Saturday, April 25, 2015

Not all those who wander are lost

There are a handful of things I have written in the last ten years that have brought me to tears during the process. Most of those things have been about loss, or about rock bottom moments. They've been my anger rants to exes or self awareness posts about depression.

For once in my life, the tears on the keyboard are for happiness. A bitter sweet goodbye to a place that not only changed my life, but saved it.

The decision to leave was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life. Stay and find a new career path that was conducive to the life I had grown to love, potentially calling it quits on the last five years of work and arguably the next 10 years of probable (and relative) success. Or leave and embrace the ultimate sense of achievement - working for a show in LA while potentially selling my own.

When my agents told me back in November that the script I had written was good enough to get me staffed on a show, I was thrilled. I bought shots for every bartender and a couple random strangers at Rarebit. I had moved to Charleston with the awareness I would probably have to put writing on the back burner in order to find the happiness I was looking for and lacking in New York. I knew there would be compromise. I never expected to write the script that would potentially put the rest of my life in motion while sitting on my porch drinking a beer.

When he asked if I was prepared to move to LA, without hesitation I said "of course!" And when I sat down for my general meetings in February, I knew I had the ability to do what I loved and have that ability recognized.

When the second script I wrote down here got even better accolades from my agent and certain execs than the first in March, I knew I had to make the decision. Staffing would begin in April, and meetings would come rolling in May and June. Yet here I was, scared to death about having to pull the trigger.

I never thought I would find something that made me feel the way writing does. Let alone did I ever think it would be a place. But Charleston has given me more in the last eight months than I think I could have ever imagined getting in a lifetime.  In 2012, a three day trip here saved me from suicide and depression. And in the last eight months, this life has made it difficult to remember what it was like when happiness felt like a far off dream.

I once wrote that Charleston gives a warmth to my bones that I couldn't explain. And I still can't. I just know when I walk out every day onto Smith St., everything feels right. There's an anchor in my heart and it's planted firmly here. Safe in a harbor where I have found nothing but love and friendship.

But I am a firm believer of taking risks. Of taking chances. Of never giving up until you've tried it all. And while I know how easy it would be to settle down here, open a shop with my sister and write on the side, I know in twenty years I would look back and wonder. All the stories and scripts in my head, and the characters that never got their voices. Of the Emmy speech that I'd no longer be able to practice in my head before bed. Of the joy of finishing a script and the agonizing wait to get the approval from my agents. I would miss those things. Tremendously.

In eight months I have discovered a love for life I didn't think was ever possible after my depression. I always thought the best I could hope for was alright. Just okay. Fine. Instead I have found that there is no end to the possibilities of how happy one can be. Every day I've been here I've woken up and been just a little bit better than the day before. I have learned how to deal with a life I was once terrified of waking up to. I have embraced challenges and thoughts that I never would have at 25. Made friends and had relationships that are beautiful and complicated and messy. I woke up every day not just wanting to get by, but wanting to be better.

And the only way I can rationalize leaving is by telling myself that it would be a damn shame to not take every ounce of happiness, every lesson, every heart break and mend, every overwhelming ounce of love I have found here and put it toward the one thing I love to do. I kept telling myself the stories I could tell aren't meant to be kept here and here alone. Those lessons need to be put into action. I need to write, I need to be in LA, and I need to have the experience I've longed for and worked for over the last eight years. I need to succeed my happiness, not just live in it.

And so I chose. Found an apartment in Santa Monica, made the decision and will need to find some way to say goodbye not with sadness in my heart, but with hope. And if living in Charleston has given me anything, it's the astounding ability to hope.

When my roommate Jamie suggested a fourteen mile hike last week, I almost dropped dead. I don't think I walk fourteen miles in a week. The idea of doing it in a few hours terrified me. But I agreed. And I motored through it, stopping only to ever admire the marsh and the color of the sky, and even the gross smell of the puff mud. When we stopped at Seewee restaurant and destroyed fourteen pounds of fried seafood, I couldn't stop thinking, "holy shit, I did it". And that's how I feel about my entire experience here. I have done things I never thought imaginable, felt things I never thought possible, and had the extreme privilege to live a life a lot of people only dream of.  It's time for a new adventure, a new journey, a new chapter. And LA is it.

And as I begin the last month of living in Charleston (for now), I look forward to 31 days of nothing but happiness and adventure. Of making the most of the time i Have left here rather than trying to hold onto each moment, afraid of its inevitable end. I look forward to trips to Folly and Sullivans, hikes with Jamie, lacrosse and beers with Colin, laughs at Muse and walks home up Vanderhorst. Wine nights with Emily and Eli, heart felts with Drew, laughs with John & Jamie, shows with Miles, beach days with Mike and Don, being Jewish with Donnie. And of course, beers on the porch while Cooper tries to eat bumble bees.

I will also relish every ounce of pain I feel as I get my tattoo - not all those who wander are lost. It seems appropriate to take the mantra that made the most sense to me down here with me wherever I go. And have the ability to remind myself this place is always with me.

And in between all those moments, I will look forward to the new ones waiting to be made in Santa Monica, with new roomies and a new town. A new beach and a new job. And know that even if everything falls apart, I will always have a place to come back to where even on the worst of my days, I am happy. And if that's not the highest goal in life, I can't imagine what is.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Britt McHenry is on TV, ya'll.

