The Biggest Loser

Forgive me.  I know this is long and self-indulgent.  But, this has been a long time coming, and I hope some of you will read it all.  Plus, it sure gives you a lot of background info on me, should you be interested in applying to be my stalker.

          My sophomore year of college, I wrote and directed a one-act play.  It had three characters: a stylish career woman watching her fertile days disappear, her single gay friend who wanted her to have a baby with him, and a perky little waitress.  The play wasn’t half-bad.  I have a good ear for dialogue, and – despite the fact that I was clearly not writing about what I knew – the premise was interesting and plausible.  The ending was a little weak, but during one rehearsal, the main actress suggested her closing line should be the woman’s decision: cheesecake.

            It was the second of three one-acts I would write and direct.  I’m a solid director and it is work I enjoy, and for a time I aspired to be a playwright.  I applied to graduate programs in playwriting.  But, I applied to only the few top programs, under the theory that since I probably wasn’t good enough to get into those, I should give up playwriting. I was rejected.  It makes sense.  By then, I was already 21 and had little formal experience in playwriting, other than a couple classes and an independent study with the very gifted Romulus Linney. 

            So, I went to Ed School, instead.  I got a Master’s in Education and proceeded to teach high school English for three years.  But, I was edgy.  See, I’d always been the girl with all the shimmering potential, the promising writer that everyone just thought might be famous someday or the sharp mind who brought whole new lights to the books we were reading.  And, so high school teaching seemed dead-end, because the only place to move up was administration, and I figured if I were going to enter administration, it might be easier to simply inject arsenic directly into my bloodstream.  If there is one thing I am not, it is a leader of people.

            So, I applied to graduate programs in English.  This time, my attitude was a little different.  I knew how hard it was to get into Ph.D. programs in English.  I knew I had gone to the lesser Ivy, hadn’t published, hadn’t taken theory classes, hadn’t been working in an academic press.  I just hadn’t carefully groomed myself for this.  I figured my smarts and my test scores would help, but I knew that (had I but known how to do it) I could have spent the past few years building towards this career.

            I applied to 20 schools and got into two Ph.D. programs and one M.A. program.  I was thrilled.  This would wipe out the sloppy career trajectory.  They would train me to be a professor, give me exactly the path I needed to take.  I could stop feeling like the kid who started baseball two seasons later than everyone else.

            I started my Ph.D. program the fall I was 26.  All I had going for me was my intellectual gifts, my strong work ethic, and the fact that those two things were still more than enough to start a career at 26.

            I spent the next six years in graduate school, working very hard at learning that I did not want to be a professor.  I did well, professors saw a lot of promise.  I got articles published like I was supposed to, but I was not at Harvard, so I knew I would have a limited choice of career options, and that all of my hard work was simply to assure I could get a job somewhere.  Anywhere.

            Unfortunately, I was not married to a man who could just move anywhere.  He had a career, too.  One that would not flourish in North Dakota.  And I didn’t want to put my kids through Mommy working 80 hour weeks for crap pay living in the middle of nowhere with Daddy having either sidelined his career or being gone all the time because he couldn’t work where I did.

            So, I opted out.  Remember them: the Opt Out Generation?  Except that I was going to pursue a different career rather than give up my career completely.  I started looking for jobs as Zach’s first birthday approached.

            I managed to land a job as a contract speech writer, due to the help of a contact, because by now I was 31 and most people were just not all that interested in hiring me without relevant experience.  I loved the work.  I adored my direct supervisor.  The only problem was that this was the most dysfunctional office on the planet and it was clear to me that I was out of favor with the boss’s leading lady.  I gracefully declined to renew my contract on the grounds that I was moving to London and having another baby, both of which were true.  Six months after I left, my amazing supervisor fell victim to the office politics, demonstrating to me that I had gotten out just in time.

            I lived in London and had Benjamin.  I knew we would only be there two years, so finding a job once he was a year old (when I would have wanted to return to work), didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t teach because I wouldn’t even have a full year, and I couldn’t write speeches because I didn’t know the culture or the voices well enough, and I didn’t have any experience in anything else.

