Therapy Session: Life Changes
Carmen: Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong. Everything. Nothing. On the one hand, I know I have nothing to be complaining about. On the other, all I want to do is scream. It’s all just jibberish. Never mind.
Dr. Mei: How about if you stop over-analyzing what you’re going to say, and just say it? Let me hear it and I’ll tell you if I think it’s jibberish or not. Deal?
Carmen: Okay. Deal. Uhm. Well, simply last week I was sure I’d be pitching my TV drama idea based on my book but I didn’t finish it. You know, detailing out all the characters and such. I wanted to be so organized, so ready and I’m not. Then, I got it in my head that I should pitch an idea I had on cultural criticism to a magazine that’s looking for new writers and so I started working on that. I’ve outlined my second book – and started writing another chapter — I saw an audition online and wondered if I should submit – then I thought I should contact my agent to start sending me out or get a new agent because – what the fudge, right? They haven’t sent me out at all. It’s annoying. Uggh. I applied for a grant a while back and decided to follow through on the play part of the proposal. Plus it’s still something I want to do. I “owe” two podcasts – based on my self-imposed schedule – I mean, what is wrong with me? Why do I think I can do all of this? And why can’t I do all of this? Why am I feeling overwhelmed when this is everything I’ve been asking to do all along?
Dr. Mei: First, take a breath. A deep breath. Good. Now, it seems like a lot, but why do you think you’re not doing it?
Carmen: Well, if I’m being honest, I realize for the first time in my life I’m living my dream. For all these years I’ve worked a job I hated – yeah, I’ll say hated, without hesitation. Even more than the work itself, I hated the people I worked for. I mean, now that I can look back, most of the people I handled money for were bitter, old-minded, entitled privileged lazy people. Ungrateful. And constantly complaining about how hard their life was and the worst: they always “announced” how much they did for everyone else – which for the record, was write a check. Write a check from money they never had to earn by the way. Anyone can write a check if they have money. But it takes a real kind of person to take credit for doing bullshit. I think I hated that the most. The god-damn boasting about how much money they gave to such and such… But I digress. I ultimately hated the work itself.
So, here I am, now, getting up every day working as a creative entity. I wrote my book, I’m doing some speaking events, I’m writing — exploring every day what it feels like to be a writer. I can’t lie, it’s taken me some time to get into the groove of things. I mean, when I rehearsed as a kid, as a dancer, I was on schedule. And, it’s taken me some time to FEEL like this is right, but I can’t lie. I’m scared. I just am!
I fear I’m going to do all this work and nothing will come of it. I mean, that’s not why you’re supposed to do ART in the first place, right? You’re supposed to create ART authentically because you can’t do anything else. But what if I share all of this, what if I pitch this or that or write a second book and no one cares? What if I put so much into all of it and I get rejected, dismissed – or worse, what if I hear nothing at all? What if I do all this and I still can’t pay the bills? What am I thinking?
I really can look at my entire life and see it that way. Nothing I’ve wanted has ever come to fruition. I’ve failed at everything I ever wanted even if I succeeded at everything else. My entire life up until this point has always been to do the right thing. To be the good girl. To never be a bother. And even still – with all of my effort of always being of service to others, of always being honest and kind…why haven’t I succeeded in all the things I’ve wanted? Why try this? I’m just setting myself up for more heartache, right? And which one of these things should I be pursuing? What is wrong with me that I think I should be doing 5 things at a time? And have I lost my mind? Do I think money grows on trees somewhere?
Dr. Mei: Well, two things come to mind that I’d like to share. Maybe three. First, take a breath. I’m not saying that because it’s what I tell everyone – I’m saying that because I don’t think you notice how you hold your breath and tense up when you speak. Your passion, your concern are formidable, but that stress is mounting and I can SEE it in you. So first, take a nice long deep breath.
Second. I love how you said you’ve “failed”. You realize you’re not done, yet, right? You get that it’s not over yet. As I know you, as I’ve read in your book, you haven’t failed at anything that was put in your path. Most people see you as a success. But you feel like you’ve failed at the things you want in life. I get that. But you’re wrong. The problem isn’t that you failed Carmen. The problem is that you haven’t even started yet.
You feel like a failure because you’ve been pursuing other people’s needs and joys. You’ve never followed your true North. You moved to Los Angeles and took a job doing bookkeeping because you knew it’d be better money than being a waiter, plus you’d never last waiting on people. But it was the plan till you could get yourself stabilized to pursue your creative career. Things continued on from there and the jobs got more important and impressive – and they got even more miserable with every day that went on. My goodness, you wrote a book in the midst of so much misery in the job you had while working through past pain of your childhood! That’s pretty remarkable. I can’t wait to read the second book for that reason alone!
