It took me almost eight months after I graduated college to get my first, official job. I moved from the halls of Boston College to my old bedroom in central Jersey and hit the Monster.com search hard. At the time my dad kept a roll top desk in a carpeted corner of the basement. I would wake up every morning, eat my Team Cheerios (now called Multi-Grain because people prefer “healthy” to “teamwork”) and head downstairs to work on the critically important task of getting my life on track. As far as I was concerned, it was off.
The college to post-grad transition is a steep cliff jump no matter what. One day you’re living with all your best friends spending your time inventing “Drinking Survivor” and writing a weekly lifestyle column (for a college newspaper, but still), the next you’re in your childhood bedroom re and re and re-writing cover letters begging someone to let you use a wildly-expensive college degree to answer their phones.
Let’s just say I did not take well to the “time off.” I’ve wanted to be a “grown up” since I understood the concept. When I was little my grandmother-the-seamstress would make us any clothes we wanted from items we’d seen at the mall. I wanted suit vests..that I could wear over turtlenecks..with a series of mix-and-match skirts.
I whined a lot of things over and over and over again during those eight months post-grad, but the #1 whine was I just need my life to start. I’m tired of waiting for my life to start. This period of waiting for my life to start is killing me.
As if I was literally dead and only a job offer to resuscitate me.
There’s truth inside those over dramatics. I couldn’t move (hopefully to Manhattan) until I had a job. I didn’t have money saved so any activities that cost much were out of the question. I didn’t have my own car so I was trapped inside the house. And I was lonely for people in my same life stage. But I was still living a life, even if my entire day was organized around when Ellen came on TV (explaining why, when they switched her time from 11am to 4pm, I had a full-on tantrum. I cannot wait until 4pm to watch Ellen!!! I’ll never make it!!! I need her early!!! I need her to start what little life I have to live every single miserable ddaaayyyyy!!!).
But I eventually got my first job, moved into the city and became a “grown up.”
Seven years after that I left my last full-time job to become a full-time writer, and my life of waiting began again – this time by my choice.
I just need my career to really start, I whined to R last week (and the week before that and the week before that and the week before that and…). I’m tired of waiting for the next phase of my life to really begin.
By “this next phase” I think I mean regular and consistent work as a television and/or film writer. And I think that if consistency is my great life’s need then I picked the wrong field. It is statistically easier to become a professional baseball player than it is to become a television writer. I read that somewhere, while I was so bored of waiting for my life to start that I actually considered watching Ellen again (no offense, it just seems to have become a show about kids that know an insane amount of facts, and they make me too jealous).
These past few months have seen a lot of waiting in my world. Waiting on meetings. Waiting on deals. Waiting on jobs. Waiting on pay. At this very moment, I’m waiting the final two weeks of what has been months of waiting for network television staffing season. In two weeks I will either have a job for several months (if not years), or not, again. A million decisions about my life are on hold until this latest period of waiting is up, and another begins. And it can be totally madening, for someone like me.
I like to be busy. I like to be working. I like to be around people, collaborating. I like to get up and shower and go somewhere every day. I like to wear vests to wherever I end up going, still. Productivity and progress suit my personality – almost as much as seeing the world in black and white terms like my life is happening or my life is stalled.
And yet I am never lazier than when I’ve decided I’m waiting for a reason to be productive.
For a person so obsessed with forward motion, I allow myself to focus on the waiting for something to happen to me a lot more than the making something happen. So then is it the busyness I like, or the status of being busy? The work, or the job? Who decides what it means to be living my life if not me? The people on the other end of my cocktail party status report speech? Yeah…I’m working on a few things…you know just personal stuff…nothing big. Waiting on a bunch of stuff to see what’s really going to happen for the next few months.
When I look back on one phase of my life with regret it’s those eight months I spent crying to Ellen that I couldn’t get my first job. Yes, lots of factors were working against me – key among them, zero money in the bank. But there are a million things I could have done with that time instead of complain that it meant nothing. Started a YouTube channel, learned to cook, trained for a marathon, volunteered at a hospital, recorded my grandparents telling stories about the olden days, knit before knitting was even cool. Yeah, I’m being hard on myself. It was a tough time and I was sad for legit reasons, but outlook is everything and mine was skewed in one direction.
And it’s been a little skewed lately, too.
Considering my lack of skill at baseball, I’m going to have to stick with this writing thing. And that’s going to mean a lot of waiting – a lot of starts and stops – a lot of two steps forward, one step back. I don’t want to regret any more chunks of time I call not living my life.
How do I make that brain shift happen? Oh I have absolutely no idea. But I’m pretty sure it involves a suit vest.