On May 29th I turned 30 years old and Just Du Pree The Blog turned four years old. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I launched this blog, but I’m still here, writing and sharing my truth. These past four years have been a major period of transformation and growth; this blog being a huge part of that process. Even still, as I approached 30 I battled with many thoughts of inadequacy and fell down the trap of comparing myself to others.
This is never how I planned to bring in my 30th year. It’s so funny to think about how OLD 30 seemed to me when I was a kid. Now that I’m here, I don’t feel like the adult I’m supposed to be or planned to be. My husband is still out there somewhere, playing games and entertaining these hoes. Where he at? He needs to stop pussyfooting around and come and wife me up! I thank God every day that my two to three kids ain’t here yet. I love my nephews and little cousins, but I get to love them from afar and not be in charge of their lives 24/7. I can barely take care of myself. I don’t need to add a whole other human being into the mix. Oh yeah! Where’s my mansion and movie deals?!? According to the life I planned out when I was 10 years old, I’m supposed to be living large right now. I am SO far behind. Let’s see…I live with my parents in Seattle, I’ve never starred in a feature film, or been in a feature film for that matter, and I’m going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW)…again. Ten year old me would be so disappointed. Shoot, 26 year old me would be disappointed. If you would’ve told me four years ago that I’d still be struggling with TSW and living in Seattle, my response would’ve definitely been, “you’s a damn lie!” The good news is, 30 year old me is not disappointed. Frustrated at times? Yes. But not disappointed.
Seattle was always supposed to be a pit stop for me. The plan was to quickly heal and move to New York and eventually LA to conquer Broadway, film and television. I gave myself one, two years tops, to live here. While it’s still a pit stop, I understand now how valuable these four plus years have been. I had to take the time to do the hard work in Seattle to unlearn all the things that aren’t me in order to fully be myself. This time in Seattle has made me more confident and secure, elevated the dreams I have, and expanded my creative expression. A huge part of this growth has been because of my illness and this blog.
TSW has been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my entire life. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but I’m thankful for my persistent and ever challenging health issues. Healing naturally has forced me to take better care of myself, and taught me how to listen to my body and give it what it needs. Not only have I changed physically, but mentally, spiritually and emotionally as well. Before I started TSW I was stuck on “fitting in.” I was focused on trying to look like an IG fitness model and constantly craved the validation of men and booking certain jobs. I wanted to be the perfect musical theatre leading lady and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t book the roles I thought I deserved and why the men I was attracted to didn’t seem to be attracted to me. I scrutinized my body day in and day out, comparing myself to women with tiny waists, big boobs, curves and bubble butts. I may have recovered from my eating disorder, but my mental health had a long way to go. I didn’t fully love myself, but I masqueraded as a fully secure, functioning adult to throw people off the trail.
My health issues forced me to isolate myself and face my insecurities head on. The confidence that I had previously gained from working out and eating right was shattered during TSW when I looked in the mirror and my eyes were swollen, my skin was hypo and hyper pigmented, red and inflamed. “How can I be a leading lady looking like this? How can I book jobs looking like this? How can I be loved looking like this?” My personal identity was so closely tied to my physical appearance. Not only that, but after A Christmas Carol, the show I was in when I started TSW, I had no jobs lined up. So two parts of my identity were shattered: performing and my appearance. I took the lack of work as a sign that I needed to move to New York. I was so set on following the plan I always had, that I ignored the neon flashing signs telling me I needed to slow down and take care of self. I finally listened, came home, and started this blog, which is when the real healing began.
Being transparent on this blog has taught me to love myself through every health challenge, every insecurity, and every ill thought towards myself. Each time I write a new post, I’m terrified about sharing the intimate details of my life, but I do it afraid, because I know that someone else is going through the same thing and needs to hear how I got through or how I’m trying to get through. Every time I shed light on my struggles, it diminishes the value I’ve given them and makes them easier to deal with. As a result, I’m so much more comfortable and confident in my skin. Do I still battle insecurities? Absolutely! But I don’t let them stop me from living my life or being my best self. I continue to do it afraid, and every time my insecurities and fears get smaller and smaller. As a result, my worth is no longer so closely attached to how thin I am, how clear my skin is, or what roles I book. I got the juice no matter how I look or whether others recognize it or not.
