Kairos – The Supreme Moment

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Diana Huntley 7Photograph: Luke Latty

Once in a while, you find yourself wondering how your life got to be a certain way. And you find yourself wandering through the catacombs of your memories, searching for those golden orbs, those life-defining moments where the circumstances had to be so specifically the way they were, or nothing would be the same.

Yesterday, I found a boarding pass from August 20th 2013 tucked away carefully between the pages of an old journal – which means today is 3 years since it all started. 3 years since I opened Pandora’s box and things have spiraled out of control, sometimes to epic highs and adventures, other times to the deepest desperation.

Diana Huntley 6Photograph: Luke Latty

Pandora’s box is probably not the best way to describe given the negative connotations of the mythology. While it can often feel that way, you cannot put a price on experience. When I first met my acting mentor, a small yet imposing woman in her 80s, I got the impression that she did not see a spark that she particularly wanted to work with – that she saw a teenage girl, sheltered and who she saw to be ‘lacking curiosity’ proclaiming she wanted to be an actress, with nothing special to back her up, and no idea of what the journey would require. She saw a girl who was shy and intimidated in her presence, and when asked why she wanted to act and who her role models were hardly knew how to answer. She didn’t hear from the girl for a month after they met, she probably thought that her lack of enthusiasm to take her on had taken its toll – that she had perhaps done a service to the acting community by discouraging those who did not have the heart to ever make it in the real world. She told her to come back when she knew what she really wanted out of life.

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So a month passed and the girl never crossed her mind again, until she saw one afternoon as she was checking the mail that somebody had left something. A letter with the answers to all the questions she had asked that I hadn’t been able to answer – questions I had never thought to ask myself. I had done the ‘strange’ homework she had assigned: to take her assigned page of the Spoon River Anthology and draw a visual representation of the character. I had followed my instructions or ‘marching orders’ in the only way I knew how – to ‘please the teacher’, as decades of modern education got in the way of things that used to come so naturally. I had to ask myself what had happened to the curious little girl who created worlds out of her imagination and dancing puppets out of tissue boxes. What changed her mind I will never know, but for some reason, that day she saw something and decided to take her on.

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And so began the weekly two hour sessions that had the girl trembling with fear. The object exercises where she would be chastised for her lack of attention to detail, and the people watching tasks that would ensue as she reported back on the things she had learnt by beginning to notice the world around her for the first time in a decade. The poetry analysis exercises where it seemed like a paradox to walk the line between trying to be right versus being creative enough to find the secrets of the character in each piece (there isn’t even a ‘right’ answer). The mounting book and film list that I had to consume at her prescription – most of them difficult to track down and not what I was accustomed to at all. The deciphering of Shakespeare’s sonnets, I mean seriously, how much does the man have to say about love and death?! A lot apparently. Hundreds of sonnets worth apparently. The laziness that crept into my visual representations as I did not understand how any of this was relevant at all to acting! Thinking back, she let me get away with murder! There was nothing thoughtful and truly authentic about this little girl, trying to please, trying to get that pat on the head.

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It is only looking back now, that I see why she was so desperate to get me out of the constructs of the way I had lived my life up to when she came into my life. She was very harsh during our hours together – I used to ask myself why I paid for the uncertainty and veritable mess of emotions I always emerged from her Newtown apartment with. Yet the names of some of the amazing Australian actors that had crossed her path before they became something kept me wondering what exactly it was that she was offering me. Understated but brilliant, she was. For an artist, she was actually incredibly judgmental, yet despite her biting humor knew exactly how to get the best out of me. The most accurate description of her, and I am certainly not the first of her students to use it,  would be ‘female Yoda’.

It is only with hindsight that I see now that she was never trying to teach me ‘how to act’. She had been trying to teach a misguided ordinary young girl how to live an extraordinary life. Trying to teach her how to look beyond the wall, to seek her own answers and to break free of the oppression which surrounded her thinking. During the time I was with her, I went to movies alone, read more than I had in a decade, visited museums that I would never otherwise have set foot in. She was preparing me in a way my parents or the education system never did, as much as possible before she threw me to the wolves. She was making sure I would be ok when New York City had its way with me.

