Fun Fact: I am Running the Chicago Marathon

“Yes. Hi my name is Maria Konopken, and a fun fact about me is I am running the Chicago Marathon in October.”

Yes, I have become that person at auditions and in life that will not shut up about her upcoming marathon. I’ll catch myself talking about, and scream inside my head…TALK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE!

But in reality, I am excited and about to poop my pants scared about it. When I signed up back in December, October seemed so far away. Heck, March seemed like years away. And now it’s March 14. Week 1 of marathon training.

To help keep me accountable, and to help raise money for the charity I am running on behalf for, Girls on the Run, I wanted to keep track of my progress on my blog.

So here it goes!

If you would like to donate to my fundraising goal, you can do so here.

Happy Running!




International Women’s Day

On this #internationalwomensday, I wanted to post a picture that makes me feel powerful-as I did last year. This picture shows a lot to me, and what I’ve gone through. It was taken a few weeks after I quit my job, and to me shows the first signs of my glow and shine coming back. And while I share a lot of happiness and hope, it hasn’t been easy.

In my journey I’ve made mistakes. Hurt some on the way because I was in pain or learning when and how to communicate effectively. I’ve learned some hard lessons, and continue to do the work everyday. I’ll continue to make mistakes, and hope that those around me will understand.

I also hope to never lose the ability to speak and share my voice. My voice is powerful and helps me speak of good, bad, and change I would like to see in the world. It helps to tell my story and journey. It’s also helped to document what this last year has been and the molding of this year.

I am happier and more of proud of myself than I’ve been in months. Not everything has been roses, but I’m working on myself, my craft, working on projects, trying to better my relationships, and live my best life. And that’s more than I could have imagined 6 months ago.

May you know your glow up and shine are always there.

Setting the Bar

It hit me on my walk home tonight

That I’m chasing a ghost of who

I would like you to be

But not how you are

I’m chasing a hope of potential

And not the reality that is you now

And while Love is worth taking a risk on

I worry the risk and reward won’t match

That you have such a hard bar to jump

Over the bar I set

That you’ll never reach it

I don’t know if anyone could

For I put expectations on you

That you are not aware ever existed

No wonder you disappoint me.

You never had a chance.

Loud Noises

So Many Voices

Getting louder and louder

Loud Noises

Trying to rise above

Forgetting that we are people

Forgetting that we are more than what is on a census

Forgetting that they are not an expert in everything

Scream with voice

Scream as they type

Scream with their fist in the air

But silent when they see or feel microaggressions

Silent when their fellow person needs help when their voice has been silence

Silent when comes to doing the work

But are the first to speak up when they have no part in the conversation

Instead of listening to those that live it

With different experiences

Different thoughts

And different motivators

Not able to admit when they don’t know everything

Not able to admit that this is not their experience

Not able to admit when they are wrong

That although they may be oppressed as well, their oppression is different

We are not all the “American Boy” prototype

With Khaki pants and a polo shirt for sure

However their differences and mine and your differences do not make us the experts in understanding all

But as the loud noises

get louder and louder

They continue to believe they are like

Clarissa and know it all

Instead of working to understand

Instead of working to silent

And instead of working to listen

They choose to scream to prove a point that is already gone

And click and tap and push on their hate and insecurities to flame a gaslight

Loud noises

Getting louder and louder

But say nothing

A letter to myself

Hi Maria,

I won’t ask how you are because you kind of already know. I am writing this letter to you as a reminder for when it gets hard to look back and see how far you’ve come.

A year ago today (technically 02/09/17, but like you haven’t gone to bed yet so whatever) you were laid off from your dream job…correction what you thought was your dream job. You could say you were blindsided. You could say it tapped into your biggest insecurities of not being enough. And probably a billion more things. But it was the biggest blessing to ever happen to you. A blessing of no longer accepting being grateful to have this job.

That is hard to say because you look back on the last year, and most will see the negative. Losing a job. Becoming sick. Starting a new job in an unhealthy environment which you later quit with no backup. However, you also look back and see a bunch of positives. In no particular order:

  1. Started running again
  2. Got an open run with Matt Damon Improv
  3. Strengthen your spirituality
  4. Performed in two sketch shows
  5. Established yourself as a solo performer
  6. Started producing, directing, and teaching
  7. Strengthen your relationship with your mom
  8. Got a roommate
  9. Became closer with friends
  10. Made amazing friends you call family
  11. Opened up more
  12. Chicago Nights
  13. Volunteered
  14. Burlesque
  15. Stopped complaining about lack of representation and did something about it
  16. Your birthday weekend/#ScorpioSeason
  17. Getting paid to travel and perform
  18. Didn’t give up

There are so many things that you are forgetting, but for all the bad times where you just wanted to sleep and not wake up…you woke up and got out of bed. And some days, that was enough. You are enough.