Not only have I done it afraid by sharing my personal experiences on this blog, but I’ve also started sharing my art. Despite writing stories, constantly drawing, choreographing dances, making and selling jewelry and creating characters as a child, by the time I got to college my only goal was to be cast on broadway and in film and television. Creating my own work didn’t seem plausible, so I didn’t even really try unless I had to for an assignment. In fact, creating my own work scared me. I always journaled and wrote poetry, but to share it for other people to read and see? No thanks. This blog gave me the confidence to create without judgement. I’m already sharing all my insecurities and fears. What’s sharing a comedic sketch? In doing so, I realized I LOVE producing my own work. It’s freeing, thrilling and empowering. Not being cast in a lot of the roles I’ve wanted has been a blessing in a sense. If I were completely satisfied with all of the work I was getting, I probably wouldn’t have such a strong desire to create my own. I’m full of stories and can’t wait to share them all. Moving home to Seattle gave me the opportunity to create in a lower stress environment and helped me find my voice. I still want to be on broadway, film and television, but now I also want to tell my own stories on broadway, film and television. I was selling myself short with the dreams I had before, which is why I put so much weight on every audition and rejection. Now I know that telling other people’s stories isn’t the only thing I can do. I have so much more to offer, so it makes all of those rejections easier to deal with.
Producing my own work has also expanded my creative expression. Once I broke out of the box I was trying to fit into, even though I knew I didn’t belong there, I realized there was no limit to what I can create or what I can do. Why can’t I be an actor, singer, dancer, writer, blogger, producer and entrepreneur? I’m trying to be a mogul out here! Look at Rihanna! That queen is everywhere, doing everything and doing it well, and I’m not mad about it. I don’t have to limit my creativity to theatre or short sketches. In fact, producing my first solo show taught me that I always have to follow through and turn my ideas into a reality. I was worried about so many things while creating that show, but the overwhelmingly positive response I received negated all the anxiety and doubt leading up to the show. When I lived in DC I had notebooks full of partially written scripts and random ideas, but I was too afraid to follow through with any of them. Not anymore, hunty! There’s no limit to my creative expression, and I’m so glad that I’ve finally learned that.
This time in Seattle has allowed me to shed many of the layers that were holding me back. It was never my plan to get sick and move home, obviously, but I’m so glad it happened. If it hadn’t, I’d probably be in New York, still desperately insecure, chasing after things and people that aren’t even for me. So no, at 30 I’m not where 10 year old Lauren planned to be, but I’ve done the hard work to lay the foundation to surpass where 10 year old Lauren ever thought she could be. I know who I am and what I have to offer, and I can walk into my future confidently with that knowledge. Instead of greeting my crazy ideas with doubt, I confidentially look back at them and say, “why not?” Then I put in the work to make them happen. It’s a powerful thing to know your worth, and this time in Seattle has opened my eyes to just how worthy I am.
I’ll be taking that renewed sense of self to New York in September, ready to slay the game. I also just wrapped filming my first feature film yesterday, so I’d say 30 is starting off with a bang. Go girl! I may have approached 30 feeling like a bit of a failure, but after I took stock of my life and these past four years, I realized that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and this is just the beginning, baby!
However old you are, I encourage you not to fall down the trap of comparing yourself to others, or even the timeline that you set for yourself when you were a child. Sometimes we get so stuck on “where we’re supposed to be,” rather than appreciating where we are and all that we’ve accomplished. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be, laying the foundation for an abundant, fulfilling, purposeful future. And if you don’t like where you are, put in the work to change your circumstances. Use the times when you feel less than or inadequate to push yourself to reach your goals.
So this is 30? Yeah, it is. And it’s magnificent.
I'm Lauren, aka Just Du Pree, and I want to thank you for reading. This is a space where I share my very personal journey healing from topical steroid withdrawal, life lessons I've learned along the way and occasionally the thoughts of an awkward Black girl (no Issa Rae). I'm also a performer and filmmaker, so if you feel so inclined pop over here to see what goes on in my mind on the regular. If you like what you see you can stay up to date with my work here. Much love, friends!