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my big deal

January 10, 2013

This morning I found out that I got nominated for an Academy Award. A real one. I still can’t really believe it. I don’t understand exactly what it means.

I turned on the tv this morning to see if we would be chosen. We knew we were short-listed. They announced all the big ones – the famous people. I was half-awake but my heart was still beating fast. I hadn’t planned on even watching because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I had told myself I didn’t mind if I didn’t get the nomination and truly, I think I wouldn’t have been devastated because I hadn’t really even let myself want it too much. I’m like that these last few years – cautious with my hope but also with my despair.  A rune stone I seemed to draw constantly in my ever-hopeful but terribly difficult twenties warned me frequently to “not collapse yourself into your highs or lows.”  I didn’t listen for a long time but now it’s a well-practiced skill. Even so, I turned on the tv.

And we got it. I verified it on the internet and there it was on the official Oscars page: Nominee. I didn’t quite know what to do.  I practiced a few things in my head. “Do I scream?” “No, I don’t feel like screaming and it will sound inauthentic and then I’ll remember this moment as inauthentic and I don’t want to be inauthentic.” Authenticity is the Holy Grail. It’s to the grown-up me what cool was to the junior high me. True but embarrassing and purpose-defeating to admit I want it. Spoils the effortless effect I’m striving for.

So I decided to take my cue from someone else, to see if it was a big deal based on how they reacted. Except the only people immediately available to me were the Strongheart Fellows. These are incredible young people that I currently live with, who would probably be impressed with what the Academy Awards are except they’re from places like Liberia and Afghanistan and were most likely too busy trying to grow up and survive Charles Taylor and the Taliban to watch Billy or Whoopie or even Jon Stewart, who is much more their taste and demo. Gabriel, the brilliant music-producer-in-training that I’ve known since he was a 15 year old in a refugee camp in Ghana, was the first person I told. He hugged me. He looked at me, trying to gauge my feelings. I looked back at him, trying to gauge his. “It’s a big deal,” I said, trying it on for size. “It is,” he agreed. Okay, we got that straight. Big deal. Check.

I went into a Starbucks and made a point of ordering my latte with whipped cream. “It’s a special occasion,” I announced to the barista. “I got nominated for an Academy Award today.” They all made a big deal of it in line and behind the counter. They gave me chocolate sprinkles on top. I felt lame and happy all at once.  “It’s a big deal,” I told myself.

The rest of the morning went by in an unshowered blur. The facebook response was huge, and yes, it was a big deal. Not many people called. Maybe I’m unpopular. Maybe most people were just giving me “space to absorb” as one friend said when I reached her. I think everyone thought I had “special” people to talk to – but the truth was, I wanted to call people from my past. People who had known me when I was just starting out, who had been markers and guides, who would know truly what a big deal it was.

I’m staying in Austin, Texas right now  – a town I used to live in full-time but now only know as a part-time returnee. This means I don’t have many friends here anymore but everyplace I turn is imbued with memory and meaning from my ever-hopeful but terribly difficult twenties. After I exhausted the Starbucks love (because it does get awkward after a while – a very very short while for them, I think), there wasn’t anyone to really go hunt down to share my good fortune with so I chose to go a very fancy grocery store that I used to love to wander years ago. I went inside and meandered around, gathering expensive cheese and fancy cookies, blood orange juice, random celebration foods. As I turned a corner, I suddenly felt myself whoosh back in time. I remembered walking in that exact place, almost twenty years ago.

I was homeless at the time. Not sleep-on-the-street homeless but close. Sleep-in-a–camper-on-a-friend’s-driveway, shower-with-a-water-hose, use-the-gas-station-bathroom homeless. It was this low-low, this period where nothing I touched seemed to go my way, that finally forced me to pull everything I had inside me to pack up and go to LA to try my dream in Hollywood. I had been in this exact spot in this exact store, wandering the aisles, killing time, and hoping for free samples when I decided to leave for LA. It wasn’t a graceful exit. It was hard and uncertain and scary and rough. I was homeless in LA (another camper, another driveway) but had eventually found my place and my people and my dream, which happened to be in the form of both film and the aforementioned young people from challenging places.

A therapist I had once (and I’ve had many – mostly great – ones) said “Where you have cried, you must go back and dance.” While I hadn’t cried in that spot and so didn’t need to return to dance, I think I must have done the zombie equivalent and gone numb back in that day, just to try to get by. Because what I felt suddenly today, as I whooshed back into the past, was deep deep feeling – unnameable except for relief. I cried, standing there with my fancy cheese and my expensive cookies that would have looked like a feast (and rent) to the homeless me. I cried hard and ugly, shaking with relief. Because I wasn’t that me anymore, because I had moved on finally, I was okay, I survived and I even did okay. I exhaled a breath I had been holding for twenty years.

It was a big deal.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Atwell permalink
    January 11, 2013 8:24 am

    BRAVO BRAVO Way to go Cori I’m very proud of you!

