Stay with me here – a few related ideas swirling around.
Last week (May 3 or 5, I can’t remember) I hit a milestone of sorts at the day job: including the time I was temping there (I temped for a few months as a temp-to-hire ), I have now been there for four years. Four years. Is that a long time? It is and it isn’t.
It is also an additional milestone for me: it is now the longest-held job I’ve ever had. In my entire life. Four years. Is that pitiful? For a guy my age? It is and it isn’t. I worked in TV for 6 years, but that was 12+ jobs (that I can think of right now) for 7 different companies, each of which lasted anywhere from 9 months to 4 days. Even of the pre-TV day jobs, the current one is the marathon winner.
All this means at least a couple of things: (a) it has been 10 years since I started working in TV and (2) it is now impossible to deny that I am officially out of the TV business. So my current day job is no longer a fluke, it is the all-time duration king. It is now the rule, not the exception.
A friend of mine (an entrepreneur, which is pretty near-identical to being a screenwriter/producer) is now getting ready to start her first “day job” in several years, maybe ever. She has emailed me asking for any pearls of wisdom I can throw her way, because she doesn’t want the day-to-day crap of the day job to overtake its real purpose: merely funding her passion. To her (and myself), I say good luck. The day job is supposed to enable you to follow your real passion, but it can so easily overtake it and become the one thing that most efficiently keeps you from that passion. Or even kills it. The truth is that it does both, every minute of every day. The short-term and the long-term have a very complicated relationship.
When do you give up on your dream? Never, obviously, but that’s not the end of it. In the fairy tale version of the story, the creative person does what he has to do to keep the kids fed and clothed, but with every spare minute he works hard and never loses sight of the brass ring. And then one day it all works out, he “makes it,” and people shake their heads in disbelief and marvel “you really did THAT for years to make ends meet? What an ironic waste.” We all know that sequence of events. What gets skimmed over is the years and years part, the ironic waste part.
But wait: that’s not really what this post is about. My day job is fine – it’s cushy, I only work 32 hours a week, I get to spend time with the kids. And if you know anything about me it is obvious that I don’t spend ANY spare minutes writing, let alone doing anything resembling “working hard.” Life is good. So I hear you asking, “If THAT’s not what this post is about, then what IS it about?”
And I think it is about this: It is too late for me to grow up.
People I went to school with have either (a) become successful (or at least steadily-working) screenwriters, (b) found their non-writing niche in the industry, or (c) gone on to success in non-industry careers. But I’m still in the middle somewhere, still feeling like Graham Parker seeing magazines designed for the successful woman while looking for one designed for the unsuccessful man. I am too old and too tired and too comfortable to start another career now. Having nothing to lose is a wonderful thing, and I’m not there anymore. I haven’t given up on the dream – in fact, I have been too stubborn for too long. At some point this stubbornness went from being an asset to a liability. Damn – there’s that day job popping up again.
The good news and the bad news are the same: I’m still the same guy I was 20 years ago, just with less hair and more self-consciousness. For me this is good, for my wife probably not so much. What’s the saying – “we love young women for who they are but we love young men for what they will become”? Something like that. I guess I missed the boat on that one.
If Supervillain gets made, is successful, and Dead Guy and Psycho Ex are ready and good and get bought up, I’ll be a big success. I’ll be on my way and everything will be different. If they don’t, I won’t. But in either case I’ll be the exact same guy. So really, no matter which happens, everything will be exactly the same. Nothing will be different. So what is success, really? If it can’t change you, does it really exist?
Have I just described your life too? I thought so.