Hi, Again

I love New Year’s Eve.

I’m not talking about the glitz of the party dress or the free flowing champagne (although I’ll take those too.)

I’m talking about the chance to start over again.  Hit the reset button.

This year, in particular, I’m excited to say goodbye to what has been the hardest year of my life.

I know.  That’s quite a statement.   Especially taking into consideration the dark year of 1992 when I didn’t get the role of ‘Cowgirl #1” in our school play.

That is not to say that I haven’t had some good moments this year (hello all-expense-paid trip to Europe) but emotionally and mentally I have struggled.

I stopped blogging in the spring blaming it on not having the energy or the time.  But there was a part of me that felt like nothing in my life seemed worth writing about.

This year was also especially hard as I lost one of the most important people in my life, my grandfather. Although I had wanted to write something for him after his funeral, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  As if putting down on paper that he wasn’t here anymore made it too real.

Too final.

Even though he had been sick.  Even though he was older.  Even though everyone told me he was at peace now, it didn’t seem to matter.  The fact was that he was gone. That we would never again have this conversation for the thousandth time:

How’s my favorite granddaughter?

I’m your only granddaughter, Grandpa.

I know, but you’re still my favorite.

I lost someone who was in my corner.  Who always had my best interest in mind and who loved me unconditionally – no matter what crazy play I made him go to or how many times I broke his heart and moved a little further away.

He was always a champion for my happiness.

It’s scary to realize that I might have to be that for myself now.  That a space in my life has opened up that no one can really fill.  That it’s now up to me to take all that wisdom and love that Grandpa dolled out over the years and wallpaper it on my heart.

For Christmas this year my grandma gave me Grandpa’s wedding ring that he had worn for forty-two years.

For me, it’s not only a reminder of a man who was the touchstone of our family but also a reminder of where I came from and what kind of person I was raised to be.

The kind of person who welcomes the future with open arms, unafraid.

So welcome, 2013.

I’ve been waiting for you all year.

Watch Me

Thanks to my father’s home videos, I’ve spent the last several hours watching my childhood flash before my eyes.

And the recurring theme is:

I. Loved. Attention.

Every time my parents would try and capture my younger brother doing something sweet or cute, I would zoom by in my big glasses, permed hair, and Zubaz and scream.

WATCH ME!!!!!

Sometimes I would take a more subtle approach by saying enticing things off camera.

Oh Boy. This is so crazy, guys!  Sure would make a GREAT video.

There is even a moment when I’m seven and the camera stops suddenly (after I had shouted many of the phrases above) and then reappears with me planted firmly in front of the lens.

This was clearly my moment.  I stared expectantly at my father and it looked like I was about to do something really amazing – really spectacular and worth all the fuss.

And then my father says his (clearly coached) line.

Now here is Jessica, crowing like a rooster.

Like I said, worth the fuss.

And boy did I crow.  I crowed my little heart out.

And that was it.  I ran happily away having proven to the world that I probably should have been on medication.

I haven’t written in a while.

At first, I was busy.  Then more busy.  And then I was just pretending I was busy.

Somewhere about a week ago, I realized I was avoiding writing about my life because of a very specific reason.

I didn’t think it was worth it.

I didn’t think I was worth it.

Pass the Prozac.

Lately I’ve been wandering around in a strange pool of low self-esteem and copious amounts wine.

After a less-than-fruitful pilot season, it started to feel like all the ‘nos’ I’d been hearing were aimed right at my heart.

Right at the place where I hold the most important parts of myself.

And I started to believe I was only worth a ‘no.’

When you are pursuing a career where you face rejection every day, that is a very dangerous place to be.

And even though I’ve stuffed that little girl who will crow like a rooster behind better hair, contacts, and pants that have no geometric patterns, the nos were still getting in.

Every time I walked into a casting office I gave up all of my power and felt like I would die for just an ounce of their approval.

