Daily Post: But No Cigar!

The prompt, to write about a time when “things came this close to working out…but didn’t” immediately made me remember a night in New York City when I’d just returned from making a movie in Mexico. The time, December 1985, and the place a Christmas party at my agent’s offices.

I’ve never been particularly great at parties and in New York I’d perfected the art of wallflower, hugging the sides of the party, rarely speaking, watching. But at this Christmas party, it was impossible to go unnoticed. My agent at the time introduced me as Janet-who’s-just-come-back-from-making-a-movie-in-Mexico as if I were a trophy rather than a person.

I must say, the introduction created a stir and everyone wanted to talk to me, the “everyone” being mostly other actors. I don’t remember any directors or producers although there might have been. I was too overwhelmed with questions and comments and hosannas to catch any names.

Everyone wanted to know who were the stars, who wrote the script, who directed, who were the stars, who produced, who were the stars. No one asked about Mexico.

Old Man Laughing
Old Man Laughing

I’d fallen in love in those six short weeks – with the people, the land, the sky, mountains, kindness and generosity. One night, I was blessed by a Mexican healer who was also my hairdresser, a curendera (who would later, after I moved to Mexico, become my mentor), and another day after I’d finished shooting, I’d driven into the countryside by myself and met extraordinary and ordinary Mexicans who all opened their arms and homes.

But at the party, no one asked about Mexico. And I felt pinned to the wall by their questions. I was on the brink of whatever measure success meant, and I hated every minute of it.

Over the next year, I kept returning to my friends in Mexico City whenever I could and finally, after one two-month stay escaping the bitterness of New York winters, I simply stayed. I didn’t go back. And I lived in Mexico for three years.

I stayed because I convinced myself there was film work I could do in Mexico through friends and contacts. And I did do more work. Many U.S. productions came to Mexico to shoot because it was cheaper and sometimes I worked as an actress and sometimes as a crew member. But I never went back to New York to live.

When I finally left Mexico, I moved to Washington D.C., essentially ending a serious film career although I have done film work since then in bits and pieces.

The second part of the Daily Prompt question was “Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out?”

Would I go back and redo the choice? No. Although each year when the Oscar season comes up, I feel a ping. I do like to visit New York and would even enjoy a summer-long stay; would I go back and redo the choice to return to the States from Mexico? No. But I’d go back to visit or live a few months in Mexico. Am I happy with how things worked out? Absolutely.

Fate and free will are interesting concepts, both in the thinking and in the living. I’ve thought about this often in my life of journeying and changing and layering careers. Which part is fate and which free will?

If I’d stayed in New York or even Mexico, I wouldn’t have married Cliff and I’m happier now, in our 1924-built Waldo home and with Cliff than I’d ever be just making movies, even in Mexico. Now, if I don’t feel like talking at a party, I smile while Cliff stands beside me, holds my hand, and carries on the conversation.

If you’d like to try the prompt yourself, go to http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/daily-prompt-close-2/