A few years ago, I would have been jealous of Britt McHenry. A nice job at ESPN, talking to athletes, looking pretty. In 2004, when I dreamed of graduating from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, ESPN was my dream job. 

Dreams die, obviously, and you find new ones. I found a new one that did not include being the brunette Erin Andrews. 

Now, from the outside looking in, I would never want to be Britt McHenry. Why? Because I value self awareness more than I value the ability to say “I’m on TV”.

The problem with Britt McHenry’s epic performance of “rant of a privileged asshole” is not that it was so over the top offensive, or something so deviant it can never be forgiven. It’s that it is so incredibly tired to anyone who has ever had a job that lack the luxury and glamor of say, an ESPN sidelines reporter. It's the Gwenyth Paltrow school of thought that pervades the minds of women like McHenry into thinking things like a steak cooked medium instead of medium rare and a $25 parking ticket equal a national crisis. You know this chick has without a doubt gone off on some poor waitress somewhere for not bringing her a lemon with her water. 

After I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2008 with my degree in English, not journalism, I worked at a bar. For nearly seven years. I cocktail waitressed, hostessed, bartended. I loved my job. But don’t think in those seven years I didn’t know what many people, mostly women, were thinking every time I came up to their high top in  a pair of heels and black work shorts. 

Working in a steakhouse in New York, I was privy to the countless hoards of privileged yuppies who seemed to think getting their boss lunch at UBS was on par to curing cancer and resurrecting Jesus. I’m familiar with the looks, I’m familiar with the whispers, and I’m familiar with the all out “get a real job, sweetie” and the “why don’t you actually get a degree” comments. 

But in all my years, I never felt the need to come back at these assholes who judge everyone in life by the just barely visible surface. I didn’t need to tell them I do in fact have a degree from a good college. That I was an editor at the school paper, that I published a book, ran a blog, have dated numerous athletes, hung with World Series and Stanley cup winners, have had numerous articles in different magazines go viral and that I am represented by a top TV literary agent in a top 3 agency in LA. That I’ve sat down for meetings with HBO, Showtime, AMC. Pitched shows. That I made more money than most working four days a week, traveled five times a year, lived on the Upper East side in a beautiful brownstone apartment and wanted for nothing, all while pursuing my dream of writing and enjoying my life. I didn't need to. Because unlike those men and women, I didn't feel the need to throw my shit out there to contend with them. I would never in all my life want their jobs and I certainly wouldn't want their personalities, whatever faux bragging rights they attached to both. 

Because the reality is, these people don’t care. Women like Britt McHenry, don’t care. Mean Girl syndrome isn’t quelled by that kind of knowledge. And what Britt McHenry displayed on that video is an overwhelming situation of mean girl insecurity. 

Her ability to rattle off the countless insults and self compliments reeks not only of insecurity, but of a mean girl desire to be better than someone, to say out loud SHE beat someone out in life. For all she knew, that woman is working a second job because a family member has cancer. Because her husband is sick, her mother is sick, because she wants to make sure her kid goes to college. Or yes, maybe she couldn’t go to college herself and simply took a job so she could be responsible and pay her bills. This comes from a meanness derived from a privilege women like McHenry have. The privilege of never needing to make ends meet. Of never having to take a job she wasn’t particularly proud of to make sure she paid her bills on time, to make sure she could afford a meal. This comes from a complete lack of understanding the reality of the world, that work and work ethic is not measured by the jobs that provide makeup and hair. I would love nothing more than to see McHenry in a dish pit, pulling glass wracks, cleaning out dog cages, wiping up spilled ranch dressing, rocking a bright red CVS vest, and then see if she still believes that a person’s worth can be measured by what they do to survive and pay the bills. 

The hilarious part is that McHenry seems to think ESPN hired her for her “brains” and “degree”. The harsh and sexist reality of course being that they hired her because men love nothing more than sex kittens and sports. No one is hiring this woman to be an investigative journalist in Ferguson, no one is sending her to do war reporting in Afghanistan, and no one is asking her opinion on foreign policy with Iran and Cuba. And the reason is because that personality she showed on that video is the exact representation of what this woman really brings to the table, what she is capable of, the level of “journalism” she provides. A selfish, vain, insecure, privileged, spoiled brat who more than likely could not do a job that did not rely, at least partially, on looks. And even if she could, she wouldn’t because it is so much easier relying on the “knock off Kendra Wilkinson” look she has going on to get where she needs to be. 

I have no sympathy for this girl, and if she gets fired, I have no doubt she’ll have a warm welcome at Fox News where her talents of being blonde, hot, and completely lacking awareness about her level of privilege and downright luck will be heralded as an essential skill set. 

Oh, and that apology? Absolute bullshit. Stressful situation? Cancer is a stressful situation. Getting in a car accident is a stressful situation. Not being able to pay rent on time is a stressful situation. Parking illegally and dealing with the consequences is stressful only to people who have never had the privilege of dealing with real stress in their life. 

“I’m on TV”. Yeah? So is Honey Boo Boo.