Surprisingly, this tactic wasn’t working.

Instead of seeing that confident, smart, talented, and funny girl I wanted them to see, they saw someone else completely:

A girl wearing Zubaz and making bird noises.

And no one wants to work with that girl.

In fact, I think I know that girl and she lives in the alley behind the McDonalds.

And finally, after a particularly hard audition where I drove snot-nosed and bleary-eyed home in the Yaris after a casting director looked me up and down and said “THAT’S an interesting outfit,” I had had enough.

I was done letting rejection in so deep.

It’s my party and I’ll crow if I want to.

So, while I’m still asking people to watch me it now comes from a different place.

Watch me.

Watch me be enough.

A Red Shiny Kind Of Love

As a kid, being in love was gross and candy was awesome.

Which is why I loved Valentine’s Day. There was so much free candy and very little thought given to all that yucky love business.

But now that I’m older, love seems a lot less gross and candy a lot more harmful to my calorie count.

Which is really a bummer since I’m single and have access to a lot of candy.

This week, as Valentine’s Day approached, I tried to keep my head up. I tried to tell myself this was a fake holiday designed to sell cards. I tried to convince myself that I was going to make it about love in general (for my friends, for my family, for my apartment that has wood floors) but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I was alone and it was a little sad.

Pass the candy.

By last night I had become officially bitter. After waiting on countless couples at the restaurant (who were beating the Valentine’s Day rush by dining out the night before) I was done. A girl can only gush about what a “cute couple you are” so many times before she wants to drown herself in a sea of chocolate-covered sea salt caramels.

Luckily I had those waiting at home.

As I left work, I remembered I had planned to make cookies to give to a few people for Valentine’s Day. Baking always makes me feel better and in a last desperate attempt to salvage this bunk holiday I turned into the nearest grocery store to get a few ingredients.

I pushed past people buying last minute boxed candy and teddy bears, becoming increasingly annoyed.

Stupid day. Stupid hearts. Stupid candy. STUPID LOVE!

I grabbed my milk and Crisco and headed for check out.

I glanced at the person ahead of me in line. He was buying one thing.

A 2-liter bottle of Vodka.

Apparently I wasn’t the only person feeling lonely.

The man behind me was also purchasing one thing: A vase of roses with a stuffed bear hanging on it.

I felt my heart lurch but tried to cover it with much more comfortable bitter thoughts.

He’s clearly not really in love because he’s buying last minute. Who would want a teddy bear anyway? He is just feeding into the scam that is this stupid holiday.

But the roses were nice. In fact, they were beautiful. I had to swallow an urge not to stick out my nose and smell them.

The man caught my eye and smiled. I smiled and turned away, focusing back on my Crisco and my disillusion. I paid and walked to my car thinking I too should have bought a giant bottle of vodka.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

It was the man who had bought the teddy bear. He was waving to me vigorously from the sidewalk.

Had I forgotten something? Had he come to shove the stupid gift in my face one more time? I stopped in the middle of the street and he ran up to my car.

Everything my mother had ever told me about strange men approaching my car ran through my head.

This is how a mugging begins. He is going to wield a knife and I’m going to be on the news as the dumb girl who stopped for America’s Most Wanted Felon.

I opened my window just a hair.

Yes?

I am so sorry to bother you.

He spoke with a slight Eastern European accent.

It’s okay. Did I forget something?

No, no. I just…well. I am driving my motorcycle and so I can’t take this with me.

He pulled out a heart shaped helium balloon, the shiny kind that you can see yourself in.

I just wanted to give it to you…as a gift to say Happy Valentine’s Day.

I was surprised as I reached out to take the balloon. There was nothing sinister in the way he said it. Nothing overtly sexual or romantic. It was just…nice.

I rolled down my window a little more and he smiled and handed it to me.

I hope you have a very happy day tomorrow.

He ran back across the street and after a few shocked moments, I drove away with my shiny balloon.

