We had the good fortune of connecting with Ellie Araiza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ellie, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I grew up with two parents who were essentially workaholics and how it made me feel as a child really stuck with me. It made me want to be someone who knows how to strike a better balance between work and play. Someone who knows how to work hard, but also knows when and how to walk away and enjoy downtime, to do the things on my bucket list, and to be present enough to spend quality time with loved ones.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I don’t lean toward the workaholic mode. I tend to take on way too much and I’m always juggling a variety of projects. I work primarily as a professional actor and voiceover artist. When I’m not juggling auditions for everything from commercials to tv to radio and animation, I’m often taking care of administrative duties, from logging checks, to marketing, to deciding what class or workshop to sign up for next. On top of that, though I’m extraordinarily lucky to make most of my living as an actor, I do have a steady-paycheck as a yoga and strength instructor. Now with Covid-19 I train my clients virtually and deal with planning their workouts, scheduling and continuing my education as a fitness professional. And of course, as a creative, I always have several writing projects, some on my own and others with writing partners. Because of auditions and delivery deadlines, I often lose control over my schedule and I have to maintain constant flexibility. It’s not easy to manage the different demands my work requires of me, and still find time for my dog, cat and amazing boyfriend (who does most of the grocery shopping and cooking because of my schedule), but I have found some things that help me strike a healthier balance.
My current habits include waking up extra early so I can meditate for at least 20 minutes. Then I have a little quiet time to myself to write in my gratitude journal, empty my mind into weekly to-do lists, and do a little reading for enjoyment. I also make it a priority to exercise at least five days a week. I cannot stress how much working out does for my mental sanity. It helps channel my energy, calm my anxiety, and gets endorphins running through my body. This, along with my early morning “me time”, really helps set me up to meet the stresses of the day and to be more productive and present with myself, my work and my clients. Lastly, besides writing down the have-to’s and the should’s on my to-do list, I also make an effort to write down the things I want to do, things that make me happy or things I’m interested in trying. For example, this past year I’ve started brewing Kombucha, I’ve learned how to better care for plants (I finally have more than five I haven’t killed), and I created a “social media influencer” character for fun on Instagram (@kara.haven_on.earth). Ordinarily I’d also make an effort to travel at least twice a year since that is one of the things I most enjoy.
All of that said, though this sounds so nice and easy written out, the truth is that striking a semblance of balance has taken me many many years, and I still struggle with it weekly. It has taken me years of over-working and depleting myself to the point of it affecting my physical and mental health. It’s taken emotional breakdowns, depression, loneliness, frustration. It’s taken a lot of yoga and therapy and getting in touch with my true feelings to learn and understand not only what I need to be happy, but also that relaxation is a practice that needs to be cultivated. That slowing down the heart and mind takes time and effort, and. that. it. has. to become as much of a priority as work is. That it’s pivotal to make even the tiniest space every day for the things you love that bring you joy, instead of putting them off for a “later time” that may never come. And most importantly, that life is not something to be taken for granted and spent working like a machine, while missing the beauty and the people around you. When I find myself losing balance, I often picture myself on my deathbed, and I ask myself what I will regret. I never find myself thinking that I will regret not working enough. For me, I most often find, I would regret not enjoying life more. And joy comes not only in work and effort, but also in leisure and ease.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am first and foremost a creative. My creativity has leaked into work as a professional actor and voiceover artist, writing a one-woman show called Turtle Love, songwriting and being the lead singer of a band for 6+ years, writing shorts, feature films, blogs and more. I seem to have a compulsion to follow my heart into many different and stimulating creative endeavors. I seem to need to try my hand at everything at least once. Even the things I tell myself I will never do, like stand-up comedy, I somehow end up trying them even when it terrifies me. That’s really where my journey started, fear. I knew that when I grew up I could do anything. I knew I was smart enough to work hard and be at least mildly successful at just about anything. The one thing that gave me the heebie jeebies was the thought of being a professional actor, and once I realized that was the thing that scared me most, I decided it was what I had to do. I took a huge risk and came out to Los Angeles by myself when I was 18 years old. Given the fact that I had only just arrived in the United States from Mexico two years before that, I was truly a fish out of water. All I knew was that I had this dream and I only had one life to attempt it. It was certainly not easy and I stumbled through the dark for many many years. But I think life is hard no matter what, so you may as well choose the hard that leads you closer to something you want. I was very lucky along the way to find good teachers, true friends and supportive communities, that helped me not only to nurture myself, but also develop what you can now call a career as a professional actor. Being fluent in both Spanish and English has also played a major role in opening doors for me, and it gives me great joy as a biracial actor, to blur the lines between both my American and Mexican cultures. Though my career has not been perfect and the life of an artist entails constantly dealing with uncertainty, I suppose what I am most proud of is that it has been authentic to me. I have chosen, in the pursuit of my dream, to put my health and happiness ahead of my career. In fact, the actual pursuit of my dream, brought me in touch with deeper parts of myself that longed to be fully realized and expressed, and doing so, healed me a great deal. I do believe that is the best outcome anyone can ask for. I still have a long way to go, and I am always learning and growing and humbled by my pursuit. What makes it sweeter, is the like minded people I meet along the way, that believe in the power of storytelling to change the world. This makes the constant challenges, all worthwhile.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ooh! I love the crazy wild city of Los Angeles. I would have to have an afternoon picnic at the Griffith Park Observatory, preferably at Sunset and with an added hike up to this incredible view. For a second sunset viewing, I would go to the beach off Pacific Palisades and spend some time strolling down 3rd street in Santa Monica. LACMA is a must. And because I love my neighborhood spots, I’d have to do breakfast at Aroma Cafe and beer and shareables at Laurel Tavern. And if it’s summer time? Hollywood Bowl, here we come. That’s my favorite place in the world! My American grandparents met there in the 1940’s. I literally would not exist if it weren’t for this romantic venue in the heart of Hollywood!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to shout out my yoga teachers. Since I started practicing yoga back in 2002, I’ve been lucky to find amazing teachers along the path that have helped me incrementally improve not only my strength, but also my ability to find peace of mind, and to connect with my heart. All of this makes me a better creative and a better instructor.
Joanna Degeneres, Keli Squires Taylor