When I was younger, I loved acting. As the youngest of four daughters, I was always very melodramatic as a child. As a teen, I was in a play in Richmond, California (at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts) and I felt like I was home. Then, when I was 17, I was actually cast in an independent film.
I had learned about the film from an acting class that I was taking in someone’s living room in Berkeley (no, I’m not joking). For several weeks prior to the audition, I watched “Mississippi Burning” so I could master a southern accent (which was sought by casting). Three weeks prior to leaving California to attend the University of Montana, I went to the audition.
The movie was to be set in the 60s, so I wore a cotton tank top with wide straps and narrow-legged capris. I pushed my dark hair back with a thick headband and curled the ends of my hair inwards. After the audition (which was filmed by a massive camcorder ala Sex Lies and Videotape), I was complimented on my accent (“I thought you were really from the South,” the casting director commented approvingly). I loved everything about the experience.
About a week after getting to Round Up, Montana, and before classes started, I had a message on our California voicemail to call the producers of this film. From a pay phone in front of a small diner near (but not on Main Street), I called the filmmakers. I was offered the role. But I was in already in Montana and my mother told me I couldn’t return to California for the film because I was “too smart to be an actress.”
So I spent one semester at the University of Montana and it was universally awful. A year later, I ended up at a different college. After graduating from college, I went to Georgetown for law school.
I loathed law school. In my second year of law school, I was cast as the ingénue in a community theater production of a British sex farce entitled “Not Now, Darling.” This was one of the happiest experiences of my life.
But I was too smart to be an actress. So I graduated from law school. I never found my way or my passion. Now I have $180,000 in student loans and I’m a single mom working a temp legal job living in a small apartment with no saving and no college fund for my kids.
And at 43, I’m sitting on the carpeted floor near the entrance of theater number 17 in Plano, Texas, typing this on my cell phone while La La Land plays on the big screen.
La La Land is about fidelity to things your love. The irony is not lost on me.
I know my mother thought she was doing what was best for me when she refused to let me go back to California for the film. But opportunities to do something you love are few and far between. If you get a chance to pursue your dream, no matter how far-fetched it seems, then do it. Just do it. It seems to me, in hindsight, that the smartest people are those who follow what they love.