After awhile, I started to smile. Grin actually. As my heart-shaped balloon bounced beside me I wondered what had possessed him to do such a thing.

Had he noticed that I was feeling lonely? Was there something in the way I looked at his roses that was a bit too full of longing?

The more I thought of it the more I smiled.

As I climbed my apartment steps, I it occurred to me that he hadn’t had the balloon when he was standing in line. Which meant that he bought it after I left. And furthermore, he obviously knew that he drove a motorcycle so why buy the balloon in the first place?

The more I mulled it over the more I realized – he had specifically purchased the balloon for me.

Maybe he thought I needed cheering up. Maybe he thought I needed to be reminded that this holiday can be about small, simple acts of love.

Whatever the reason, his little bit of kindness had warmed my heart.

That night, as I happily cut out cupid-shaped cookies, I smiled knowing that there are lots of versions of love alive in this city.

There is the kind of love that makes you spend your whole life with someone.

And then there’s the kind of love that makes you give a lonely stranger a red, shiny, heart-shaped balloon.

This year, I’m celebrating that kind of love.

 

Stars

This week I had my stars read.

Don’t tell my grandfather or it will confirm that the ‘damn liberals’ have finally got me.

The reading was a Christmas present from my boss and the whole experience was much different than I thought it would be.

It was much less ‘woman-in-a-turban-reading-a-cracked-egg’ and much more like my reader was translating another language.

There was no guessing or card picking or palm reading. It was just based on facts.

Meaning, she simply looked at where the planets were at the exact time and place of my birth and gleaned meaning from those locations.

I was shocked at the accurateness of it all.

When I was a little girl, between the hole digging and the gymnastics, I thought a lot about my place in the world.

I wasn’t out on my roof with a crystal ball, but I was constantly aware that my life seemed…brace yourself…. pre-destined.

(Grandpa, it’s those ‘liberal commies’ talking again.)

In other words, I never felt like I was a mistake.

So, as I listened to a virtual stranger describe my inner soul better than I could have, I had an incredible feeling of validation.

Like I’d been right all these years. That I’m on a course I was meant for.

Sometimes in Los Angeles it feels a bit like I am floating around aimlessly. Trying to pay my bills, trying to book a job, trying not to dump wine onto a poor-tipping elderly woman.

But to believe that I have some kind of purpose, some kind of destiny, is reassuring in this shaky city.

The main piece of advice that stuck with me through the reading, the thing I thought about a lot today when I went to yet another audition for a ‘quirky blonde girl’ was this:

Lately you probably feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall. But you need to step back, look up at the wall and surrender. Just know that this is where you are supposed to be right now.

I think the universe has a wicked sense of humor if it thinks ‘where I’m supposed to be right now’ is eating cereal for dinner on my bed and trying to figure out if by ‘FINAL NOTICE’ the power company really just means ‘Happy New Year.’

But okay. I surrender. I will accept that this is where I need to be.

After all, it’s written in my stars.

My ‘Communist, liberal, peace-loving’ stars.

Guy Fawkes Day

As a kid, I hated Guy Fawkes.

Probably much less than the English but I’m fairly certain I’m the only American six-year-old who carried around bitter feelings toward a 17th century English rebel.

I think I must have come across the story of Mr. Fawkes in one of those “See What Happened on Your Birthday” postcards they have at trinket stores. I found November 5, hoping to learn that it was the day Cabbage Patch Dolls had been invented or that I shared a birthday with Punky Brewster.

Instead, I learned that an English mad man had tried to blow up the House of Lords.

And now he gets his own day. With bonfires.

This was clearly a direct snub against my birthday.

After all, this was my day. It seemed ludicrous to me that someone was trying to take that away.

Every year I would do a mental comparison of my birthday against the festivities of the English National Holiday.

I soon learned that bowling at Safari Lanes and dinner at Paradiso did not compare to a nationwide celebration.

