Are you one of those irritating people who knew, from a very young age, what you wanted to do with your life?
If you are, and you achieved that career goal, well, bully for you, congratulations and get off my website.
But if you didn’t know who you wanted to be, or you knew and never quite got there, I think you and I may have a profound kinship that should be celebrated over appletinis and fried cheese.
You see, for my money, there’s nothing wrong with standing in your bedroom in your 20′s (or 30′s, and well, actually, maybe your 40′s) singing, “Who am I, anyway…am I my resume?”
This is a Chorus Line reference, and if you didn’t get it, clearly “Broadway Star” was not the future career you envisioned. Broadway Star WAS one of the future careers I envisioned. Along with Trumpet Virtuoso, Nationally Syndicated Newspaper Columnist, Travel Writer, Advertising Mogul and Television Sitcom Creator.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not being clear about your goals. I mean, from a very young age it was obvious to me that I was destined for greatness (although this appeared to be news to everyone else, who considered my litany of widely varied career options a desperately unfocused need for attention). As far as I was concerned, it just wasn’t clear how that greatness was gonna manifest.
Example: after being blown out of the water by a trumpet player who had the temerity to upstage me at the high school state band finals (a minority student who, by my calculations at the time, should have been busy dealing smack or selecting a tasteful gang tattoo), I decided to abandon the dream of becoming the next Miles Davis.
Example: following an audition for the Six Flags theme park show, where I sang Some Enchanted Evening while performing a tap combination, and the judges just stared at me open-mouthed, I determined that my fame did not lie on the Broadway stage.
Example: when the editor of the college newspaper found my column too “breezy” for the school newspaper (even after I reminded him that it was a humor column, not a series of op-eds on the Iran Hostage Crisis), I concluded that newspaper syndication was a pipe dream.
Although I knew there was something great out there for me, I was always ready and willing to move on to the next career possibility.
Hmmm. It’s funny. Now that I look back, perhaps I wasn’t being patient in my search for greatness. Maybe I was just being too willing to give up. Maybe I was being too thin-skinned. Because, truth be told, whenever somebody implied I wasn’t good enough, I not only believed them, I agreed with them and then ran home to eat Ding Dongs and cut myself.
In fact, I became so good at this self-flagellation that when the actress Tracey Ullman called me in to meet with her about a spec script I had written for her HBO series, and she praised me to what felt like a ridiculous and distinctly unwarranted degree, I tried to unwrap a Ding Dong right there.
But then, sometime in my 30’s, I turned the corner. I began working in television marketing and realized that I was pretty darn good at it.
And then I decided to write a memoir. And I didn’t give up. Even as everyone around me clucked their tongues and said, “Well, at least you’ll get it out of your system.” (After all, I create promos for television series for a living – I couldn’t possibly write something entertaining that was longer than 60 seconds. Could I?) And even as my partner, who was trying to protect me, said, “Don’t be hurt if it doesn’t happen. About 1% of authors actually get published.”
But I kept pushing forward.
And then an agent at William Morris decided to represent me.
And the editor of The Help bought the book.
And Sony and Adam Sandler’s company optioned it as a TV series.
And wow…as I look at those things, I realize that I finally achieved a teeny, tiny bit of greatness.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly retiring on the profits. I’m not lunching with Oprah (sadly) or The Kardashians (praise Jesus). But I published a book. And I’m writing two more.
So maybe I’m just a late bloomer. And if you’ve taken a similar route, maybe you are, too. Because, look, if I can finally achieve some miniscule measure of fame and success, maybe the only thing stopping you is a razor blade and a box of Ding Dongs.