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.