4 years ago I had just graduated from The School for Film and Television in New York City and was full of hope and encouragement as I began auditioning for roles in independent films and TV pilots. Rob was working steadily as a photo assistant on fashion shoots while building his own portfolio as a photographer. We were celebrating our one year anniversary of living together in a fine little apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. We were looking forward to the end of the Bush administration and faithfully wore our John Kerry tee-shirts with the careless abandon of two people who knew they’d bet on a sure thing. The war was an obvious mess, the economy was beginning to slip, and the environment was becoming a hot topic. Here in our little New York bubble the choice seemed like a no brainer. Wanting to witness the landslide victory on the evening of the election I was glued to our little TV with fuzzy reception, switching between local networks with increasing disbelief. This could not be happening…
What followed for me can only be described as Second Term Bush Administration Induced Clinical Depression. I was inconsolable for several months. I had lost faith in The System and in The American People. How could we have chosen this? …And legitimately this time, it would seem. I felt like the country was becoming something I didn’t recognize anymore; something I couldn’t identify with. My general disillusionment caused me to reevaluate the usefulness of a career as an actor. Depression made it hard to work up the self assuredness to subject myself to the brutal audition circuit (gaining 40 lbs. in my malaise didn’t help me any either.) So I fell back on my old day job as a nanny and stayed down. I dropped out all together. I avoided reading the paper and refused to watch the news… not even the Daily Show. I cared for infants, who didn’t know Jon Stewart from Rush Limbaugh. And I took some solace in the idea that, at least I was having a positive influence on one individual’s formative years. But mostly I was just grateful I didn’t have to talk to anybody.
Then, two years ago, the mother of a child I had cared for as an infant announced that she was going to have another baby, and would I return to take care of both children the following Fall? (Yes we book babysitters a year in advance here in New York!) This was a family that I had particularly loved, and whose general liberal attitudes echoed my own frustration with the status quo. But I would have to steel myself to work up the enthusiasm to care for and converse with a 3 year old. Now, the third year of a child’s life is about as formative as you get, and I resolved to be the best version of myself for Ella.
And so it was just last Fall that I began to dig myself out, with the help of a bright and energetic child who reminded me of myself at her age. I remembered that I loved to dance and go on the swings and make believe, and that there were people worth fighting for. It all sounds so corny, but it took a huge burst of hope to even begin paying attention to the news again. Imagine my surprise, to emerge from this stupor to find a black man and a woman as two of the front runners for the 2008 election. This may be a country I could identify with after all…
At the time of the New York primary I was still unsure how I would vote. I didn’t see much difference in the platforms of Clinton and Obama. But it was Obama’s rejection of special interests’ campaign contributions that swayed me to his side on Super Tuesday. And as the primaries continued and drew to a fever pitch, I became more and more confident in my vote. I was impressed by Barack’s unwillingness to engage in dirty politics and after his now famous speech on race, I decided to make my first ever political campaign contribution.
Part of me was so afraid to give over to hope, because I had learned just how hard I was able to fall. But when the campaign asked contributors to call democrats in “battle ground states” I found myself on the phone, talking to people in Kentucky and West Virgina, listening to the voices of strangers explaining their positions. Many of them assured me that Obama already had their vote. Some thanked me for making calls. And then there were a few people who told me that not only would they be voting for Obama, but that they had also joined the phonebank, and were helping register voters in their own home towns. I began searching Obama.com for volunteer opportunities, and started going to street fairs to register voters on the weekends. At first I was a little sheepish about my involvement, thinking Rob would maybe mock my enthusiasm. And although I think he was a little surprised by the way I was now choosing to use my spare time, when I got off the phone one night from making phone calls to Oregon, he told me he was proud of me. And I was too.