            So I wrote a book.  A good one.  And I threw all my effort into finding an agent, which I found.  And she was going to get the damned thing published, I just knew it.  All it would take would be more hard work and talent, the only two things I ever seem to have going for me.  Except for the contact who helped me find a good agent, of course.  And then my career would finally be on a clear path.

            And then this crappy economy happened right after we moved back and I had another baby.  And now I am 35 years old, and my resume doesn’t look all that shiny because it has nothing on it.  The six years earning the degree only made me six years older unless you are searching for someone with a Ph.D.  The years raising kids weren’t years off from my career, because somehow it never got launched before I had them, even though I was in my early 30s.  And the book I wrote?  Isn’t all that impressive since I can’t get it published.

            I can’t even figure out how to land all those paid writing gigs that other bloggers mention all the time.  Seriously.  You people go on about how much you love my writing, but anyone know how the hell I can get someone to pay me to do a couple articles from home?  Yeah, I’ve been to elance, but those are not exactly career-building gigs, and I don’t win those, either.

            And, all of this is to say that I was trying to make peace with forever being the kid who started baseball two seasons too late by telling myself that I was still young, but then I realized something.

            Everyone else who went to school with me is as young as I am.  And you assholes are rocking your careers as legal counsel for Senate Committees and using art to inspire kids to be eco-friendly and making millions and getting books published and running businesses and in the FUCKING PRIME OF YOUR LIVES.  And I am supposed to be your age, but somehow you all got your damned careers in order while I was fucking around with my piddling self-esteem and complete lack of ability to close a goddamned deal.

            And then I saw this, published in a news source I admire.  And you know who the woman who wrote this is, apart from a famous movie actress?  She’s the goddamned perky waitress I cast in my fucking college one-act.  

42 responses to “The Biggest Loser

  1. Emily, my heart goes out to you. I have had those same feelings many times.

    You can’t know how young you are until you’re older, no matter what age you’re at.

    I have a practical suggestion and a more metaphysical one. The practical suggestion is to send your book to smaller presses. There are alternatives to the 2 or 3 giant conglomerates, and they can do quite well by your book though they wouldn’t be worth your agent’s while.

    The other thing is more challenging. Are these really your values, that the worth of your life is how young you can be better than anyone else? And that better is defined by how much money you make, how many books you sell?

    It’s hard to resist the social values we are inundated with. But those same values are what cause our world to go kaplooey…environmentally, in war, in poverty and in child abuse. From what I can see, the same notions of worth and powerfulness underly all of those.

    You are a shining star because there is only one Emily in this life and you can do, say, think, feel and reach out a hand in a way that nobody else can. You are here in this world to love and to be a light in it. And you are doing it right now, this minute, today.

    Do you really need more money or is it that money shows what you do has worth?

  2. For a long time, I thought I was a late bloomer. Now I’m (a hair!) older than the President, and I feel a little like a wash-out. But, in the long run, I think I’m still a late bloomer and I think I’m just getting better. It’s a point of view that props my soul up.

    I’m glad you spilled your angst. May your book be published sooner than later, and may you find remunerative employment in an area that rewards you.

  3. I wonder if most of us have a bit of the grass-is-greener syndrome. I mean, I realize I have lots of good stuff going on in my life. But it’s the things I don’t have that tear me apart.

  4. My career trajectory is sort of like yours without being the same, if that makes any sense. I often wonder how I got to this point in my life with so few marketable skills, after being one of those ones ‘with the shimmering potential’. I’m with magpie on the late bloomer thing. And your writing is spectacular — no lack of payment or markets changes that. We are all enmeshed in a paradigm that largely links our worth to our earning potential. But it’s only one way of thinking — it doesn’t mean it’s the right one. And sweetie — we’re already stalking you. Just try and get rid of us.

