'The Year of the Dog' by Jacqueline Nyahay

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2006 started out with dreams of recapturing that lost college era of knowledge is power, productively pursuing a way to help out humanity and feel like I was doing something worthwhile.  I do not mean to imply that being a stay at home mom and taking care of my home is not worthwhile, but in today’s society, it is all about career women, having it all, doing it all.  I felt brainwashed into believing if I am not working toward a BA in something and pursuing higher interests, my life is thought meaningless.  How can I be a hopeless failure if I am a full time mommy?  But that is exactly what is pushed down our throats.  So off to college I bound into a philosophy intro to logic class, during the winter session, which is a speedy run through material that otherwise you savor in spring and fall.  Not my forte, so after a grueling two weeks, I honorably withdrew until the spring session.  For a few weeks I wrestled with whether college was my answer.  I gave it one more try taking a class on the havoc of Alcohol and Drug Abuse on my way to being a career substance abuse counselor.  The idea of it was intriguing.  It was fun to tell everyone what my new profession would be.  After all, I was no longer acting, and was getting tired of everyone asking what my next project would be.  This was a real job, after the entertainment affair that my family could respect me in.  Of course they respected acting to a degree, but it is a bit like chasing a dream and they would rather I was settled into something more stable.  But how stable would I be as a counselor seeing drug addicts all day, time would tell.  During midterms I was called to work as a background actor on a new television pilot ‘60 Minute Man’.  I played an office worker and the premise was some guy leaving reality for 60 minutes at a time to another realm or something.  I guess a new hour-long drama, who knows.  I don’t even watch television or have cable.  I only rent movies, and occasionally a hit show like ‘Six Feet Under’ or ‘CSI’ where I can rent the whole season without waiting each week at the designated time to find out what happens.  The best part about being on set that day was our holding space.  We were in a church somewhere off 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  The stain glass windows let in the softest colored glow and I sat reading Angelina Jolie’s book Notes on My Travels.  What an amazing woman.  I mean I have always adored her acting, but reading her journal was a window into her soul while she traveled abroad on this very important journey as Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  In an era when it is all about what can I get for myself, it is refreshing to see someone with her talent and money doing something to help others and set such a beautiful example of how caring, loving, generous and selfless we can be if we choose to.  When I was actually called to set, I was apprehensive about putting down the book to go to work.  On set, I felt strangely out of place.  No longer did I feel the burning desire to act.  Watching the director with the lead actors, made me sick.  The constant direction, the innumerable takes of the same thing, over and over, started driving down my nerves.  I just wanted to curl up with Angie and listen to what is really happening in the world outside the delusional Hollywood masquerade.  My life seemed to have separated from the high I use to obtain on set.  Now I was back at college, a student, a wife, a mother, and that defined who I was.  I did not feel like an actress anymore, nor did I want anything to do with it.  It was time to move on.  Not that I would turn down a job if it happened to work out with everyone’s schedule, which happened right before my finals in May when I went back to work at ‘Days of Our Lives’ as a patron in their fancy French restaurant.  I used my time there to voice what it was I was doing now to the other actors and hear myself saying out loud my plans to be a counselor.  Most everyone on set is usually talking about acting and where their next gig will be.  Here I was talking about leaving the industry and my new ideas for the future.  I was almost trying to talk myself into this new role I had given myself and yet by the time the college class ended a few weeks later I would talk myself out of it.  With the rigors of taking care of the home and Zyla, I could only commit to one or two classes a semester, meaning it might take 5 years just to get the certificate and AA degree.  Then the professor kept telling us that the life expectancy in this profession is five years, so when I weighed out all the work I would do in hopes of a few years of work it all seemed like too much of my time being put into something I was not even sure I wanted anymore.  School is confusing for many students and many go in pursuing one dream and end up hating it and changing careers or masters mid-way through.  It was a little tougher on me because I was older and thought I would not be affected, after all I knew what I wanted to do right?  Could it be my childhood creeping in on me, where I could never decide what I wanted.  One week, an ice skater, the next a ballerina, or how about a gymnast, an astronaut, a spy, no let me try modeling or acting.  I constantly want to try everything and be everything.  I think that is why acting enticed me so; I could live out many lives all in one job.  How can you continue to hold excitement for one job forever?  Why can’t we just follow the passion of our heart in everything, wouldn’t that make the most sense?  Wouldn’t that be the most productive?  That might be suicide to your career.  Everything you have built up and worked for thrown away to follow something else.  What if you fail?  But it seems that sometimes in life we have to try and fear of failure be damned.   

