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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Life in Exile: No New Year's Reso-bleeping-lutions

As the new year begins I think back, not on all the great things that happened in the previous year as many do (though I know there were some pretty great things that happened, namely making a new acquaintance and starting a new job with a lovely lady, meeting a new great friend, starting a credential program so that I can validly apply for teaching positions, theatre things all well and revving forward) but rather thinking about all the mistakes I've made. Not just in the course of the last year. Why limit myself! But mistakes or should I say missed opportunities, and wondering whether I would be sitting here, in the desert, in a lonely office working a parttime hourly wage job, needing to supplement it with two other parttime jobs the sum of which does not even amount to one decent job wage wise or anything that could remotely be called a career. Or do all roads lead to the same destiny and I just need to breathe and learn to love the things that suck?

I go way back to when I was young and pretty and wasting my youth auditioning (when I could get them), waitressing and bartending at midling chain restaurants, married to an alcoholic. It was December one of those years and I coincidentally had an audition on the same day as my husband's Christmas party. He worked at a small company in SF and they were having their party at a restaurant in downtown, my audition was some blocks away at a new theatre company. I said I would meet him at the restaurant and all was agreed, but he got home early from work or didn't work that day (I can't quite remember) and decided to go into the city with me. We got off at the stop for his party, not my audition, and I was just going to say hi to the guys then get right back on the BART train. But when we got there, no one else was there. He said he would just wait at the bar. Doing the hours till party starts to possible consumption of alcoholic beverages (of an avid alcoholic husband in a party mode) quickly in my head, I decided to blow off the audition to stay with him, go for a walk around the block and hopefully reduce the cocktail intake. I was not successful and I remember his boss saying something along the lines (in all somewhat levity, of course) of "He's crazy, you should try to control him" meaning, "don't let him drink so much"... which of course I had tried, but his disease got the better of him and me as it usually did and made him look a fool and me even more foolish for being with him.

Missing that audition still haunts me. I try mightily not to engage in what ifs as I do not believe they have any inherent value per se, but sometimes that McClelland melancholy I inherited gets the better of me. That was the only audition I have ever missed.

Then we move to several years later when taking classes to qualify me to get into graduate school I turned down an opportunity to become a TV news reporter. Granted, there was no guaranty of a job but there was the implicit indication of help in that direction in the "Ryan, you've got talent, you're going places kid" support and encouragement. I turned it down because my classes in electronic journalism I found depressing. I didn't want to spend my life investigating bad news though I apparently would have been good at it. I just thought it would make me drink more than I already did (if you can imagine what that was, being married to an alcoholic and all you might see the validity in my worry).

But I often wonder if that wasn't a mistake. Would I have been successful?

Then shortly before the end of graduate school I got yet another one of those "You're going places kid" offers of support from a professor I had an internship with. "What about working at Qualcomm, or something like that? They start at $65K" Nope, I said, I'm goin' to Hollywood to make movies! This proves at least that I am not greedy, lest anyone was wondering. But scary to think that I might have been better off. The idea that I make just about the same as I made in graduate school is frightening, not to mention wrist-slashingly-depressing... thank goodness I have children to keep me sane. The only upside to that career track not taken is that some years after I moved to Hollywood and was gainfully and happily employed working for a producer and 'going places', Qualcomm laid off some 60,000 newly hired workers in the tech bust.

Then there was my break with above mentioned producer. I had worked for him for four years and needed to have some bigger role in the company or learn something new. Only so much can be learned in Hollywood behind a desk and I had reached that limit. While looking for a job I was offered one with a foreign sales company. It was, however, shockingly similar to the one I had just sat in for four years. Alone in an office, making just about the same money but not doing much different than what I had been doing. I laugh now at the 'career assistant panic' that made me turn the job down (as well as the $ offer being reneged on just as I was to step through the door). What I was worried about then I wallow in now, but not even as good as I could have had it there... because I am here.

The only upside to that missed opportunity is that 9/11 happened shortly afterward and the job would have entailed traveling that October to MIPCOM. Having not done much for work travel I didn't have the kind of familiarity comfort that would have been needed to stave off the post-9/11 traveling by air fear that took over almost everyone. Plus by that October I was pregnant and sick sick sick.

Then there was the Israeli film festival which hired me for a day, "just to see". I can understand why they did this. They had a panic exit, in case of bombing you know. But with a 10 month old baby, and lactating like crazy, it was uncomfortable being away. Who knows if I would have done well or not. It was essentially a sales job and I is no salesman! When later that day my husband got the job in Palm Springs he'd been hoping to get - to restore his place as breadwinner and bolster his self worth after over 10 long months of unemployment - I willingly gave up the film festival job. But what I also gave up in one fell swoop was my career in all total, such as it was, living in LA for good, such as it seems, and the building of relationships that comes with raising children alongside your friends in the same area.

Already far away from any family in LA, in the desert we were now far also from friends. I didn't realize the isolation that would grip me or how difficult it would be to shake off. The wrongfully imprisoned inmate still sees himself as a prisoner, and can't help but comport himself so. Even still, visiting friends in LA (even if rarely) I feel as though I have snuck temporarily back into the fold and will be kicked out if discovered at any moment. I have to learn to navigate all over again the outside world, so cloistered and dim is this one.

I was even offered a job with the film festival here but I had very small children at that time and a husband who worked odd hours. The income and hours I would have put in would have put me in the red in the final analysis after all the various babysitters had been paid. It just didn't make sense, as much as I would have liked to have been out of this office once and for all.

But here I sit, welcoming a new year, wondering if I could have done better. If I had been more selfish?, more hungry?, more ruthlessly driven? I don't suppose this is a calculation men really ever have to make, or do, but I wonder if I had just not considered the effect of my actions on my spouses and done what the hell I wanted, if I'd be any better off. Or maybe in some strange sci-fi like fate driven process I'd be here now anyway.

Anyway, happy new year... my non-resolution (because I do it now anyway) is to take my fate cheerfully, like so much medicine... maybe I will try harder this year to learn to love the things that suck.