Help! I’m 30 and Never Followed My Childhood Dream!

There was this episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted and the gang all realize that they may never accomplish “someday” childhood career dreams they’re all still holding onto.

Someone had always wanted to be a painter, someone else a rockstar, and then there were a few really ridiculous ideas…I can’t remember all of the dreams. The gang reminisces about the career pursuits they once longed for. Some of them try to pursue the dreams once again in order to turn them into a reality. They realize they’ve all been hoping to accomplish their childhood dreams ‘one day.’ By the end of the half hour, they let the dreams go, and keep on the path they were on before. The moral seems to be: we need to put those childhood dreams to rest for something better to take hold in our lives.’

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Lily wants to be a painter. Barney wants to be…a knight? Who knows? Hahaha, he’s pretty funny no matter what.

 

I was never satisfied with that episode. I think one of the reasons it got under my skin was that my career path has taken such a different turn from what I’d originally expected. When I watched that episode, I wondered if I’d given up on my childhood career dream. Am I still holding on to the belief that I’ll one day pick up my former dream again? Is that belief false?

Right now, I’m a self-employed Corporate Spokesperson and Product Specialist (to be better explained in another post), and I work in a lot of different industries, traveling at least half the time. I really enjoy what I do. When I don’t ponder dream careers and childhood ‘what I want to be when I grow up’s”, I feel a deep satisfaction with my job….for now. But then I think along the lines of: ‘Am I pursuing my dreams?’ ‘Is my inner child satisfied?’ ‘Do I know what my career dreams are?’ The questions lead me down all sorts of analytical paths.

I wonder what it means to feel satisfied right now while not pursuing my childhood dream. 

I wonder what my career dream really is. I always thought I wanted to be an actor- but that’s not my dream at the moment. What do I make of that? Have I given up? Was it never really my dream?

I think of the famous men and women who began what became their ‘defining career start’ later in life. The long list of people includes Vera Wang (40 when she entered the fashion industry), Henry Ford (57 when he created the Model T), Suze Orman (36 when she started her financial group), Gene Hackman (37 when he got his first film role), Colonel Sanders (62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken), Stan Lee (38 when he created his first comic: The Fantastic Four), Julia Child (50 when her first cookbook came out), Laura Ingalls Wilder (65 when the “Little House on the Prairie” books came out)….and many more.

Some of these people pursued a childhood dream that was finally accomplished late in life, and others ended up on a completely new career path…or two or three. I’m sure all of them had moments of confusion about the paths they were on. I’m sure they had many more moments of feeling like they failed. But the important part was that they kept on, proving that they were trying even while possibly failing and failing again.

Right now, I’m satisfied with my career. I’m not pursuing my childhood dream, but it’s not what I want at the moment. And for now, all I can do is listen to my gut. There are times when I’m filled with doubt, and times when I feel confused, but I find clarity in trusting myself and continuing forward, trying to be brave enough to fail and fail again. I make changes as I go, add and subtract, and above all, I continue questioning.

Careers twist and turn, and it’s both okay to pursue your childhood dream with a vengeance, or to let it go to make room for other dreams…or then to pick it back up again years later. Stay honest with yourself, know it’s never too late, and let yourself question your dreams, both old and new.

 

Have you heard of this movie, Laggies?

What are your weekend plans? All I know is that my weekend will involve seeing this new movie, Laggies, directed by Lynn Shelton. It’s about a 29-year-old woman who struggling to grow up, and finds herself thrown into a crisis of uncertainty when her boyfriend proposes. Here’s the synopsis from IMDb:

Having spent her twenties comfortably inert, 28 year old Megan reaches a crisis when she finds herself squarely in adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to pursue any and no one to relate to, including her high school boyfriend. When he proposes, Megan panics and given an opportunity to escape – at least temporarily – she hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika and Annika’s world-weary single dad.

As a screenwriter, I’m excited by these movies. Not only because it’s directed by one of my favorite female directors, but primarily because I’m so tired of seeing movies about 30-something women desperate for love or struggling to BALANCE IT ALL. There are other types of women in their late twenties and thirties and I want to see them on screen. In my own work, I try to write movies with complex, female characters with different viewpoints than the ones we generally see portrayed. Because if I see one more successful, power-drive corporate woman who’s missing just one thing in her life…love…I’m gonna barf.

