But Who’s Counting

Exactly four years, nine months, and thirteen days after moving to Los Angeles, I finally made it on TV.

It was a small role, on the show Southland, but I was excited and so were my parents – especially after my father found out I would be ‘keeping my clothes on.’

On the day of the audition I hadn’t even been nervous.

On the day of the audition I hadn’t even been nervous. I had walked through yet another studio, quietly reciting yet another set of lines, and the only feeling I’d had was that of exhaustion.
I was so tired.

After deciding to move to Hollywood to pursue a writing and acting career, I had packed up my car, grabbed one of my close friends, and driven cross country to the city of angels. I’d expected the road trip to be breezy and fun – like a Sweet Valley High novel.

Instead, my little Grand Am had over-heated in the middle of the desert and I had experienced my first major panic attack in which I kept pointing out the window and repeating to my poor friend, “No one is ever going to come visit me if they have to cross THIS.”

I was off to a rocky start.

I had fostered high hopes for my first LA roommate but she turned out to be a non-functioning pot smoker who threw away her dog’s feces in our kitchen trashcan. As a final disappointment, it took me only a month to burn through the money I’d earned doing a medical study and I’d realized that Steven Spielberg needed a little more time to discover me. I had to get a job.

To fund the pursuit of my dream, I worked every job possible – server, nanny, tutor, marketing assistant, personal assistant, sales person, background extra, theatre camp counselor, caterer, professional tweeter, and house-sitter. Now, more than four-and-a-half years later, I was starting to feel that maybe I’d made a mistake.

So when somebody finally wanted to pay me to act in their TV show, I was stunned. I wasn’t used to success. I was used to crying over a bottle of wine and reruns of Law& Order.

Instead of feeling proud of my accomplishment, I started to feel a bit silly. After all the hard work and pain of moving away from home, having two lines on a TV show wasn’t big enough to celebrate, was it?

On the day of the shoot my friend Katey, who was working as the Second Assistant Director, greeted me with a hug. She had pulled some strings and instead of the small waiting room usually assigned to actors with two lines, she led me to a giant trailer.

When she opened the door, I had to stifle a gasp. It was nicer than my apartment. There was even a shower – you know, in case I had forgotten to bathe that morning. I looked around my very own dressing room and I felt the embarrassment creep back in. For two lines, I didn’t deserve this.

After going through hair and make-up I walked back to my trailer and sat down to fill out my contract. But I couldn’t focus. I caught a glimpse of myself in the dressing room mirror and suddenly a voice from deep inside my heart roared into my ears.

You are sitting in a trailer waiting to shoot A TV SHOW!

And suddenly the wall of embarrassment I’d built up since I’d booked this role came crashing down in a mad, relieved tumble of joy.

What was I doing? I needed to grab hold of this moment and appreciate it for what it was.

I needed to grab hold of this moment and appreciate it for what it was.

The same little girl who grew up on a farm in the middle of North Dakota and made her mom sit through a one-woman show about Wynona Judd was also sitting here, in this trailer with the giant shower and the TV contract.

And then it didn’t matter that it was only two lines. It didn’t matter at all.

It only mattered that I had promised myself I would do this and I had done it. I was going to be on TV. My family would be able to turn on the television and see me standing there and maybe understand, just for a moment, why I had decided to break their hearts and move so far away from home. And all those struggles now seemed worth it – even if it was for just one day.

I signed the bottom of the contract with the signature I’d practiced in my junior high journal and stepped out into the LA sun.

I had two whole lines to film.

And I knew some people back home who’d been waiting a long time to hear them.

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.

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