I Has a Ring

I first moved to Los Angeles in August of 1993. Yes, August. In a U-Haul. With my estranged daddy and 13-year-old kitty. Towing my badass car behind (yes, the same car I *still* drive). Five days together. Gonna reconnect. Gonna change my life. Gonna take the $1350 I won from a Ron Gant homerun, pack up, and leave home.

Broke down at 113 degrees in Needles, CA. Experienced the Northridge Quake soon thereafter. First time I ever lived alone. First time I ever lived more than a tank of gas away from my momma. It was time to grow up. I was gonna do LA. No matter what.

Before I left Atlanta, my mom’s best friend had me over for a going-away dinner. A small gathering, but a sweet one. Baby girl is leaving home. Mom is despondent. There is wine.

There is also a ring.

Charlotte was a huge Charlsie fan. And she wanted Charlsie’s baby girl to be okay. She gave her (me) a honkin’ diamond ring from her first marriage (as she was closing in on her third). And I cried, saying, “This is too important. This is too valuable. You can’t give me this.” And she said:

This is your “get out of LA” ring. If you ever get in a jam, you can come home. This ring is worth enough that you can hock it and leave Hollywood. No matter what happens, you never need to worry that you’re stuck there. You can always come home.

Dude.

Cut to April 11, 2011.

Atlanta hasn’t been “home” for me since 1993. Athens was home from 1995 to 1998, so if there were a home for me in Georgia, it would be a college town with an amazing journalism program, a badass football team, at least two Taco Stands, and about four favorite ex-boyfriends.

But I still have the ring.

Early in our relationship, Keith hated it when I would wear the ring, because he said I saw it as my “get out of jail free” card, which meant I could bail at anytime, and he didn’t want me to bail.

(Considering this month marks ten years together, I’d say he’s safe, especially since my longest-term relationship pre-Keith was like 20 months.)

But today was one of those days. Rather, today was one of those days after a week of “those days.” I was feeling DONE. I was ready to bail. I was ready to go anywhere else, do anything else, not be in this industry, not be in this life. ANYTHING. I was feeling DONE.

I left for my speaking engagement (to parents of kid actors, about the biz of the biz) saying to Keith, “We’re at 50-50 right now. I’ll either show up at my gig or go off the grid. Either way, it’s been good. I love you.”

And I left.

Wearing my “get out of jail free” ring.

Which I never wear.

As I drove, I considered all the places I could go. I thought about the responsibilities I would leave behind, if I totally flew off the grid. I thought about how I would make a living if I showed up somewhere, just me and my 22-year-old car, my bottled water, and my ring.

Because maybe I could go to a place where no one cared about what help I could provide to actors, what I knew about the industry, what series I was developing, or what my StarMeter ranking might be. Maybe I could just go to a farm and volunteer to pluck something from a tree, put it in a basket, and live off the land. Pretty sure I could get to a place where that would be okay on a tank of gas.

*sigh*

I showed up at my speaking engagement in Burbank. I spoke to the parents of kid actors. I made them laugh. I made them think. I made some money. I came home. I recorded a podcast. I went out for dinner with our podcast guest after, and I told her about the ring I had on and about how I had fantasized about some ridiculous world in which I worked on a farm, picking things, putting them in baskets, and sleeping on bales of hay.

She said:

But you still have the ring on.

And I said, “Yeah, but it’s a huge source of stress to Keith because it symbolizes that I could leave at any time.” And she said, “No. The fact that it’s on your finger right now means you haven’t left. You’re still here. And you have had that ring for 18 years and have never hocked it to go anywhere else. You’re here.”

Yeah.

I’m fucking here.

And sometimes it’s hard. As I said to another awesome lady in my life when she asked how many more times she had to deal with the bullshit that is this industry, this life, sometimes: Just once more.

So, I’ve sucked it up once more.

I still have the ring.

I am not on a farm figuring out how to milk or pick or harvest something.

But that’s today.

And y’know what? It’s all about today. And tomorrow’s today. And the next day’s today.

God bless us that we can get through that. This business is hard. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s easy. Surround yourself with people who make it FUN. That’s key.

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19 Comments

  1. Drew Falcone April 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Written like you speak. I enjoyed it because I also often think of bailing. Glad to see I’m not the only one that comes up with this thought.