  5. i found out yesterday i didn’t “pass” the federal job interview i’d poured weekends into preparing for…an ambitious if prosaic job considering what i must’ve looked like i could do at 21, too. instead i’m 37 and i feel like much has passed me by because i just didn’t understand how to make so much of it happen.

    the sparkle in some of us in our youth is in a sense misleading, a sign of having no safe place to land, to call home. we either shine bright or fail hard…it’s the middle road of pleasant success that often seems to elude.

    i will not be what i could have been, in terms of outward success. the right bit of luck, the right mentorship, the know-how of how to capitalize on opportunity…these might have made a difference. but i’ve done okay with what’s inside, have made leaps i’m proud of.

    you too have made leaps worthy of great pride, from abused child to loving, capable parent.

  6. I was a shining star once, too, destined for Great Things. And though I have a job and a career now, I’m definitely not bound for glory. I am at best bound for comfort. Although in my defense and yours, it’s awfully hard to be glorious when you’re covered in spit-up and baby poo.

    I’ve seen people I went to school with, people who were once no more accomplished than I (and maybe a lot less) go on to great things. It’s hard to realize that I’ve squandered opportunities and now they’re gone. That I’m getting to the age where I can’t pick up ground anymore.

    I’m not sure what my point is. Just that I’m here, and I’m listening, and I maybe sort of understand a little. And I hope that the economy turns around and your book is published, or you find some sense of direction. And if you do, please let me know where you found it, because I could use one too.

  7. I agree with the “we all have grass is always greener syndrome” to some degree. Everyone – really everyone – can point to people they know/knew and say “How did they end up so much farther ahead than me?” I know I feel that way in my career because I had five years between undergrad and law school when most folks take 1 to 2 years at most. Some people my age or younger(!) are partners at my firm. It can be awkward. There are also a heck of a lot of mid-30s men and women out there who would give *anything* to have three children and a great life partner. How is that not a huge accomplishment in and of itself? And if you had spent your 20s a completely different way, you might not have that. Now that I’m nearing 33 with no kids, and I see my oldest nephew approaching age 10, I think how nice it could have been to have had kids at a much younger age. But surely I wouldn’t have been able to have those hypothetical kids and also have the career I have now. So that’s the way it goes for me.

    When I was about 11, my mom told me that she wished she’d married someone other than my dad and waited to have kids. I was really hurt. I said, “But then you wouldn’t have us [aka her kids].” She said, “Oh, I figure I would have had you guys somehow.” I said, “But then I wouldn’t be 11 and wouldn’t have my friends and wouldn’t….” My mom not living her life in the way she thought in hindsight that she should have is the only reason my life is on the path that it is. So even our missteps can serve an important purpose for the lives of others. Probably more than we ever know.

    I don’t know that I believe in higher purposes or destiny or what have you. But I do think that comparing your path to others’ paths is dangerous. The best we can do is learn from our path – for better or for worse – and use that knowledge to move forward. Even if we got to redo things, we’d lose a lot more things we’re overlooking today than we realize.

    Look at it this way, you once directed a Hollywood movie star. How many people can say that?! You saw her talent before the masses did. Well done!

    My two cents.

    But on a shorter note, hang in there. 🙂

  8. I want to add something of value here, but everything I think of to write does come from the “grass is always greener” line of thought, so I will just say I am working my ASS off in a job that should potentially lead to lots of glory down the road, but I am so mired in politics and the desires of eight million people that I am exhausted. I want a child badly but haven’t conceived one yet. I want to finish my novel, but I haven’t yet. In my mind, your accomplishments – an agent! beautiful children! are more than enough for this decade of your life – and I spend a lot of time wondering if all of the time and commitment I’m putting in to my job is even worth it!
    Take care, Emily – and embrace late-blooming, beautiful you.

  9. Annie Proulx didn’t start publishing her stories until her 50’s. George Eliot didn’t publish her first novel until she was 40. Olive Burns, whose first novel was Cold Sassy Tree (and it’s very good)–60. Life has many twists and turns and I am here to tell each and every one of you who have made comments, as well as Emily, that you are young and you have time and you don’t know yet what kind of glories you might do or what shape they will have. You’ve got time. Honest. Writers come to it in many different ways. A link to a few here.

