This is Maxcianna, one of my favorite people in the world. This young woman knows how to laugh and how to learn. She just graduated high school in June. And oh, she loves life.
Maxcianna was born in Haiti and grew up on Vashon, in a loving adoptive family. She’s an actor, a writer, a self-professed math nerd, and someone who knows her joys.
I met her first at one of the adoptive family potlucks we attended her on Vashon when our son Desmond was still a baby. Immediately, I knew she was someone special. Later, we asked Maxcianna to be the kids’ babysitter when we needed some help during the summer vacation. Lucy did a few years of musical theater with Maxcianna and so whenever they see each other now, they jump around and talk about Marvel movies and acting together. Desmond adores her too. We’re so happy she’s in his life, in particular.
On the day I’m publishing Maxcianna’s profile in joy, she’s in a car with her brother, driving toward Los Angeles. She has set her sights on acting, modeling, and someday producing the kinds of shows she wishes she had seen when she was younger. Maxcianna is fiercely loving and clear. I have no doubt she’s on the winding path to her own joyful intentions.
Before she left, I asked her about the role of joy in her life.
Can you tell me about your joys?
I have three main joys. I love fields, as you know. I don’t know what it is but fields are so open. They’re always full of sun. Even when it’s raining, I still love fields. I just love the idea of laying there, on a picnic blanket, soaking up the sun. You’re just so close to nature there. You’re so close with yourself. I even have a music playlist on Spotify dedicated to lying in fields.
(I’m waiting for her to send that playlist to me!)
I love acting. I love getting to experience what the writer wanted to see. And also, I learn scary things about myself from embodying a character. I see parts of myself in every character I play. And I have to confront myself. “Oh shoot, I guess I am like that a lot.”
When I was doing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Vashon High School, I was playing Marcy Park. She was a know-it-all girl who loved all the languages. And she was also adopted. She herself didn’t realize she had some unresolved things that still affected her. Through her, I realized I needed to take more time to learn about myself. And reach out to other adopted kids and families. Even when I played the bird woman in Mary Poppins, I still learned something about myself. There’s never a time when I’m acting that I’m not learning.
That’s what I love. I keep learning about myself and understanding myself. That’s what I want to do. No one wants to be confused on this earth. That’s what I always want to be doing.
Well, it sounds like learning is also one of your joys.
Yeah, it is! I sound like a nerd but I love math.
Wait, that shouldn’t be a but! Try saying: “I sound like a nerd and I am one.”
That’s right. I sound like a nerd and I am one. I love math. I took business calculus this last quarter of high school and I loved it. It’s funny, but every class that I cry in during the first week ends up being the class where I learn the most. It’s because that class is hard at first and that’s a sign I’m really going to learn something.
And laughter! That’s one of my main joys. I grew up laughing. I grew up bringing the joy of laughter into situations. It’s so awkward when there’s silence at the dinner table. There has to be laughter.
When people come to me when they’re sad, it feels awkward. I like to listen but also offer comments that make them giggle a little bit. I like uplifting people.
Someday I want to do stand-up comedy. I want people to see this side of me where people can have a joyful laugh. During quarantine, I was talking to people I thought were my friends. And I noticed that I was fake laughing with them. And it sucked. Then, I talked with a friend whom I’ve known for nine years but I hadn’t seen in awhile. And at the end of our conversation, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. This is what it’s supposed to feel like. That’s the best feeling in the world.
I want to help people see they can feel comfortable with their laugh.
It’s frustrating with guys who try to make them laugh and they don’t. But at least I know right away — this isn’t going to work.
What’s a favorite movie or show that makes you laugh?
To be honest, one of my favorite movies of all time is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It’s so quirky and goofy. I just have it on in the background, when I’m working and feeling stressed. It helps.
There’s also this show called Baby Daddy, about this guy who has a baby dropped off at his doorstep and he has to raise it with his two male roommates.
So it’s like Three Men and a Baby but adapted for today?
Yep. But it’s a tv show so the baby also grows up and they end up adopting her and it’s super cute. And the mom is hilarious.
What kind of food gives you joy?
Definitely Haitian food. Whenever I find new Haitian food, I feel closer to my culture. Soul food. It’s so comforting. Seafood. Sushi. Poke. Pho. I love Asian food so much.
(She’s moving to Koreatown in LA!)
Everyone in my family loves food. My brother loves to cook. We had fish head soup. We’d try random things. We may not have liked it, but at least we tried it.
So, if I were to ask you for five small joys you give yourself every day, what would they be? If you were to schedule your day for 15 minutes of joy, five times a day, what would those times of joy be?
