March 10, 2015

On Settling

I've long struggled with coming in second place.

I was the lesser of two daughters.

I was displaced as valedictorian of my high school by a junior who took easy classes to get all her credits in and graduate early.

I was the understudy who took over the part when the first choice for the role got fired, walked off, or came down with chicken pox.

I've never come first with anyone I've dated. There's always been some other girl. One time I had to compete with the guy's mother. I didn't win. I've taken a backseat to booze, fame, lacrosse, dogs, work, travel, and the ex he's still trying to get over.

I don't think I've ever come first, even with myself. I'm always trying to please somebody else. I'm always trying to live up to some imposed standard. I'm always trying to impress and obey.

I didn't allow myself to pursue my first choice career, acting. Because my parents refused to subsidize my college education, I ended up having to go to a school that wasn't particularly known for its theater program, because they were willing to give me the biggest scholarship. By the time I moved to New York after graduation – where I could've possibly made something happen as a performer – I'd already given up on my dream job. I wasn't willing to be a waitress or a bartender and be too exhausted to audition the next day.  I didn't want to be poor.

By the same token, I accidentally ended up giving up on my second choice career as a writer. I tried getting jobs at magazines, but the open positions were usually on the publishing side of things – ad sales, etc. – rather than editorial. Even though I had been a professional writer since I was a teenager, breaking a national news story when I was 17, I put that dream on hold too, and I started my third choice career in the music industry.

And in the music industry, I couldn't even get a job in a genre I liked. I couldn't get hired working with any of the pop, rock, or dance acts that I loved, so I settled for a job in classical music. I moved on to jazz and blues and world music. Eventually, I became the preeminent marketer of the last genre I would ever pick off a list: children's music.

Honestly, I made the best of it. I won awards. I sold a lot of product. I was quoted in newspapers, and I presented at conferences. I did very well for myself.

But I didn't love it. And I wasn't treated well. I wasn't rewarded for my hard work or attention to detail or business acumen. I was punished and retaliated against.

What had I given up acting and writing for?

I decided to leave the music industry (at least, working for record labels) in 2009, but I didn't successfully depart from it until 2012. I wonder if I'll end up going back again. I wonder whether I did the right thing. It felt right at the time; it wasn't what I wanted anymore. I don't think it was ever what I wanted.

So now, as I look for work and attempt to change careers, I hope I'm not setting myself up for failure by settling for what's now a fourth choice in career, whatever it ends up being. I've worked two jobs in tech, both of which ended abruptly after only three months. Now that I'm a free agent again, I've interviewed at television networks and non-profits and consumer products companies, but nobody has snapped me up yet.

Maybe it doesn't matter how smart I am, or how well I can do the job. Maybe they can feel that my heart isn't into it.

After all, LA is a city that encourages you to follow your passion.

So I'm trying to write more. I had my first real speaking role in a film. I'm getting older, but I haven't completely given up yet.

I may have deferred those dreams, but maybe I can go back to them. Maybe they're just on pause, and I can press "Play" again.

Related Posts:
Black Swan, And The View from Behind First Place
A Case of Multiple Identities
Putting Pop Music on Pause
The Love I Deserve
Pacific Standards

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