My greatest fear is to die a wasted talent.
I’ll say it to anyone who will listen. I even titled my first unproduced TV script Wasted Talent.
I’m not sure it’s totally-totally true anymore. Now that I’m a mother, I’m pretty sure my greatest fear is to die while my daughter, Hazel, still needs me. I also have a paralyzing fear of mice. And Mom Blogs. But the point is: I constantly worry that when it comes to my career, I completely fucking blew it.
When I turned 40 last summer, I looked around and realized that a lot of my friends have made it. One friend just bought a $2 million bungalow in LA. Nobody gave her a cent. She killed it at work for that kidney-shaped pool. Obviously, that’s an extreme. Another close friend is a top nurse in Boston who saves babies’ lives — every day. Saves. Babies’. Lives. Other friends are landscape architects or small-business owners or social workers — they all astound me with their accomplishments. I generally feel inadequate compared to all of them.
I make a decent living as a freelance writer. I wrote a book a few years ago. I’ve sold a few TV shows that never made it on air and never paid me bungalow money, but they landed me a good agent and a little bit of street cred. I don’t take any of it for granted. I’m proud of my work. Even prouder that I kept up the momentum while having a baby on my own. I designed a lovely work-life-baby balance, and I did it all my way. Suffice to say, my default setting has always been: at least I’m happy.
But if I’m being honest, I’m often sad that I’m not more successful. There are two parts to that statement: I’m sad I never made more money (something that never fazed me until I had kids, and now I think about it all the time — the price of preschool set me into panic mode, and I honestly can’t begin to think about college!), and I’m sad that more than once, I let the voices in my head tell me that I wasn’t good enough to rise to where I wanted to be. I’m mostly sad that I listened — and continue to listen — to the loudest voice inside my head, the one that constantly whispers, You can’t be both successful and happy. So choose happy. That voice means well, I like her, but recently I’ve wondered if she might be wrong.
So last month, when I had the chance to work with the world-famous life coach and author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life, Lauren Zander, a wild-hearted force of woman entrusted by Hugh Jackman and Babyface and a certain queen of all queens who I’m not allowed to mention — I jumped on it. I’ve always been skeptical of life coaches, but after sulking to a friend about my twisted relationship with success, she said only Lauren could untwist things.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Next week, I go to LA for another round of TV pitch meetings, and I’ll take any extra wind in my sails. I’ve tried to get various series on the air for five years now, and while I’ve come really close, it’s never happened. This might sound like “Champagne Problems,” but I should make something clear: At my level, you generally don’t get paid until the show is in the pilot stage (that’s very far along in the process). So, in five years, I’ve made maybe $20,000 altogether, not even enough to get into the Writers Guild — which would at least cover health insurance for me and my daughter. I’ve worked ferociously on this dream. So ferociously that when I was eight months pregnant and I had a deal with a network, my blood pressure spiked so high that I needed an emergency C-section — (and I still took a notes call from the pre-op table). See? The TV business nearly killed me.