There's real famous. Then there's me.

It is possible to leave Hollywood.

It's not easy.

People wrinkle their foreheads at you and ask "why?" in this tone that makes you feel like you have just announced your intention to dress yourself entirely in tinfoil. People say you're crazy for walking away from a good career just because it wasn't making you happy. But it can be done. You can leave the film industry and do new things and you can almost leave it all in the past. Almost.

Certain things tend to linger.

I've been friends with people for a while and they have no idea that I used to be an actor. They know me as I am now, a writer and a yoga teacher and a wife and a dog-mom. My acting past is simply not relevant. Usually, it will come up because I have to explain why I never graduated from high school or why I have DVDs of the movies that are still in theaters on my coffee table.

It's not like I'm legitimately famous. It's not like I walk into a room and I'm Jennifer Lawrence and everyone starts squealing. Occasionally, people recognize me. Often they squint at me and ask if we knew each other in high school. Or, it's just odd.

My past creates certain challenges when making new friends - because I don't know if they know, either from recognizing me or hearing about it from someone else. So, I don't say anything, because saying something would be obnoxious. Why does my old job matter now? Who's like "Oh, just so you know, 15 years ago, I worked at The Olive Garden, I hope that doesn't make things strange now."

So when I dance around the issue of my past, when I get flushed and nervous and look at my feet while using vague language like, "I was in Honduras once, for this...um...you know...work thing...." I look like I might be a repentant drug lord.

So, I test the waters and mumble "Oh, dunno if you know or not, I used to be an actor, so um...yeah...there's that." And I nervously wait for their reaction and try to come up with an excuse to check my phone.

I've had people get weirded out and uncomfortable, thinking this somehow makes me exotic and un-relatable because actors are apparently made of different stuff than regular folk.

I've had people get too excited and too comfortable and then they only want to talk about whether or not Fran Drescher really talks like that.

And then there is my all-time favorite reaction. When one of my friends found out, after months of knowing each other, she looked at me and said "Oh my God, it's like, you're....fake famous. That's hilarious. Hey, hand me that yoga mat."

She's right. I am fake famous. I have this little bit of recognizability, but I don't get mobbed in public or walk the red carpet anymore. I never enjoyed those things, they just sent my anxiety into overdrive. I like my life so much better now.

As it turns out, the authentic me is much happier being fake famous.

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Embrace your weird

Me. At my wedding. I've always felt like I was weird.

I'm goofy and dorky and awkward. I make faces like that when I'm supposed to be a composed bride.

Sometimes people stare at me. There is pointing. And whispering.

I didn't go to school the way most other people did. I had different experiences and I didn't know things that other people knew about. I didn't know how to play hopscotch or jacks, I knew how to play poker and craps - those were the kinds of games we played on set.

I was super insecure about that. I liked my job as an actor, I enjoyed working, but I also felt ashamed because it made me different.

I felt like I'd never fit in anywhere.

But I've realized that the vast majority of people feel like they are different for one reason or another. They think that they don't fit in. That they have to hide something about themselves so that other people will accept them.

But the problem with that fear is that it isolates us and keeps us in situations that stifle our talent and true purpose.

That thing that makes us feel weird is actually really important. That thing can make us powerful. Because if we can learn to embrace that, we can do anything. If we embrace our weirdness, we can be our true selves and bring our own unique perspective and experience to the world.

Hiding and feeling ashamed just doesn’t work. The desperate desire to fit in only makes us invisible.

I was always terrified to share my writing because I was worried that people would tell me that I sucked...and I didn’t know if I could recover from that. But I realized that I'd never be happy if I didn’t at least attempt thing I was most passionate about. It got to the point where it was more painful to stifle what I loved than it was to be criticized for it.

After I started this blog -- that really scary thing actually happened. There were some people who told me I sucked. Anonymous Huffington Post commenters said all the terrible things I worried people would say, that I was washed up and irrelevant and a bad writer and it made me cry and feel miserable.

It felt like a punch in the face.

But it didn’t kill me.

Because, actually, it didn’t matter what they thought of me. There are plenty of other things those people can read on the internet. There are lots of things about cats wearing sunglasses and endless Buzzfeed lists -- and I hope they enjoy those more than my work. Eventually, I stopped crying and went back to my desk and I wrote more. Because my job is to write. Because it's none of my business what those other people think about me - it matters most what I think about me.

That's what happens when you embrace your weird.

When you get comfortable with your weird, then you no longer feel the need to pick on someone else for theirs.

