D: “So what did you do before you started working here?”
N: “I was a paralegal, but I hated it. So I started writing.”
D: “And what do you do?” (To my boyfriend)
A: “I’m an engineer. It’s great.”
D: “So we are all doing what we love.”
Yessssss. Right-0, sir. Yes. We. Are.
I look around at the San Diego skyline, and at the LA born and breds. I need another drink and a pinch. A pinch because I’m not sure I’m really here. Another drink because I feel like Honey Boo Boo’s Mom at a modeling casting call.
It’s Friday night and the sky is like a cake iced with hazy pink frosting and sprinkled with the bright lights of hotels. Droves of perfect blondes teeter on four-inch heels. These beauties – adorned with immaculate makeup; perfect clothes; and faces meant for print – rest on the arms of fashionable and wildly successful men. “I’ve submitted 60 episodes to The Simpsons” and “We have Coachella press passes” are conversations I’m privy to. The rooftop bar of this hotel – the venue for the release of this issue of the magazine – breathes in beauty and exhales success.
Alex pulls on his cigarette, as the editor of the magazine (my boss) poses for a photo. When I’m 70, I’ll remember this moment clearly, because never in my life have I felt this feeling. And it’s difficult to describe.
From Day One, I have been in love with language – with the artful arrangement of words on a page. And while, I’ve fallen in love with men – and so, tempered mind-blowingly painful break-ups, cardiac arresting heartbreak – stories and characters don’t break my heart. Rather, they heal it. And whoever wants my heart, will have to share it with my gentler, kinder love.
When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, lofty aspirations are your answers. “President,” “astronaut,” or “actress,” they chime – because a child’s superpower is in imagining a world beyond limitations. Appropriately, my younger self used to say “novelist.” Used to say. But, as so many of us do with our most perfect plans for our lives, I quarantined my dream into the realm of impractical and impossible. At some point, early on, I decided my wish to be a writer was not meant for my life. For, what talent did I have? My writing consisted only of scribblings in diaries. And, as I was told, writing professionally was a great dream, but it was only that: a dream. And so, long ago, like hypothermic Kate Winslet so dramatically does to a frozen Leonardo DiCaprio, I let my passion go.
But that was a mistake. The most important thing I’ve learned through my happiness project, is that you have to live a life of passion. There truly is a perfect plan for each of us – Plato called it a “perfect pattern.” Each of us can find a way to make money doing something we love to do. We find this thing – this joy-full occupation – through exploring what we’re most passionate about. By pursuing our interests like a cheetah hunts down a Dik Dik (and yes, a Dik Dik – pronounced “Dick” “Dick” – is actually an animal).
Finding your life’s work – whether it be yarn bombing, golfing, or dancing – will make you happier than you ever imagined. But, realizing your dream is entirely contingent upon whether or not you want to try. Many people seek an easy way to finding true success and happiness. But there is no easy path. There is, however, a right one.
“My problem is, unlike you, I don’t know what I want to do yet. I haven’t found my passion,” someone said to me recently as I scrubbed dishes. I say to this person: do you think I always knew? I had to look for it. Do you think it was easy for me to keep writing when no one read what I wrote? Do you think it was easy to wake up at 6:45 in the morning when I stayed up until 1:03 to finish a post, and then go to a job that was like Chinese water torture for 9 hours?
I’ve floated in limbo, too, and it sucks. But you can find something that makes you money that will also make you happy. Or, at the very least, happier. And while you’re looking for this magical future, remember, you only learn a thing by doing it. The writing you’re reading at this moment is terrible compared the writing I will write in 10,000 hours practice time. In fact, most writers say everything you write for the first two years is trash-worthy. But, I will practice until I am a great writer. I will practice forever, no matter what my bank account – or retirement fund (yikes) – looks like. I am committed. Why? Because I’ve teetered back and forth, and what I know now, is writing makes me happiest. It fucking makes me sad sometimes, too. Sometimes I can’t think of anything to write, or I post stuff that is total shit, but you have to pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off, and try again. You have to keep at it. And the benefits far outweigh the burdens. And you have to find a cause, a purpose that thrills you. You have to, you have to, you have to, you have to. Why? Because Natalie Holtz said so.
I am scheduling interviews with head chefs at San Diego restaurants; I have two four-page stories to write for a reputable magazine within the next two weeks; and I think I finally understand what Ray Bradbury meant when he said, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.” But I am so damn happy. I finally found my way. I know you can find your way, too.