As a shy little girl with no friends, I would often ease the pain of loneliness by playing ‘pretend’ alone in my room. I’d play-act characters like those I saw in the westerns and Tarzan movies I’d watch on Saturday afternoons.
The difference between my portrayals and what I saw on TV was that I was never the damsel in distress, never Jane being kidnapped by ferocious animals. I was either part of a team of imaginary heroes, swinging from vine to vine right alongside Tarzan, or I was a tough, dynamic character saving my own skin by tricking the bad guys and tying them up and turning them in to the sheriff. Or sometimes I was the sheriff.
From that young age, I dreamed of being an actor in Hollywood.
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I really did anything to learn about acting. But from the time I auditioned and was cast in my first play, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve been in the entertainment industry on and off, mostly on, in some regard whether on stage, in front of the camera for commercials and films, or behind the camera–all bringing me to where I am now.
However, it has been far from a linear journey.
Confidence waning, obstacles dropping on the path in front of me, and constantly appearing ‘crossroad’ situations–do I go left or right?–often drove me to feeling perplexed and frustrated. Not only was I not already in some utopian existence where my whole world was being taken care of for me, that I had ‘made’ it, but I was being forced to make a decision. Being pushed to take responsibility and take on a new unknown, making me feel vulnerable and fearful.
Frustrated, I’d put the question to Daddy. “What should I do with my life?” Quite often Daddy would present me with, “What about L.A.? If you want to make movies that seems like the place to be.”
After giving his suggestion some thought, I’d quickly come up with some excuse as to why that wasn’t feasible. I couldn’t possibly move out of town and miss the Cincinnati fireworks on Labor Day weekend–have I told you how spectacular they are? Or things were too volatile on the west coast between earthquakes and wildfires. Or not enough money, never enough saved up. Or I was too old (tried this excuse even in my 20’s), and I’m sure I came up with a few real doozies to hide the fact that I was simply chicken.
Over the years, I’ve managed to do freelance crew work on commercial and film shoots with some amazing people outside of L.A., primarily in Kentucky and Colorado. I held roles as varied as production assistant to first and second assistant director, casting to wardrobe to talent wrangler. And I’ve even had the opportunity to work as a director, producer and writer on independent films, including several of my own. Through them all, I’ve gained know-how in many different departments about making a movie, from beginning to end.
I’ve had some wonderful mentors and invaluable experiences that continue to reinforce that there’s a storyteller inside me with tales to tell.
And I’m good at it! I believe that.
On paper, I have ‘made’ it. My life looks great–I have a sweetheart who supports me in every way, I have a job with really nice people and a two-block commute, a powerful short film I made last year instead of just ‘saying’ I was going to do it, good friends to enjoy hanging out with on the weekends and to see movies with, and support from them all with everything I want to do.
However, even with all that, for a while now, something has left me feeling sad, anxious, restless, depressed.
Several close friends point out when I mention the darkness I feel embodying me that I am very much still in grief. I’m not sure why I thought after one year it would lessen, but it feels like I miss Daddy even more now than a year ago.
Through many pity parties and long conversations with my sweetheart, and much meditation and breathing, and ‘talking’ to Daddy, I’ve realized that I am the only one who can really save me. And as real as my grief continues to be, how I contend with it is what makes the difference. I’m not in a trap except that of my own making.
I’m standing at a crossroads and afraid to make a decision which way to turn. Fearful it will be the wrong way, not allowing myself to see that the only wrong decision is to stand in the same spot begging for someone else to come to my rescue.
Or not to make a move at all.
Searching for an answer, I hear Daddy’s voice telling me what it is I should do. I ponder it. Then I hear my sweetheart saying the same thing. Now it is closer to the surface and I can’t push it back down. I know in my heart I’ve made the decision. But it doesn’t feel real until I say it out loud. Until then, I can suppress it, hold it in, stay in denial.
But then something bigger overtakes what I am squelching inside me. That something encourages me to open up, let it out, release and love what I am holding in instead of trying to suffocate it.
Time to own the decision inside me, let it out, and let it live.
With that, I am incredibly excited to share that I AM MOVING TO LOS ANGELES!
Yes, I am going for it.
In October I am packing up my Subaru and hitting the highway headed to the west coast to the unknown.
Let’s take a breath together as that news sinks in.
Some of you are likely thinking the same thing as other friends who I’ve told–
“It’s about time.”