It was clearly a stacked deck.

Eventually, somewhere in my early teens, I let the whole thing go and replaced it with excitement for my first boy-girl birthday, asking for Dock Martins, and deciding what color of corduroy pants I would wear that day.

But a few weeks ago, when I mentioned my birthday was approaching, someone recited the famous rhyme about Guy Fawkes Day.

Remember remember the fifth of November.

It got me thinking about my childhood obsession.

How devastated it made me to imagine that someone else outdid me every year.

Nowadays, although I love my birthday, I am constantly aware that maybe it’s a little silly.

In fact, I usually wish something would take away the pressure I feel for the day to be all about me.

It seems that somewhere along the line to adulthood we are taught that we’re too old, too mature to get a day all to ourselves.

Like we don’t deserve it.

So this year, on my birthday, I tried to push away the uncomfortable thoughts. And when I looked around at my mom, who had flow all the way from Minnesota to be with me, and my friends, drinking wine and listening to music in the warm Malibu sun, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.

In fact, I felt really lucky.

I spend every day as an actor and a writer trying to get people to pay more attention to me. To watch this or look at that. To cast me, hire me, or buy my show.

And there, sitting with me in the grass, were people who already think I’m special.

Who already think that I’m worth celebrating.

And that’s not silly at all. It’s just lovely.

As for Guys Fawkes, I think I can finally say it.

I win.

Calloused

On my right hand I have a callus that reminds me of third grade.

That year, I had watched the Summer Olympics religiously and decided I wanted to be a gymnast. But more than that, I knew what gymnastic move I wanted to do more than any other. It was simple really. No flips, no crazy kicks, no acts of balance.

I wanted to fly.

Let go of the bars completely, and float through the air catching the other bar just in the nick of time.

I’d seen gymnasts do it all summer. How hard could it be?

When I returned to school in the fall I was ready.

Ready to become the Shannon Miller of my third grade class.

I practiced all through recess and at the end of the day I figured it was time. After all, I had practiced an ENTIRE RECESS.

In my eight-year-old head that seemed like most of my life.

I rubbed sand on my hands to get rid of unwanted palm sweat– something I’d seen Shannon do before she attempted the uneven bars. I ignored that she was actually rubbing special chalk on her hands while I was grinding sharp pebbles into mine.

Minor details.

I surveyed the bars.

There was a problem. The skinny ones I had been practicing on seemed too close together. 

I would not get any air, any real sense of flying, if I let go in between those two bars.

Then I had a brilliant idea.

I would use the thick outside bars (the ones used to keep the skinny ones together.)

Never mind the fact that those two bars were so big I could hardly get my little hands around them. 

Again, minor details.

I jumped up, gripped the thick metal as well as I could and started to swing my legs.

The faster I swung, the better chance I knew I had of catching the bar. (The bar that suddenly seemed really far away.)

I swung harder.

When I swung back for the fourth time and was almost parallel to the ground I knew it was now or never.

I let go.

I was doing it! I was flying towards that other bar just like the gymnasts!

I stretched my arms as far as they could go. The bar got closer and I could feel my fingertips brush the cool metal.

But that was all they did.

Brush the metal.


Despite my diligent and focused twenty minute practice, as my body (still parallel to the ground) headed for the hard sharp sand below I had the sinking feeling that maybe I should have given it one more recess.

I hit the ground like a plank, my arms still reaching for that elusive metal bar.

The wind instantly left my little body and my teeth bit down hard into my lip as my chin hit the sand.

I lay there for a moment – shocked that I was not as talented as Shannon Miller.

And then the tears started, not so much for my bleeding lip or my inability to catch my breath, but for the frustration that twenty minutes of practice had not been enough.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

Twenty years later, it’s the same here in Los Angeles.

Success in this town is harder than I thought.

Which brings me to something else that was harder than I thought.

Season 1 of Book Club is going to premiere on Hulu!

Finally.

