• Chris Banks

On What It Means When You're Absent From Others, And What You Take With You

Updated: May 23

It was the first week of February, for me. That’s when things started to feel a little strange. Almost like I knew something wasn’t being done that should have been. Now there were many confirmed cases in California, and the cruise ship was held back, and we shut down flights from one place on earth. I woke up and that’s when it hit me-the entire country should be shut down. I was house sitting at the time. There should not have been any international landings past the last week of January. That’s what I was feeling. And I was house sitting at the time. So I genuinely did not know what the next move would be. Each day passed, you heard more. You read about and then talked about, this virus. Every night you learn more, and every morning that came next, you learned more. It was lingering. Now it was a constant.

Is it here? Did I get it? Do I have it? Am I giving it to..

I’m pretty sure every New Yorker was asking themselves something like this, sometime in February, if not early March.

But here I was, I had a play read I was doing to start a run during the summer, I had just gotten a great little part in a film with a great team that I just met, and I was excited. I had just auditioned, AGAIN, for two shows. Everything was progressing as usual.

Yet, still, there it was. Every day you’d hear more and every night the number of cases would rise.

Table reads, rehearsal, more auditions. It was life as usual.

Then it wasn’t.

A week or so passed and you started to hear that they were going to close the bars. They might close the bars? Why? How can they just close the bars?

Then the news broke. The bars would close and all restaurants would close Sunday night. That’s when my first instinct of ‘leave’ kicked in

Then it was the schools. Their closing the schools? How?

The slow burn of data and news turned into massive leaps by businesses and local government left to scramble. I feared lockdowns and mass transit shutdowns and border closings. I couldn’t chance that. I had to get to my mom, in Boston. All the while a part of me never wanted to leave. This was my home now, too. Taking the train to get to the car rental place, I didn’t want to be on it and I was only one of a handful in the car. I stood all by myself, with my hands in my pocket. This was the first time it hit me. Seeing a still Manhattan was a smack in the face that something really bad was happening. And I was in the middle of it. I got to the place and I rented the car. What’s burned in my memory too is driving out of the city. I was looking at people buying hot dogs, still, on the street corners. Not many people out, even then. But the remnants of normal life still puttered along. It was surreal. A feeling I’ll never forget.

On the road to Boston I couldn’t help but think, and cry.

But even when i got to my mom. I didn’t get close to her until weeks after I was there, it’s a surreal experience- and what, 2 months later it still is! I’m not writing this as if I am not STILL going through it. I am. I’m still processing the shock, what it all means, the loss, the damage, the stupid insane bullshit. All of it. It hurts to think about.

It’s in my head every day I go to bed and every day I wake up. I can’t stand it. I keep asking myself how did we end up here? But I’ll leave that for another place, and time.

For now, that I’m thinking about is what it means when you’re absent from others, and what you take with you.

For me, it’s the joy (the nerves). The joy of meeting connecting creating with, trusting people who you literally just met. For me, the very definition of joy. That surrender of the ego. The immersion into experience. It’s the joy of an audition, the sweat, the nerves. LIFE. It’s the joy of walking in the city with a symphony in your head. The simple joy of helping another. Learning from another. For me, what it means is how much more joy I am ready to bring TO the world, and not just absorb from it. It’s hard to convey how much joy transfers throughout my body when I open up my email or message and someone wants to work with me, or even ask me my creative opinion. Anything like that. Do you realize how lucky I am? I’m so fortunate to even have ANY opportunities in this business. I don’t dilute myself into thinking otherwise. To say I’m full of joy walking into a first meet or read or talk or day of work would be an understatement. It’s ALL joy. That’s what I miss most. The joy. The joy from people. I think that’s what happens most when your absent from others, you almost wait in silence for ‘the missing’ to hit. Or you feel a memory, and miss that.

What you take with you is a different question, what I take with me from these experiences since being in New York is endless. First, don’t be so hard on yourself. We’re all working hard, sure there’s are days we all can work harder, but as long as your alive and your laughing and people want to be around you then take it for what it is , feel that ordinary love. Be happy, and smile. Second, we all need me days. Since being in New York I’ve slowly eradicated the practice from my existence, even though when in extreme stress or pain or sickness, I do recede into myself. But ‘me days’ are important, why? Because you can’t spend all of your energy and time only doing things for your future your career your friendships your social life your relationship or your family. You need to carve out time for YOU. Whatever that means to you. Third, receive people. It’s such a privilege to meet people for the first time and them share a story with you or a glimpse into their day of their life or what their dealing with or their successes. It’s a transformative thing and it’s endlessly rewarding. That ordinary love between two random forces in the universe. Fourth, people are talented, like SUPER talented. Since being in the city I have gotten to work with SO many INCREDIBLE UNIQUE talents that like, it’s taken me this long to appreciate just how special and genius we are. We’re in a unique time in the cosmos where we really can, with hard work and some luck, bend the arch of the universe. Some of the people I have gotten to work with and create with and listen to are up to such good work and remain so true to who they are that it humbles me as not only an artist, but a man. It makes me emote when I think about it and as I’m writing this. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to do so much with people so much younger than me so much more accomplished than me doing more so much more and unique things than me, because they are all literally incredible amazing human beings. They are true, to who they are, they do what they want to do and they don’t really care what you think about any of it. Do you realize how badass that is? For a single child who grew up pretty tough, getting to meet these people who’ve lived an even tougher life while creating their art, loving in the way that’s true to who THEY are, laughing and enjoying along the way. It’s breathtaking. It’s inspiring. And it’s extraordinarily humbling. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken away with me, just how talented and beautiful and capable and caring and kind and unique the world is (can be). Receiving people the way they are, listening. It’s truly a gift. And it’s only something that was possible for me by upping and moving to the greatest city on earth. I’ve taken so much with me during this time. I’m so grateful and eternally thankful for each person I’ve come across in my journey so far. Each and every one of you.

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