Why I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Without Reality TV


I just had to manually input the word “vlogger” into my spell check. I’m using that word a lot lately. After three years of writing words, on screens, and posting them on blogs, I’ve started monologuing to the camera.

For most of my life I would never have dreamed that I would sit in front of a camera, and talk, and that would be something that I was doing on purpose. But that was before I talked to every reality TV casting team in the entire country.

^^THAT is hyperbole. But stay with me. I’m an off grid mom, of three. I live in a yurt, which is a fascinating alternative housing option that also happens to be very photogenic. I’m easy to find on social media. They find me. They want to talk to me. They’re very energetic. I’m feeling a bit tired just telling you about it.

I always answer them. I always do, because I have this rule—that I didn’t make up at all, but am also not exactly sure how to trace—that when God opens a door I’m not the one to close it.

Mixed feelings here. Also, whatever is beyond mixed feelings, like, blended and sautéed feelings. I’m not reality TV star material. Which is good, because what cute, happy young family have you ever seen star in a reality TV show and then stay cute and happy? I need reclusiveness almost as much as I need coffee. I have experience being notorious, from the fame of my mother, who was a successful author in her day. And that wasn’t all day every day roses, if you know what I mean.

Still, I show up; still, I answer the emails and messages; still, I wonder where God is calling me.

Sometimes I feel like live tweeting the conversations I’m having, with casting directors, because they’re so unreal. (I’m going to repeat that word: unreal. See what I did there?) And yet, I have never regretted letting God open these strange doors.

In all these conversations, over three years, I have had to speak clearly, under pressure, about who I am and what I stand for. Over and over again. On camera.

I’ve learned that I tend to start my sentences with “So.” I’ve learned that when I start talking I click my tongue. I’ve learned that it is my natural comfortable state to be in motion, especially with my hands, and if I don’t allow that, I feel awkward in my body and it ruins everything. I’ve learned that it’s very hard to talk unless you know somebody you’re talking to. And I‘ve learned that you can be pretty easily tricked into saying things you didn’t mean. Even if you thought for sure that would never happen to you, it really can.

Basically, I’ve gotten a lot of free media training. And I’ve gotten a lot of practice talking about exactly who I am, and exactly what I stand for, in essentially unsympathetic situations.

I’m not sure where I’d be, without these conversations. I have never made a change in my life because of what a TV person wanted from me. Never. Not even a small one. It’s never gone that far. But I have made changes in my life because I had just been asked to defend what I was doing and I realized that I couldn’t. I have made changes in my life because I drew out the line to where I wanted to go and it highlighted that one next step. I have made changes in my life because I had attached myself to one or two or ten very lofty values and made myself publicly accountable to those attachments.

And THAT, I am pretty sure, is what God has called me to. Not reality TV, but reality. Not fame, but accountability. Not crazy over-sharing all the things, but not hiding my candle, either, under my social anxiety or my photogenic yurt roof. This is how God is calling me, always, to close the gap between who I say I am and what I do.

I don’t always want to be accountable to others for every little action that I choose to take. I don’t always want to have to draw the lines between what I think and what my life looks like, especially on camera, in an audition setting. But I’m glad the challenge keeps arising. It’s a challenge I want to always be able to meet. And, now, vlogger that I have recently become, it’s a challenge I am setting for myself.

So, thank you, highly energetic TV casting directors. And thank you to the coffee (or acai smoothies?) you clearly keep drinking. You’ve shaped the way I move through this strange world.

Esther Emery

Esther lives with her husband and three children on three acres of Idaho mountainside, in a yurt her husband designed and built himself. She's out there in pursuit of self-sufficiency, integrity living and solidarity economy.
Esther Emery