Finally all of our (and many other peoples’) hard work is paying off.

It could not have come at a better time.


Lately, I’d been moping around getting bitter that things weren’t happening faster.

That I wasn’t getting any younger and that my apartment wasn’t getting any bigger or closer to the ocean.

But although it was difficult, I would not have had this success any other way.

Just like falling on my face taught me in third grade that if I wanted something, I needed to work at it.

That year, I practiced so much that the inside of my palms started to resemble an eighty-year-old farmer’s. My calluses were large, thick and a point of pride. I would wave them around when people doubted my dedication or abilities.

They were my battle scars.

I hadn’t minded the calluses in third grade, when I was working towards being the monkey bar champion so why should I mind them now, when I’m working towards the life I want to live?

Instead of feeling bitter that things aren’t happening faster, I should be proud of the work I am doing. The calluses I am building up that are making me stronger.

Even though I never tried to attempt the flying leap again, I got really good at the monkey bars.

And years later, after building up some serious calluses in Hollywood, I got something even better than ultimate success on the monkey bars.

I got one callus closer to my dream.

Smothered

My friend was at an audition recently and the director interrupted her halfway through the read.

I feel like you have a lot of joy within you.

She smiled and heartily agreed.

He grimaced.

Okay, I’m going to need you to bury that.

When she related this story to me over drinks a few nights ago, I laughed. What a brilliant way to sum up what (if you’re not careful) Los Angeles can do to you.

But I’m starting to think it’s not so funny.

I’ve changed since I’ve moved here – I feel…older.

Sometimes, it’s a good feeling.

- I now know how many margaritas I can have before it turns ugly.
- I have now haggled for and purchased my own car.
- I’ve realized that not every one has to like me and I can still consider myself a nice person. (Right? RIGHT!?!)

But I’ve noticed that with all of this good change, there is one very specific thing I have to constantly keep track of to make sure it never disappears…

A strong belief in myself.

And to be honest, it’s been hard lately.

About a month ago, I listened to a speaker talk about dreams. Among the many smart things he said, one line in particular stuck with me.

When did it become okay to stop believing that our dreams will come true?

I sat there, staring up at him and felt tears forming. I was shocked I was having such a strong emotional reaction to a seemingly simple question. But judging from the amount of snot flowing out of my nose, this was a question I related to.

When I was a kid, a teenager, and even an early-twenty-something I had no problem with this. I would write things in my journal like “Someday my dream is happening” or “I just KNOW it…I can just FEEL it” or “They just couldn’t see past my giant glasses to my raw talent!”

But lately, I’ve noticed a certain absence of those sentiments.

The older I get, the more I realize there are some people who look at me and think it’s time to give up this ‘crazy’ dream of mine. That, as I inch towards my late late twenties I should start thinking of other (read: more practical) things to do with my life.

And ashamedly, in my weaker moments, I’ve thought they might be right.

But they’re not.

It was just easier to believe in myself when I was younger- when nothing smothered that belief like money issues, countless no’s, and (pointing the finger at myself here) doubt.

But despite the fact that I’m turning a whole year older next week, I’m hanging on.

With my crazy dreams. And my crazier stories.

But especially with my crazy joy that (much like my friend’s) will not be smothered.

Bingo

Last week I won $50 playing Black-Out Bingo at the Senior Citizens Center.

A few days before I had suffered from mild heat stroke in my scarf and high boots as I refused to believe the weather was not the lovely, Midwest Fall I so desperately wanted it to be.

When I found out it was going to be 101 degrees last Wednesday I knew it was time for me to get out of town.

So, Noah (whose refusal to turn on his air conditioner made him almost as desperate as I was) and I packed a bag and headed for greener (and cooler) pastures. Enter, Big Bear, California where it dipped below 40 degrees every night.

After a winding, uphill battle for the Yaris, we arrived in beautiful – no, stunning – Big Bear. The mountains, the lake, the weather, the lack of honking cars! It was everything we had imagined.