 

My husband and I got ourselves, and Zyla annual passports to the Magic Kingdom for the first time.  I spent most of the year casually enjoying Disneyland and California Adventure in a way I never had before.  Gone was the hurried, frenzy to see every attraction and do every ride.  Knowing we could come back as often as we liked, gave me freedom to slowly explore every aspect of my favorite theme parks.  I discovered a whole new perspective in enjoying the moment and not letting life flurry past, in a dizzying blur.  I recommend this to everyone.  Life can get so crazy at times, you forget to step back and take a breath and see the moments and enjoy them in a deeper way.  Time is the key.  We give away so much of our time to our jobs, and errands, and to do lists.  Our society is in a constant rush to accomplish everything now, are we having any fun?  Are we learning anything about true happiness?  What are we in such a hurry to get to?  All that lies at the end of the rainbow is death.  Death and taxes right?  The only two constant things we can count on.  At least that is what I picked up in the philosophy class.  And speaking of class, it went really well.  Even though I had talked myself out of the counseling profession, I still made it to every lecture and learned about the damage alcohol and drugs can reek in every aspect of our bodies.  I received my A and took a hiatus from school to spend the summer with Zyla.  I guess I could have put her in day care, but she was starting kindergarten in the fall and I wanted to spend a lot of time having fun with her.  We ran off to Disney of course, but also made our way to the beach every week, the woods, and I hiked her little butt off.  She explored the stars with me on moonlit walks and I tried to make sure her mind was stimulated by fantasy and fun.  When she started up school in the fall, she was refreshed and excited and hasn’t stopped begging to live there!  For a moment, I considered going back to school as well, but the fire wasn’t burning this time around.  My professor had encouraged us not to pursue this industry if we were not absolutely driven.  But now what was I going to do?  Catholic School Mom was a full time job in ways I never expected.  Parents are encouraged and required to immerse themselves in their child’s education as well as helping the school in numerous ways.  Of course reading this in the literature and hearing it at back to school night really does not prepare you for the reality of the experience.  I was compelled to write about it and submit it as a short story to a magazine.  I had been paid to write in the past, why not try that avenue again.  I had no idea of all the markets for writers to sell into.  When I think of writers it is most often novelists, because that is primarily what I read.  Sitting down to write the big novel can be intimidating, but there are scores of magazines and newspapers that are not looking for 300+ pages.  I do not need an official degree to write.  Of course it wouldn’t hurt and I would love to pursue more college when time opens up in my life for it, but for now I can solely focus on what is going on, and using these moments to tie stories together entertaining, educating and enlightening others.  It is the perfect job for me, weaving through my day and pouring out in my free moments, giving me everything I want, freedom and time to still be a full time stay at home mom.  Getting paid and published I will leave in God’s hands.  I just thanked God for this breakthrough and felt my heart sing as this old profession stirred afresh within me. 

The honor of being part of the SAG Nominating Committee was bestowed on me this year.  Only 2100 members of an over 120,000+ group are picked annually to participate in choosing the candidates for the SAG awards.  In the spring and summer I was invited to a scattering of screenings, but the fun really pumped up in late fall when I started receiving screeners of all the top movies of 2006, some just hitting the theaters!  Most of the premiers and screenings did not work out with my family schedule for me to attend, so the at home screeners really helped me view all the work that had gone into 2006.  I was able to go see ‘World Trade Center’ on the big screen, which left me in tears.  ‘Blood Diamonds’ jarred me as I recalled Angelina’s book.  Here was Sierra Leone, one of the places she had visited.  I felt I had been there through her writing and understood more clearly the work she was doing with the refugees and the painful reality of the rebels’ destruction.  So many wonderful films this year, I asked my husband, who watched all the screeners with me, to help me in choosing who would be up for best of the best. 

