Can Dreams Change?
From the time we’re a child we’re asked what our dreams are. Often times they are something far-fetched, a true dream or fantasy. To be a princess, a cowboy, an astronaut, and everything in between. At some point you begin to realize that your dreams have changed, or maybe you have. From the time I was a kid, I dreamed about being a writer. And I worked really hard to make that dream a reality. During recess in elementary school I would write plays for my friends to perform (thanks Marni and Ally!), then I graduated to writing little novels (60 pages, but for a 9-year-old that’s mildly impressive), and in middle school I even had my own monthly magazine that I wrote, edited, and published for my fellow 13-year-old gal pals (RIP Glitz mag).
Sometime in high school, I realized I wanted to be a screenwriter and I zeroed in on that goal. I went to college for it, deciding it’d be best to go to a college in my hometown of Los Angeles since the entertainment industry was already here (a decision that I don’t necessarily regret, but there is a part of me that wishes I could’ve lived someplace else when I had the chance.) I worked hard, graduating with my degree in screenwriting in 3.5 years, when the average graduation time was creeping on closer to 6. I also got amazing internships, including one in the coveted TV writers’ office. I remember sitting in the room for the first time, staring up at the whiteboards, and listening to an episode “break” that I thought, “this is what I’m meant to do.” Within 2 weeks of graduating, I got my first job working as a P.A.— a job I thought would bring me closer to my dream of being a TV writer, and finally at the age of 23 (ten years ago for those keeping count), I landed my first writers’ assistant position. It was then that I finally felt like I was on the right path. That my big break would finally come. Except, it didn’t.
For the past ten years, I’ve continued to work in writers’ offices in various capacities (writers’ assistant multiple times, show-runners’ assistant, script coordinator… you name it!) with the promise of getting bumped up to staff writer dangling in front of me like a glorious carrot. In that time, I moved in with the boy I thought I was going to marry, got engaged to that boy, ended that engagement, lived on my own for the first time, found an amazing therapist, healed past pain, confronted my anxiety, went into debt, pulled myself out of debt, went into debt again, fell in love again, was hired to write a freelance episode, didn’t get to write the freelance episode because the show was canceled, pulled myself out of debt again, took a year off to write, produced a webseries I created, got engaged again, got married this time, got pregnant, suffered an incredible heartbreak of having to terminate my first pregnancy, went into debt again, got pregnant again, had a healthy baby, all while picking myself up and adjusting to every life change along the way. And I wrote. A lot. 18 pilots, 4 features, a play, and countless essays like the one you’re currently reading. I’m nothing if not prolific, I guess.
And yet career-wise, I’m more or less in the same spot I was ten years ago. That same staff writer carrot is still dangling in front of me, while I’m only making marginally more than I was at 23. I’ve seen friends have their writer dreams realized and others move onto different, but still successful careers. My peers are moving into houses and going on lavish trips and paying off all their debts, while I’m embarrassed to talk about my salary because I’m barely making above California’s minimum wage. Do you think this makes me feel less adequate and causes self esteem issues? Your damn right, it does! I’m left with the constant question of “why” ringing in my ears. Am I just not good enough? Am I simply a loser who is destined to fail? I can’t help but feel that way after almost 13 years of trying, and trying so hard with very little to show for it.
I guess there’s something to be said for the fact that I do make at least enough money to pay my bills and keep my debts relatively low. And thanks to the script coordinators joining the union, I have finally earned good health insurance for my entire family. But, I have this aching resentment and anguish in my bones. Constantly. It’s hard to be a good mother, wife, and friend when you don’t feel good enough for the dream I’ve had since I was a child, the one I have worked so tirelessly to pursue.
So maybe it’s time to let go of the dream. Accept the fact that it may never happen and instead find happiness in what I do have. So that when someone says, “it’ll happen soon!” it doesn’t feel like a slap across my face or a lie they’re telling in an attempt to mask their own pity. Because the truth is, nobody knows if/when it’ll happen. If it was based on hard work and merit, I wouldn’t be in this position. But there are so many other factors that are out of my control. And the truth is, I’m not even sure if it is my dream anymore, or if I’m just holding onto it because giving up now after all this time and hard work would be a failure. I just don’t know. What I do know is I am so tired and that doesn’t feel like “the dream.” Not even close.