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That last session, somehow I got the feeling she knew she was not going to see much of me again. She had numerous students return to her from their stint overseas, Hollywood actors from Australia who would show up at her doorstep from time to time to camp out on her living room floor in search of answers. Yet I have not seen her for years, as the Skype conversations grow further and further apart, I think it is time to let her know the impact she has had on my life.

How do we know if people are meant to be teachers or partners in this life? Some will become lifelong friends who will walk with us in our journeys and we will share our highs and lows and moments of discovery as we grow together. Those will be there with you as you go through your most important milestones, to tell you they are proud when your most daring dreams come to fruition. Others are there for a brief instant to relay an important experience before they are gone, and all we are left with the lessons they brought and the tremendous gifts they have given us during that precious intersection of our paths. Those are your teachers.

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As the lessons of The Untethered Soul come to mind again and again, I am forcefully reminded not to cling. Not to hold on to things that are not meant to be, people who are not meant to stay. Most of our pain comes from when expectations do not meet reality – that is not saying to not have any expectations, rather to embrace the fluidity of the path that The Universe is helping you manifest every second.

However, there is a difference between letting go when you know its time to move on and not doing what you know needs to happen out of stubbornness or fear. There is a merit to knowing when the ball is in your court instead of pushing the responsibility and blame onto circumstances or other people.

When I talk to friends from back home, inevitably one of them asks me how we find the courage to act (in regards to going for the acting career and immigrating to USA) – how we know ‘it was the right choice.’ What they are really asking me is ‘how do I know whether to let go and move on or let go and go all in’?

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As unqualified as I feel to be giving life advice, the answer is always this: I never ‘found’ the courage, I never ‘knew’ it would be right, I committed myself to what my heart knew was right knowing it was what would open my life to possibility and enrich it in a way I could not begin to perceive from my sheltered existence. I stepped out of my own way through actions which committed me rather than thought (i.e. paid for my theatre program, bought plane tickets, told everyone I was going – and when the festivities were over and the day loomed around, there was nothing left to do but get on the plane). It did not feel right on the day, thinking about the people I was leaving behind, the risk I was taking, it did not feel right at all. Today, despite the difficulties, I know absolutely it was the right decision.

Maybe not everybody has to do something that drastic, but we all have these moments where we are waiting for the time to be right, some sign to give us the courage, or some friend who ran 10,000 miles away to America to give you the permission to do something crazy and life-changing.

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I don’t know how many people will even read this, but one is enough. I’ve had some special moments where people tell me that I had inspired them to do make a positive change in their life. Like Michael Singer asserts, unconditional happiness is our choice, a choice that sits squarely on our shoulders. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to release ourselves from our preconceived notions of how life must happen; to free ourselves from the toxicity in our lives – whether that is our own inner roommate, or an insidious, empty or simply boring lifestyle/situation/person we know. Instead of playing the victim card, it is simple to see that the choice must be unconditional if we remember to live as though we were on the verge of death, which we are. When something feels stagnant or akin to the repetition of an unfulfilling story, it is a fairly good indicator that it’s time to move on instead of resisting the flow of life, and clinging onto something that no longer brings you joy. Does this sound familiar? It is ok to dance with life. Shamelessly seek out those things that will make the rest of your life the best of your life.

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I want to put this energy out there into The Universe – consider this your sign to do that thing. What was/is/will be the moment which changes everything for you? Are you letting it get away?

