I’ve received a lot of bad career advice over the years: “You’re too good of an assistant to be a good writer” (didn’t realize those two were mutually exclusive), “People won’t take you seriously in this business because you’re too short and nice,” (So… assholes fare better?), “You should just try and sell a pilot!” (I mean… duh!) but there’s one piece of advice that has kind of stuck with me and messed me up as a result, which is: “As long as you’re staffed by the time you’re 30, you’ll be fine.” Ladies and gents, I’m 33 now and still not staffed. And as a result, I’ve been feeling very not fine.
This advice was given to me when I was a plucky 28-year-old with the world at my feet. I had a fancy agent at UTA. I had just shot a big-budget webseries, which I was credited as the creator and one of the EP’s, I had sold a pilot overseas the year prior that was still in contention for a pick-up, and I had just been hired to write a freelance episode of Broadcast Television for a high-profile show. I was more than fine. I was very much on my way! Or so I thought. At the time it wasn’t bad advice at all.
But things changed and I held onto that advice as an end-all, be-all, instead of realizing it was just a limited perspective based on my reality at the time. This isn’t going be a woe is me post, guys. This is going to be a “it’s all about perspective” post. Because for the past three years, I’ve been dwelling on the fact that I’m not a paid writer. It has fucked with my sense of self-worth. I mean, I had to ask my husband if he thought I was a loser or if he thought our friends considered me as one because I’ve been *so*close* for so long, but am still just a “measly assistant” making a measly assistant’s salary. But the only one thinking I’m a loser is me. Because honestly, it doesn’t matter if I get staffed at 30 or 34 or 56. In the end, it’ll have the same outcome. And the advice given to me at the time was meant to be encouraging. I think if the person who gave me that advice realized it would’ve changed my entire perspective on my self he would’ve never said it.
I’m the one who took it to heart and saw it as a final deadline. I’m the one who let it define me and focused on what I didn’t have, instead of what I do have. With this kind of job, there’s no rule book or template like becoming a doctor or lawyer. If I write a certain amount of scripts and/or work hard there’s no guarantee that I’ll get the promotion to writer (which I’ve tried to explain to my Grandfather countless times with no success).
And no matter how great advice is at the time, circumstances change. Honestly, the industry has changed a lot in the time I’ve been working (yay diversity! yay me too!) so maybe there was a time when if you weren’t staffed by 30, then you were screwed. But now, people are getting staffed after having completely different careers. So… maybe that’s what’s in the cards for me.
The point is, I never should’ve held myself to those standards by letting just one perspective define an entire situation for me. I’ve wasted a lot of time being bitter and crying over something that is completely out of my control. Perspectives have limits. Knowing that, I’m no longer carrying around the feeling of failure because I didn’t reach a goal by an arbitrary deadline. And when you’re unburdened by a limited perspective, the possibilities are endless.