Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lifetime Achievement Award

Oh hey there, blog. How are you. I know it's been a long time since I've paid any attention to you. I could say I had forgotten you were there, but that is a lie. I knew you were there all along, full of blank draft pages and unborn witticisms blinking back at me from the eternal, empty white screen. Blog, I know you were there, just waiting to link me with brave Readers, to help us share a moment in time. The thing is, I just didn't know what to say.

If we were lovers, dear blog, then I was definitely the neglectful, estranged, frustrated jerk who just up and disappeared one day without a word or warning, leaving you in the lurch and maybe wondering why. Yes, I've done that before - not to other blogs I mean, but to people. Several times, in fact. Whether or not they wondered, I don't know. But you could safely say that by now, at this point in my character, it's becoming a pattern.

I should say I am sorry I disappear but the fact is I am not sorry.

Sometimes it just takes me a long time to be honest with myself about what I want. But once I know, I know. The jerk part is that once I am honest with myself about what I want, I am selfish about it. Once I see clearly, I use the clarity to make a decision and rarely bother to explain that to others.  It's not that I don't care. It's that I have stuff to go do.

It turns out, I really needed a breather from you, blog, and from other things too. In November my streak of artistically satisfying plays ended and I had a sort of a personal heartbreak. A sort of disappearance of a hope, you might say. I say sort of because it was a long time coming and a long time on repeat, and nothing actually happened other than that I woke up one morning fully aware and OK with the fact that I didn't approve of my own nonsense anymore, that the thing I was hoping for had never actually been on the table, that it was time to vaporize and re-materialize somewhere else, hitch my wagon to another star. My Dad calls it a Moment of Truth, or the Five Minute Rule: it only takes five minutes to be honest, really actually honest with yourself. Not that it isn't a little scary and hard sometimes. But in November, I managed to do it.

November was when my brain switched gears.

I panicked a little. I skipped out for a bit on certain things, hoarding my new found clarity. I stopped submitting for auditions. I stopped blogging, basically. I cut down on sleeping. I started dating pretty much everybody in New York City. (Just kidding. Only a handful. I am not actually cut out to be a man-eater.) And, on a deeper note, I had yet another Acting Crisis that lasted all day every day for a few months there: why am I doing this? Am I even doing this? What do I want to do with this? What have I done with this, and what do I want to do next? And, most importantly, WHAT IS THIS THAT I AM DOING?

In graduate school when I had another whirlwind episode, prompted by another heartbreak, my roommate Treasure said that in the days where I would disappear (and I would sort of disappear, coming home to our apartment only every four or five days to change clothes), she pictured me riding around the city on the backs of fire trucks, howling at the moon.

Close enough.

This time, though, my howl reached heaven and my life actually changed. Through a super cool and bright actress I know, I got an actual writing job. I prayed for it. My mom prayed for it with me. We prayed together as I pressed the send button with my emailed application. And twenty minutes after I emailed in my writing sample, I was hired. I jumped up and down, I bounced off walls, I danced and hopped and squealed for several weeks like a cliche from a 90s high school movie. It was an actual turning point, a bolt from the blue, a gift from God.

I may have never mentioned this to you, blog, but I had a very specific dream when I was a little girl. My kindergarten teacher asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up, and I said, "My own boss." I wanted to write and act. Those were the only two jobs I ever wanted. I wanted to have lovers from every country in the world and eventually children from every country in the world. I think my logic was, why just pick one? It is hilarious and amazing and somewhat disturbing to suddenly step back from my life right now and realize that I am actually doing it. (No babies yet, though, please.)

I am actually doing it.

Sure, there are points I'd like to hit in my acting career that I feel very far away from. I'd like to get great representation, star in feature films, win an Oscar. Sure. There are points in my personal life and finances that are not the best they could be. If I live long enough I'd like to someday get married and have kids (this is very hard for me to admit) and maybe - maybe - even open a savings account. But you know what? I am actually doing the things that I dreamed of doing when I was 6. If I don't thank God every day, shame on me.

This week, I got to go visit my 81-year-old Dad in Texas. Our time together is always too short and we try to cram a year's worth of presence and intimacy into a few days, so it's always super intense. We go and sit in Carl's Jr. because he likes it and we drink decaf coffee and talk for hours. I told him how amazed and excited I am about the writing job, about my weird new attitude about acting that I haven't quite placed or defined, about how strong and lucky and perhaps almost empty I feel, in a way that seems good. Maybe open is a better word than empty. Maybe full is a better word than empty. Maybe empty and full are the same.

And my Dad looked at me and said what might be the most important thing that anyone has ever said to me: "When I go, I get to go knowing that I've left the world a better place because you are in it. Because of who you are, not just what you're doing, but because you are a point of light in the world."

So, blog, I just had to write again and say all that, to try to explain how the last months have given me moments and choices and gifts that changed me, and what was significant about them. Not everyone gets to hear words like that from their Dad. I really, truly wish they did. We need to know what we mean to people, what our lives can be. I am sharing this not because I want to rub it in peoples' faces or anything, but because I want people to know that you CAN say words like that, and that when you do, it makes someone's life. We have that power with each other. I want to share that you can disappear in a positive way, to transform and resurrect. That resurrection is real.

It turns out, life is pretty simple. I may never win an Oscar or really "make it" as an actor in terms of shiny money things, but I've made it. I may never be a New York Times bestselling author, but I have had my writing published and read by strangers who paid my rent for me. I may never actually have kids from all the countries in the world because that would be 196 children and that is just a totally stupid idea in retrospect. I may always be a little bit of a jerk sometimes, when I am hurt, because I am a human being and no matter how hard I try to do the right thing I will sometimes fail. Yet I see that I can try to do the right thing - I have that option to choose - and that is the important bit.

As far as I am concerned, my Dad just gave me the Lifetime Achievement Award. Even if I never accomplish anything else, I'm good.


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  2. Beautiful, deep, full and inspiring words, Jeanne Joe! You made me glad I am alive today! May the force be with you....may God continue to bless you!!!!!