In embracing my weird, I wrote my first book. And then my second book. I started giving talks at colleges, high schools, and conferences. I brought to light everything that I was once ashamed of. I talked about how I never graduated from high school, that characters in books were my best friends, that I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks.

I've gotten to the point where I would rather fail than quit - and that's when cool things become possible.

——–

(By the way, this is pretty much what I talk about when I do workshops and talks. If you think your school/conference/company might want to hear more about embracing your weird - contact me - LisaJakub108@gmail.com) You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

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"You look so familiar" : what it's like to get recognized

I recently got an email asking me about the "recognizing thing." I get this question a lot, so I thought I would answer it here. People want to know if it still happens (yes, but not as much as it used to) and if I hate it (hate is a terribly strong word. I hate bigotry and raisins. I don't hate getting recognized).

But most people say something like "I don't get it - is it invasive if someone just comes up to say hello?"

The answer is no, it doesn't make me angry or upset or annoyed - it's nothing that simple or dramatic.

It makes me kind of embarrassed. It makes me shy. It makes me awkward. (Okay, more awkward.)

It's never something I got accustomed to, so every time someone approaches me, I'm surprised. I worry that:

  • I'm going to say something stupid to you
  • you are going to see the pimple on my nose
  • I'll try to be funny and I'll just be odd
  • I'll make a goofy face in the selfie we just took and that you'll have that forever
  • the friend that I am with - who is a nice, normal non-Hollywood mother of two - feels weird about me getting recognized and is now laughing uncomfortably and looking for an escape route

I never feel like I should be...human. People tend to call me by my character name and I feel the pressure to live up to whatever they thought Lydia/Alicia/Sandra/whoever should be. And should I be who they were at age fourteen? Or am I supposed be a projection of who those fictional characters would be in her mid-thirties? See? It's complicated.

And then I get the people who think we went to high school together. They are absolutely convinced and won't let it go. And then I never know what to do, because I can't say, "maybe you know me from movies" -  without looking like a self-obsessed-Troy-McClure-jerk.

So, no, I don't find it invasive when someone just comes up to say hi. I find it flustering, just in the same way that I get flustered when someone at Whole Foods asks if I need help finding anything - I'm just not skilled at talking to strangers. (See: introvert.)

To be honest, what happens most often is something much more tricky to manage. It's staring. It's whispering. It's pointing. It's attempted incognito photo-taking. And I've never known what to do about that, so I just try to sit there and not feel too much like a zoo animal.

beer

And then there is the really icky stuff - the stuff that started when I was a teenager and made me feel non-human to begin with. There is the feeling of being treated like a commodity and not a real person, like when someone yells "Hey, Doubtfire Girl!" across a room at me.

There is the lack of boundaries and demands of things I'm not willing to do, like the man who approached me at a hotel pool when I was sixteen and wanted me to take a photo with him in my bathing suit. When I asked him to please wait until I could put some clothes on, he said I needed to do it now because, “You’re an actor. You owe it to me.”

I could tell you lots of stories like that - several more appear in my book. I wouldn't say it's common, but it happens, and it hurts.  So, now I have the moment of feeling on guard, wondering if it's going to happen again.

When someone says they just don't understand how getting recognized could be anything other than fun - I get that. When it happens in movies it looks fun. I am grateful that people want to express their appreciation for something that I have done. That's lovely. But the attention and the feeling of being not-quite-human was never something that I was comfortable with. It was one of the many reasons for my retirement.

So, if you see me somewhere, you are absolutely welcome to come say hello. And if you want to help make me feel more human and comfortable about the whole thing - just ask about my dog or tell me about yours.

As long as you understand that I will totally make you look at photos of Grace on my phone.

——–

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Through the looking glass of fame

Photo courtesy of USC Photo/Gus Ruelas The University of Southern California recently bought a letter at a London auction, penned in 1891 by C.L. Dodgson. The only reason that anyone cares about a really old letter from C.L Dodgson is because he wrote books under a pen name -  Lewis Carroll. It's a three page letter, on sepia-toned paper with perfectly old-timey slanted script. The letter seems to have the sole purpose of explaining to his friend, Mrs. Symonds, why Carroll hates being famous. He says:

“All of that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and being treated as a ‘lion.’ And I hate all of that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all."

It's fairly shocking to learn that Lewis Carroll was so appalled by fame that he had some regrets about writing Alice in Wonderland. (It's also surprising to learn that he was such a fan of underlining.) But clearly, he really didn't like that whole celebrity thing.