In September, I received a phone call to come work on the television show ‘Close to Home’.  They were shooting a scene of parents attending a back to school auction night.  It felt so surreal since my daughter was having this same night at her school in a few days.   I was so engrossed in kindergarten talk that mingling with adult actors proved a challenge.  We were shooting on location in Pasadena, when the director, Kevin Dowling, whom I had met and worked with last year on ‘Just Legal’, noticed me on set and waved hello.  I felt blessed he had never called me to audition for anything.  Acting is more than a full time job, with interviews, research, memorizing, rehearsals and performance, demanding so much time away from my family.  I don’t know what he did with my headshot he requested back then, nor do I care. 

My mom sent me Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.  For a month I became obsessed with how I could move into the B quadrant and be the boss.  I thought I might enjoy day trading until I read so many books about it I drove myself insane.  I can only imagine what would have happened if I had lost any money trying that avenue.  Not that Robert recommends it as he is into investment property.  I toyed with not paying my SAG and AFTRA dues since I was rebelling against any further work that might be phoned into me.  I had already turned down countless parts that would not work out with the family schedule, including ‘Extra, Extra Management’ who finally called almost exactly a year after I had gone to their re-shoot in November 2005.  I have heard there is some legality in that a background company you pay to be part of has to call you for work at least once a year.  Unfortunately they wanted me on Halloween and the day after.  I could not possibly miss out on my daughter’s favorite holiday. 

The year wound down to all the hoopla of Christmas and a zillion birthdays in December in my family and extended family including Zyla’s and mine.   Edward and I were invited to his office Christmas party being held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.  An enchanting evening spent sipping champagne with dinner and dancing under the Air Force One.  Taking a walking tour through this 727 airplane, which retired just before 9/11, servicing Nixon through Bush, brought back memories of my father and his work in government intelligence. 

I read a beautiful book by Kathleen Norris called The Cloister Walk, in which she shares her experiences with the Benedictine monks and sisters, not being Catholic herself.  It reminded me of my own twisted way into Catholicism and definitely made me want to take a vacation to a monastery, even if I cannot find the time now, it held insight and let me see through those eyes for a little while until it is my time.  I opened a new section on the website for Testimonials.  Not in the traditional sense, but of actors’ stories on how they joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).  I wrote mine and am encouraging others who have shown an interest to share. 

Another book that touched me was Sharon and My Mother-in-law by Suad Amiry.  Here is a Palestinian woman’s firsthand account telling her story of life over in the Middle East during the Israeli occupation.  It is sad to read the reality of how terror affects everyone, Jews and Arabs alike.  Will humanity ever stop being at war?  I watched  ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ and it was so depressing.  What was the point of that war?  Senseless death.  What is our country doing about the war on millions of murdered babies every year happening right here in the name of abortion?  Blood is being spilt everywhere.  I am glad I do not have a television signal anymore; to me freedom of speech in the news media has become a plot to be desensitized by our governments controlled interpretation of events. 

Erica Jong’s Seducing the Demon was captivating.  She is so honest and real.  She doesn’t let fear of anything stop her from writing what she feels she has to write.  I hope to capture some of her spirit when I sit down to tell my stories, but most of all, I want to channel the divine and speak out what God puts a fire in my heart to say with courage, and faith that I am following my dream on the perfect path to enlightenment in unity with the Holy Trinity.  May God’s will be done now and always.  May God’s Peace shower our world.  May His blessings enrich you and your work now and forever.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

~Jacqueline

 

 

Continue Reading Jacqueline's latest saga as she releases more memoirs in the next installment of LA's Atmosphere Part 3 ~ Slip Into Deja Vu! CLICK HERE!