Play Next

I don’t need to tell you what kind of year it’s been. You know. There are no amount of silver linings that can replace the lives lost. I keep thinking about something Andy, one of my best friends, said before “it” all began: “we have an ethical obligation to search for hope. We don’t have to find it, but we have to try.” I paraphrase. There have been many days this year when not only was hope out of sight, but I didn’t even have the energy to try and look for it. I walked the same streets a hundred times. From my balcony, I watched fires burn in the hills and in the neighbors crossing the street. Darkness has been heavy. Our mortality thick in the air. There were days when I let time slip out of my grasp and fall beyond any search for hope. Undoubtedly, there are more of those days to come. 

But there were also days perched on the edge of a canyon, eye to eye with mountains. There were nights dancing in the streets, being surprised by the bigness of the moon. There were unusual and beautiful holidays. There were baseball games and sunsets. There were more hours spent on the phone than when I was 12. There was joy in good food and shooting stars. There was poetry in me for the first time in years. 

And now? Now there are new friends grown through the intimacy of webcams, cell towers, and six feet of space. Now we know more about ourselves and the world than we did before. I’ve grown acquainted with backbreaking emotional labor and seen its fruit. I’ve practiced vulnerability. I’ve practiced conflict. I’ve practiced speaking up. I’ve practiced…. a lot. There is a confidence in my step that’s new. I’m using my voice. I’m seeing what’s been there all along. 

There are no silver linings. There is only what happens. All muddled throughout grief, there is laughter. All blended between tears, there is joy. The marriage of sorrow and smiles lives in our bones. Our hearts broke this past year. We unlearned our lives. It is within us to always seek hope and the beautiful things. We may not find them. We may look at the night sky and see only the vastness of space. But we will look. And we will learn to live again. 


My First Hollywood Audition

Today, I went to my first audition in Hollywood.

I suppose you could call it my first “Hollywood audition,” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. That implies something fancy with recognizable names, or at the very least a paycheck. That’s not the kind of audition I’m talking about. But it was in Hollywood.

I’ve been in the Greater LA area for a little over one month now, but I think today was the first time I’ve seen the Hollywood sign since being here.

“Well hello there, beautiful,” I said.

“Welcome home,” she said. Or something like it.

Today, I was turned down for yet another apartment/room for rent/roommate/whatever.

I got the message right before going in to do a final read at this audition. Okay, I didn’t actually know that’s what the message said. I saw “Hi Sarah, I wanted to let you know that we decided…” pop up in the little Facebook Messenger bubble. But tone is everything.

For the past month, I’ve lived 60 miles away from LA and tucked up in the mountains. It’s beautiful. There are lakes, hummingbirds, turtles, coyotes, baby birds, and stars. If I have to go into the city, I drive hairpin turns down the mountain through hills that sing. I am grateful. Yet I want desperately to be in the city.

Today, I felt alone.

Gone for now are the days I show up for an audition and know half of the people there, the days I walk down the city streets and recognize a friend or two. I drove at least 120 miles today, just me and my thoughts, my prayers, my podcasts. I got an unexpected text from a friend: “Wish you were here” with a picture of one of my favorite coffee shops. I broke down in tears, in traffic, going East on the 210. Crying in traffic is like an LA rite of passage, so I guess I’m officially here now.

People tell me that it will all come together. They’re not wrong. But if I don’t immediately take to your encouragement, I apologize. I know it will be okay. I’ve waited so long to be here, and with the satisfaction of being here, my patience has taken a vacay, leaving me all “so it’s just gonna come together NOW, right?!”

I’ve been in the Greater LA area for a little over one month. I know that it doesn’t all happen with a snap of the fingers. And if I’ve waited over 15 years for this, then what’s a little more time?

It’s not much.

Today, I went to my first Hollywood audition. I parked in a garage and paid $10 because I don’t know the secret parking spots yet. That’s what I used to do in Seattle, too. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation garage was my safe spot. But with time, I learned. The audition was at the LA Film School, across the street from the LA Cinerama/Hollywood Arclight. I forgot to take a picture. Little piles of young film students came and went. I sat in a hallway, availability form in hand, and waited like I’ve done ever-so-many times: in hallways, on stages, backstage, in prop rooms, with wardrobe, on sets. Waiting.

Every time I’m on set, an actor makes the “hurry up and wait” joke. I give a polite chuckle and usually say something like “that’s the game.”

Patience: that’s the real game. There’s no time limit on patience. There’s no time limit on how and when and where and with whom things will come together. I have to wait, contentedly on the edge of my seat, ready.

But I am not powerless in the waiting.

Today, I got cast in the little thing I auditioned for at my first Hollywood audition. I checked my email after my lengthy drive home and found a few messages asking for my availability, interest, a self-tape, a callback. It’s not traction, yet, believe me. It’s an illustration of the up and the down and the ever increasing unknown. It’s a pain in my butt. It’s a joy in my heart. It’s tears in my eyes. It’s loneliness. It’s anxiety. It’s the smile I wear in the audition room. It’s the secret I keep. It’s “what’s next?” It’s change. It’s what I love.

Personal Reflections on 2017

I’m not sure what to say about 2017. It was an odd year for me, and it almost feels like not much happened. But that’s not true. “Progress” means many things, and in 2017, it meant taking a step back. Not backwards, but a step back to look at a painting, to see the whole thus far, to examine, adjust, appreciate.

I’m an observer, and a seeker of inspiration. I always have been. But this past year was practically dedicated to inspiration through observation. I took nearly the whole year off from theatre and performing. I wrote more. I saw more movies. I introspected so hard. I found flaws I didn’t know I had and discovered abilities I thought were reserved for other people. I learned to trust my friends, and I’m learning to trust myself.

At the beginning of the year, I couldn’t choke out the word “home” in relation to Seattle. It didn’t feel honest. But over the course of these 12 months, I found another layer to that slippery word. Home is in the mountains. Home is in the desert. Home is any place where there are people who love me. And though I can’t say that’s everywhere, I can say – and I do so with deep gratitude – that it’s a heck of a lot of places. So like, I guess home actually is where the heart is.

Part of my hope for 2018 is that we will continue find home somewhere we don’t expect to find it, that we will each find the redemption of our flaws, and the courage to take the planks out of our own eyes. I’m excited for the coming unknown, scary as it always is.

I spent a lot of time crying in movie theaters this year: Manchester by the Sea, Logan, Dunkirk, Bladerunner 2049. Each moved me profoundly and left me reeling with emotion. But it’s a line from Logan that has stayed with me the longest, given me so much to consider. Without spoiling anything, seconds before a character makes a huge sacrifice, he utters the words, “Beware the light.” The moment is brief, but it has never left me. I’ve been pondering it in my heart for eight months. This year,  I stepped out of the spotlight and turned it inward, so it seems fitting to close my reflections on 2017 here:

Beware the Light because darkness cannot hold it, and fear cannot withstand it. Beware the Light for it will expose you and force truth upon you. Beware the Light because it burns with refining and opens our eyes. Beware the Light. Tread boldly. Tread carefully. Lord, give us more to see.