If I squinted just right and ignored the BMWs, faux-fur jackets, and eight-pound lap dogs it almost felt like we were in the Midwest.

There were so many options of things to do, so many ways to soak up the local culture. We could hike, boat, visit the local shops, or walk through leaves. The options were endless but we knew the moment we saw the flyer taped to the door of the Tourism Building what we were going to do.

BINGO.

With the elderly.

The Big Bear Senior Citizens Center was hosting a four-hour game of Bingo and there was no place we would have rather been.

When we walked into the Center the two older gentlemen at the ticket booth looked at us skeptically. When we told them we were not lost but here to play Bingo I thought they were going to fall off their chairs and break a hip.

They eagerly explained the game and ushered us inside like we were royalty. They proudly showed us where we could get a boiled hotdog or some Folgers coffee.

The smell of sterile band aids, Aqua Net, and boiled meat reminded me of visitors day at the nursing home in Jamestown when I would go see my great-grandmother.
I squeezed Noah’s hand excitedly and whispered in his ear.

We’re home!!

As soon as we sat down we were surrounded by people making sure we had everything we needed, explaining to us how ‘Crazy Ts” and “Postage Stamp” Bingo work. Noah and I were overwhelmed with the kindness and the attention.

By the time the game got underway I was ready.

I had by dobber, I had my cards, and I had the moral support of seemingly every person in the building. I may not have been as serious as the woman who brought in her own Bingo podium (with an attached fan to keep her cool) but I was set to win.

A few games in I noticed two things:

- Beverly was on a winning streak.

- The woman sitting one table away was staring at me.

Now, Beverly had the animosity of most of the crowd so I didn’t worry about her. But the other woman was starting to unnerve me.

Every time I glanced up she stared, smiling as if I was the neatest thing to come to Big Bear since electricity. She was probably eighty with a blonde poof of hair in the front and the rest of her head dyed shock-red. I admired her style but wished she would stop staring.

Then, suddenly, she was beside me.

I don’t mean to bother you. Are you enjoying the game?

I smiled and assured her I was having a blast. She smiled again.

Well, I was going to ask for your autograph but… that’s probably silly.

I stopped dobbing my free spaces and looked up at her, taken aback.

You want MY autograph?

She nodded eagerly.

Well, you are HER, right? You are Taylor Swift!

Beside me, Noah snorted.

Oh…no. I’m not Taylor Swift. Sorry…

She was unfazed. As she started moving back to her seat for the next round, she winked at me like we were co-conspirators.

Okay, dear. Right. Mum’s the word.

Before I could say anything she was gone.

I looked at Noah, who shrugged.

Soon my attention was back to the game as my favorite kind of Bingo was up.

BLACK-OUT BINGO.

Immediately, I had every number called. I dobbed out half my card before I missed a number. I grabbed Noah’s arm and started to get excited.

I kept dobbing out numbers as my card became more and more full. Finally, I was ‘on’ (Bingo term for one number away.)

We must have been causing quite a stir because the people around us started noticing my excitement. They whispered to us and to others, asking if we were ‘on.’

Finally, as the ball rolled out of the machine I could see it was the one I wanted. I dug my fingers into Noah’s arm as the woman next to me kindly instructed me not to say anything until he called it or my Bingo would be invalid.

Finally, the caller said it.

B2.

BINGO!!!!

Noah and I leapt from our chairs and I held the winning card above my head.

Unlike the angry looks Beverly had received, everyone started clapping for us. Cheering as if they had all Bingoed too.

As the card checker read my card the blonde-haired/red-haired lady made her way over again. This time, with her camera.

She asked Noah to take a picture of her and I with my winning Bingo card. She smiled and squeezed my shoulder.

I can’t wait to send this to my granddaughter to show her that Taylor Swift plays Bingo too.

I gave up.

