When I was around three or four, my mother would have me tag along to the classes she took at the local Junior College. I'd sit through Introduction to Childhood Development, my chubby little toddler legs hanging off the slick plastic chairs, my nose buried in a book. I never made a sound, and no lecturer ever complained, except the one that said I couldn't sit right next to SlackMom during an exam, as he thought I might be slipping her the answers.
It was back then that my mother started referring to me as the 40-year-old-midget. I was a child who preferred the company of adults. They'd call it precocious except that my family wasn't much for coddling such behavior, if you weren't going to act like an adult, well, act like an adult then, not some cute childlike version of adulthood. And be a dear an fetch mommy another martini? *
Through childhood and into my adolescence, I was always the responsible one. When someone screwed up, they came to me for advice. As for me, I was busy figuring out how to make a buck. Babysitting at 10. Taking care of the exotic animals (12 parrots, a toucan, and an iguana) for the Wildlife Artist and Lecturer at 12. I was two steps ahead of everyone else, not because I was more clever or more intelligent but because I worried and I planned. I always planned ahead.
In college, I was a Film Major. Not exactly the most responsible of decisions, but even SlackDad said to me I know you'll figure out how to make a living. I was the one they didn't have to worry about, which meant I was putting on a good show, because by college I was hanging on by a thread. But I was doing what I did best, and I was Figuring It Out.
When everyone was heading off to the Bahamas or Mexico for some sun-soaked Spring Break, I was heading to California, taking informational interviews and trying to line up a job after graduation. I did, although that fell through the day before I picked up and moved, but I moved anyway, because, as always, I'd figure it out.
I got my job in a somewhat unconventional manner, but I put my head down and waded through the muck. I was called a stupid cunt during the first hour of my first day, but I worked through it, just like the throngs of other wanna-bes, and I cried quietly from the stress in the bathroom stall after my 17-hour day - just like the throngs of the other wanna-bes. But I had a plan, and I was going to stick to it.
Six years after moving here, I got my first writing job. It seemed like things were going to get a little easier, and for awhile, they did. I was making Real Money, but instead of buying a fancy car or clothes or designer handbags, I Paid Stuff Off. Once I was debt-free, I started socking away paychecks. My plan was working, and I didn't need to work so hard on Figuring It Out.
I enjoyed my success, I met a boy, we moved in together. Work slowed down for me but picked up for him, and I started freelancing for his show. He told me not to worry and for once, I didn't. For two years, I didn't have a Plan, I didn't Figure It Out, I just enjoyed the ride.
That ride came to a screeching halt New Year's Eve 2005/6. I look back and think I should have known better. The signs were always there but I can't. I won't say that I didn't love the Big Fancy House and the Stuff, but it was never mine. It wasn't my show. It wasn't my success.
I had a Good Run. I was nominated for some awards, some of which I won. I got to write for a living, and many people don't get to say that. I don't regret it for a second. But the fact is my career has come to a screeching halt. While I have a few things still Out There, this is the year I have to Figure Things Out. I am 34 years old, with seven years of Television Writing behind me and I'm finding that that doesn't really mean anything in the real world. I cleaned out my savings, I'm back in debt, and I can no longer ignore the fact that this isn't working for me.
I have to come up with a New Plan.
I've been applying for jobs - jobs that where I think my skills might translate - but what I'm finding out is that I'm too inexperienced to take mid-level jobs, and at 34 I'm too old for entry-level positions. Of course, I can always temp, but temping is simply a means to an end. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life filing for ten bucks an hour trying to ignore an overweight insurance agent's blatant gaping at my chest.
For the past few weeks, I've lain awake at night wondering what the next step is. I've always loved working with animals. Vet School? But then I'd have to completely redo my undergrad, it's horribly competitive and there's only a few Vet School in the U.S., and none of them are located in Los Angeles. Is it fair to ask Mr. Boy to put us further in debt and then ask him to pick up his life and move? There's always something like the Moorpark's Teaching Zoo, which has the benefit of being closeby, but I'd graduate to a $20,000 a year job.
Of course, there's always the Siren's Song of Law School, which I've been considering for ages. But again, that's tens of thousands of dollars that we don't have. I have no desire to be an Associate at a Big Firm working a trillion hours a week (and honestly, at nearly 40, I doubt they'd want me) although I'm sure I could put it to use somewhere else.
During these crises, people always tell me things like "write a book! write a movie!" While I'm working on the former, writing a book doesn't pay my credit card bills. Maybe someday it will, but it's not something I can count on. Writing a movie, writing for magazines, the same thing.
I'm 34, and the only thing I am absolutely sure of is that I want to marry Mr. Boy. Outside of that, I am terrified. I have No Plan. I have to contribute to our household, but I feel like I've lost all ability to Figure It Out.
If this was a Detective Movie, a real detective movie, I'd have it all solved in the last act. The Bad Guy (Fate? A Hollywood Executive? My Manager?) would make one fatal error and I'd either catch them red-handed or set up a trap that involved a formal dinner party and snappy conversation and the someone-in-here-is-a-murderer! (I've always wanted to say that, and during a lull in dinner conversation, I've been known to do so) and it would all be figured out.
But sadly, the Detective Agency isn't real, and some days, I feel like I'm not either.