Did you think I’d forgotten you?
Have you been waiting for this one? I guess I’d like to think you have. If there’s been a certain vagueness to my response rate the past couple weeks, maybe you can understand I was waiting for the exact right moment. Nothing like a little time and a lot of caffeine to give your thoughts some legs and walk them out into the spotlight naked in front of a murky shadowy audience.
But hey, that’s show business folks. So, shall we? Let’s get this circus on the road! Let the games begin! Bring on the monkeys! Let’s come out and say what’s on all your minds. Or rather, I guess, what’s on mine.
Turns out, in terms of big news, there’s two types of people. The genuinely inquisitive and the nosily intrusive. Luckily for you, it has finally ceased to matter on what side of the audience you sit on. Because after a drumroll in the form of 2 weeks notice, I’m about to tell you the truth.
But first, I’m going to tell you a little story…
Slow fade into a close-up of ten fingers meticulously (rhythmically even) clacking on a keyboard. Gradual zoom out to a row of these fingers, then hands, then arms all in their own little percussion section symphony of clicking, clacking, tapping on collective home rows. (ASDFGHJKL). The silence in contrast to this rapid cadence is somehow much louder. Deafening, even. A row of young bodies, button-down shirts, pleated khakis and work-appropriate heels, hunched and squinting at little glowing glass orbs in front of them. Every few seconds someone pauses to answer their phone. The uniformity is military. Even the greeting is the same.
“One moment please, let me see if I can reach him.”
“Don’t have her right now, can we leave word?”
“We will return, thank you.”
Narrator (Voice Over):
40 days. 960 hours. 57,600 minutes. I won’t even bother you with the seconds. It’s not worth our time.
We see our lead, directly in the middle of the row, 3rd from the left, 3rd from the right. Visibly struggling, uncomfortable shifting in her chair though we don’t know quite why just yet. She is glaring directly ahead with a determination that might burn holes through any solid barrier, though something tells us that it’s a little more than just a drywall in front of her. At this point we also realize the lead and the narrator are the same, though the narrator speaks to us from some vague time in the future. Maybe 2 weeks ahead. Just an educated guess.
Narrator (Voice Over):
This is me living the dream guys. THE. DREAM. Because this is what you do you know? This is following the dream. This is the coveted spot you wait for on your way to your quote, unquote, the dream. …This is what I wanted.
Our lead stands up. Taking off her head-set, she walks purposely into the office two doors to her right. She raps on the door. Click. Clack.
Narrator (Voice Over):
Or at least.. I thought it was.
A woman sits in the office, visibly annoyed by her presence.
Hey. Do you have a minute?
No. I don’t.
Ok.. Well good thing this will only take a second then!
She closes the door. Emphatic. Final. Click.
Outside, the keyboards maintain their droning march. The phones continue to lightly twinkle, the robotic greeting echoes. Every once in a while someone hacks or sneezes, but above all the silence resonates.
Narrator (Voice Over):
40 days. 960 hours. 57,600 minutes. That’s not a dream. That’s a coma. And today.. I woke up. Found my place. Spoke my lines. Took my bow. Exit stage.
We now see a side angle of all the arms, then hands, then fingers clicking and clacking. Cut to Girl’s empty computer.
Narrator (Voice Over):
But you know what they say in Hollywood…the show must go on.
Fade out to black.
END OF JOB/story
I’ve been reading a lot scripts recently. Can’t you tell? That was my favorite part of my job. It’s pilot season right now after all in the world of entertainment. And what does that mean? Well, it’s like 4th quarter in the Superbowl. It’s the last moments in championship game of March Madness. The rose ceremony of the Bachelor. Where boys become men and girls get a ring on it. Ok enough pop culture/sexism.
It’s the time of the year when talent agencies and talent management companies are flooded with opportunities to get their clients (budding hopeful actors and actresses) in the creme de la creme of Fall 2014 TV Pilot line-up. It’s a numbers game. X many pilots + X many potential roles= X many opportunities to become the next big thing. However, it’s also not a numbers game at all. You could get into every single room. Get in front of every single casting director. Do your very best job and still wake up 2 months from now and be just as unemployed as you were when you first started. That’s not the dream. That’s the reality.
