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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.