Yes, she will be so excited! Tell her I say hello.

When the games were all over and Noah and I made our way out of the building, we were stopped by countless people asking us if we could come tomorrow night for Bingo at the VFW or next week at the Eagles Club.

Finally in the car, the silence was punctuated by Noah who kept repeating one phrase.

They were so nice. Just…SO nice.

We both seemed shell-shocked at the kindness and warmth that the Big Bear Senior Citizens Center had showered on us.

When did it become shocking when someone was kind?

I realized that night, as I tucked my $50 safely into my purse, that I had told myself I was coming to Big Bear looking for Fall. But really, I had come looking for a reminder of home.

And I found, among the Bingo dobbers and the weak-coffee, the thing about home I actually missed.

A sense of community, a sense of joy, and the feeling that everyone was on your side.

It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who had lived longer than three decades and were proud of it.

Back in LA, I’m holding on to that feeling.

If I can feel that special and at peace among those people – I know I can feel it in Los Angeles too.

And Big Bear, for that, Taylor Swift thanks you.

Bombed

Last week I bombed at an audition.

BOMBED.

It was the first time in a year or two that I have felt that poorly about a performance.

Earlier in the week, my manager had sent me the casting information; I would be auditioning for the role of the co-host in a hidden camera game show.

I was already dubious.

Hidden camera? Game Show? Co-Host?

Those were not words I was comfortable with.

But, as I told my manager, I would rather be working on camera in a game show than in a restaurant where the only cameras I’m on are for security purposes.

Now, it’s said that if you don’t care about an audition it will go better. That if you plan a trip, you will be put on hold. That if you already booked something you will book something else.

It happens every time.

So, I figured I was set.

I didn’t care at all – as much as I tried to convince myself I did. I had no right to be high-and-mighty about this audition but I couldn’t stop myself from snorting at the corny dialogue and turning up my nose at their request to ‘bring props.’ This was not the kind of audition I was used to.

When the day came, I drove to the studio, checked in, and sat in the waiting room across from a girl who had indeed brought her own props – an incredibly life-like cardboard TV.

I had brought a pen.

She smiled brightly at me and I returned the smile. After signing my name, I rehearsed my lines in the hallway – partly because this was a tradition of mine but mostly to avoid eating candy from the giant bowl they had set out for the actors.

Suddenly, the casting director came out and I heard the cheery girl tell her that I could go first.

I wasn’t ready but I figured that was all the better!

I stepped into the room, confident in my lack of caring.

They asked me to hit my mark, and told me to begin whenever I was ready. I smiled, took a deep breath, and started my lines.

Hi! I’m Jessica Runck. Welcome to (name protected.) Today on the show we are going to….to…

I stopped. What was my next line? I glanced at the casting director and she gave me a bright smile. I tried again.

Hi!! I’m Jessica Runck! Welcome to (name protected.) Today on the show we are going to…to…

I stopped again.

Shit.

What was my next line?

I panicked.

WHAT THE HELL WAS MY LINE?

I glanced wildly around as if the walls or the camera could give me some kind of hint.

This had never happened to me. I’m always prepared. I’m the girl who get’s straight A’s. I’m the girl who’s been accused of being TOO PREPARED. I’m the girl who rehearses scenes to death.

WHERE WAS THAT GIRL?

Suddenly, I head the casting director’s voice cut through my panicked thoughts.

Umm, Jessica? It’s okay. Just breath through it. You will think of it, honey.

Oh God. She was talking down to me. Like it’s my first damn audition. Like I’ve never audition for this man. Or this one. What was happening?

I took another deep breath and tried it again. 

And this time I got through it. Barely. I don’t remember much about the rest of the audition.

When it was over, I raced from the room pausing just long enough to fill each pocket with candy before I slumped to my car. I sat behind my steering wheel and stared ahead. How could I have let that happen? And why did I feel so crummy about it?