  10. I can’t even seem to start a book, much less finish it and get it to an agent. In my mind, you are a superstar. One of these days the world is going to wake up and start acknowledging how hard it is to be a good mom and to raise good kids and to get anything else done. My one consolation is that maybe, just maybe, my kids will grow up to do or be something amazing. If you ask Calvin, a career as an astronaut is in his future. That’s much cooler than being Elizabeth Banks 🙂

  11. I guess that sometimes we have define what success is to us. But, I do understand how you are feeling. At the same time, as others have pointed out, being an author has nothing to do with age and, fingers crossed, this economy will not last forever. Because, I know that I would buy your book.

  12. Believe it or not (I imagine you’d believe it if anyone would), I feel the same way. Altho in a different field. After Amelia goes to school, I’m going to head back to school and I will be the old fart in classes with coeds.

    Sometimes, when I stop and think about it, I feel like such a failure.

  13. I read this post early this morning and couldn’t think what to say. I’m one of the blundering bloggers who stumbled into a paid (not much, but still) gig and I don’t even have time to write anything of substance. It’s silly really.

    I heard this post loud and clear. I have a nice career with a nice salary and it’s totally not AT ALL what I was born to do. I’ve either forgotten or perhaps I never knew what I was born to do, which makes a career move a real challenge.

    You know though, what you want. That’s H*GE. It really is… and the timing will be ok.

  14. Oh Em,

    I so get where you are coming from only I spent most of my twenties doing avante guard theater collaborations for which other people got published and I got the shaft. the last six years I’ve spent as a burn out depressive having tried marketing and banking to no avail. I don’t know where those writing jobs are but this horrid clone from my graduating class (definitely not an ivy) in theater has one. how I’ll never know, but it was enough to depress me for an entire month.

    But because I’m trying like hell to be positive I must say what my therapist told me yesterday. You are not allowed to give up! We live in NYC and LA respectively smack in the middle of youth worship in cities where if you haven’t accomplished it by 18 forget it; you’re too old. So shake it off girl. Never forget what it took you to get where you got. Writing your own rules was never easy, but if anyone can my bets are on you.

  15. I am coming to LA on May 13th and while I am in town I am going to bonk you on the back of the head. (With love of course.) Emily, you WROTE A BOOK! Most days I don’t even have it together enough to write a shopping list but you wrote a book. And if your writing on this blog is anything to judge by your book is beautiful and inspiring and amazing. Sooner or later it’s going to be published, I have no doubt of that.

    Even more amazing than writing a book? You did it while raising three kids. And you have overcome some incredibly difficult circumstances to be the awesome mother that you are. You are giving your children far better than you got and that alone is a success.

    Believe me, I understand the frustration that you’re feeling (said the 30 something woman with no job and no degree and no real way of earning any money) but please don’t ever let that frustration make you feel like you are not a success. You are the very definition of “success” and you have inspired me (and countless others I bet) more than you could ever know.

  16. I can’t believe it, sometimes, when I see people born in the 80s–and in the 90s!–accomplishing all kinds of things. It can be distressing. What am I doing with my life? But you can’t do everything, and I’m happy with what I’m doing now, though I wish I didn’t have to stop teaching for all this moving business, since I really enjoy that, and it’s what I went to grad school for. But you can only do so much.

  17. Maybe not the exact same experiences, but I am right there with you. I feel like I have let myself down, and could really have done something special with my career. Instead, I’m in this no-career limbo made all the more frustrating because I DO want one, and feel like I’m way too old to start anew.

  18. you and me, baby. you and me.

  19. First of all, hugs {{{{Emily}}}}.

    Secondly: ‘And the book I wrote? Isn’t all that impressive since I can’t get it published.’

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Please whatever you do, do not judge your book by the response of the publishing world ever, let alone this moment in time. You remember I went to listen to those publishers at the lit festival? They were each asked to tell a story about an important book they turned down – well there were several Pulitzers and bestsellers in those anecdotes, and the impression they gave was that they had all turned down more than just the one big success story. Publishing is a mess at the moment. That’s got nothing to do with the quality of writing it’s being fed.

