It is 9:37 pm on New Year’s Eve.
I am a 29-year-old, attractive female (or so they tell me), with an honors degree from a top University and a certificate from culinary school in France. And this New Year’s Eve, I am sitting on a couch in my childhood home next to my already-asleep mother and her snoring dog while a BBC murder mystery series plays on TV. Turns out the priest did it.
I reach over for my phone, as now that mom is asleep it’s finally safe to go back to the addicting blue-white-glow of a false sense of human connection.
I open Instagram. Ah, the sweet, searing sting of peering through the glowing plexiglass window to other people’s happiness. I relish in the familiar tightening below my breastbone as I troll through square after square of happy couples, lively parties, and ruddy-cheeked babies my friends have all had on purpose by now.
I scroll and scroll, hating myself for so deeply loving the voyeurism I publicly denounce, and it hits me; both like a mack truck, and like a sneaky middle-school girl whispering in my ear at the 8th grade dance. And I know it’s the truth:
I want to be a wife and mother, and I’m sad it hasn’t happened yet.
I turned 29 this year. 29. Ugh. How did that happen? No, seriously…what the f*ck? I was the girl in high school who did everything right. I got perfect grades in every subject. I was a virgin. I got the lead in all the school plays. I had a “hott-with-two-t’s” boyfriend who loved me and was going to an Ivy League medical school to be a fancy doctor. I got a full ride scholarship to college across the country to study with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was going to “make it”.
After college, I moved to New York City with my all best friends to pursue my Broadway Dreams. I lived in a gloriously happy and delusional bubble, going from friends’ apartments, to open casting calls, to dance classes, to my artsy boyfriend’s arms, to Times Square, to flea markets, to the world’s best museums, to standing-room-only lines for Broadway shows; And even though I had no real professional success to speak of, I was living my childhood dream of living in New York. I naively, but whole-heartedly believed that someday, someone would surely recognize that I was a great, undiscovered talent and say, “Where have ya been all our lives, kiddo? Let’s get you on that Great White Way! You’re a STAH!” and I would be interviewed by Playbill, and the New Yorker, and my hometown Beach and Bay Press, and I would talk about “pounding the pavement” and tell them all that if you follow your dreams, they’ll all come true.
What a crock.
I failed in New York City. I got a few parts here and there, but not one snowflake ever snowballed into anything resembling a career. So when, in the space of 10 days, my best friend and roommate took a job in Boston and left me without a place to live, my artsy boyfriend declared he was leaving to attend graduate school across the country, and my father died of cancer- it seemed like that was my cue to leave the Big Apple and move back home for awhile.
Side Bar: When someone’s loved one dies, DO NOT SAY “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do” is the worst sentence in the English language. JUST DO SOMETHING.
It’s great that you sent flowers or food the week of the death, good for you. You get a gold star. But I am telling you, if you really value someone as a human, PHYSICALLY DO SOMETHING FOR THEM a few months after it happens. They’re not going to realize how shitty it really is until about 3-6 months, maybe longer, after the loss. So take them out for coffee. Bring them Thai food. Order them a book on Amazon. Go to the movies. Help them clean the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what it is- just please, dear God, DO something without them having to ask. And if you’re really a true friend, keep inviting them to do social stuff, even when they say “no” to everything. They’re dying to say “yes” and someday, when they have the emotional energy, they will. I promise.
I don’t want to air ALL my dirty laundry, but let’s just say that as much as I didn’t want it to be, moving home after being dealt all those emotional blows was really, really hard and depressing. I had to mourn a lot besides my Dad. Like my perfect- albeit, a professional failure- life in New York. It was over. My friends had either rejected me, or moved away, or both. There was nothing left for me there but reminders that it would never be the same. I had to start over somewhere, and the most obvious choice was: Los Angeles.
After a few months at home, I had one night where my depression got the best of me and I got scared. I started looking for a car the next morning. I became obsessive about it. I threw myself into reading consumer reports and craigslist ads and finally found a used 2010 ford focus being sold for a very low price by a man going through a divorce who didn’t want his ex to get much money for it. I paid in cold, hard cash that I borrowed from my mother, and I drove it home feeling like at least I had finally done something about my situation. I still felt like shit, but at least I had accomplished this one small thing. It was a start.
I then began submitting myself for little-to-no-pay acting jobs in LA. I commuted from San Diego to sit in waiting rooms with my slightly-hotter-and-thinner-20-something-brunette counterparts, say mostly-terribly-written lines in front of older (and strangely, usually Asian) men, then drive 3 hours back home. And then one day, I actually got the part. It was a pilot presentation about 20-somethings trying to figure it out. Little did I know, booking this project would set the course for my entire life in LA. God was finally cutting me a break.
The last night of shooting, the other girl in the show let me know her roommate had just given notice and she was looking for a new renter. I moved in a couple weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, 2013- exactly three years ago today. I still live there and she is now my best friend in Los Angeles.
The past 3 years have been a blur of ups and downs. It didn’t work out with artsy grad school boyfriend. I signed with a terrible crook of an agent, then dropped him. I started two small businesses painting and blogging, neither of which make me any money but make me happy. I started dating again. I got some tiny but exciting roles on TV. I got 8 parking tickets. Friends moved away, mostly to Chicago. I started writing in earnest. I miss my Dad. I love my mom. I embraced my food allergies. I signed with an awesome manager and agent who actually like me, and who I like back. I got a job babysitting. I quit babysitting to work at a tech start-up. Said start-up ran out of money and went under on Dec. 1st, 2015 which, being right before the holidays, I ignored until just this minute.
I am 29 years old. I have $1200 in the bank which will be $400 after my January rent check is cashed. I have no day job, again, and it kills me that I seem to be stuck in the churning wheel of the millennial stereotype.
But I have a lot to be grateful for, too. I have a loving mother who despite all logic supports my artistic career choices and helps me out where she can. I have a roof over my head in a great neighborhood and most of my friends live walking distance from me. I have someone who loves me and indulges my need for Fraiser and Thai takeout at least twice a week. I have reps who believe in my ability to make money in the industry I’ve chosen and encourage me to keep at it. I have relatively good health. I have friends who can I commiserate or celebrate with, depending on the occasion. When I put it on paper, it doesn’t seem so bad.
But here’s the thing; that little overachieving musical theatre nerd who loves stories, and art, and feelings, who dreams about True Love, who fantasizes about traveling the world and saying something of worth, who devours books, and sings out loud, and dances in an imaginary spotlight is still inside me. She’s been knocked down a lot the past 6 years. She’s had to adapt to some rather extreme conditions. She’s been told to “grow up”, to “be realistic”, to “compromise”. But she can only take it for so long and now she’s clawing at the walls, and rattling the cage, and slamming up against the forefront of my consciousness screaming IF YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW, IT’S GOING TO BE TOO LATE.
When my Dad died he said two things that stuck:
“Take care of your mother” and, “it doesn’t matter who you marry. But it does matter who you have children with. They will be in your life forever.”
And when he could no longer speak I made him promises. I told him I would take care of my mother. I told him I wouldn’t give my heart to anyone who didn’t deserve it. I told him I wouldn’t give up on my dreams. I told him, “Don’t worry, Dad. I am going to get everything I want, because I’m your daughter.” Those who knew him will understand the weight of that sentence.
So here I sit. In the house he built, on New Year’s Eve, 2015 at 11:48pm. Finally ready to keep my promise. Here goes somethin’.