Check out the trailer for Laggies here:

The Day After the Best Day Ever

There was a wedding in Canada I went to last summer that basically went on for a week. It felt like every day leading up to the “big day” was a celebration. The bride and groom planned food tours around Montreal, different city walks during the day, and all sorts of expeditions on the days before the wedding.

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Neat buildings seen from a boat ride around the Montreal harbor.

The wedding day itself was amazingly fun, creative and beautiful. It was one of the most enjoyable weddings I’d ever been to. And then the week continued on.

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We tried all different flavors of delicious Canadian poutine! Woohoo!

The afternoon after the wedding a bunch of the wedding party and a few friends all met up again to have lunch and get some poutine (which is a delicious Canadian french fry dish where fries are mixed with cheese and gravy, creating pure happiness.) While we ate, I asked the bride how she was feeling. She replied in an only half-joking bittersweet tone: “It was the best day ever… I want to do it again!! I wish I could get married every day…I can’t believe it’s over!!”

As we wandered around one of Montreal’s parks with our cheesy gravy-covered fries, I thought about how her long anticipated big day had come and gone. The bride’s “best day ever” was now yesterday.

The day after the best day ever always feels like a gamble; Even if it’s pretty good, it’s worrisome that the happy feelings will subside. There’s this residue of greatness now gone that hangs in the air. It’s so hard to hold on to that best day- when it occurs, the urge arises to grab it, but it always slips away.

Sometimes a yearning for ‘yesterday’ will leave me feeling unsatisfied and melancholy; And what’s funny is that even though this ‘day after the best day’ will happen every time, I always struggle against it. I wonder when and if another ‘best’ day will come again…and I wait. And I remember.

But then, in certain moments when things are calm, I think of all the other days and what they might mean. I wonder about them- there are so many more days stretching before me than there are those special, momentous ‘best days ever.’ Will they mean anything in my life? Are they only here to be squandered?

And in my clearest seconds, sometimes during a run at dusk or mid-meditation or on a long bus ride home, I feel a spark of contentment, a flicker of gratitude, a flash of clarity.What if today- and all those ‘other days’ and ‘other moments’ – are equally as great as the best days? Sometimes the clear feeling is as subtle as a touch of wind, and is gone as fast as it came. For the moments in its wake, I’m left confused, struggling to grasp the insight and bring it back to me. But as of late, my goal has been to embrace the confusion and just let it go.

What if the best day ever wasn’t yesterday or won’t even be tomorrow, but is actually right now?

Did you see this video about street harassment?

Did you see this video showing a woman who walked through New York City for ten hours and received over 100 harassing comments from men during that time?  She wore a backpack outfitted with a video camera and held two microphones. It was created by Hollaback! an anti-street harassment organization with the assistance of the video marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative.

Having grown up in New York City, I remember these sorts of comments from as early as age thirteen. I remember being a teenager and feeling embarrassed to walk down the street with my dad, in fear that someone would say something, and I’d feel shamed in front of my father.

In addition to the outrage at the obvious awful comments like “Sexy” or “Nice ass”, what pisses me off the most about these comments is this expectation for women to be pleasant and chatty all the time. Because sometimes, we DON’T want to participate in pleasantries. That’s when we get comments like, “Smile, more!” or “What do you have be so down about?” God, nothing pisses me off more than that.

I remember when I was growing up, my mom told me this story about a man in our apartment building. My mom is very friendly and will often chat up strangers on transport, elevators, etc. But this particular man she felt uneasy about, so she often stayed silent in their elevator rides when they’d be alone. But she said that he would often clear his throat in expectation that she would talk to him, and then made loud sighing noises when she didn’t initiate conversations.

If I’m in a brave mood, when I get unwanted up-and-down stares from men on the street, I give them a good, long up-and-down look, judging them the same way they judge me. I’m not sure what the men think of this, but somehow it levels the playing field.

Living with Paradoxes

Two days ago, I was on the bus and a homeless man got on. He carried a rolled-up blanket, three plastic bags, and wore some sort of Scottish looking kilt. Not a strange sight at all for a city bus in Los Angeles. I’ve also seen this particular man taking naps at the Big Blue Bus benches around Santa Monica so I think my assumption that he is homeless is probably accurate.

But, here’s what surprised me and got me to look a little deeper. He also carried two dry cleaning bags. When I looked closer, I saw that the bags contained crisp black suits. I couldn’t help but find this surprising. It’s interesting that he chose to spend his money on dry cleaning, but also ambitious that he would do this, maybe this small gesture and choice would help him land a job after an interview.

