|Treehuggers: me and my mom|
As an actor and self professed gypsy, I have often made cavalier statements like: "I have no hometown," and "Home is wherever you hang your hat." Whenever I say stuff like that, I obviously try to be standing mysteriously under a streetlight or smoking a cigarette or be backlit by the city skyline with sirens blaring eerily in the distance or something equally cinematic, epic, and devastatingly worldy. Of course, I don't smoke, so I never look as noir in actuality as I do in my imagination. And I am sure I never sound as cool when I say that stuff as I think I do. Probably I just sound silly. But I can dream. I can pretend to be that hard-boiled femme fatale with no past and probably no future, with undisclosed secrets and seemingly invulnerable armor - a la Lauren Bacall. I can tell everyone and myself that home is whatever I make it, but really, that's not entirely true. All it takes is a Christmas back at my mom's house, and my tough outer shell crumbles like Santa's cookies in milk.
As an actor, it's really most important for me to be honest with myself. After 7-going-on-8 years in New York City, I finally am experiencing my first homesickness. Took me long enough right? I guess it's some consolation to me that this proves, once and for all, that I do actually have a heart. Yes, I doubted it once.
Over Christmas, I was hit with powerful waves of sea-salt tinged nostalgia as I drove up the California coast north of San Francisco with my bestie from high school in a rented Fiat (!!) and caught up about our lives. Over dinner with my mom, it hit me just how precious and rare our time together is. In my teenage bedroom, whose walls have been re-plastered and painted past recognition, I fell asleep in luxurious 1,000 count cotton sheets with the recurring thought: "This is so great. This is so wonderful. I would love to live here again. I want to stay home. Life is so much easier and pleasanter and better here. How nuts do I have to be to leave all this behind for cockroaches, subways, and a rat to human ratio of 4:1?"
Like many actors (and, let's face it, most adults of any kind), the city I live and work in is far away from my family. I see my crew usually once a year for the holidays, if I'm able to go back home - or if my mom is able to come visit me. This year was special because due to my brother's wedding, my own reckless stubbornness in forcing vacation time into my schedule, and my mom's acquisition of a traveling buddy, I got to see everyone two or three times. Maine, New York, Texas, Southern and Northern California - no point on the map was safe from my obsession with being physically present with my loved ones for a change. I even made two trips to Texas to see my Dad. Texas.
This world doesn't really feel like home a lot of the time - I am sure that must be true for other people in fields other than acting, too. The world can be competitive, cold, difficult, unfair, all those things. It can be, well, worldly. It can make one feel small and disposable and overwhelmed. Yet, this world can also be beautiful and lovely, so much so that there are moments and experience that make me absolutely ache with their beauty. But for some reason, it seems to me that the times I see this world at it's most lovely are the times I feel the most homesick for another world, a perfect world, a heaven. Perhaps human nature is a little bit like the nature of pursuing an acting career: we are far from home, and we're sojourning in a harsh and often dark city - but who we are, and what makes us tick, is still secreted away in a place that's full of love.
We have to find a way to keep in touch with it somehow, in the absence of home. We have to take our home with us, and recognize that there's more to this world and to ourselves than meets the eye.
This evening I attended Trinity Grace Church in Chelsea with a friend, and the main thing that struck me in the talk was when the preacher said, "Once you find that focal point of love, the impossible becomes possible." It almost seemed impossible, this Christmas, to come back to New York. It was quite tempting follow the path of least resistance and stay somewhere warm, safe, comfortable, and loving. But hold on, I can't give up. I can't. I love this too much. And love is a big aspect of what makes a home. Love makes acting my home away from home. What can seem impossible in my pursuit of acting will be made possible by my love for it, and the love I receive from the people in my life that make my life possible. That is the home that I can take with me wherever I go. Love is what makes home home. If I can put my love of acting into each audition, every cold read, every mailing and rehearsal and performance, I will have really achieved something. I will have achieved a homecoming.