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Here’s a checklist of the things which would not have happened if I had chosen to stay with my degree to a high-flying career in finance/marketing, my comfy relationship and network of friends, and familiar city (not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, but that wasn’t what my heart wanted):

– Moved to New York, twice to LA not knowing a single soul, gone through the immigration journey
– Explored Maui, Singapore, San Francisco, Big Sur, DC, Vegas
– Shot a travel series with Discovery in Indonesia over 4 months and watched it air across the Asia-Pacific over the past 8 months; other misc film projects
– Wrote the first draft of a feature length screenplay I hope to produce someday, writing a short film as a more realistic pre-cursor
– Adopted a 13 pound feline furball of ravenous hunger, who also eats my hair while I’m asleep
– Met unbelievable people who have changed my life dramatically, whether they are my closest friends now or we were only meant to meet briefly in this life as teachers. Your choices have a butterfly effect as we influence the lives of those we touch, and those they touch, in more ways they we fathom.
– Set up an acting career in Sydney…then left it
– So many ‘first times’ doing everything: abseiling, aeriel yoga, painting, pottery, martial arts etc; discovered where the talent ties
– Every other unbelievable moment: seeing Central Park in full bloom, showering with a water bottle to clean full body war paint off at 1am, spontaneous flights to USA and couch-surfing, walking on the ocean floor

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While social media is a beautiful highlight reel, I really must emphasise the hours I have spent crying into my salad (cause this is LA) and asking myself why I put myself out there, made myself vulnerable. We have all lost people, pets, opportunities, money and a little (or a lot of) dignity. We must acknowledge the pain, the very sketchy, scary and downright dangerous moments of our journeys. In the end, it will be worth it as it is about seeing each possibility through to its full extent – as long as that is where your heart wants to go.

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And so we are thrust into each new chapter of our lives before we are ready, or before we are ready to leave the last one behind. I think we as a generation struggle with the idea of the fear of missing out – we live in a time where so much possibility exists that we are so overwhelmed with options that we forgot to ask ourselves everyday: does this path align me with what I ultimately want out of life? I often struggle with the idea of how far to take something, there is an obsession with eliminating ‘what-ifs’. To save myself from the regret of not having tried hard enough, or not having tried at all. But when does commitment to a dream that nobody else can see begin to take more from you than the joy it brings? This is where we ask ourselves if we are able to enjoy the process or if somewhere along the line we lost sight of why we started – is sheer stubbornness killing your chances of ever achieving your goals, are you a person you want to be? Is it time to do something differently?

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I have been blessed in this journey where circumstance has aligned to grant me the means by which to do some of the amazing things. But in the case that they don’t, it really is on you to ask yourself what it is all worth to you. The question to ask yourself is ‘what is it I’m willing to give up for the outcome that I desire?’ What is your humanity worth to you, are you willing to push the boundaries of what you ever thought you would be willing to do? How does that sit with your conscience? How much physical and mental pain are you willing to endure?

And as for that friend who asked? I guess if I’m ever in Europe, I’ll ask her to introduce me to the people and places that have made her risk worth it.

For me, I know it will never be enough to live vicariously through others. I want to be there to experience it. I want my feet to sink into the wet sand, the water to run through my fingertips, to turn around and look somebody in the eye as they experience the same. Anything less will never be enough.

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Do what your heart says is right. Do what you have known all along to be right. Do it now, because the clock never stops ticking. Would you do anything differently if you knew you were dying? Well, you are. So don’t wait. The time will never be right. Kairos is Greek for the supreme moment. I know, because I have it engraved on a ring. What it reminds me is that it is possible to miss that moment. That moment, sadly, is not always up to us, sometimes it is up to others to rise to the occasion. However, what you CAN control is if they don’t, true grace is recognising when that moment has come and gone, and it is time for you to do the same. People don’t do what you want them to do – you can’t force somebody to do what you want them to. And ultimately, why would you want to impose your will on another? Those who value and honor you will accommodate your needs and compromise for your hopes and desires. Be secure enough in yourself to know that the people who are meant to write your story with you will be there and make the effort to be there. That is the river of life, one where the sooner we learn not to cling to the wrong things, we open ourselves up to the possibility of the right ones.

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‘All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent.

YOU – You alone will have stars as no one else has them. In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night. You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh.’ – Antoine de Saint-Exupery // The Little Prince

lukelattywondernesia-0209Photograph: Luke Latty

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