Slowly but surely this life can evolve into the thing you want it to be. If you're lucky and you work at it, it can. Lately, I find myself basking in gratitude as my calendar fills with auditions and agent meetings and writing sessions and classes and rehearsals and wardrobe fittings and performances and shoot days. I know the hours I've put in to get to this point. I know the work I've done. But I also know this journey started out with a bit of luck. There's great fortune in having a passion and a purpose take hold at an early age. But as I sit here tonight, I can see how the stars aligned for me even before that.
I don't know how old I was, exactly, but I distinctly remember a brief conversation I had with Mamaw Dixie (my dad's mom) about where I was heading in life. My height is the only indicator I have to gauge my age at the time of that conversation. I couldn't have been all that old because I wasn't yet all that tall. In fact, I was still just short enough to stand fully-erect beneath Mamaw Dixie's counter. See, there was a half-wall which separated her kitchen's dining area from her living room. And perched atop this half-wall was a wraparound formica bar with an overhang high enough to accommodate one's knees if sitting on a stool. At this particular point in time, I fit juuust perfectly under that overhang. And on this afternoon, as Mamaw Dixie sat at her dinette set smoking a Vantage cigarette she'd plucked from her ever-present smooth white pack (with the trademark blue bullseye), and I busied myself with running my fingers back and forth over the green shag carpet which climbed up the entirety of that half-wall, I asked Mamaw if she knew what I wanted to be when I grew up?
"You're going to be an actor, and you're going to live in New York City," she said matter-of-factly and with an approving smile. And in that moment, I felt seen and supported. Mamaw didn't say you "want" to be an actor; she said you're "going" to be an actor. That subtle distinction in word choice has stuck with me all these years. She believed in me. Now, how Mamaw knew this was my heart's desire I can't be sure. I can only guess I'd been rattling on about my plans for some time, and she'd taken notice. In fact, my entire family took notice, with many of its members encouraging me in their own way for as long as I can remember.
As a Christmas gift, my Aunt Kathy took me to see the national tour of Cats when I was thirteen years old because she knew Broadway factored very heavily into my hopes and my plans. She seized an opportunity to give me a little piece of New York at a point when it still felt so out of reach. Her thoughtfulness and generosity at such a crucial age showed me the magic of what was possible for me down the road.
My Uncle Brian is one of the steadiest and coolest and most decent men I've ever known. He loves movies and bears a striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood. When I was growing up, Uncle Brian always had time to talk to me about the latest films hitting the cineplex, especially if they starred Clint. And he gave his full-throated support when - at twenty-five years old - I announced to Nana I was packing up to move to Manhattan in a just a few short weeks.
"Can you believe he's leaving us for New York City?" she called out from her kitchen door as Uncle Brian made his way up the drive.
He chuckled, "Well, yeah. That's all he's been talking about wanting to do since he was a little boy." He shook my hand and wished me all the luck in the world.
These are but a few of the many examples catching the light of my memory tonight. But they only scratch the surface of the instances of encouragement I've received. And through the magic of social media the support keeps coming my way. On a near daily basis, I receive thoughtful messages of support from cousins who are following my career from distances far and wide.
And this doesn't even begin to cover my immediate family's unwavering commitment to my goals. I can (and will) fill pages with the many ways my mom and my dad and my brother continue to bolster my spirits and keep the wind in my sails. But for now, please know I recognize my good fortune. For I was born into a family with members who support my dreams no matter how far away they've taken me or how different they may be from their own. And that makes me feel like the luckiest guy on earth.
featured photo credit: Me living my dreams with the cast and director of HIDING IN DAYLIGHT in the fall of 2018.
Photo by Tom Schopper.