What did it even mean to be famous in 1891? What was it like to be a celebrity in the days before TMZ and paparazzi and Twitter fights? Were people hiding in the bushes at Thomas Edison's house? Did W.E.B. Du Bois get hounded for autographs while getting his mustache groomed at the barber shop? Could it really have been all that bad?

Yes, clearly for Carroll it could, because some people are just not cut out to be famous.

I am also one of those people. Now, let me state this clearly, before anonymous internet commenters beat me to it: I am not claiming any major type of fame here. I had a taste of that celebrity lifestyle when I acted in movies that did well at the box office. I had that mobbed-in-malls, autograph requesting, red-carpet walking lifestyle for a few years -- until I was 22 and realized, like Carroll: I hated it. I found the rejection, the lack of privacy and acting as a puppet for someone else's writing to be increasingly harsh and unsatisfying. It threatened to completely overwhelm me. Panic attacks struck and I found myself gasping for breath in dark corners, clutching my chest in an attempt to keep my heart from ricocheting off my ribs and busting through the skin.

So, I quit.

But sometimes when people find out that I used to be an actor, they often ask, with this wide-eyed expression, why I would ever leave Hollywood. I try to explain that it's just a job, with all its pros and cons, and sometimes you get tired of a job and want to try something new. Some people give me this look that apparently people have been giving for 124 years, because Carroll references it in his letter:

"Of course there are plenty of people who like being looked at as a notoriety and there are plenty who can't understand why I don't share that feeling. And they probably would not understand how it can be that human beings should have different tastes. But it is true, nevertheless."

Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, likewise, not everyone is cut out to be famous. Yet, unlike being a doctor, most people think they would be pretty good at being famous.

But we see people who are bad at being famous all the time. Some celebrities crash their cars, go on bigoted rants and get dragged out of theaters in handcuffs. The problem comes when we fail to remember that these are people simply doing a job. If someone is a bad bartender, they get fired, but unfortunately, it appears to be quite difficult to fire a celebrity. Poor job performance just seems to get them promoted up the celebrity hierarchy.

This disastrous behavior could be blamed on money or power or access to every indulgence imaginable, but I believe it's the result of being treated - as Carroll said - as a "lion." It sounds enviable, after all, who wouldn't want special treatment? But in reality, "special" inherently means "different." And it's hard to be different.

I've recently realized that in my desperate attempt to not be a lion, I became an ostrich. By pretending that 18 years of my life never happened, I was simply sticking my head in the sand. We all have a past that stomps its feet and demands to be dealt with. My past pops up during 90's movie marathons, regardless of whether I acknowledge it or not. While the past is not deserving of a staring role in the present moment, it can be worthy of a little thank you in the credits somewhere. Because where would any of us be without it?

I hope that Lewis Carroll got to a point where he could see that the work he did meant something to people and realized that he was not required to be a lion or an ostrich or even Lewis Carroll.

All he ever needed to be was C.L Dodgson.

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Clubbing baby actors

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I just wanted to fit in.

Desperately.

All 15-year-olds just want to fit in. They skulk around like those fish on the ocean floor who can alter their skin color to match the rocks. That was me - trying to blend like my survival depended on it.

But Mrs. Doubtfire was still in theaters, breaking all kinds of box-office records and 20th Century Fox was putting two-page ads in The Hollywood Reporter thanking everyone for buying a movie ticket. Blending was getting harder to do. But L.A. was my life now and I needed to figure out how to be part of that Hollywood crowd. A club on the Sunset Strip seemed like a good place to learn.

We didn’t even want to drink. My friend Christine had a crush on the singer of the opening band. Her sister had been in a movie with him, and our entire intention for the evening was to jump up and down in front of the stage and scream.

The place was dark and throbbing with coolness. People oozed cool and rubbed it all over their already cool friends. People moved around the place so comfortably that it seemed like it was their living room. I used all the acting skills at my disposal in an attempt to copy those people -- and knew I was failing miserably.

Just before the band was due to go on stage, Christine and I headed to the bathroom to preen. She dug through an extensive bag of tools, expertly applying and lining and touching up. I didn’t wear makeup and having no preening abilities of my own, I glanced around the dim, grungy bathroom. I noticed a condom machine hanging on the wall. It was apparently  “for our convenience.” I nudged Christine and snickered.

Both of us had sadly undeveloped chests and few social skills beyond giggling - the machine hardly intended us as its target audience in need of such a convenience.

