A Woman’s Right to Choose

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about choices.

An actor makes choices — some conscious, some not — about how she or he lives in the moment.  Sometimes the choice happens on its own as a result of information that the actor is given; other times the choice is deliberate.  Whatever the genesis, that decision sets the tone and, ultimately the trajectory for the scene, play, movie, TV show or Youtube video.  Because once that choice has been made, the story gains new life.  It moves in a new direction with new choices — again, some deliberate, some not — that present themselves.  My point is, there’s no going back.  The story is in motion, and you’re along for the ride.

In other words, you can’t go home again.

Or can you?  I’ve recently been exchanging emails with a fellow writer/actress who, after years of slogging it out in The Big Apple, has moved back to her hometown in Kentucky.  She will continue being a writer/actress; she will just do it from a place where she can hear the cicadas at night as opposed to police helicopters.  A place where, upon hearing what she does for a living, people actually respond with “Wow, that sounds exciting!” as opposed to a raised eyebrow.

I am intrigued by people who do what we do outside a major metropolitan area.  I often think about moving back to my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  And when I say “think”, what I mean is, I am lured by a romantic notion that includes a rambling house that I either own or rent for next to nothing with a wraparound porch and a slightly uneven wood floor, twilight cocktails on said wraparound porch, quiet walks in the woods unsullied by the sound of cop choppers overhead (yes, this is a serious pet peeve), and a small group of like-minded people all committed to doing good work.  But wait a minute — don’t I already have that?  That last part?

If there is a center in Los Angeles, I live in it.  Hancock Park/Hollywood is, in many ways, both a geographical and emotional center of this vast patchwork of communities.  The copters — yes, those again — idle overhead when Paramount Studios hosts a big to-do.  Through the windows of my Hollywood bungalow I hear my neighbors talk about auditions and scripts and making a video to jumpstart their songwriting careers.  This often unhinges me when I’m trying to write, and lately I long not so much for a wraparound porch but a tent in the woods and no one for miles.  The radio static of all the creative energy and eagerness to “be something” in this town can get to me.  Try as I do not to care about keeping up with the Joneses — or, in most cases, the wannabe Joneses — it’s hard not to be in a state of constant personal evaluation: Am I working hard enough?  Why did she sell a script and not me?

Then there’s just the energy of it all.  If you believe in it — and I do — a city filled with people striving creates a certain energy that isn’t necessarily the kind that calms you down and lets you look inward.  In fact, it pulls you outward, away from your center as you gaze with envy (and then self-loathing for feeling the envy in the first place) at those around you who seem to have it together more than you do.  But there’s another aspect to that energy: creativity.  It’s here and in spades.  Scratch the surface of almost anyone you meet in L.A. and you find they do something interesting.  New.  Freely and without limitation.  An actor has a food blog.  A food writer plays in a band.

And again, if you believe in energy, I live in a bungalow that once housed writers and producers who were under contract at Paramount in the ’20’s.  In the fifteen years I’ve lived here I’ve come into my own as a writer, and more importantly as an artist.  As a person.  I found my voice here.  I found myself.  I credit the bungalow almost as much as my own determination.

Could that have happened in Chapel Hill?  Or Charlottesville or Austin or Louisville?  Possibly.  But as a single woman not hell-bent on getting married and having a family, I found my people here.  “Here” being L.A.  “Here” being at my acting school, an amazing creative community.  “Here” being with my playwriting group, with my writer friends.  “Here” being literally right here, on this blog.

A better question might be: Maybe you can go home again, but do you really want to?

3 Comments

  • By Robin Byrd, May 8, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

    Jessica — I love, love, love your thought process and the smooth unassuming way you draw your audience in…

  • By Nancy Beverly, May 9, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    Love this post! And I love my writers’ community here, my social friends, and most importantly, the San Gabriel Mountains which allow me to “go home” frequently 🙂

  • By Cynthia Wands, May 9, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

    Jessica: Beautifully said. And there IS something about the sound of those damned helicopters, the urban apocalypse or Blade Runner soundtrack to Los Angeles. The most beautiful room we have in the house is in our minds eye; but it helps to have friends and coctails celebrate the good times.

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