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The empty house chided me. “You shouldn’t be here. You’re needed elsewhere.”
Steve had left that morning – set off for the States to release his first feature film. The stress leading up to that moment had been an immense pot of late nights, never-ending deadlines, and dreams turned to doing. The premiere at SXSW was to be the amalgam of a 15-year idea and a three-year project. It was a huge achievement, and a moment that I, his love and future wife, should be there for.
But obstacles had lined my way. First came the visa. I applied in October and was told it could take six months – which would take me beyond the date of the premiere. All I could do was wait.
The months rolled by until the premiere was just a couple of weeks away. Once the visa was approved, it’d take another week to process. So a seven-day countdown began, waiting to hear from the embassy.
Amid that agonizing countdown, something unexpected happened. I was headhunted and offered a job, working for a charity I admired in a well-paid and interesting position. It was only a short-term contract, but if I took it I’d miss SXSW. But if I didn’t take it and the visa didn’t come through then I’d have lost my chance at the job. I had to roll the dice.
A difficult decision
And the dice chose the job. Well, Steve and I chose the job. There were only two more days in which the visa could arrive on time for SXSW and the chances seemed so slim. I made peace with our decision and felt happy going to work at the charity. I let go of SXSW.
An hour later I got an email. “Your visa has been approved”. Of course it had. Sod’s bloody law.
We laughed and said it was fine. I could still go to NYC for a major event in April. It was okay not to be at SXSW. Steve would be busy. Perhaps I’d barely see him. We sang lots of little stories to comfort and muffle the blow.
But then he left and the blow hit me hard. This wasn’t okay. I should be there.
You only live once
The day Steve left, I’d been at work for just four days. It was Thursday and the premiere was on Tuesday. I started calculating dates in my mind. If I wanted to go to the States, I’d have to miss work from at least Monday to Wednesday to leave enough time to get there and back. But how could I ask for time off? My boss had already accommodated my request for leave in April. It’d look irresponsible and I didn’t want to let her down.
But as I sat on my sofa at home, doubt filled my mind. Steve needed me. If I didn’t at least try to go to SXSW, he would be the one I’d be letting down. And for me, love conquers work.
And then, as if to confirm it, a book caught my eye. I had won it the week before and put it upon the shelf – a Lonely Planet book with the title, You Only Live Once.
It was decided: I had to ask. So I fired off an email to my boss, explaining the situation and offering to work remotely while I was away. I checked flights and knew I could be back by Thursday morn. It was out there at her mercy.
No reply arrived that night, so I went into work on Friday as a cliché of butterflies and tapping fingers. Patience is not my virtue. Finally my boss arrived with no sign of having read it. I had to sit there as she turned on her computer across from me and read her emails one by one. I couldn’t bear to meet her eye.
And then she said the words: “Victoria, my answer is yes. There is work and then there is life. This is important. You should go”. I was genuinely almost sick with ecstatic excitement. Oh my! This meant I was going! After all those months of hoping, I was going to the premiere. I could go and join my love. Praise be to reasonable bosses!
A day of madness
That day was a flurry of madness. On my lunch hour I hurriedly booked my ticket for the next day. I’d arrive back on Thursday at 8am and have to head straight into work. Air BnB guests would arrive on Friday so I needed to sort out the house before I left for the States. By 1am that night I had achieved it. By 9am I was en route to Heathrow. By 4am (11pm EST) I was in Austin having done a whole day’s work on the plane, and having missed my first connection in Houston. By 5am I was in Steve’s arms in the midst of a massive Vimeo party. Hours of madness but I had made it!
Those next few days were gold. Steve’s eyes glowed with delight that I had made it. All the words of it being okay now showed mistaken in the light. Being there was the only option. We’re a team, that’s how it is.
And as the first scenes rolled at the premiere, tears welled in my eyes. I’ve watched this film take shape. I’ve seen Steve craft it, wrestle with it, and chisel it into beauty. I’m so close to it I can almost recite it. And now, here it was on a cinema screen at a world-class festival being watched by hundreds. He’d done it. It was real and my hand was in his.
P.S. If you’re interested in Steve’s film, it’s called Planetary and it comes out on Vimeo’s pay-per-view channel on 22 April (Earth Day), priced at $12.99 (you can pre-order here). On Earth Day, it’s also showing at lots of cinemas across the States and a few around the world. There will hopefully be more worldwide screenings later in the year.