I’m currently sitting at my “Cheers” bar. The place where everyone knows my name.
I come here several times a week. I try to cut myself off at no more than four times a week.
Once, I overheard another patron say, “we are all sitting here killing ourselves.” That has always stuck with me: actively participating in our own demise in the company of others.
Yet we, the regulars, all come to this one familiar place to feel less lonely, searching for companionship or an escape, but within the muck of searching, we are also drowning ourselves.
It feels like we are never quite able to reach for the other. Which is the whole purpose, at least for me, to sit at this bar with its exposed brick, endless glasses of wine, and backless, wooden stools that know me well.
I frequent my neighborhood bar ninety-five percent of the time by myself. Hell, I do ninety-five percent of everything by myself. I’m independent. I love the freedom. I love how I get to choose how I spend my time, energy, money. No one else is paying for me, so why not treat myself the way I want to be treated. I’m usually the only woman sitting at the bar solo. I kind of love it. This power I feel in doing it alone like, look at me. I don’t need anyone else to take me out.
It hasn’t always felt that way though. Most of the time, I felt like an intruder asking for permission to sit down. Though, within the intrusion, I learned a lot about bar culture and myself.
I used to feel insecure walking into a bar, restaurant, or party by myself after moving to Los Angeles, but this wasn’t the case when I lived in NYC. In New York, there were always a mixture of men and women sitting by themselves at bars. Most people seemed to be in their own bubbled cells almost trying to escape all of the city noise for a few brief moments.
Whereas, in Los Angeles, I’d walk in with myself, making it known I was not having anyone else join me, to be greeted with, “Oh, just you?” Emphasizing the “just,” like I was some alien dropping in and no one knew exactly what to do with me. I guess it was rare to have a seemingly young woman choosing to sit alone at a testosterone dominated place. However, a man walks into that same Los Angeles bar, the host rarely goes, “Oh, just you?” No. No. Never! No one questions them. No one bats an eye or makes up a plethora of assumptions as to why they are there alone.
I’ve been single the majority of my life. I’ve never had someone call me their girlfriend, nor have I ever called someone my boyfriend. Thus, I have had to learn how to navigate the world as a single, adult woman, living no where near my family in a big city on my own. I don’t know any other way. Sometimes, I wish I did. Sometimes, I feel I may have become too hard in the surviving.
The majority of my friends are married, engaged, divorced, have kids, homeowners… I’d never given any of those things much of my attention. I’d always put my career first. My art. I have sacrificed my entire adult life for my career. Everything. It calls, I run. Fast. I can hardly see outside of my career, but I never wanted to see outside.
Part of being an actor is knowing there is no guarantee of a “yes.” Rarely do people talk about that reality. In many other careers, if you stay in it long enough, do the work, climb the ladder, it will pay off. In the entertainment industry, you are owed nothing. It does not care about you in the same way you may care about it (unless you are making it a ton of money). Yet I, like many other artists, choose to get up every day to a business I know may break my heart and reject me weekly, daily, yearly. Some may say, consciously going back to a thing that continually rejects you is the epitome of being insane. I may be a little insane; I won’t deny that. Ha!
Truth is, no one told me when I was younger, that the sacrifices of being an artist have consequences. You may not see the impact for a decade, but it has a way of waiting. The struggles become different when you age. The lifestyle, needs, and goals you once created as an artist at 22 are not the same at 32, nor 42. Then, the consequences start talking. Whispering in the night to have a child before it’s too late. To find that partner, so you don’t wind up continually fending for yourself. To lean in. How behind the door you walked into, as a proud and eager renter of your first one bedroom apartment, became a place of stagnation. A place of waking up, two thousand, five hundred and fifty-five days later, to yourself after the casual hook-up went home. All of a sudden, the life you created is no longer considered traditional because you are no longer 25. You start being one of the only ones among your friends leading the unconventional. Questioning life choices. You feel left. Alone.
I never planned on being the single woman sitting proudly at the bar alone, having conversation with mostly men twice my age, learning so much about strangers lives. Oh, the secrets I hold. Yet, here I am! I have learned to keep giving myself permission to lead an artistic life outside of what I was told and what I see. No apologies. No regrets.
I have a glass in my hand. It is full. I’ve been filling it up, excited to cheers another full glass on this seesaw of life.