After all, I didn’t really care about the audition. It wasn’t a job I had wanted. Not really.

But by the way I slammed on the gas pedal and peeled out of the studio, I realized I did care.

A lot.

Not about the job so much as I cared about how much I worked and how I performed.

And I had sucked.

Hard.

For the girl who took double the credit load every single semester in college this was unacceptable.

I sped up the canyon back to my apartment, berating myself the whole way.

You are not above this job. Sure, sure you think you are all high and mighty because you have auditioned for some big people but have they ever actually cast you? UM, NO!

I pulled into my driveway and fired off a hurried text to my manager. I tried to dull the blow.

Audition went….ok. (Understatement of the year) I’m not a host… But at least they gave me candy.

I waited her response, expecting that she probably got a call from the casting director asking her why she was representing such an untalented and unprepared actor.

How could I have let her down like this? She was taking a chance on me. When she sends me to these auditions it’s her name on the line too. I stopped breathing as I heard her response come through. She was probably just going to drop me right there, via text.

I looked down at my phone.

And then I smiled. Not a single word from her about how much I sucked or how I wasn’t worth her time. Only one sentence and it was all I needed to hear.

What is better than candy??

Soap Box

Lately, when people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer.

Period.

I skip the whole ‘I moved here to be an actor and it is and always will be my dream’ part and stick with just ‘writer.’

For a while I didn’t see it as a problem.

I noticed at the restaurant when people very smugly said, “Let me guess, you’re an actor,” I took great pleasure looking them dead in the face and saying that I’m actually a writer – (you smug a-hole.)

And my tips were always higher when I was a writer.

At least that was the excuse I gave myself.

But then, a few days ago, I was introduced to some new people and we came to the inevitable conversation about what ‘brought me to LA all the way from North Dakota.’

(I love when people say that – as if it was extra difficult for me to travel ‘all the way’ from North Dakota because it takes a long time in a horse and buggy.)

I smiled, took a sip of my beer, and before I knew what I was saying blurted out the familiar half-lie.

I’m a writer.

Not ‘writer-actor.’ Not even ‘writer but I occasionally audition.’ Just plain, old writer.

I took a longer drag of my beer and looked away.

What was my problem?

And before my shame could choke me to death I blurted out the whole truth.

I’m actually an actor. Too. Actor-writer. But, you know, mostly actor. Right now. I mean, I write to….Book Club….and act. Anyway…actor…yeah….

I felt my face burning as the familiar look of pity mixed with dash of slightly-less-respect-than-was-there-before crowded into their eyes.

I didn’t even notice. I was too busy scolding myself.

Shame on me for balking in the face of ignorant people’s misconceptions.

Shame on me for not being proud that I’m out here pursuing my own Personal Legend. (The Alchemist…anyone?)

When had this shift happened?

And finally, on the night of the Emmy’s, I figured it out. Noah and I were drinking champagne and dreaming of the day we would hold that gold statue when sixty-year-old character actress Margo Martindale won for Best Supporting Actor in a drama series.

She was shocked.

And after tripping on her way up the stairs to accept her Emmy (something I probably would have done too) she was breathless and exuberant and I felt like her first words were aimed directly at me.

Sometimes things just take time. And with that time comes greater appreciation.

Margo, how did you know that’s exactly what I needed to hear?

In that elated speech she reminded me why I was here and the reason I’ve been avoiding being called an actor. Because I’m getting tired. Again.

Tired of the ‘poor you’ looks and the stereotypes that come with being a (struggling) actor in Hollywood.

But Margo’s right. It takes time. And patience. And above all, dedication to the dream. And denying and ignoring the real reason I’m here is not moving me forward.

SO HEAR THIS, INTERNET!

I’m an actor.

And that does not mean I’m uneducated.

I’m an actor.

And that does not mean I’m a model.

I’m an actor.

And that does not mean I don’t have other skills.

I’m an actor.

And pretty damn proud of it.