I know Mama, you moved to Chicago to learn improv, but in the three and half years since, you have become a butterfly goddess. Some people will judge and not understand, and that is not your problem. All you truly need to worry about is you and yours. After that, you can’t control everything.

Maria…had you’ve not gotten laid off, who knows what would have happened. Perhaps passed out on the train. Hospital. I don’t know. What I can tell you is someone was looking out for you. They knew your path was better by getting knocked down to get back up.

And yes, they’ll be days where you will want to quit. And there will be days where it’s just too much. And you’ll go through worse. But you cannot give up on yourself.

A year from now, you will be better with a dream life many are afraid to go after. Go to sleep love. You have a whole day of world domination a head of you.



My Shield

When I step on the scale
I try to play tricks
If I stand on one foot
If I stand on the side

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll weigh less
Maybe, just maybe, that number will validate me
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel better

About the shield of a body that has few protective layers
Layers that make it the strongest, yet weakest
This imperfectly, perfect body of mine

This layer for when I was bigger than all the girls in my class
This layer for when I wasn’t Mexican or White enough to sit or play with you
This layer for when my boyfriend didn’t take no for an answer
And I confused it for love
And this layer for the self-hate I tell myself in my darkest moments
Yet, smile through

It’s a shield that brings people in, but stops them from getting too close
But then gets mad when the boy I’m dating stops calling, gets engaged, and has a baby by a woman out of no where

It’s the loneliest of shields
But sometimes it can be the best of shields
This imperfectly, perfect body of mine

I’ll never not be the bigger girl
But I got hair and body that many pay millions to a plastic surgeon for
The scars on my knee from two knee surgery
Show my warrior spirit
The nose I got from the Queen of my Nana, that I once called a witch nose
Show the spirts that guide me

And this butt of mine
I’ll sometimes catch it in a mirror and ask myself
“Girl, have you been doing squats?”

The shield of my body
Has a few colorful layers
That make it weak and strong

This layer can talk to anyone
This layer loves the sound of her feet when she runs
This layer got herself a Masters degree
This layer moved across the country with a home or a job for the dream of laughs

My shield, while dented and imperfectly perfect, is the only shield I got
And while I’ll pick and tear it a part
Shows my journey more than any number on scale will

This shield of mine has protective and color layers
Imperfectly, Perfect
Strong and weak

This shield is me.



Running and Butterfly Goddess

I do my best thinking on my run. Running helps me to clear my head, helps my anxiety, and helps me build my inner and outer strength.

Running is also my reflection time. Reflection on building up a better life for myself, family, and community. What I could have done better. And what are the next steps. All this and more are probably the reasons why I don’t like running with others. This is something to think about as my marathon training becomes higher mileage, but that’s a topic for another day.

After each run, I post on my Instagram about my run. It started as a way to keep people in the loop about my mental health, but it then became a place to keep me accountable and also as a part of my healing. Mental Health is often a topic we sweep under the rug. And when we become sick due to our mental health because we can’t physically see it, we often don’t give it the attention needed or admit we are sick.

It took me months before I could admit I was sick. I knew I was sick when a friend who was suppose to come out for the weekend canceled on me, and I didn’t leave my house or my bed for a weekend. This sounds normal to some, however for me, I am almost never home and if I am, I am working on art or something. But I didn’t admit or do anything about it.

The second biggest clue was when I was on a flight from Chicago to Phoenix in March 2017. The flight was very bumpy and we were flying through a storm. When the plane dropped, and said to myself, “I don’t want to die this sad.” I didn’t know why I thought that.

I finally admit I was sick in July 2017. My best friend was in town, and we were at a pizza place in Chicago. I just started having an anxiety attack in the middle of the restaurant and crying. My best friend was trying to help, but there was nothing she could do. My body started tensing and then I couldn’t move. We were finally able to leave, but I was at my worse.

