June 29, 2022
  • June 29, 2022

The Bravest Thing Melissa Has Ever Done

By on August 13, 2015 0 226 Views


Melissa, what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? 


I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, but I had big dreams.


When I was little, I’d run through the cornfield between my house and my grandmother’s house to climb her apple tree and concoct stories about fairies who lived in moss and used mushrooms as umbrellas on rainy days.


I loved storytelling and listening to my grandmother’s tall tales. 


I’d walk the lane with her behind her house deep into the woods listening to her accounts of the Indian spirits who lived in an ancient rock there. She’d say, “If you listen closely, you can hear them whisper.” And I did.


Their whispers told me to go West to chase my dreams, but I was afraid.


When it came time to apply for college, I considered a school in California, but changed my mind and settled on Boston. I figured going from a graduating class of 40 to around 2,000 would be challenging enough, never mind being 3,000 miles away from home.


Yet the call to the West Coast lingered all throughout my college years. I’d read Kerouac’s On the Road over and over, daydreaming I was with him driving cross country on wild adventures.


Shortly after I graduated, I took a job on a road movie called Nowhere Tomorrow—a pack of indie filmmakers in an RV traveling from Boston to California and back. I loved every moment. Shooting a scene on a beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, I knew California was my true home. I never wanted to leave, but I did.


I juggled a budding film career, writing, and working torturous temp jobs in Boston for months after the road movie, though the road never left me. The palm trees swaying in the Santa Anas beckoned to me. Could I do it? Could I drop everything and move West? Could I leave my friends and family?


I struggled with that question until I met my future husband on set in New York City.


We hit it off instantly and tried to maintain a long distance relationship when it was time for me to go back to Boston. We spent hundreds on phone bills and decided that before we became penniless, we had to make a difficult decision: I move to NYC, he move to Boston, or we move somewhere else together.


NYC always seemed too claustrophobic to me and Boston was too small for him. Finally I revealed my secret dream to live in California—land of milk and honey. He confessed a similar dream and so it was decided. We’d take the plunge together.


Family and friends told us we were making a mistake. They cried, begged us not to go, but we had to—we knew it deep down in our souls.


We spent every penny we had driving cross country, sleeping in a tiny tent under the stars, watching as the scenery changed with each new region of the vast American landscape.


I was living the dream.


Though times were hard when we first arrived in Los Angeles as we’d experience the rollercoaster lifestyle of working in entertainment, I wouldn’t change it for the world.


I’ve had incredible opportunities working with directors I admire and forging everlasting bonds with amazingly talented like-minded folk—writers, artists, photographers, actors, musicians all heeding the call West.


From a town of 4,000 to a city of over 3 million (according to a 1990 census), I found a home away from home and, though I still miss my family and friends everyday, I don’t regret a single minute. 


“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” —Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 2, Ch. 8

Melissa St. Hilaire
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