    Reply
  2. Chandra Moore April 12, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Thank You for this, this is beautiful and it’s always good to know that even the rockstars in this industry have days they want to throw in the towel. The key is YOU DIDN’T. You are a rockstar Bonnie, thanks for sharing the struggles and continuously being a positive force in this crazy industry!

    Reply
  3. kate rene gleason April 12, 2011 at 12:16 am

    thanks so much for sharing, bonnie. after more than a month of “those days” this came at just the right time. i don’t have that ring but i have the same loving gift of a way out… and still here…
    and also very glad you stayed.

    Reply
  4. Katie Swain April 12, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Not one of, but THE most heartfelt Declaration of Self I’ve come across in as long as I can remember. Thank you for being a preeminent source of fun for so many of us and for sharing so much of yourself along this journey.

    Reply
  5. Megan Rhys April 12, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Even though you know you can’t possibly be the only one experiencing a long series of *those* sort of days, it’s always reassuring somehow to hear other people talk about it. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Misty April 12, 2011 at 5:06 am

    It’s inspiring and strangely comforting that you, being more established and successful than most of us, still go through the same things we all go through in pursuit of our dreams. Just proves it’s human nature and not a sign of us not being able to hack it.

    Reply
  7. Nina Harada April 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Wow. Thank you for this. Boy did I need to read something like that right about now. Thanks for sharing and for staying!

    Reply
  8. Leah April 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    LOVE YOU!!

    Reply
  9. Travis Richey April 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Bonnie. My Love. Future mistress.

    I would love to see a blog someday (soonish? no rush) about how you hocked the ring, but not to leave LA. You hocked it because you didn’t need it anymore. Because you no longer had to have the choice to leave or stay. Because you made the choice already, and there never really was another option.

    I want to see you tear up your get-out-of-jail-free card, because LA isn’t your prison, it’s your playground.

    ~T

    Reply
  10. Pete April 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Your “one more day” , “I’m still here..” Struck a chord. Myself, I always threaten to go raise goats. Welp, it’s been a decade and I haven’t started that goat farm yet. Your resilience, the things you’ve accomplished, and the fact that “You are STILL HERE”…resonates with me…and let’s me know I’m not alone..Which means you and Keith are not alone in this town either. It’s just really nice to know that some days, so thank you. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Drew–Thank you. I do write like I speak. No choice. 😉 And I think this feeling is universal. We just all act like it’s not.

    Chandra–That is key, Thank you. And thank you for your kind words about my place in the industry. I am really happy here. I promise!

    KRG–It’s been an odd time, hasn’t it? I think the “I Quit-itis” has been going around again lately. We will survive!

    Katie–I really love the way you see me. I really, really do.

    Megan–You’re welcome! 🙂

    Misty–Damn straight! It’s totally normal and natural and survive-able! 😀

    Nina–I think my default mode is to share. I don’t know how to NOT. 😉

    Leah–Love YOU!

    Travis–Ooh, that’s deep. And you’re right. That’ll be a good one someday. Oh, and LA is never seen as my prison. Just this treadmill sometimes gets a little exhausting to run on. It’s always a temporary condition, though. 😉

    Pete–I actually watched the vid of the “I’m Still Here” number from “Postcards from the Edge” shortly after writing this. What a great one! And GOATS? That’s badass. And you’re absolutely welcome. None of us is alone, because we’re all in this together, even when we feel alone. There’s unity in that shared alone-ness, don’t you think?

    Reply
  12. Whit Spurgeon May 30, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Bonnie — thanks for this, even though I came to it a year late, and even though I’m not thinking of leaving the biz. It’s just sweet, and inspiring, and good. Bless you.

    Reply
  13. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie May 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Aw, thank you, Whit. So glad you checked it out. I appreciate that you found it inspiring. That means a lot to me! 😀

    Reply
  14. Karen Jean Olds June 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Ps..Please don’t leave, we NEED you. Take re-boot breaks, but don’t leave us!!

    Reply
  15. Bonnie Gillespie June 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Don’t you worry, KjO. I’m not going anywhere! I love this business — and the people in it — way too much. <3 I'm all in!

    Reply
  16. Jonathan Riggs December 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    This post is another reason I’m so thankful for you, Bonnie.

    Reply
  17. Pingback: Fancy Folks Ain’t All That Fancy – Bonnie Gillespie

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