“You have to go for your dreams.”
“If you don’t go, you’ll always wonder.”
“You’re going to do great.”
“You always know how to make it work.”
Others of you, might be thinking those too, but I can also hear you asking–
“Do you have a place to live?!?”
“What about a job?!?”
“Oh my god, MaryLee, do you realize how ridiculously expensive the cost of living is?!?!?”
“How are you going to do this on your own?”
And in reply to the latter group…
In some ways it will be my journey, but I hope to be on this adventure with the support and contributions of anyone who might be in a position to assist me whether with connections, job opportunities, or living quarters, or all of the above.
SOMEWHERE TO HANG MY HAT
Currently I do not have any housing arrangements. I feel like a musician setting up my autumn tour, looking for venues to book, trying to fill out my calendar. Do you know anyone who might be able to help me out for my initial days or weeks, ’til I get a look-see around, see what opportunities present themselves for housing? If so, please, let me know. I would be very grateful.
It would be great to find house-sitting and pet-sitting opportunities, particularly in October, November or December so that I’ll have a roof right as I get started, and will have time to hit the pavement and familiarize myself with the area, and be open to work opportunities as I ‘meet the neighbors’.
After my experience with Daddy in those last eight months of his life, I love the prospect of being a live-in companion to someone who could use another person around the house for security and the company.
I can surf–couch surf, that is. So if you have any friends or family in the L.A. area who has a couch or little spare room you think where they might be so generous to allow me to sleep for a designated number of days, please put me in touch either directly through This Is My 50 or ask for alternative contact information.
JOB OPPORTUNITIES, I’M CALLING
At the moment I do not have a job out there, but the film industry is always hiring crew and production help for new projects. I am now pursuing, from here, any potential leads I have. With so many people there vying for gigs, I’d like to do as much connecting as I can in the next two months, before I go. So if you know anyone who might be hiring or who could put me in touch with anyone who might be looking to hire for a film or television project, it would mean so much to me if you would please make that connection for me.
It could be a one-day project, a week or a month or more. I’m an open book at this point.
Yes, I am aware it is incredibly expensive to live in Los Angeles and I know it will be a shock to my pocketbook. But the cost of not going, never trying, always wondering, would be much more costly to my soul–in staggering amounts.
And before you even say it, yes, I realize there are a million people in Hollywood waiting to be handed their big break. But I’m going out west, not only to get something from the motion picture industry, but to share with it my gifts. My talent. I’m bringing with me my personal passion, my own experiences, my individual point of view. So, as many people as there are out there, none of them is me.
To those of you who might be surprised to find out in this way that I am moving, I am sorry I have not had the opportunity to tell you in person. This has been building slowly in my thoughts and in discussions with my sweetheart, and has only in recent weeks come to fruition.
Though I have many beautiful people in my life I can depend on, and Daddy in Heaven looking over me, it’s time I begin taking more responsibility for my own happiness and stop making excuses and stop living in fear. It’s time I step into my light and soar, find my path, be true to myself.
In her book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, Shonda Rhimes shares a commencement speech she gave at Dartmouth titled DREAMS ARE FOR LOSERS. (In its entirety here and so worth the read, or even better, check out the book!)
Here is an excerpt that didn’t only ‘speak’ to me, it picked me up, it hugged me, it gave me assurance, it threw me in the air with joy and it shouted with glee, “Stop dreaming! Get up and fly!”
“When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. They have wisdom to impart. They have lessons to share. They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true.
I think that’s crap.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.
The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish.”
“I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.”
And they dream of it. The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they brag about their dreams, and the hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate about their dreams. Maybe you write in journals about your dreams or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it, and you’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should be doing. Right? I mean, that’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?
Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.
So, Lesson One, I guess is:
Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.”
Making a decision, putting it in motion, not holding it too tight to my chest, finally having the courage to listen to Daddy’s advice, setting my emotions and soul open to the world, getting my car checked out for the trip ahead, giving notice at a perfectly good job, honoring my passion, shedding the fear and owning that I am the hero of my own life, trusting the universe will provide for me if I do the work, and with the encouragement and support of my sweetheart, and many of you, I’m ‘California Doing’.
/ Well, I just got into town about an hour ago /
/ Took a look around, see which way the wind blow /
/ Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows /
/ Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light /
No more little girl playing pretend. Not a damsel in distress, but an L.A. Woman!