Going for a walk.
Listening to music, surrounding myself with it, and being there for myself.
I love wind. I love when it’s really windy and I’m walking outside. A breeze feels good.
I’m not an introvert, at all. So, finding a good friend who is willing to go to a good food spot and eat something new.
Playing my ukulele. I love playing it. I used to have two guinea pigs. When I’d play music for them, they’d squeak along. I love writing songs on the ukulele.
What is your main, joyful intention in life?
I’m moving to LA. I want to act and model. But my main goal is this — when I’ve done a lot of acting and made good connections with people, I want to write and produce a tv show called Adoptive Me. I’m adopted. I think it’s really important to talk about people of color being adopted into homes where the families are not of color. Or, just adopted in general.
If anyone has seen the show Blackish, then Grownish or Mixedish, they have connected storylines between the series. I want to do a series about a teenage girl who is adopted. It would be a coming-of-age story, with mystery and plot twists and enjoyable, not a documentary. I want people my age to know that, even if you have a good life with your adoptive parents, you still have lots of feelings and need to express those feelings. You’re not wrong to feel so many emotions if you’re adopted. It can frustrate you if you don’t know your biological parents, even if you have loving parents. It can be really hard. It’s not wrong to feel that. You don’t have to feel guilty. You’re not alone in that. So many other people are feeling that with you.
That’s so important for adopted kids to know. Also, it’s important they understand that big frustrations and not knowing how to talk about it? That’s part of life. Everyone has frustrations. What life is without any frustrations? Talk about those frustrations, since that’s a natural part of life.
Exactly. I want adopted kids to know it’s okay to express their frustrations and fears. Everyone feels that. You don’t have to hide those feelings if you’re adopted.
I want that series to be on Netflix or HBO Max, so everyone can see it. And I want to write and produce a connected series called Little Adoptive Me. It would be for little kids, like 7 or 8. It will be hard for them to understand the teenage sense. But little kids are still trying to figure that out. When I was that age, I didn’t even know what being adopted means. I want younger kids to know it’s okay to ask those questions and find answers in the series.
Oh, my son would love that show.
Yeah, that’s why I want to do it.
One of the things I learned early is that the only thing that matters in this life is this. If you want something to exist, but you can’t find it, then you have to create it for the other people like you out there.
Exactly. I didn’t see people of color with my specific hair type in media for a long time. So I tried to change my hair type, since I didn’t see it. But recently, I thought, “I’m going to wear my hair the way it is naturally.” And as soon as I did that, I got some modeling gigs. So, I’m going to keep going with this.
And you’re beautiful, of course.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell people about joy?
I think that it’s so looked down upon in our society to take time for yourself. Treat yourself to pedicures. Go out to the restaurant with a good friend, sometimes. You’re not being selfish. I think it’s super important to realize that you’re the one who’s going to benefit, but you’re also going to benefit everyone else too. Did I take the time for myself or try to take care of myself? Maybe I should have gone on that walk. I’d be far more relaxed, instead of snapping at people.
How do you anticipate dealing with all that traffic in LA? .
Actually, I have a little chest of things I enjoy in my car. I love to color. It relaxes me. So, for traffic, I have a little chest of coloring books, markers, and favorite snacks if I get stuck. If I’m in traffic, I can calm myself down with that.
You don’t need to be stuck in traffic. Put some things in your purse that you love, so if you’re waiting for a friend, don’t just pick up the phone. Sit there and color. Prepare ahead for your joy.
So, you’re recommending that everyone makes a little chest of joy.
It took me a long time to realize that when I picked up my phone, between waves of homework, it was a way of not thinking. Being in my body. Moving my attention away from work.
But I realized in the end that the phone doesn’t really give me that much joy. So I started making it easier to find things I love for my breaks.
Oh, you’re amazing. And we’re all going to miss you around here.
Oh, thank you, Shauna. I’ll miss you and everyone too.
If you live in LA, and you’re someone reputable who hires actors, reach out to me so I can connect you with Maxcianna. She truly is extraordinary.
Want to find your joy?
This is a good place to start.
This is a piece for everyone. Most of my essays are sent to paid subscribers, however.
If you choose a paid subscription — at only $5 a month — you’ll receive a weekly essay from me, about a time in my life that I felt doubt, worry, and fear, then came through that time to find more joy.
I also send out stories of other people who’ve come through hard places to find joy. Those might come in the form of profiles like this one, video interviews, recorded conversations, books I recommend, movies that have helped me to understand more, and art that was created in sorrow and joy.
Also, check out my new website: You Can Have More Joy. There are lots of joy possibilities for you there as well.