By Kellye Smith
Grateful for my ‘no’:
Escape from New York
Have you ever had somebody do something so kind for you that every time you saw or thought of them your heart was full of gratitude? That’s how I feel about Jesus. Most people might be upset and angry if they were told no, but I’m more thankful for the no that God gave me than any of the times He told me yes.
I had dreams. Huge dreams. I could close my eyes and smell the lights, cameras and action. The hairspray and makeup. I could hear the deafening applause from the crowds of adoring fans. Mississippi was simply too small to contain the dreams and aspirations that were on deck for me. It wasn’t just some hope either. It was only a matter of time before it became a reality. In my gut, I just felt it. Like a movie I’d seen a million times, I was reliving a life that felt like a memory.
At age 17, I was accepted on audition to attend Film School in New York City. At 18, I moved to “The City That Never Sleeps” to pursue the dream I’d been waiting to chase all my life. Up to that point, life felt like one big rejection after another. Never really fitting in much of anywhere. Always sitting in the captivity of a voice that beat me down near constantly. The voice of “never good enough” and “keep pushing” kept me under the authority of “one day you’ll be good enough to deserve love.”
But then, from Mississippi to Manhattan at 18 years old. This was it. I knew it. With my mind set, I was ready to move forward and not look back. Soon enough though, being accepted turned into the old, familiar getting rejected as I was told everything that was wrong with me to justify not getting the part. Funny how the talent that got me into film school never got the chance to be seen for the snap judgment my physical appearance caused decision-makers to make. Not pretty enough. Not exotic enough. Too tall. Too short. Too fat. Too thin. Six months later, the thread my self-esteem hung from was severed and I came home. Devastated.
Six months passed and I watched the coverage from my living room and sobbed as my family echoed how glad they were that I was home. The Twin Towers had been hit. Two miles from my residence when I lived there. And that was a lot to take, but I still walked around questioning why New York didn’t work out.
Eighteen years later and the stories of the Hollywood elite started leaking from the tightly pressed seams. Women finally coming forward to break their silence. I listened to the coverage and the opinions and felt broken all over again. Nothing like that had happened to me, but what if I had stayed? Could I say with conviction that I wouldn’t have been one of the countless women with that story?
I heard Him whisper, “Do you see what I rescued you from?”
At the time, coming home had felt like the ultimate no. It was a no to a long-held childhood dream that would never come to be. It was like every door that could have been was slammed in my face.
I bowed my head at His whisper and tears flooded my eyes as I finally felt the reality of the rescue. What I’d seen as rejection was Him pointing my course to His path. It was the ultimate callback, except I didn’t have to audition. As it turns out, He was always waiting for me to open my eyes and see Him. Always standing at the ready to remind me that I don’t have to try so hard because I already got the part and my hair, my skin, my hips, my weight, my race was all just perfectly put together for the role He’d saved just for me.
When I bow my head to pray, every prayer I utter starts with a “thank you” because He truly saved my life. From slavery to the opinions of people, seeking fulfillment from things that simply can’t satisfy, or a horrible story that starts with a perversion of power that I’m so thankful isn’t part of the thread of my past. He saved me. The dream I’d been chasing was shiny from far away, but up close, rather lackluster in comparison to the place I stand in now. As it turns out, the voices of “never good enough” and “keep pushing” were all tactics of the enemy to keep me from the truth of a love that will never be contingent on anything I can or cannot do.
Rejection was only a detour to acceptance and I am so thankful for the rescue.
Kellye Smith lives in Brandon with her husband and three sons. She owns Red Clay Photography, works as a Zumba instructor in Brandon and is a resource consultant with Ross & Yerger in Jackson.