Sunday, December 11, 2011

On Holidays During Financially Leaner Years

Let’s face it. Some years, we’re just not as financially liquid as we’d all like to be when the holidays roll around. This is one of those years for us. For me, it’s especially daunting because my birthday is December Ninth. And a grown ass adult, birthdays aren’t about getting presents the way we used to when we were kids. This year, I’m reminding myself that birthdays and the holidays are all about the spirit of the occasion this year.

It’s not like I lost my savings in the stock market or anything awful like that, but I did run into some financial... realities. The role I booked in Republic of Two [one of several projects I shot this year] required that I get back into SAG to be able to perform in the movie. While I joined SAG in 1999, there’s a long, drawn-out and frustrating story about how I lost my membership, and when it was time to come back, I had to pay $3,000. That’s American dollars, btw. Luckily, SAG gave me three months to pay the balance, and it was due at the end of October. Near the beginning of October, I had to replace the clutch in my car. $1500. YIKES.

If you’ll notice, these abnormal expenses were both in the same month. On top of that, my sweetheart is in grad school and paying the final year of tuition, which is the most expensive year. As you can see, financially, we’re a little bit lean right now. Which also means that we’re not able to visit my family in Georgia for Christmas this year [we rotate every year, so the last time was in 2009]. That hurts. But– we have each other! And we’re lucky enough to be able to drive to my in-laws’ place, because they’re in California.

Because of all this, I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks trying to get us into the spirit, reminding us both that it’s really about being together, being with friends and family, and simply celebrating how awesome it is to be alive. Funnily enough, everything was immediately more bearable as soon as we put up Christmas decorations.

What I did not expect was this – not expecting lavish gifts and only looking for the spirit of the day made my birthday amazing.

Birthdays are an overwhelming experience with facebook. So many people wishing you an awesome day and an awesome year ahead fills the heart right up. If that makes me sappy, then call me sappy - s'okay. Also, an old friend [when we were friends, we were inseperable, and we were as close to each other as I’ve been with anyone in my entire life], wrote me. Life brings people together and pulls them apart, and we just haven’t been communicating for the last few years, and she’s rarely on FB, so... You know the drill. Best of all, she called me by the nickname she gave me, and had the grace to use asterisks on all the inside letters just so I was the only person who knew. That was one killer gift.

My laptop died. It was born in 2005, so I’m beyond happy with the service it gave me, but I’m not exactly able to rush to the Apple store this weekend and get a new one, so it is sad. I was at Melrose Mac, seeing if they could fix it when they told me it was unfixable. I kinda knew it might be unfixable [hell, the guy at the Genius Bar literally laughed in my face when I brought it to them. Apple calls it ‘Vintage.”], so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Then, on the overhead music in the store, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” came on. Sir Duke is more than just an amazing song to me. When mom was pregnant with me she would often play “Songs in the Key of Life.” When “Sir Duke” would come on, I would go crazy in her tummy. Dancing full out in her uterus. I tend to associate that song with that story and hearing it on my birthday at Melrose Mac felt like a good omen about rebirth, about starting over. New.

I may be in the middle of a renaissance.

My godmother emailed a pic to my mom and I from the time period when I was about seven and my mom was about thirty. It was taken in Central Park in New York City at the Alice and Wonderland statue, on one of my first trips to the city. Not only are we both rocking some serious 80s fashion, but you can see in my face and body language that I am falling in love with that city. And I really was – I very much remember that. But, because of bad storage issues, my mom lost most of her photos of us from when I was a kid. [we had no idea photos needed to be stored for archival, we just put them away. Photo Archival is IMPORTANT, y’all - even digital pics.] Because of this, that pic is an amazing gift; anything we can get our hands on is literally priceless. And the pic is GOOD.

One of the things my sweetheart brought home was Hershey's Kisses. We don’t [ahem, normally] keep candy in the house, so it was surprisingly fun. Also, because my mom is a chocolate fanatic, I grew up with Hershey's Kisses always being in the house. I mean, they were a constant on the grocery list like milk, butter and eggs. They were around so constantly that I completely lost interest in them. Even when they are so amazing. If you like Hershey's chocolate, you know exactly what I'm talking about. What was weird is that my mom was going through Hershey's Kisses the most at the time when that pic was taken. I felt such a large sense of symmetry to look at that pic and remember that time and have Hershey's Kisses melt in my mouth all at once that it was difficult to ignore. Pretty fucking awesome, I tell you what.

Funnily enough, even though I was fully paid up with SAG six weeks ago, it took a while for SAG card to arrive in the mail for some reason. BUT - it came in the mail on my birthday. On my birthday! It’s difficult not to feel the universe is saying something to me with that gesture. And you know what? I’ll take it! It's plastic like a credit card [not paper like AEA or AFTRA cards] and it is shiny. Most of all, it makes two important statements: Malcolm Devine is a professional performing artist and he’s been working in SAG projects since 1999.

These were phenomenal birthday gifts. If I were expecting large material things, I would have completely missed their exquisite subtlety. I feel like Hugh Grant at the end of a romantic comedy – “Love actually IS all around!” That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to get a huge LCD TV, a new computer, a new couch and a new car with a big red bow on it someday. But, this ain’t bad, y’all. This ain’t bad at all.

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