Nevertheless, flavored condoms were intriguing. The machine’s label reported that they came in three thrilling flavors: piña colada, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. I didn’t drink and was allergic to chocolate, so the strawberry shortcake was the clear winner. Christine and I had a lengthy debate about whether the chocolate condoms were made with real chocolate and if they would induce an allergic reaction.

I thought it would be a horrible time to find out.

She thought I was an idiot.

She started rifling through her purse and pulled out some linty quarters.

"Here. Get two."

"Wait, why are we buying these?" I asked.

She snorted at me and handed me the change.

"Research."

As I loaded the machine with Christine's quarters, she leaned on the bathroom door. This was a scene best kept between the two of us. As our 50 cents went into the machine, slick pink and green packages slid out. They looked cheery. Fun. Yet, I was still scared to touch them. My heart beat quickly.

Christine appeared savvier, though I don’t think she really was. She was just one of those people who always appeared to know what she was doing. Whether on a film set or in a club bathroom holding a piña colada flavored condom, she always seemed as if she has been through it a million times. She was a stark contrast to me - it didn't matter what I was doing, I always looked like I was about to get yelled at.

She ripped open the packaging with her teeth, a move she must have seen in a movie. I approached the wrapper more tentatively, pulling on either side like it was a bag of Doritos. We removed the smooth creatures from their packaging. We unrolled them. We concluded that they probably looked kind of like penises...if penises were florescent, semi-translucent, covered in a strange powder and stinking of sweet chemicals.

“Ready?” Christine asked. I certainly was not but I was standing in a bathroom holding a condom, what could I say?

“Okay. Lick it!” Christine demanded and we each raised the limp rubber to our tongues.

At that moment, the door swung open, catapulting Christine from her guard post and a Goth girl, bedazzled with safety pins, blasted into the bathroom. Christine and I panicked, threw our condoms into the trash and ran the hell out of there.

Taking refuge in a dark corner with humiliated tears flooding my eyes, I cursed Christine for not guarding the door properly and letting us be the freaks who got caught licking flaccid condoms in a bathroom. She also had tears in her eyes, but hers were caused by stomach-cramping laughter. She smoothed out my hair and attempted to comfort me.

"Don't worry about it, Lis. Besides, you are not going to need one of those for a long, LONG time."

Before I could respond with something like "Shut up" -  she grabbed my hand, ran to the stage and screamed for the cute lead singer like nothing had happened.

There were many enviable people in that club, owners of designer handbags, prestigious addresses and powerful careers, but I only wanted what Christine had. Her lightness was admirable and something I could never quite locate within myself. My friend's skin fit her just fine and she never seemed to care too much about outside opinions. Her ease in this world was like a foreign language that seemed impossible to master. I borrowed some of her sparkly MAC lip gloss and hoped something deeper would rub off on me.

That night, I thought the worst thing that could ever happen was getting caught by a Goth. But four years later, Christine got sick. We didn't know what was wrong, but I sat with her in the hospital and massaged her aching hands. We played The Cranberries on an endless loop. We talked about going to get frozen yogurt as soon as she was released from the hospital.

But she never was.

The lupus moved quickly, and she passed away when we were 19.

I'll spend the rest of my life trying to capture her lightness. Admittedly, whenever I think of that Sunset club, I can still taste strawberry condom dust and palpable shame in the back of my throat. But whenever I feel myself trying desperately to blend with the cool people, I always feel Christine smoothing out my hair as she laughs at me.

"Don't worry about it, Lis."

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Conversations in Common: March Madness Edition

When it really comes down to it - we're all the same. Even, unfathomably, me and this guy. This is my friend Jim Miller.

LJ7

Jim and I have many things in common. Like:

- we were both more famous in the 80s than we are now - we both wore short shorts for our jobs* - we both retired in our 20s and needed to figure out what the hell to do next

But unlike me, Jim wasn't an actor - he played basketball. When we first met, I didn't know anything about him. I was mostly just concerned that the 17-inch hight difference between us meant that I needed to talk louder. But, it turns out that he could hear me just fine up there and we became friends.

And then people said stuff to me, like "Do you know who that is? That's Jimmy Miller."

There were actually italics in their voices.

The italics were well earned. Jim was MVP of the 1984 NCAA Eastern Regional championships as the University of Virginia advanced to the Final Four. He was a Parade All American, Converse Academic All American, he won a Hertz Number One Award that OJ Simpson presented to him (and no, he's not sure how to feel about that either). He played with Ralph Sampson. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz. He played in Austria and Spain. He was on little cards looking very sporty, like this:

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After years of having people whispering about me, now they were whispering to me, about Jim.

