I wanted to be a million different things growing up. A singer, a doctor, a writer, a teacher - at one point early in my childhood I remember wishing on a star that I would become a dentist. I was THAT high school junior applying to colleges, poring through lists of majors and minors and wallowing in the teenage angst of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. A guidance counselor told me to pick my favorite class and go from there, and that was the story of how I almost became a graphic designer.
But I knew how to make videos - short ones, clip reels really - that made my friends smile when they watched them. I sent my friends off at graduation with video scrapbooks that took years of inside jokes and cell phone videos and made them into a story that felt as important to us as it was at 17. And eventually, looking through those lists of majors, I thought "hey, if I don't know what I want to do with my life, I might as well go ahead and do something I like." I could make short movies - lots of them, that found their way into the homes of people everywhere. Television. Hell, I watched enough of it. I could make television.
The rest was history.
Realistically, I never thought I would end up doing much more than editing clip packages for the local news, but I went to a school where ambition was practically a requirement, and eventually I found myself believing I could give the big stuff a shot. I started to dream the way I wished I had at 16. I embraced ambition, I put on the focus blinders, and I ran as fast as I could toward this girl I suddenly found myself dreaming of becoming. This girl I could be proud of.
And, more to my surprise than anyone else's, I actually made it. I got to LA and figured I wouldn't last more than my senior semester of internships, and it was like I blinked and it was two years. Three years. I got to work on some incredible shows with incredible people. Four years. I experienced the kinds of universal moments that make you proud just to be there, let alone to be an active part of them. Five years. I was considered a colleague - A COLLEAGUE - of some of the best of the best in the television industry, period. In the end I got, at least in my eyes, the success story.
And after 6 years in LA, I'm ending the story today. I'm packing up my desk, then my room and then next week, the girl I was so convinced I wanted to be, into my little Toyota Corolla and driving it all back home. To my parents, to my dog, and to the house I left at 17, when I thought I knew exactly where the world was going to take me.
I've had a lot of conversations lately, with people much smarter than I am, about failure. About choosing to walk away from your dreams, and whether or not that is accepting failure, or simply accepting a harder truth: sometimes, you're just not built for the dreams you choose to follow. Sometimes your dreams don't always equate with happiness. Pride? Yes. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude? Hell yes. An unconditional lack of "why am I doing this to myself?" Unfortunately, not guaranteed with the package. And, when eventually the lightbulb goes on during an early September morning drive, the realization that you don't exactly have to tends to blow through like a refreshing breeze.
Truth be told, I still can't tell if I'm being a quitter. Maybe I am. I have never been very good at walking away.
But somewhere here, at some point, I stopped worrying about the life I wanted to have, and instead chose the legacy I wanted to have. Sure, I was scared, and I didn't want to disappoint anybody, let alone myself - it was an easy tide to get caught in. And as a result, I ended up with 6 of the best years of my life, in a city where I found myself a family that I could not have dreamed of at 16. I got an apartment, I got a car, I got a life that I thought was everything I ever needed but still hung strange on my frame - like a sweater just a size too big. But, I also got bitter. I got jaded. I got miserable in the kind of way that makes your friends want to shake you by the shoulders and tell you to either change or stop bitching. And I couldn't bitch anymore.
I guess I still deserve the girl I can be proud of.
This isn't a new chapter - I'm merely returning to an old book that I've paged through a million times. It fits in my hands perfectly, and the cracks in the spine will be exactly where I remember them. Instead, it's a grateful wave goodbye to the version of me bathed in California sunshine, and a chance to see if I can't make her just a little happier. Just a little bit more like the girl who left to chase it.
After that, who knows. There's really no more deadlines, or lists left to pore through. The sky's the limit.
And look at it - who wouldn't want to entertain that?