  2. Tanya Valentine permalink
    January 11, 2013 12:27 pm

    Love the nomination, love the blog, love your heart, and on top of it all, I love the chocolate sprinkles. As Joe B said, “This is a big f-ing deal”.

  3. Chrissy Lips permalink
    January 11, 2013 1:32 pm

    Love the blog Cori and I am incredibly proud of you!!! It is a very big deal!!! I love that you are getting recognized for your work!

  4. January 11, 2013 3:02 pm

    Beautiful to read. I’m so glad to get to see this part of you.

    I had to laugh about the first part of this post — It is so exciting to see this happening to you, I keep wanting to crow about it to everyone I know. I just didn’t want to look like a hanger-on.

    But as I kept reading, I could see the benefit of working through the quiet. What you know about yourself through the tears is worth a thousand of what other people might try to tell you.

    …Still, off to brag about you. Congratulations!

    • girlseeksworld permalink*
      January 11, 2013 5:56 pm

      It’s funny who runs through your mind at time like this. When I immediately thought of emailing you, I realized there’s a creative camaraderie that exists with certain people, even people that I don’t have in my immediate daily circle. I realized “Anne” :) was someone I wanted to talk to about this. (By the way, the book is still on my list, waiting like a little exciting jewel for me to dive into. I know the rewrite/edit will be amazing.)

      • January 11, 2013 7:54 pm

        We should be friends IRL. I’m not sure how to pull it off, but we totally should.

  5. Leslie Brand Coleman permalink
    January 11, 2013 3:51 pm

    Awesome job Cori! Very proud and happy for you!!! =-) Leslie

  6. Jamie permalink
    January 11, 2013 4:38 pm

    This brought tears. We are so proud of you. I told Malachi. He was so excited! Though I don’t think he even knows the meaning or what a big deal and Oscar is (I tried to explain) he was just so happy that Aunt Cori was getting an award. Best of luck! We will be cheering you on every second. We love you xo

  7. Stacey Cartlidge permalink
    January 11, 2013 5:18 pm

    Beloved, thank you for sharing this. I have tears in my eyes. You are so precious.

  8. Katy David permalink
    January 11, 2013 5:19 pm

    You’re amazing! It is a big deal and I am thrilled for you.

  9. January 11, 2013 8:48 pm

    Such a big deal… Cori it’s truly incredible. You exemplify what I think most of us want to do – spend our lives doing what we love, with who we love, and doing something that is meaningful. YOU chose that route – not necessarily the easiest one – but the one that’s right for you – and the many, many people whose lives you have touched with your smartness, your generosity, your capabilities, your passion. I feel so proud to have worked with you, to know you — you are the real deal Cori. Please know that your journey has inspired me too… and I’m sure many others! So enjoy it, savor it – it’s a VERY BIG DEAL!!!! And I left you a message:)

  10. January 11, 2013 10:53 pm

    Brilliant. So very well said Cori. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Michelle Cornell permalink
    January 11, 2013 11:35 pm

    I am so proud of you! Your life was always destined to do great things…
    We have laughed, cried, been knocked down, and have danced. Now it’s time to SHINE!
    This is the start—For the best is yet to come! You have worked so hard! So many lives have been changed. All because you said YES. You went to places where few would ever venture. Given all you had so others could…. You have done more in this lifetime already that may never be known by others… But Heaven knows!
    You have given flight to many broken wings!
    —-Academy Award nomination —–. I’m jumping for joy!!!
    Love you —
    Your sister Michelle

  12. Vaughn Bradley permalink
    January 12, 2013 2:06 am

    You don’t know me Cori, but we met once. I know your mom and sister. I live on the piece of land your mom and Werner owned and he called his Paradise. I just wanted to congratulate you on your nomination. I know you’re probably still numb, but trust me when I say, THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!! I know your mom and Michelle are so proud of you, with very good reason! I will pray for your movie and your nomination, but more importantly, I will pray that you continue to move forward but never forget where you have been. It keeps everything in perspective and helps you realize that even small successes can be a really big deal. I’ve learned this one myself. Best of luck!!!

  13. January 12, 2013 1:13 pm

    Cori – I’m quite late to the party here, but you are certainly a big deal. Congratulations!

  14. January 13, 2013 2:58 pm

    Cori – I’m a friend of Cindy Schreyers and she sent this to me. thankyou for sharing your story. Thank you for sleeping in a camper. Thank you for finding your people. Thank you for walking, jogging, crawling, running, crawling, walking running, jogging…. everything you did to keep moving forward. I’m inspired. I’m going to read this today to some of the people I work with to inspire them to find their peeps, delve into their greatness and simply KEEP MOVING. xxTina Overbury

  15. January 25, 2013 7:38 pm

    My dear sister Cori, I feel deeply touched to have watched your life unfold through many chapters…and your work blossom into a Big Deal. I will continue to cry and dance with you (with hopefully more dancing than tears in the future). You are an inspiration of courage and wisdom. Keep opening your strong heart for the world to see! Love you always, Adele xo

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