Let me make something clear: I think Jim was more famous than me. There was actually a POSTER of him that college students used to hang in their dorms. Sure, I was on the Mrs. Doubtfire poster but I was one of five people, and my face was mostly obscured by Robin Williams' breast. So I'm pretty sure this means Jim was more famous than me.

But regardless of who was more famous, we have a lot in common and that's incredibly comforting since I have spent so much of my life feeling like a weirdo. It's good to know that other people have left high-profile careers and are doing just fine.

I sat down with Jim recently to talk about his past and his experience with retirement - things we had never talked about before. After several hours of comparing notes, I was even more reassured that the superficial differences between people are so misleading.

When he thinks back on his career, his favorite things sound just like mine. He found that relationships and travel were the most rewarding part of his job. It wasn't all about the fancy things like sitting in the VIP section of a club on Sunset with Lawrence Fishburne. It wasn't all about the awards that he keeps in his basement somewhere. It was about the people. The places. The experiences.

I was most interested in how he made his decision to retire, and wondered if it had been as difficult as my decision had been. After being drafted by an NBA team and released, Jim was playing in the Continental Basketball Association - the minor leagues - playing with guys who were 10 years older than him. They were well into their 30s and still clung to their hopes of playing in the NBA. That possibility became less likely by the year, but they were still chasing the dream. Seeing that made Jim realize that he didn't "want to be one of those guys, lost in the CBA."

That instantly reminded me of a very similar moment in my life. I was siting in a waiting room in a casting office. It had taken me two hours in L.A. traffic to get to the audition and it wasn't even a script I was excited about. I saw a woman in her 40s come out of what must have been a bad audition. She looked exhausted and decided to take it out on the receptionist and yell at her about why they didn't validate parking.

There are moments in any profession where we get a glimpse of our own future - and it might not jive with what we want for ourselves. I was 22 years old. I really didn't want to be 40 and still going to crappy auditions where they decided to hire the buxom blond instead. I didn't have a devotion to the work that could fuel me through the hard times.

Jim and I talked about the difficulty of deciding to retire, even when the job was not fulfilling anymore. With professions like ours, you feel obligated to stick it out, give it one last try. But, finally, he said you just have to "have your 'Come to Jesus' moment and look in the mirror" and make the hard decision.

In his mid-20s, Jim retired from basketball - the thing that had been the center of his life since he was 9 years old. He had to figure out who he was beneath the basketball player, but he felt that since all his energy had been so focused, he was not properly trained for the world outside of professional sports.  I totally related - it seemed that neither one of us had any direction after retirement. So, he took to a trial and error approach, just like I did.

We both felt the pressure to do something "important" to fill that void. We needed to do something that somehow justified our decision to leave. Something that seemed just as cool. But really, what were either of us going to do to fill the massive void left by Hollywood or professional sports? Those careers have been idolized to such a degree (just check out E! or ESPN for a reminder of the extent of the hero-worshiping) that it's hard to imagine where you go from there that doesn't seem like a disappointment to other people.

But as Jim said, it can be really dangerous when you tie up your self esteem with what other people think of you. Because then you are living for others, not yourself. Your sense of self-worth needs to come from somewhere else, somewhere deeper than your resume. But that can be difficult when you've tied up your identity with one thing for so long.

Jim now loves being a husband, a dad and running his own financial consulting firm. He talks about this phase of life being his halftime. He is assessing the things that looked important in the first half of his life, and seeing if they still deserve his focus and energy. He is making adjustments. He is choosing to do some things differently in the second half. He's not afraid to change the line up of his priorities.

I find that so inspiring, because I think many of us operate from a place of momentum. We do what we've always done. We think we are too busy/tired/stubborn to do something different, even if it would make a huge difference to the quality of our lives.

But if we can just give ourselves a little break and really examine where we are, we can get back out there even stronger and play this life according to our own rules.

*proof of Jim and I in our short shorts.

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"So, what is Robin Williams like?"

Sometimes I try to estimate how many times I've been asked this question over the years. And if you replace Robin's name with Will Smith/Pierce Brosnan/Sally Field/Timothy Dalton....

Innumerable times.

I understand why. These people are beloved. Folks want to know if he was funny or she was nice or he was high. I get it.

But I'm curious, how do people expect me to answer? All of those actors were lovely and that's how I respond. But even if they weren't - I'm NEVER going to say that. Why would I slam anyone to you, a person who I just met at the grocery store? Would you say something other than "they're great" about your co-workers to a random person in the cereal aisle?