    What your trajectory tells me is that you have a life prime for translation into art. Everything that has happened to you will feed usefully into your art, into how you see the world, respond to it. Be curious about your emotions now – your vulnerability is where the real depth and meaning of your existence lies. Put everything into your writing that you’re working on now. After all, you might as well get something out of the crap, right? And don’t ever lose sight of the fact you are a wonderful writer.

    But I’m glad you ranted – the whole process of publication is a nightmare, and the only way to stay sane is to get those feelings out. That’s what the blogging community is for.

  20. Echoing what Lilian said: when Toni Morrison was your age, she was an unpublished, divorced single mother, working as a textbook editor. I’m guessing her satisfaction with her life choices was no higher than yours, and likely was lower.

    I’ll also note that at least one of your friends with a published book is pretty depressed about his own career path.

    I suspect the problem is that it’s usually a pretty ambitious goal that gets you interested in a career in the arts. You become a Wall Street trader because you want to get rich; you become a doctor because you want to help people one-on-on; you become a writer because you want to move millions of strangers emotionally, and then have your name live forever.

    And while investment banking and medicine are incredibly challenging fields, the relevant goals are attainable for a large number of practitioners. You can be a reasonably good doctor or a reasonably good Wall Street trader and make a reasonably good living, with reasonably good career satisfaction. But if you’re a reasonably good writer– well, that’s not going to be anywhere near enough for immortality. So you downgrade your goals to “Getting paid for writing” or “Getting published” or any other worthy goal; but once you achieve one of those goals, you can’t shake the nagging feeling that it’s not why you started writing in the first place, and so you become fixed on the next goal.

    (And, obviously, by “one” I mean “me and possibly you,” obviously.)

    (And the “Wall Street trader” part may no longer apply, but I’m stumped on a good equivalent. You may need to put this comment away for a few years and take it out when the economy is once again booming, at which point, it will be the perfect comparison.)

  21. I agree with several commenters…it’s not like you’re in a nursing home already! The grass may be greener, but your grass is what you make it. Just look at all the people who read you! You have a (small but mighty) fanbase already. Things are always happening! At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, you’ve got brains in your head and shoes on your feet…keep it up, never give in, and move along.

  22. I have the same feelings – I was the kid who started college at 14, had boundless potential and somehow . . . I ended up here. “Here” not being a bad place, per se, but not where I ever in a million years envisioned myself in my 30s.

    Having said that, I think Lilian makes a great point: how much of our dissatisfaction is just social conditioning? I can’t answer for you, but as I think about it, a LOT of mine is. My head is full of “shoulds:” I should have gotten to LA sooner, I should have taken that job I was offered, I should have, I should have, I should have.

    Then again, I know myself well enough now to know that if I had gotten to LA sooner and gotten what I thought I wanted, I would now be slowly starving myself to death. I was already on that path, and getting what I “should” have gotten would only have led me further down it. I do know myself well enough to know that.

    AND, I have to remember that every choice I made has contributed to becoming the person that I am. I might not always like my external situation; I might feel like I could have done more, but if I had, I’d be someone else. And honestly, I kind of like who I am now. (Never thought I’d be able to say that, but there you go.)

    And I like who you are, too.

    (Brunch soon? I can come out your way. :))

  23. Wow– just look at what compassionate, intelligent, good humored, and good writers just commented on this post. Your writing caused people to sit at their keyboards and craft these passionate replies. No, it doesn’t come with a paycheck here or a glowing NYTimes book review, but to diminish its value would be missing something huge.

    I certainly don’t mean to dismiss your very real feelings about self-value and work and figuring out the parent thing in conjunction with the rest of one’s being. I do suspect that a lot of your blog readers finish one of your posts and say, “Damn, I wish I could write like Emily.”

  24. I feel that no matter what I say here, it will be meaningless, but for what it’s worth:

    Try smaller presses or self-publish? Consider speaking first, which might lead to opportunities publishing? Emily–do you realize how many people would benefit from hearing (not just reading) your story?

