Years ago, Keith and I said we wanted to bring some of our very favorite people up to our very favorite getaway in Desert Hot Springs. In November, we mapped out a plan to make it happen. And this past weekend, it actually happened.
I had created a schedule that was “loose by design.” Being an über-planner, this was challenging for me, because I really wanted to have an agenda for every freakin’ moment, but having attended days-long conferences in leadership myself, I knew that I didn’t want everyone to feel restricted from having downtime to let concepts soak in.
While soaking, if the mood happened to strike.
We spent most of our time gathered around the community table, laughing, crying, scribbling notes, having “a ha moments” while remembering that our gut feelings about so many things in this glorious industry of ours are actually correct.
We elevated the game by sharing our resources. We asked how we could support one another in our goals. We celebrated one another in our strengths and comforted one another in our brokenness. We had a lot of fun.
But it was when one of the gorgeous participants of the first-ever SMFA Escape soothed another’s “impostor syndrome” by telling the story of how she writes the words “I belong here” somewhere on her body before every shoot — a constant reminder that she is no different than the actors whose lives include far more time on sets — that something clicked at a different level.
It’s something I remember writing about in Acting Qs, as we interviewed actor after actor who — no matter what level of success he or she had achieved — somehow felt alone and unworthy despite having built a life toward these exact moments. The very fact that we all have this feeling should unite us and make us feel stronger… but in order to protect ourselves from what can sometimes be a harsh business, we don’t tend to share that we feel this way.
It’s hard for me to come back to my “real life” after a weekend like this, because there’s something so beautiful about time spent together in a truly special place — a place where most of my books’ words have been written, a place where I feel more connected to source than at any other, a place I had only ever shared with members of Team Cricket Feet before this past weekend. It’s beginning to feel like “real life” to only surround myself with brilliant and creative people who are so comfortable to share so freely — without ego but with such self-esteem that they’re certain their words have value — so that all self-doubt this industry brews for some simply fades away.
The sense of belonging is tremendous.
So much so that it needs a marker. Whether a touchstone or a photograph or ink scarred into skin.
I had asked everyone during our welcome and intention-setting on Friday to think of ways we could take this experience away with us — ways in which we could quickly get ourselves back to the space so special that we believed in ourselves to a greater extent than ever before.
I had no idea that a half-dozen of us would choose this.
Surrounded by creatives I’ve had in my life since 2004 (2001 if you count my partner Keith, of course) all the way up to creatives I first met *in person* Friday afternoon upon welcoming them with open arms to our resort away from home, I breathed differently there than I seem to when at my desk, answering emails, plowing through my to-do list, witnessing some people in our industry treating it with disdain and contempt rather than with such cherished love as we treated it this weekend.
Something is different. So much has shifted. There is great power to something so selfless as sharing fully with others, without apology and without fear of judgment. They say that if the only prayer you ever say is “thank you,” that this is prayer enough. So, thank you, beautiful ones, for joining me in the desert so fully. For being so perfectly YOU. For helping create the Hollywood we want to be a part of. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this with me.
Or as Keith would prefer, “That makes me so happy.”
A postscript: I now have a vision: A series of SMFA Ninjas, montage style, approaching podiums and microphones, accepting gold-and-shiny cultural representations of value for the work they’ve shared with the world, and the first words out of each mouth is, “I belong here.”