I guess people want a funny little tidbit about what that famous person was like, but here's the truth -- I am too preoccupied trying to look composed while chatting with a stranger and simultaneously attempting to hide the dandruff shampoo in my cart to come up with a pithy story at that moment. Plus the fact that it was like, 20 years ago, and many of those stories are not crystal clear anymore.

It also brings up another uncomfortable aspect of this whole thing. If that's the first/only thing you ask me - maybe you don't really care anything about me as a person. Maybe you are just using me to get a story about someone else. It's like having a super popular older brother and everyone just wants to know about him.

I'm interesting, too. Not because I might be able to tell you something funny about Robin Williams, but because I've danced in the baraat at an Indian wedding, once fed carrots to a wallaby and have undergone hypnosis. And I'll bet you're interesting, too, but I'll never know because I'm trying to come up with a cute story you can retweet.

But since I still get asked, I'll go on autopilot and say the thing I've said a bajillion times:

"Yeah, he/she was really great..."

And it will be true.

But I'll always wonder if there wasn't a more interesting conversation we could have had.

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Money. Part 2.

Much to my surprise, people I've never met have opinions about me. Some are good, some are not so good, and I do my best to take both the positive and the negative with a grain of salt. But some comments I simply find fascinating. I am curious about the larger context and why the commenter might hold that belief. Someone referred to me as "privileged" recently.

I am privileged - I've had wonderful opportunities, I have a good support system and my health.

But judging by the rest of her comment, that's not how she meant it. She meant - She is Rich So She Can't Possibly Relate to My Regular Person Life.

I was kind of shocked by this. It's yet another indication of how much the whole Hollywood facade has fleeced the rest of the world.

Movie stars are rich. They pull in a millions per film and are booked on shoots back-to-back.

I was not a movie star.

I was a working actor.

Big difference.

I guess the assumption is that all actors cruise around in their Porsches without a care in the world. I drove my beloved Toyota for more than a decade and never knew when I was going to work again. For the vast majority of my acting career, I earned less per year than a telemarketer.

I never did it for the money, but I was grateful for it, because there is a significant investment involved in getting a job. Just like in any small business, you have to spend money to make money. There were flights from my home in Canada to Los Angeles and the bills associated with living at the Burbank Holiday Inn with my mother for three months so that I could audition for projects.

There were the rare times when I worked on a big film and for that year I got a financial upgrade. But even then, my dentist still out-earned me. And unlike normal jobs, where you can assume that your pay will be fairly steady, the year after a blockbuster, my income took a sharp downward turn. And if you think the residuals should be making up for that, read this. My residual income these days is below the poverty line, which makes me very grateful that my husband and I have other sources of income.

I'm not complaining, I was thankful that I had a job that paid me at all and it was a job that I enjoyed, for the most part. I have never worried if I could afford my next meal, and that is a significant luxury in this world.

But I think this is yet another way that the tabloid culture of celebrity separates people. It makes non-actors think that all actors must be on a different playing field, where there are no concerns about when the next paycheck is coming or how the mortgage is going to get paid. Yeah, that's not really a worry for Angelina Jolie, but most actors are not Angelina Jolie. They are working people. There are thousands of actors out there, many of whom you would recognize, who are just scraping by.

I didn't come from a family with money. We did fine, but to use the word "privileged" to describe us would be absurd. I was privileged in that I got a jump on a retirement fund and I had a passport full of international stamps. I suppose I was privileged in that I was invited to fancy parties (that gave me panic attacks) and sometimes got recognized on the street (which also gave me panic attacks.)

But this idea that my income has ever drowned out my ability to relate to "regular people?"

That's about as laughable as the cover of the National Enquirer.

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Why would we want Mrs. Doubtfire 2?

premiere November 24th, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Mrs. Doubtfire. It's astounding that people see me, a 34-year-old writer who lives in Virginia, and still recognize Lydia Hillard.

Ever since the movie came out, people have been wanting a sequel. Maybe Mrs. Doubtfire could be working as an undercover cop? Masquerading as an international spy? Blowing the lid off injustices in the beauty pageant industry? There is no end to the possibilities of contrived silliness.

While I'm grateful to have been part of a movie that touched so many people, I can't help but wonder why that isn't enough. It doesn't make any sense that there would be a follow-up to the story, but that doesn't seem to matter. Mrs. Doubtfire 2 doesn't have to be good - sequels almost never compare to the original - but people seem to want more anyway.

