15: Movie Critic, MD

15: Movie Critic, MD

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Movie Critic, MD

Chase down your passion like it’s the last bus of the night.

~Terri Guillemets

“I quit.” Those were words I never expected to hear coming from my mouth. I had been raised to persevere in even the direst of situations, but those two little words led me to a new job in a new city with a new home and new patients. I am a family physician, and I had developed the courage to leave a medical practice I felt had stifled my growth as a clinician. I had started over but soon learned I hadn’t started over far enough away.

Sitting in my new office during a lunch break, I sighed at the mountain of paper charts sitting on my desk. I had a tendency to skip lunch to tackle all that chart documentation, but something told me to grab a ham sandwich and give my brain a break with a lighthearted Internet search. What I soon discovered made me giddy as a schoolgirl. After a few phone calls, I scampered into the front office and found several pairs of receptionist eyes looking up at me.

“I need to take some time off next week,” I said. “Can someone help me adjust my patient schedule?”

Loraine, a receptionist and dear friend, answered, “Sure thing, doc. Anything going on you want to share?” It may have been my happy feet dance that gave me away.

“I am going to go to the movies.”

A small giggle escaped the lips of the other staff. “You are going to take time off from work to go to the movies?”

“More than that, I am going to go to a film set in Wisconsin to meet Johnny Depp.”

That certainly drew some attention as questions swirled around the room. How did I know about a film shoot? Did I know if the actor would actually be there? How could I know it was not an Internet hoax? Of course, I had answers for all of them. I had confirmed the film shoot with the local Visitor Center in Columbus.

Then came the speculative looks that told me I lost my mind to fly across the country to do such a thing. After all, I was a professional and professionals are serious people; they do proper things and do not pursue obscure adventures. That was what I had always told myself but something shifted in me that day. I had quit a position that made me unhappy, had made all these life adjustments by moving and changing jobs, but I still had not found a way to find that life balance. The stack of papers on my desk told me so.

For me, movies had always been essential escapism. The silver screen could erase every worry and transport me into other worlds for hours at a time. I had dreamed of being a film critic, a female Roger Ebert, since high school and the opportunity to see that magic in action was far too tempting.

But Loraine understood. She smiled a toothy grin and gave me a pat on the back. It seemed she understood that life need not come burdened with conventional trappings.

I completed my chart documentation that day with verve.

A week later, I found myself on a plane to Chicago followed by a three-hour drive in a rental car to Wisconsin. My first stop was the Visitor Center.

“I can’t believe you came!” Visitor Center director Kim Bates and I had conversed on the phone several times over the past week. We hugged as if we were long lost friends.

“I wouldn’t miss it.”

“You must be a big fan then.”

I had been a fan of the actor since my high school days, but it was difficult to explain that this trip meant far more than that. I had always done what others expected of me. It was time to step out of that box into what made me happy. Now that I had the means to explore those options it seemed a shame to let it go.

Sadly, the film shoot with Johnny Depp was canceled at the last minute but I did get to watch Christian Bale shoot a scene with Billy Crudup for Michael Mann’s Public Enemies at the Capitol building in Madison. I also got to tour the downtown Columbus sets and visit a home that had been transformed into a 1930’s brothel. My wildest dreams of becoming one with the silver screen had come true.

I went home with an exciting story though I was missing the icing on my fantasy cake. I topped it off a week later when my new Wisconsin friends notified me that Johnny Depp had arrived in town to complete his part of the film shoot. Some would say I was a stalker to hop back on that plane, and I still get picked on to this day, but in my mind what I did was round out the experience.

Columbus was just as I left it, a movie wonderland. As I waited in a crowd that night near the Universal Studios set, a woman whispered, “Did you hear a woman was coming all the way from Connecticut?”

A little embarrassed that I had become a quirky topic of discussion, I answered, “That’s me.”

A teacher, a hospice nurse, a high school student, they all took me in that night with open arms, and I felt accepted by people who simply yearned for adventure just as I did. No professional roles or social expectations could stymy our enthusiasm. And at four o’clock that morning, Midwestern charm was reciprocated by the bohemian swagger of a famous actor. My heart palpitated when Johnny Depp put his arms around me in a big bear hug. The moment lasted minutes but would be a source of major change in my life.

“Thanks, Johnny.”

Back home, central Connecticut regaled my tale through gossip that spreads as it always does through small towns. The patients loved it! In fact, the story had such impact that the town newspaper printed a story on my travels and offered me a position as a film critic that soon expanded to my writing for six local newspapers. I could not believe my good fortune.

A year later, that fortune expanded to the red carpet. Though there were naysayers who told me that my review column was too small or that I had not made enough of a name for myself, my Columbus adventures taught me to always expect more, to keep dreaming. I applied for press credentials to the Los Angeles Film Festival, eager to see the Hollywood premiere of Public Enemies. I dashed out of my medical office panting with excitement that I had made it to the big time. “LA just called. I am in!”

A whoop went up through the medical staff and Loraine nodded her approval. Unlike some who stifled others with societal expectations, she knew that you can be whatever you want to be. With her support, my childhood dreams had come to fruition and I could give myself the not so official title of movie doctor.

I completed my chart documentation that day in nirvana.

And yes, the red carpet was amazing.

I learned back then that quitting isn’t always quitting. Sometimes it is starting over. By listening to my inner voice, quitting led me to my biggest win, a balanced life doing all the things I loved.

~Tanya Feke, MD

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