"A good father is one of the most unsung, upraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society." - Billy Graham
I went out to a couple brunches this past weekend to catch up with some friends of mine I hadn't seen in awhile. I had fun, the food was good, and the conversations, which started out similarly, forked down two completely different paths because I went out with two people with very different careers. And yet, even though these people were different, their world views were very similar and aligned with the way I view the world, too. Both conversations began with the classic "where are you from again? and how did you get here?" sort of fodder. Having not really talked through my journey to LA in awhile, it was refreshing to talk about it, smiling the entire time. Both young men also somehow managed to bring up The Muppets in conversation. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE me some Muppets.
Reflecting back on the conversations I had this past weekend- how they began, how they weaved through someone else's life story, and how they ended - I realized (yet again) just how interesting and fun life should feel. And I realized how lucky I am to have grown up with such an amazing father figure.
My dad drove me out to California a little over three years ago. I told my family during Christmastime of my Senior Year at Villanova that I was going to move to LA to act and to write. To say it went over like a lead balloon would be an understatement. There was never any doubt from my family that I would do it (I've hardly ever said I'd do something that didn't come to fruition), but they obviously didn't want their daughter on the other side of the country with no support system.
I did move out here alone, but that didn't mean I didn't have support. I had to do what I'd done many times before: figure out a new place, make friends, build my own life. I'd gone to boarding school at 14 and college at 18, so to me, moving to LA was just like another fun, cool move where I could look forward to building another new life for myself. And it has been fun! And I've managed to truly build a little life for myself without anyone's help. Have there been phone calls home? Of course because I love my family, but they haven't been phone calls of yearning for home or fear of failure. They've been phone calls of excitement about auditions and bookings and celebration after putting on a great show.
And the fear of failure thing? I'd like to thank my Dad a lot for helping me realize failure is nothing to fear. I've said for a long time now that 'if you're going to fail, fail forward,' and I owe a lot of that perspective to my dad. He is not a perfect man, and he's been very open and honest with me about some of the pitfalls he's had along his life's journey, but he's also never let those setbacks hold him back. Even when I was on the phone with him nearly a year ago in tears, his wisdom to me was, "You're not trapped. You're smart as a whip, so be smart. You know what's best for you, and whether or not you listen to yourself, Mom and I trust your decision. And if you fail, so what? You can't learn anything unless you fail. So fail forward." I tucked his wisdom away but didn't listen to what I knew in my heart at the time. And that's okay because I learned that regardless of whatever decision I made at a given moment, it was going to be the right decision because it was mine. I'm thankful to my dad for that phone call - one that seems so poignant now - because he helped me acknowledge something he'd always known: I am my own person. I've always lived my life for myself and not other people, and although I might have lost sight of that for a very, VERY brief period of time, everything else in my DNA and past history tells me I am not one to settle for less than I deserve.
So, Dad, if you're reading this (and I'm sure you will because I know you and Mom are my biggest fans and she wouldn't let you miss it), thank you for your wisdom, but moreso, thank you for your trust. I'm not perfect, and I love that I'm not. Life is a big, colorful mess, and what is right for someone might not be right for someone else. Thank you for driving cross-country with me so I could pursue this 'crazy' dream of mine. Those memories we made on that road trip - dinner outside Chicago that lasted four hours with JB, Nan, and Therese, the fly iced tea at the Shamrock Diner, not understanding that Arizona didn't do Daylight Savings Time, "Across the Universe" shocking us every time it'd play when we'd go in and out of cell service, and breakfast in Barstow (which I text you about every time I pass the exit on the way to Vegas) - those memories are ones I hold so dear. You've even come to visit me a few times out here, and those trips have been so much fun, too. You seem to know people everywhere you go; even when we saw the Phillies play the Dodgers here last August with Adam, Nathalie, Phil, Sun, Roxy, and Josh, we bumped into other Phillies fans, and you knew the guy's brother. Mom says it all the time, but it really is a small world.
And that's something I get from you and Mom in equal parts. You always showed kindness to everyone. It didn't matter if it was the gas station attendant, the Maître D', or the ticket collector at the movie theater, you always found some way to connect with people on a basic human level. Just the other day while I carried on a conversation about Christian Grey as an interesting - even if underplayed - character with the movie theater popcorn guy, Mom laughed and said, "you are your father's daughter." I do like to think I've gotten that characteristic from you. In college, I was the girl at sorority recruitment who was brought in when a rushee was shy or seemed to have a hard time talking because I - as deemed by my sorority sisters - "could talk to a brick wall." That's a wonderful trait to have, and I think that comes as a byproduct of your and Mom's endless love, support, and encouragement, as well as your understanding that I've always been a gregarious, independent young woman. I've always marched to the beat of my own drum since I was a kid, and instead of killing that spirit, you tried to find ways to add to my rhythms. I'm eternally grateful for that, and I will keep marching on to my own kooky, unique beat, and I promise myself (because I always have lived life for myself) and you that I won't ever let anyone attempt to silence that beat ever again. Dad, you and Mom are the best. Thank you for being amazing parents, but more importantly, for evolving into amazing friends.