As we dive into the holidays and this Season of Wanting, epitomized by commercials suggesting that a Lexus with giant bow would be a great gift, I'm reminded that this is just how we tend to do things. We want more of everything. We are a nation of consumers, ready to trample each other to death for a cheap blender or stab someone over a parking spot at Wal-mart. We make long lists of things we don't need, but we suddenly feel empty without them.

We can easily mistake the endless wanting for ambition, but in reality it looks a lot like self-imposed suffering based on our own fears of not being good enough.

Because for that one flickering moment, we get more of __________ and then we feel like we've accomplished something meaningful. It seems like a tangible indication that we have a place in the world. For one second, we can take a deep breath...until we see that Williams Sonoma is having a sale on simmer sauces and we begin the wanting all over again.

And then you throw in a little nostalgia. I get it - there was something wonderful about the 90s. It was a simpler time. I, too, long for those days when you could walk someone right to the airplane gate and everybody could eat gluten. When "Whoa!" could be a catchphrase. When The Real World presented reality television as a groundbreaking social experiment, instead of a way to get famous for being rich and idle.

But, as countless people discover at this time of year, it's really hard to go home again. The world is a constantly changing place. And sometimes, in trying to recapture the past, you can ruin the memory of what you had. It's kind of like wearing a mini-skirt when that's no longer a good idea.

Maybe Mrs. Doubtfire had its time. In 1993. It seems greedy to try to squeeze more out of it. It's flattering that people want more, but maybe we can just be grateful for what already exists. Maybe we can take that deep breath and just be content with what is.

I don't know if there will be a sequel. Maybe there is a way to do it well. But I come back to the original question: why do we want it? Why do we want more of something that is just fine as it is?

My life has moved on since 1993. After I retired from acting, I spent a long time pretending that movies never happened, because when I talked about my childhood, people looked at me funny or accused me of not getting over it. So, I didn't talk about it for 10 years, and then I was accused of running from my past. I realized that I needed to stop caring about those outside opinions and do what felt right.

There will really never be total dissociation from Doubtfire. When you are part of a movie that is on TV almost every Sunday afternoon - a movie that people quote to you in line at the grocery store, a movie that has become a part of the culture of the 90s - it's just not really possible.

So, I embrace it.

Finally.

And then I let it go.

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Beyond the Bed, Bath and Beyond

I went to the Bed, Bath and Beyond a few days ago. I had to run in to get a new cartridge for my SodaStream machine because mine ran out and I have a serious addiction to bubbly water with a slice of lemon. I live in a college town and the kids are just getting back to school, so the place was packed. There were freshman and parents standing in the aisles, looking overwhelmed and dazed about what was about to happen to them.

I grabbed what I needed and got in line to pay when I noticed a girl and her father who were shopping together. The daughter was wearing a university sweatshirt and her father kept pushing up his glasses, clearly stressed out about choosing a desk lamp for her dorm. They looked ready to come to blows over color preference. He was showing her the features of the lamp he liked and she was having none of it. She liked the purple one.

I tried not to stare, but I love watching the kids come back to school. I tend to be enamored with normalcy. Since I started acting as a pre-schooler and worked consistently until I retired, I never got to be a full-time student until I attended college at age 28. By then, I was living in a four-bedroom house with my husband - so the experience was not at all traditional. I never got to fight with my dad about dorm furniture. I certainly had other exciting opportunities in my childhood, but there were many normal kid things that I missed out on. So, when I see others participating in these kinds of traditional life moments, I can't help but find them intriguingly beautiful.

When the lamp battle was over, the father and daughter got in line behind me, both fuming slightly. When I stepped up to pay, the woman at the checkout stared at me. I started chit-chatting, which is what I tend to do, in the hopes that comments about the weather might divert attention from what I know is the real issue. She would not be deterred.

Had I seen Mrs. Doubtfire? I looked a lot like that girl. No, I looked JUST like that girl.

I responded by saying "I get that a lot" which is my go-to phrase because it is true.

She kept staring at me while I fumbled with my wallet. The dad behind me was tapping his credit card on the handle of the overflowing cart. I glanced back at the tower of shower caddies and plastic drawer sets and the purple, THAT'S RIGHT, DAD, PURPLE desk lamp in the cart. As I was signing the slip, I heard the dad telling his daughter that he really thought she needed just one more set of towels. Her sharp sigh indicated that she felt her current towel situation was sufficient.

I quickly grabbed my bag and left before the cashier could ask any more specific questions.