For me, the image of this homeless man carrying dry cleaning bags reminded me of the paradoxes we live with every day.

As I’ve started to embrace my 30’s, I’m finding that there are more and more paradoxes in life. For me, one of the most challenging paradoxes has to do with my writing career. I’m the type of person who reads self-help books and believes in positive thinking. Yes, I’ve read “The Secret” and I do believe there’s some truth to it. So I sometimes visualize myself working in a TV writer’s room, feeling financially secure and creatively productive. But I also am working on accepting myself and realizing there are many external factors that will play a role in whether or not this dream happens for me. For a very long time, I thought that I simply wasn’t working hard enough – I wasn’t putting in the hours to my writing which is why I wasn’t writing for Shonda Rhimes or Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, About a Boy). But the truth is – there’s a very real “market” out there, and the market may not want to buy my work.

Trying to hold both of these ideas in my head at the same time is a challenge. And I think it’s a great challenge of life, especially as we get older – learning to live within the paradoxes.

So You Want to Get Plastic Surgery

Renee Zellweger has been all over the news recently regarding her facial transformation. This news is so ubiquitous that it twice has made it onto a daily ‘top ten world news items’ email that I subscribe to.

Her new image caused me to do several double takes. I searched her name on Google in order to see even more unrecognizable photos. And I must admit my first few thoughts surfaced quickly: I judged her. Harshly.

‘What has she done to her face?’ I thought to myself. “It’s horrible that I can’t recognize her anymore! WHY would she do that?”

And then the opinion pages popped up all over the internet:

“She shouldn’t have done that to herself- she should be natural!!”
“Goddammit! Why?? She looks totally different! I liked her old face!!”
“The horror!! She looks even older now!”

And like a rapidly dividing cellular organism, the opinionated groups split and split into voices screaming everywhere:

“Be natural,” “Looks like an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSON,” “Trying to look younger,” “Horrifying” “Don’t talk about it anymore!”

But we’re talking about it. Even when we shut up, we’re thinking about it. It’s part of our culture to judge and put beauty and the act of aging under a microscope. Celebrities are under the microscope more than non-celebs, but only because they have more photos/video taken of them, and are seen by more people. Aging is judged for us all, and so people who try to combat aging are judged and reviewed even more. And this media frenzy has happened right now because Renee Zellweger seems to have “failed” the aging test.

In our society, women aren’t supposed to look like they’ve aged if they want to be valued; so the question strangles us from a young age: how do we stop letting age show on our faces and bodies? How do we pass the aging test? Can we eat perfectly “clean” and follow the ‘right’ exercise and sleep routines and be balanced and meditate and never stress out? Can we ‘make up for aging’ in some other way, by perhaps excelling with our creative talent (the Meryl Streep argument), utilizing our outstanding intellect, accomplishing our inner goals and dreams? Will these things make us better?

Maybe they will and maybe they won’t, but the purpose of all the above achievements and routines was never to make us LOOK better, but to make us BE better.

Becoming a better person inside doesn’t always show physically. It seems fair that inner beauty will always shine through on the outside, but life isn’t fair- when did we ever think it was? It is 100% certain that we will all age. There will be people who naturally look younger when they are older- a combination of luck and some habits and genes. Then there will be people who look their age or older- also a combination of luck and some habits and genes.

If successfully ’passing’ the aging test means looking looking naturally younger or “natural but still very good” then you will have ‘passed’ if you luck out by aging well ‘naturally.’ If you don’t feel like you have aged well naturally, then you’re stuck being judged for ‘looking old.’ So you can try to fix this with plastic surgery, Botox, or other outside help- but you will only have succeeded if the ‘help’ is a secret..if it’s completely and mysteriously invisible.

So the ‘aging test’ goes into super difficult bonus round challenge if you reveal the secret…you’re not allowed to show that you’ve had-gasp!- surgery! You can’t show that you’re trying to beat the system ‘unnaturally’– that’s cheating!

What’s that? Did I just write that we’re set up to fail?

I think so. The system that’s in place is set up to be all but impossible to beat. It’s a system of hypocrisy and double standards, of secrecy and judgement. The only way to beat it now is to join it, to believe in it or live in shame. And that’s not really beating it at all.

Our system is broken. It’s NATURAL to AGE! It’s Natural that age shows on our faces and bodies. But what our culture wants is a youthful look at all costs. So let us not judge plastic surgery. Let us judge our culture.

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