There were other moments that followed and were in between these big three that lead to my mental break. Poor diet. Not taking of myself. Poor work environment. However, these moments stand out because it shows how it gradually got worse. I’ve always had anxiety and depression, but like many, I would move on and keep doing what I was doing. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results. Something like that.

However, I didn’t acknowledge what years of doing that really hurt me until it physically took a toll on me. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t operate. I felt broken. My mom was the biggest help in my life. She would call doctors, sit on the phone with me, and talk to me. My mom is my angel on earth. With her help, therapy, and my framily, I was able to heal and become better. I started building confidence and merging out of my cocoon.

This is why it probably stung the most when this past weekend, a family member used my anxiety as if was a weakness. The context had nothing to do with my anxiety, but a Facebook post that had gotten out of control. When I tried to put a stop to it all, I was told that “anxiety may not be the issue.” When I said they had crossed a line and not to talk about my mental health, they then said something to the affect of agree. Do not bring up your mental health if you do not want people talking about it.

I am happy to talk about my mental health, but not as a weapon of weakness. The more one tells me to stop, the louder I will become. I do not talk about my mental health for others as burden. I talk about it for myself and to bring awareness. It’s healing for me and hopefully will help more people to talk about their journey and get help. It took me a long time to admit that my mental health was not a weakness. That it was good to talk about it. That I wasn’t crazy. And that I am worthy. It does hurt when someone you love decides to go low when you were trying to figure out what was happening.

It’s taken me a long time to be the person I am today and be so open, both online and off. I never shared hurtful moments like my sexual assault, binge eating, or my anxiety as to not disturb the peace. There were bits and pieces, but I wanted to be liked so much that I kept a lot of it hidden. I didn’t want to be too different than what I already was, and I didn’t want too much attention, even though I craved it.

Along with the bad, I never shared too much of the good like my work ethic, education accomplishments, and positives in relationships which is sad as well because I didn’t want to seem like I was bragging. That I was doing good while my community may not have been.

It’s a common struggle and fear for many when our good and bad gets thrown back at us as if it is a weakness. It’s a poor tactic used to silence when there is nothing else. It’s often a tactic some use against those trying to help them, but when used it doesn’t matter what happened before as it crosses lines.

To those who choose to throw or clap back by using mine/your pain and happiness against me/you is not a reflection of you. It is them.

I almost let it get to me, but I am butterfly goddess.

I am proud of the body that allows me to run, dance, and hug those I care about. I am proud of my mind that allows me to create, think, and build. I am proud of my anxiety and depression as it shows me the depths of hell, but also has taught me tools needed to better my life. I am proud of my voice that allows me to speak, tell my truth, and be a warrior.

I am a proud woman of color, and this world will never shut me down.

I’m a Butterfly

We are all different. We have different opinions and thoughts. We all have different experiences and reasons for our thoughts. I encourage you to share them if you do not agree with me as I am not the expert in everything. However, please do so without name calling, racial slurs, threatening violence, gaslighting, or using personal information against others. We will not always agree, but I hope we can all have discussions and defend each other with a full hearts. I will continue to talk about my opinions, my mental illness, and issues we are facing. I’ve worried too long about wanting to appear normal (whatever that means).

And I’m a Butterfly!

Finding Your Tribe

Growing up, I thought I was the weird one.

At the time, mixed children were not in style, and I didn’t know many. For a lot of my friends I was the darkest or the lightest person they knew. Growing up, people would ask fun questions like which part of your body is white and which part is Mexican ? Why do you have both a menorah and Christmas tree in your house? And where is your mom’s family from. To which I would want to answer:

1) None that you’re going to see

2) Because we like presents

3) California! Damn. But also Guadalajara. But most are legal. My dad’s family are the illegal immigrants. You think Konopken is a real last name? Chances are high they made it up so to not be caught! I have no proof, but anyways.

However, I didn’t answer any of those questions like I would imagine. In reality, I was the curly hair, Coke bottle glasses, and curvy girl who wanted to fit in so bad with my white friends. But also I wanted my skin a little darker and my valley girl accent to be less when hanging with my brown friends. It brought up feelings of not being enough for anything or any body. Not even myself.

After a while, you learn to adapt by not talking about it, putting your head down, and out working, out shining, and out doing those feelings. That by doing so, maybe they’ll look past my differences. Of course we live in America so why I’ve always worked twice as hard, the result is always half as much for women of color.