If I had been totally truthful, I would have admitted to the checkout woman that yes, when I was 14, for a few months I had filmed a movie. And now I'm in my thirties and I live in Virginia and although I'm thrilled that the movie was important to people, it's strange to still be asked about it.

But if I had confessed, there would have been the calling over of other employees and selfies and questions holding up of the line and trapping everyone behind me in a movie-worshipping vortex. Because that's what happens.

What I really wanted was for that dad and daughter to get out of the Bed, Bath and Beyond. I wanted them to set up her crappy dorm room with the purple desk lamp and the not-quite-enough towels. I wanted them to eat take-out burritos and chips out of a greasy bag.

Because then they would sit on the floor and the dad would realize it's not just the towels he's worried about. Maybe he gets up the guts to say he's proud of her, or maybe he just says something about her needing to work hard and get good grades because she's a smart girl.

And then the daughter would be embarrassed but secretly thrilled the way we all are when our dads say something dorky but sweet. And maybe she admits to being nervous about starting college and maybe she doesn't - but either way, she feels strengthened by the fact that at this moment, all she has to do is eat a burrito with her dad who let her get the purple lamp anyway.

I wanted their night to be about her brave venture into the terrifying, thrilling world of college. I did not want it to be about the fact that a retired actor was in front of them in line at the Bed, Bath and Beyond. I didn't want the focus of their conversation to be what I did more than two decades ago.

I know I romanticize the normal and that my adoration for the mundane could be a "grass is greener" situation. But I love those traditional social milestones and so I want them for others. I truly believe there is something inherently wonderful about the simple things in life - the connections, the transitions, the moments of silence. I love being able to acknowledge and enjoy them.

Maybe the none of it went down the way it went in my head, maybe there was not a single special moment or take-out burrito.

But I really hope there was.

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Spinning out of control

I suck at being recognized. Some actors are really good at it. Sally Field is masterful. She is sweet, calm and gracious.

I am not masterful.

I panic.

It's not that I'm annoyed by people - it's just that I get really nervous because I want to be what they expect of me. I want, for one mere moment of my life, to be cool. Instead, my neck turns bright red and I knock over a water-glass and say something inappropriate because that's what happens when I'm uncomfortable. And when the attention is on me, I'm inevitably uncomfortable.

Then, I end up feeling like I've failed yet again. People walk away and I imagine them saying "Well, that was...awkward."

Sometimes, my awkwardness is only enhanced by the situation.

I used to take these spin classes. If you have ever been in a spin class, you know it is not an attractive time. You sweat, grimace and curse the apparently genital-free person who invented bicycle seats. It’s downright masochistic that they put mirrors in there.

One day, I was working really hard and climbing the imaginary hill. The spin instructor was looking at me, so much that I checked my sports bra just to make sure everything was still in its proper place. She squinted at me with her head cocked to the side. I hoped that maybe she just had sweat in her eyes.

Then, she hoped off her bike, mid-spin and ran to the stereo. She proceeded to shuffle through her songs. She came up with what she wanted, and blasted it. It was Jump Around, the song to which I danced ineptly in Mrs. Doubtfire.

She stared at me, searching for some spark of acknowledgement. I kept my head down and attempted to pedal fast enough that my bike could fly off its stationary bar and slam through the wall and into the parking lot where I could make my getaway.

She yelled to me over the music “HEY! DO YOU LIKE THIS SONG? DOES IT MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE?” I smiled. Because when I don’t know what to say, I smile. It's like a reflex. Whereas other people wittily retort, I smile and freeze like a wax museum version of myself.

When that song ended, she hopped off again and played another song, Gettin’ Jiggy wit It.

Because it was sung by Will Smith.

Who I worked with on Independence Day.

Yeah, it was something of a stretch, but apparently she begged to differ. She looked to me, raised her eyebrows and nodded, pointing at me with both index fingers all while getting jiggy herself.

“YEAH! RIGHT?” she yelled at me.

"Oh." I said. "Ha."

Which was all I could think of to say.

She seemed to be some sort of musical stalker. I glanced around the room. Did any of the other 30 spinners see what was going on? Thankfully, everyone else seemed more concerned about how much their own asses were burning to notice that I had my own personal soundtrack playing.

There was nothing else to do but keep my head down and cycle faster. And hope she didn't have a cell phone camera. After class, I got my foot stuck in the pedal and fell off my bike because I was trying rush out without being noticed. Guess how that turned out?

So, if we run into each other out in the world, just be forewarned: I am no Sally Field. I will likely trip over something and swear in front of your children.

And I am probably going to be sweating.

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