by O.J. Walls
One's self-discovery from the death of a dream to the birth of new ambition.
|What is this bleakness, I think to myself. While taking in the environment around me, I get the sensation that I’ve arrived in Japan or somewhere else in Asia, although I’ve never been. The buildings aren’t as tall as I imagined and there’s a fogginess to the air. What did I expect? Desert sands and tumbleweeds? No, this city lies on the bay; boats coming in and out of port. It’s interesting how a foreigner can fabricate a depiction of a place, building it up to be a magical utopia, the grass being much greener and the sun shining much brighter. Sydney, Australia did not impress me as I gazed through a window of the taxi driving my mom and me to our hotel. It would only take a couple days for me to realize that moving to Australia may not be as brilliant of an idea as I had thought; the deciding factor would be the audition, determining my fate.
I used to think if I made it as the actor, all of those who thought so little of me would be devastated by my success as I sat in my expensive, high-rise, Los Angeles apartment overlooking the city of destiny, laughing at the past that would merely be dust on my neglected marble shelf. My future must be big, for I felt so small. At sixteen, I could not depend on my present to give me a glimpse of hope, only my future could provide that—I could sculpt it like a master sculptor, etching in features I desired, smoothing out the roughness, and tediously chipping away at the unwanted material. My masterpiece. My future.
Our attire was not befitting for the weather: ballet flats paired with non-insulated skinny jeans, our top halves wrapped tightly in discounted Burlington Coat Factory peacoats designed for mild winter weather—the January wind cut through our feeble defense. Despite the bone-biting cold, our faces managed to carry beaming smiles of anticipation partly covered by our thick, multicolored scarves. Though the air was chilly and crisp, the sun glittered in a cloudless blue sky, I squinted and scrunched to peer at the radiant ball of warmth; New York City had never looked so beautiful.
“Okay, I’ll meet you right outside when you’re done. Good luck, baby, you’ll do great,” my sister declared to hearten my demeanor as we stood in the middle of Lincoln park, outside one of the most prestigious dramatic art schools in the nation, The Juilliard School. Here I go, plunging into yet another fateful audition; an audition deep set in supposition firing my every neuron to where I am conscious of each pulse throbbing through my veins.
Now, I’m huddled in an elevator with a bunch of shrugged-off students who make an effort to laugh off the rejection. While awaiting the steel doors to retract, I assemble a strategy to return to Juilliard yet again to make a different appearance: one that would be more skillful and impactful instead of the petty attempt at a world class performance in front of a few uninterested, middle-aged professors. My sister is waiting for me at a bagel shop; we love bagels, especially when they are daubed with plain cream cheese and adorned with smoked salmon and garnished with onion and capers. She found one of the top bagel joints on the upper west side to treat me, no matter the outcome of the audition; it did make me happy to forget about my disappointment and chomp into a large smoked salmon bagel.
Back in Orlando, the road ahead appeared arduous—I had decided that I was going to have to tough it out in the field without any fancy college accolade to give me an edge on my resume. In an effort to console myself, I think of all the actors who have made it without any special training; by pure chance, they were discovered and skyrocketed to the A-list. Perhaps my success story could be similar, and it would be this moment of when I am lying on my bed contemplating toward a popcorn ceiling that I would recount on talk shows, encouraging others to never give up on a dream. Perchance, that could be me! Or, perchance, not. Life is full of surprises and winding roads that take you to unexpected places, but there is nothing to fear; as Gandalf would say: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
The road was difficult, indeed. Constant rejection took place at auditions, casting calls, and interviews. What was wrong with me, I pondered. At that point, my sister urged me to obtain a “backup plan”—which go against my beliefs as a “serious” actor who would rather starve on the streets of Sunset Boulevard than to live out a “backup plan”. However, I became persuaded that going to school while I’m young wouldn’t hold back my dreams but rather, make me a well-rounded person. Before I knew it, I was sitting in an English Comp. 1 class at a local community college: the least inspiring place to be for an actor.
The beginning of an unexpected journey took place at the start of the year 2014. The experience was as if one is sitting down in a restaurant awaiting their low-calorie salad to arrive; it’s delivered in all of its greenery with splendid pops of red tomatoes and olives. Then another waiter sets down a delectable, buttery lobster dinner for the person at the table three feet away—the experience is lustful and everything changes. Who cares about a salad, I want the lobster dinner. The lobster dinner I didn’t know I craved was the vast frontier of all things media. Little did I know, that lobster dinner would also be my demise as an actor. In every transition from one thing to another or from one season to the next, most often a quietus takes place and there is a period of mourning for the things that were and an adapting to the things that are. I didn’t follow a whimsical desire into the venture of media production and design—it was a tugging, a pulling to a direction I never thought I had a place in. Yet, I began to see that a small splotch was, in fact, made for me, a splotch that gave space for my creativity and true talent to thrive. Where it would take me, I did not know, but for once, I was unabashed.
Voluntarily, I laid myself in my own liquored coffin and carved my own granite gravestone: “Here lies an Actor | 2003-2014”. Nevertheless, with every death follows life. Following the death of an actor, came the birth of a new person with new ambitions; it was a new beginning. I mourned my beloved dream of becoming an award-winning actor: it grew up with my childhood and comforted my tumultuous teenage years and inspired my adulthood, it twinkled at night when I couldn’t sleep and dazzled during the day while I drifted off into reverie. It now lay fast asleep in its grave, my visits are rare and its memory expired. Yet, not all things that die are dead.