With all this, I kept a lot of things bottled up. My eating disorder, whom I was dating, being sexual, loneliness, mental illness to name a few. You wouldn’t have known because I’m an extrovert. I love being around people and experiencing life. However, I didn’t really like being alone because then I would have to hang out with myself and deal with all of this.

When I tried talking to other people about why it stung so much more that my boyfriend is now dating a very white girl, they didn’t understand or didn’t see why. So why am I going to talk about it or anything?

As I said before, you learn to adapt and move on. That you’ll be good wherever you are. And then two years ago, I did a show at Under The Gun that would not only change my creative career, but my life. Allison Reese produced a 6pm Sunday night show called Bits Welcomed. I told a story about destroying a car in Australia and possible hitting a kangaroo.

After the show, I went to get pizza with Allison and she started talking about this show she was doing later that night called Matt Damon Improv. She mentioned that it was a show of all women of color and one white dude that could only repeat words that have already been said. In my head, I was like I want to be a part of this. Maybe she’ll ask me. Allison ask me I am right here!

Allison continued talking about this show and how it would be a one off, maybe a few months. When I saw a break in the conversation I said well if you ever need anyone to play, I would love to. So I got to perform with Matt Damon Improv that night in our first show and many shows there after.

And the shows are great. I love them. However, the shows are secondary to what these women mean to me. They helped and made me laugh me through my anxiety and depression breakdowns including coming to my apartment, picking out clothes so I could make it to shows, eating a lot of food, dancing to dumb songs we’ve made up, self care nights, heartbreaks, and sharing our feelings over bad techno music. They are everything I never knew I needed. They allow me to share without judgement. They allowed me for the first time in years to be proud and happy with who I am. They allowed me to find my voice. They allowed me to be me.

It’s the other 23 hours and 20 minutes that off stage that I love the most. And I hope you one day find people and your tribe.

My Uncle Carlos

I wrote this piece nearly seven years ago. Last night, my uncle visited me in a dream, and I felt like I needed to share this again.

I could go into his whole life of how he came to be, but I can already hear my Uncle cursing at me, so I won’t. But what I will tell you is who he was. For those who didn’t get the pleasure of meeting my Uncle Carlos, he was a bit of a Superman, Jack of All Trades kind of guy.

Coming from a large family (and when I say large I mean 20 plus brother and sisters) he had to help the family. From working in factories, picking fruit, to some odd jobs he may have forgotten to mention, my Uncle learned from an early age how to work hard and educate himself. Although he never bragged about his intelligence or had degrees hanging on the wall, my Uncle was one of the brightest and smartest men I had ever known.

His tax return may have said one thing, but he could do anything. He was an Engineer, Carpenter, Therapist, Surgeon, just to name a few. But the titles I believed he held closet to his heart was Husband and Family Man. He was always there for our family. He raised his own two sons plus children that weren’t his own. On the surface, you wouldn’t call my Uncle the tradition nurturing type, but he always told you want you needed to hear, not what you wanted. He stepped up when necessary. He provided for his family beyond monetary value. He taught lessons far from the classroom, and put his life and soul on the line for his family. He lived by example.

And there was his wife, Norma. My Uncle acted like a hard ass, but he truly was a teddy bear, especially when it came to my Aunt. It was simply the way he looked at her that spoke volumes of love, passion, and admiration he had for her. Married 40 plus years, Carlos may have acted like a tough guy, never showing too much emotions, but he had a soft spot for Norma. Holding her hand, cuddling with her, even if acted too macho for it, and being a devoted husband. Even in his last days when he couldn’t do much, he would pucker up his lips to kiss his wife. That he knew.

On Friday, August 12 2011, after a hard fought battle with Prostate Cancer, Carlos became Chief Engineer for God. St.Peters most likely asked him to fixed his gate, and then had a beer with him. It is still surreal that I will never see my Uncle again, but I know he is not hurting anymore, and probably running the show with God.

If you didn’t get to meet Carlos, you missed out. But if you want to see his impact, look at his wife, his sons, his family, and his community.We live knowing the man whose hands showed the best of his hard work. We live with him by our side, watching, and probably saying “sal-es” and laughing with a slight smile. Carlos was truly a good person, not because he pretended to be, but because his soul was. When I leave this earth, if I am half as good of person as my Uncle was, I would be content.

I love you and thank you Carlos.