    Also–maybe it would help to consider that those who are doing all of the things that you perceive to be so fabulous are probably working the 80 hour work-weeks for the crappy pay that you opted out of, for very good reasons. Or at least they did for a good long while to get to where they are. And maybe where they are isn’t exactly where they wanted to be, doing precisely what they wanted to be doing. Maybe they’re doing something, and maybe they are good at it.

    But you want to do SOMETHING. Apples and oranges. Just sayin’.

  25. I think everyone here has said so many more profound and helpful things than I can, but here you go anyway:

    You are one of the people I admire most in the world, Emily. I admire your heart and your strength and your abilities and your talents, of which you have many.

    You’ve survived a horrific childhood and been brave enough to share your story. You wrote a book, Em. A BOOK! A touching, heartbreaking, yet hopeful book that, regardless of the general economic climate or what have you, contains a rich and powerful story. Don’t you give up on it! It will find its home and I’m convinced you’ll have a best-seller.

    Doing all of this, you are a loving, caring, wonderful mother to three very different children. You fight for your kids. You know your kids. You are there for your kids. You are a loving wife and partner.

    I am in awe of you. I believe in you. If you need to hear this a thousand times a day, I will tell you.

  26. Cheeky Monkey

    See, I had those feelings, too. About 5 years ago, when I was a young and chipper 35. Now that I’m old, I’m too tired to care.


    Not really.

    Now that I’m old, I feel a mixture of anger at the way we define “success” and a great deal of gratitude for my fucking awesome life, the one in which I haven’t become world-famous, cured disease, saved the planet or any of the other things my so-called fabulous potential supposedly promised me.

    You’re just in a bad spot right now: you’re still adjusting to your new home and the man’s away all the time and your kids are little and frustrating as all hell, and oh! wouldn’t that published book make it all better? It would, in that way, in that way you need to be affirmed. But the daily difficult shit would still be there. You know?

    I loved what Lillian said. Hold on to that. It’s Truth, man.

  27. lifeineden

    I have so many things to say in reply to this. And so little time. More soon, but must say this … what you said is totally my life too.

  28. you know, it’s funny but maybe because i’ve actually met you. i’ve sat across a table from you and witnessed your integrity and passion and determination. maybe that’s how i know that this book will happen. that it’s just a matter of timing. that you are more amazing than you know.

    ps. j loved the get well note. i loved the get well note. M loved the get well note but got a bit sobby that she couldn’t see him in person.

  29. Pingback: Aimless « Life in Eden

  30. lifeineden

    Okay, so the babies slept and I posted my reply. The link shows above.

    I’ve decided, being a woman is hard.

  31. planningdoesntwork

    I know nothing about publishing and little about writing. But I have been reading your blog for, um, two years I think. Maybe a year and a half. I have enjoyed your writing. And I believe your book will get published.

  32. I’ve only got one paid gig. I got it because I begged, um, I mean, worked a connection. It pays, just enough to justify the childcare I pay in order to do it. My husband has been rejected from 5 jobs he applied for after three years and incredible sacrifices for grad school.

    I am part of your club, my dear, WITHOUT a book under my belt. I hear this, I empathize, I sympathize and I am angry, too.

    Wishing we could sit together and talk this over.


  33. I have so much I want to say…you know I’ve had these same feelings. But I’ve been so wrapped up in my onw life melodrama that I can scarcely think straight. So I will just say…I understand. I really, really do. Do I know what to do about it? no. But maybe misery loves company? We’re in good company, I think.

  34. oh, i hear you. i think i felt very much the same way when I turned on HBO and saw a girl i was a scene partner with and stage managed a show with over a decade ago starring in their new series. And she already has a Grammy. and i’m living in the burbs doing theatre for very little money, if I’m lucky enough to get paid at all.

    I chose a family path, as well, and while I’m glad I have what I have… I am a bit sorry about what I don’t have.