It’s funny how life imitates art like that.
Yes, it’s more than numbers. It’s about relationships. It’s about personality. Sure, it’s even about talent. But mostly, I think above all, it’s about luck. I think every actor or actress who have quote, unquote, made it, if they were really honest, would tell you.. they just got lucky. They met the right person, at the right time, at the right place. And the stars aligned and the stage lit up and the crowd cheered. And just like that, zero-to-hero, billboard, bright lights, big city, fame.
But I’m getting side-tracked. This isn’t about some other person’s dreams and ambitions and luck, it’s about mine.
I was told for so long that taking a job at a talent agency would change everything for me. It’s how quote, unquote YOU-GET-A-JOB-IN-A-WRITERS-ROOM, after all. You could be the next Tina Fey! The next Lena Dunham! And I guess they were right. It did change everything.
I sat down, shut up and did my best to fit in. But unlike that of my peers, the ones I sat next to, the ones I passed during lunch– suits, ties, hair gel, haggard but hungry, I just couldn’t fake enthusiasm for something I’m not, anymore.
I realize that makes me a little alternative. After all, tons of people dislike their current employer. They hate their jobs, and they despise their bosses, and they stay because they are saving up for some dream in the future. All the things they want to do when they have the money, the time, the clout, the power, the influence, the WHAT HAVE YOU to do so. They stay because they’re scared. They stay because they’re comfortable. They stay because they truly believe they have no other choice. You do something so long and you start to think it’s the only thing you know how to do. It’s the only thing you are good at. You power out 40 years, and then like the holding your breathe through a tunnel on a highway you reach the end and you take a deep exhale and go AHHHHHHHHH…. retirement.
Yeah. That’s America! That’s the dream.
But that’s not me. I didn’t need 40 years to know that. Hell, I didn’t even need 40 days. This job wasn’t making me a better writer. And it certainly wasn’t making me a better person. I don’t deny the definite benefits. The networking potential. The information I would learn and be privy to by just being a part of the company. The skin-thickening, sink-or-swim life skills I’d learn along the way. Sure. But more importantly, what would I lose?
I felt artistically drained, creatively bottomed out, a sad little shell wearing neutral colors mindlessly checking for double spacing between sentences in formulaic emails. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same desk getting home long after the sun sets and happy hours ended. Helping others pursue their dreams, while pushing mine aside.
And so I took a deep breath. Put down my headset. Stood up. And resigned.
I exhaled. And I called my parents and told them I was moving home.
And well… if you’ve ever worked really hard for something you thought you wanted, and then you get there and realize it’s not what you thought, you kind of just go to Narnia. And I don’t mean you go crazy. I mean you start thinking about life outside the wardrobe. Outside the quote, unquote dream.
And for me I realized– if this job isn’t going to make me a better writer or even a writer at all, is staying in Los Angeles going to make me one? What could I do if I just let myself let go?
And then I just knew. What I need, what I’ve been granted is, perspective. The opportunity to be limitless. The chance to get away from what is expected of me, to do what I want to do, in the way I want to do it. So I’m selling all my possessions, everything I own– that I worked so hard these past 2 years to call mine, saving up some cash, and going off the grid.
And tha-a-a-a-a-attt’s all folks. That’s the show. That’s the curtain call. That’s what you’ve been waiting to hear. The punchline. The season finale climax. This is what actually LIVING THE DREAM looks like. Not saving up for the dream in the future, not the dream when I can get my money right, right here, right now, living. That I’m not waiting 40 years before traveling. And I’m going to write, and create and make something of myself on my own terms.
So.. what’s next?
Well. As I said, as in Hollywood and in life, the show must go on. The plot doesn’t stop here. A really good story merely changes, catches you off guard, keeps your own toes, makes you pause, gasp even, consider what could possibly happen next. Pushes you to leave your own reality for a second and live someone else’s. Make believe for a second it’s your own. Get lost. Escape.
This is my story.
This is my show.
Now get back to work.