First Day

For most of my life, I reaped the benefits of being the new kid. It’s a bizarre way of to grow up, getting to re-invent yourself every year or two and never really being held accountable for your past. It might be one of the things that led me to be so comfortable as an actor and so good at creating a character.

I’m not saying I was dishonest as a kid, because dishonesty is much harder to do than you might think. Most people, even when they’re lying, end up being honest to some degree, it’s unavoidable. At the beginning of “Accidental Tourist”, Anne Tyler describes Macon Leary going through phases and his wife fell in love with him when he was a quiet poet, so he found himself unable to shake the veneer… But the truth is you can’t hide who you really are for very long. Macon Leary probably always was that quiet poet.

But I did shed personalities and cliques with complete ease. There were times when I had a rough patch, I pissed off the wrong people or my newest persona was a little offensive, and I survived these emotional and physical beatings by always keeping in mind that the thing I was going through and the people I currently held dear, would all pass, sooner rather than later.

But those first days were always hard. I had never done the summer reading, had never purchased the right brand of khakis. And the times when, by a stroke of luck, I did know what was going on, and did feel right at home right away… well, I always knew it wouldn’t last, that I was gonna change schools and lose all these people soon enough.

Now, I’ve been living in New York for eight years, which is longer than I have ever lived anywhere. I definitely feel like this is home, even when the pangs hit for Iowa, North Carolina or California, and although I’ve held on to my “new kid” training, I don’t really ever feel like I’m completely out to sea the way I did for most of my life.

Yesterday, Jordana left her old job behind after eight years, and started a completely new life. She has been looking at it as leaving one job and starting a new one, but it is a complete life change. Her old job was in real estate, working for a lawyer in private practice where she answered directly to clients and where her autonomy and responsibilities were like the wagon wheel grooves in the ancient Roman roads, created by countless hours of repetition and appeared to be the only comfortable way to move forward.

Her new job is in the non-profit world, where she will be the executive assistant to a person who will be working for the greater good of the company. She will no longer be dealing directly with the clients, she will no longer have autonomy, and she will be, for the first few weeks, utterly at sea in terms of what’s expected.

I make a big deal about my friends and loved ones, I really feel incredibly lucky to get to spend my time with the people who tolerate me, so please indulge me for just a minute. It’s simply awe-inspiring, in the same way that so much of what she does is, that she would decide to make this change purely because she wants a chance at something better than we currently have.

Jordana’s restless spirit is a defining aspect of our marriage, and as such is a defining aspect of my life. Like everything else, it has a flip side… it borders on ugly when it translates to dissatisfaction, when she can’t enjoy success on its own terms… but her relentless need to strive for something more and something better is really joyful to be a part of.

When I think back on being a kid, it was always Thanksgiving that was hardest, when the old friends had really moved on to their new relationships and the new friends were still too new to be intimate with. I don’t know why I always had close friends by Christmas break, but three weeks earlier was the loneliest time of the year.

I know Jordana’s going through a modified version of that right now, at her new job. A exciting as it is, and as right a decision as it was to make, there has to be a sense of terror that she is suddenly responsible for things she couldn’t possibly prepare for, and that the benefits of the old job are, in a flash, now gone. The fact that she has done this purposefully, and purely because she knows that it will lead to something better, is really audacious and beautiful.

These small decisions really do make one’s entire life. It isn’t the path less traveled necessarily, it’s the path of discomfort. Choosing a way that requires that you work harder, work more, because of your faith that such a decision will make your life and the lives of your family better… that to me is the very definition of bravery. It’s really exciting to be a part of it, even just from riding shotgun.