  35. I have been in your place so many times I’ve lost count. When I did stand up, I watched so many pass me by and go on to true fame and fortune (ray ramano is an example, kevin james, another) I was very successful in commercials but I gotta tell you, I have wanted to be a writer my whole life and I still am nowhere near making money at it. I am now 43 and one thing i have learned in all that time, NEVER compare your insides to somebody else’s outside b/c you will never come out a winner which you already are. Let’s make a pact. We will both stay positive and move forward and take it one blog post at a time.

    Lots of love

  36. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, I was always good at whatever I tried as a kid. School, sports, music, it was all easy, like second nature.

    My career was the same way. In my twenties and early thirties, I was a “rockstar” in the court reporting field, got the best jobs, made the big money and managed to play as hard as I wanted to. It was all so easy, and I never even put in a hundred percent.

    Then I became a mother at 35, and things have not come so easily. Mothering is not second nature to me. It’s hard, and I’m by far the best in the field. On my best days, I feel mildly inadequate. On my worst days, I feel like I’m screwing up the best thing that ever happened to me.

    My point? Success in mothering your children is way more important than not living up to your potential in the more glorified aspects of life.

    You haven’t been left behind, because your talent is ageless, and once all three of your kids are in school full time, you’ll get back on track. Plus, you just never know when your book might find a home. Just try to go a little easier on yourself. That’s my goal for my mid-forties 😉

  37. a day or four late and a dollar or ten short as always and not sure I have the right words but this post touched me.

    I remember the days when I wondered if I would ever get beyond raising children. As much as I loved being with them, there were very hard days when I wondered if I would ever have a life again.

    And I do. 50-something and a wonderful career and there’s so much more. Not what I had maybe planned for myself but happiness anyway, except when there isn’t happiness, but that’s life.

    There’s that old adage about how our children are our future. I never really grasped the meaning until I knew my children as the wonderful, responsible, successful adults they are now. I don’t think I was the best mother but I’m glad I hung in there on what could sometimes be dark days. When others were achieving their dreams. Or whatever.

    I think you are doing a great job with your kids and I wish you the best with your book and whatever dreams you have. You will achieve some of them and maybe some others that you haven’t dreamed yet.

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  39. Nonsense, Emily. You planned well. You just changed your plans when it made sense and focused on what was more important. How many people do I know that clung doggedly to the same goals, met them and dived into depression and midlife crisis? I sometimes have thoughts like yours (I never directed any famous actresses but have been directed by and acted with them) but I would be further up the ladder without kids and a husband. Would i trade? No way. And neither would you.

  40. Emily, I don’t have anything to add that’s nearly so wise as most of these comments, but I wanted to tell you that I’ve been struggling with some of the same feelings and I wonder if this is the age we’re at, a bit of an early “mid life” review. I appreciated Lilian’s comments, esp. pointing out that many authors don’t publish until they are much older. I also like the notion of rejecting the world’s view of success and doing what makes you happy. Writing makes me happy, and if I can make some money doing it, then great, but if I can’t, then I’ll keep doing what pays the bills (being an attorney) and write when I can in spare minutes. Plus, so much of what I do is important– being a mother, friend, neighbor– but it will never earn me fame or fortune. What are you after, exactly? Does what you do define you? Interesting questions for all of us to answer.

  41. Okay, so I haven’t left a comment yet on this post. It hits kinda close to home.

    I’m 37 and have been in grad school for going on 9 years, with the end not exactly in sight.

    I graduated magna cum laude from an Ivy League university when I got my bachelor’s. After which I temped, waitressed, and worked in a bookstore.

    I once thought I would be a diplomat.

    I have great ideas, great potential, but when it comes to actual follow-through, I pretty much suck.

    Oh, wait, this was about you.

    Emily, I am continually impressed by all that you have done, and all that you do. I think you rock. You write beautifully. I look forward to reading your book when it gets published.

    And I am blown away that you manage all that you manage with 3 small children and little support in parenting duties from another parent.

  42. If you want to publish a book…then go ahead and publish it. You don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval or recognition.