Third, and maybe most importantly, you’re here now. THIS was your path to get here. You needed to travel that road to get to THIS point. None of it was a waste of time – and none of it was really in your control. This is LIFE happening. You can only do what you know how to do when you actually KNOW how to do it. You couldn’t be anything else other than who you were then, to be who you are NOW. This is the journey you’re on. And so far, it’s been pretty interesting to say the least. Aren’t you excited to see what’s next? I am. I can’t wait to see what you do from here.
Let’s talk about rejection. Or my other favorite quip you said, “…or worse, hear nothing at all.” Whatever it is, fear of being rejected, to make a mistake, to let people down, to not make enough money to make a living, whatever. Rejection is hard. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone through it, doesn’t matter how used to it you think you are – rejection is difficult. Got it?
By the way, welcome to the club.
Yes. It’s a club. We’ve all been there at least once in our lives. You’re at a crossroad and instead of choosing which path to take, you’re standing at the head of all the choices in front of you hoping someone will you push you down the “right” path.
Look, everyone wishes Steven Spielberg will run into them at the local coffee shop and be so stunned by their mere presence that he asks you to his office because you’re his next lead in his upcoming movie. People dream of Oprah calling them on the phone and saying, I read your book and you’re one of my favorite things… yes, we all want that. Someone to validate us, someone to walk us through. It would be easier…
I’m not Steven Spielberg, but let me help shove you down a path anyways. Write the TV Script, do the pitch, write the second book, do the acting, the podcast, the blog, do the magazine cover – DO ALL OF IT! Do the speaking events, teach, write, dance – all of it IS WHO YOU ARE. It’s who you’ve always been even while doing everything else. That’s what’s so impressive. IT’S YOUR TRUE NORTH Carmen. You’re a story-teller, a performer. Do you need evidence? Okay – here’s some off the top of my head: Steve Cadwell said, “You write like Hemingway: every word true to the bare bone fact of how you experienced it. Compelling!” That was October 21st, 2018. Right? You sent me the email because you were so happy.
Need more? I can rattle off the names, the people – some you know, some you don’t who have already told you about your writing. But just looking at your face I can sense your disbelief.
Tell me what you’re thinking right now.
Carmen: I’m thinking they’re all just being nice. Overly generous.
Dr. Mei: Okay. Let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that all the accolades thus far have been people “just being nice” to you. For the record, that’s a complete untruth, but let’s just go with it. So what? Then just do it because it’s what’s next. Do it because you have no reason NOT too. Do it because you’ve been given numerous “signs” that you should. Do it because NOT doing it guarantees failure and regret. Do it because it makes you happy. Do it because I’m telling you, this is so much closer to your true North than anything else you’ve done in the past 20 years. Do it because even when you talk about the struggle of it, you still sound lighter and happier than any time you’ve talked about any other work you’ve ever done. Do it because the worst possible thing that can happen is that you took the shot, it didn’t work out and you go about and do something else. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
Carmen: Yeah. I know. Everything you said, is true. I know all of this. The weird part is, I’m excited. I’m excited about all of it. And it’s mixed with a tinge of fear. But when I think of going back to my old life – the only word I can come up with is dread. Absolute dread.
Dr. Mei: You’ve already leaped Carmen. You’re in the air right now –in the midst of it all. Don’t worry about how you’ll land. Stop looking to land just yet. For now, keep doing the work. Keep flying high on the joy it brings you. No matter how you land, you’ll be fine. My guess is, you’ll be better than fine.
Carmen: You know what’s so funny and sad at the same time? I went and saw the new Avengers movie and there’s a line in it that made me wince – I just couldn’t believe I had just heard this. I promise, no spoilers. Have you seen it yet? It doesn’t matter. This line gives away nothing to the movie. But the character says something like: “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be. A measure of a person is how well they succeed at being who they are.”
What I really thought in that moment: I’ve gone mad crazy. I’m so ridiculous I’m even getting “signs” from action movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, it’s just…crazy, right?
Dr. Mei: Well, that’s one way to look at it. Or, the way I see it – the universe is trying to push you down a path in every way possible. And if not the universe, then you’re inner-self for sure. You’re seeing what you need to see. You’re hearing what you need to hear. Whether you choose to listen is another thing. It’s like that clip you like in the show the West Wing. The episode is Take This Sabbeth Day, remember? It may be a bit too religious for this moment, but it’s on point. Choose to take all the signs your getting – the most important sign is that YOU want to do all of this. If you had all the money in the world, THIS is who you’d be, right? Failure wouldn’t be such a big deal then. It’d be just a bump in the road to still doing what you want to do. And seriously, when have you EVER allowed money to be the reason you chose to do anything at all? To define you? To stop you from doing what you want to do? Don’t start now. This is the best part! Enjoy the ride. It’s just getting started.
Carmen: Yeah! You’re right. Oh my goodness. Yes!
Dr. Mei: Till next time, then?
Carmen: Yes! Thank you so much.
West Wing Clip: Take this Sabbath