much you lost. Mom says through it all you were passionate, angry and stubborn but full of love.

I want to say you thank you for coming to me in a dream. I know some people think Oiji boards and paranormal experiences are nonsense, but I will always cherish my experience. I used to play the Oiji board with a couple of dear friends in college. One night after a very intense experience each of us in a single night had a unique encounter. Mine was unforgettable. In the dream I entered grandpa Nick’s restaurant, people and cigarette smoke everywhere. I walk straight through as if I was being drawn through a maze and there you were. Hand out and smiling. You waved me to you. I can’t say I understood your words, but as your arm wrapped around my shoulder and you shook me and laughed I instantly felt your pride and love.  It wasn’t a normal dream. It was peculiar from the way it felt to the memory of it. I thank you for that; for the few moments with you that live in the back of my mind.  It was a gift and I have never witnessed anything like it since.

All that said, I hope you have found joy and peace. I’m not sure what I believe about the afterlife other than I know it exists somehow in some way. I’d love to think I will meet you again, that you are with the family and your friends laughing and sharing stories, taking care of Auntie Bertha and watching over all of us. I don’t really know though. What I do know is that you are out there in some way or form, an energy I get to share. Know that though we never met in this life you have always been in my heart and a huge part of who I am and I miss you.

I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I would like to ask you for one thing. Your daughter, my mom has had a tough go of it in this life. Maybe you could send some loving and healing energy her way. She’s trying but she could use the support, your support; an internal nudge, quiet inner moments of joy, a little epiphany in a dream…whatever you got. Thank you.

You are always in my heart.

No Boundaries


This year has been an interesting one for me as an artist. There have been both epiphanies and regrets.

When I started as an artist, it was all about the visual. I remember being encouraged every step of the way by my family. A number of family members are artists, though none pursued their amazing talents for various reasons. But not me in college I dove in. My mom tried to convince me to get an Art Ed degree, I had no interest. When asked, “What will you fall back on?”, my attitude was “ART” that’s what.

In my second semester I decided to take a leap and try theatre, I failed miserably at first as a performer but my perseverance encouraged the stage manager to ask me to assist and a theatre rat was born. I had no boundaries, I used everything I was learning to create, to put together performances and events without a worry as to whether or not it was the norm …and I thrived!  The ideas came and I found a way to make them happen. I directed, wrote, choreographed, produced, designed lights and sets, I made art and managed projects with others – I was referred to as a “renaissance woman”. I had the all-around skills to understand one side to the other and I reeked of creativity in the best possible way.

Then I fell in love with the craft of acting. I knew it would be difficult because I had a certain look and not a perfect body (as I was told more than once). I thought, “It’s a challenge”, a challenge for me to get past my body image issues and become free. I had some amazing teachers who helped me through blocks, read books, performed and had fun. I was so excited when I got my first headshots, but it was the first lesson I learned hearing over and over, “we have too many like you” (ie. tall, blonde, and blue eyed). I grew out and dyed my hair black, got new headshots and started getting roles. I had to change to fit the industry.

I came to NYC after realizing RI wasn’t going to make me a career, it was a dream I never thought would happen for so many personal reasons, but it did! My first year here was amazing; auditioning, meeting people, the independence of being away from family, having our first dog. I didn’t have to work and got to take classes and discover Manhattan. It was exhilarating! Then somehow toward the end of that first year things shifted, I found myself questioning everything; my choices, my talent, my body (which was the healthiest it had ever been), and my abilities. I broke down. I loved acting but instead of seeing that it had nothing to do with my talent or abilities I focused on all of the personal criticisms that come with the business; not thin enough, not pretty enough, too tall, too young, too old, my resume not full enough with the “right” names. I believed I was a failure.

I decided to turn it around and took the advice I had heard over and over, “do it yourself”. I created a theatre co. and it was successful. Over a number of years I gathered great talent; actors, writers and directors. We did incredible and moving work, so good it got to a point where I had to make a decision to take the next step and grow or pull back and rethink what I really wanted. I again focused on the wrong things for my own success. I created the company so that I could play the roles I wanted and I did, but being the leader I was the one running the company, taking on the admin work and the communications and everything else. I didn’t know how to ask for the right kind of help and I wasn’t getting what I felt I needed. I pulled back and thought about it, stepped away from the company and decided again to focus on acting.

Reality check…acting wasn’t making me happy. Through all these years it never fulfilled what I thought it would. I’m not sure what I was looking for but  as much as I love being on the stage or in front of a camera, something was missing.

I had it all wrong.

What happened for me is that pursuing a career that requires so much work and relies so much on who I know, what theatre I have on my resume and what I look like personally goes against all of the creativity in my being. Though the rush and freedom of the moment as lived out on stage is exhilarating for me, it doesn’t last. I started reflecting on what I fell in love with about theatre, reminding myself that what I wanted was to create worlds that touched people; I love the stories, the characters, the big picture, the artistry of the stage; it is versatile and ambient. The stage can be anything and all encompassing, it can swallow you if you let it. As an actor I was focused on my character and the moment I was in instead of the concept and creation of the world around me; I wanted a hand in the big picture, I missed it!

I was stifled.

This year I’ve started writing again; something I had blatantly left behind. I picked up my pen and inks and opened my paints. I am allowing my brain to stop focusing on my next headshot, my “look” and what my type is and start allowing the ideas to flow again, releasing my judgments of art and myself. I am once again letting go of the outcome to allow the genius within to escape unafraid of failure because there is no failure in a lesson, only wisdom.

I don’t regret the time I’ve spent pursuing the dream I thought I wanted, the people and experiences it has contributed to my life are essential to who I have become, but I’ve come full circle. I am in true transition. I feel the world reopening and restrictions disappearing. I am strong; my lessons have been both hard and well earned. It’s time to simply create and follow my gut (which has served me greatly) and change my paradigm. The future holds no boundaries.





God, I seek the words to inspire.

To break free of my own barriers of hope and fantasy and make reality a truth within my soul.

I want to know I am more than I ever thought I could be; that I AM the dream I have sought.

My heart explodes, opens and joins with yours and all who are willing to awaken the soul to joy, to freedom, to everything.

© Nichole Donje’