Now being the Star that I am, you may assume that I have a mantel full of awards and therefore unaffected by the whims of the Academy. But I am forever in love with the Academy Awards. And not just the red carpet or the dresses. But the actual Academy Awards. And especially this year.
Because this year, a hero of mine is nominated. But to really understand why this matters to me, I need to rewind fifteen years to the 1995 Academy Awards. March 25, 1996. Back when the Oscars were still on Mondays and still in March.
The month prior to the ceremony, I had flown to Chicago where I auditioned for seven Masters in Acting programs. And for the following six weeks, I had been on pins and needles waiting to hear if I had been accepted. Now for those of you who don’t know, a letter is bad and a phone call is good.
And the weeks had been littered with letters. In fact, my husband and I had fought (terribly) when I found a stash of three letters that had come early. He had stealthily removed them from the mail over the course of a week. Unfortunately, his stealthiness (word? I’m not sure…) did not apply to his hiding place — the console between the two front seats of our 1986 Nissan Maxima.
When I found it, I freaked out. I wrongly took it as his lack of belief in me. How could he let me walk around thinking that I still had a chance at these schools? How could he let me be a fool? How could he let me BELIEVE??? This is when he told me that he was sure that I would be accepted somewhere and he didn’t want me to worry. He wasn’t going to trash the letters, just wait until I got a “yes” to tell me about the “no”s.
But two more “no”s had come. And the deadline was fast approaching. Until Monday, March 25, 1996. The night that Annette Bening sat on the Geary stage of the American Conservatory Theater to talk with Barbara Walters. She was one of the guests of Walters’ annual Academy Awards Special. As alumna of the school, Bening had returned to her theatrical home for the interview.
And as you might have guessed her home was one of my “Seven”. One of the two from which I had not received a letter.
On that very night, I got a call from that very school. From that very theater. From her home. My soon-to-be home.
As I remember, the interview began only moments after my call. That may be wrong. Memories are funny things. If someone pulled my phone records and told me that the call was another night, I would be surprised but not totally shocked. But I do remember this.
I felt a surge of joy, excitement, and fear that one only feels when they know that life has changed irrevocably. For better or worse, my life changed in that moment. At that time, I believed it to be the beginning of a magical fairytale wherein all my acting dreams would come true. I believed that I, too, would be answering Ms. Walters’ questions one day. Basically, I believed that I was on my way to becoming the “next” Annette Bening.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the Oscars. And, obviously I am not the “next” Annette Bening. I am not the “next” anything.
My life changed that day both for better and worse. My bank account (and enormous pending student loan payments) demonstrate the worse. And, no, I do not have a mantel full of awards to show you the better. But something happened to me that night that I have not thought of for some time.
It was the first time that this dreamer believed. I believed that night that dreams do come true. That dreams could come true to me. And while I had spent the better part of the last year, working, and preparing, and dreaming, it was not until that night that I actually believed that a dream of mine could come true.
Now it would be easy to look at my life now and say that my dream did not come true. But that would be wrong. I went to one of the finest acting schools on the country. I studied alongside many talents, several of which are household names. I acted on that same stage that Ms. Bening graced that fateful night.
But more importantly, I started on a path that brought me to this moment. And so many of my dreams have come true. A quick glance across my kitchen demonstrates my greatest dreams come true, two of them come in rather small packages (one of which turns four tomorrow).
And as for being the “next” something, well, that dream has passed. But as I learned so many nights ago, dreams come true. And I still believe that I can have an acting dream. But this time, I am not looking forward to being the “next” anyone, just the “next” stage of me. What this dream will look like, I do not know, but I do know this. It can come true.
So thank you, Annette Bening. I don’t know if you’ll get your long-awaited Oscar tonight, but you have this. My undying respect and appreciation for sharing your gift and unknowingly shared my dream. I may never have the moment to thank the Academy and you may never hear this thank you but it stands none the less. Thank you for helping me to believe.
I believe that dreams come true, do you?