Thursday, August 1, 2013

Successful at Failure


I have lived in Los Angeles too long to not have any career to show for it.  Honestly, I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve actually been an Angeleno, but I can tell you that it’s an embarrassingly long time.  I certainly didn’t move here with the intention of being a failure, but just like everyone else who arrives in the City of Angels with a few hundred bucks and a dream, I thought that I would make it big.  Despite all the people who told me how hard it was and how the odds were stacked against me, I was absolutely convinced that it would be different for me and that I would, without a doubt, become a star.  Jesus, I’m such a cliché.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t different for me.  Los Angeles was harder and crueler than I ever thought possible, and I crashed and burned at not just one career pursuit, but two.  Sure, I still get recognized for my pivotal turn in the cinematic masterpiece that is Beerfest, but for the most part my acting career turned out to be a big, fat failure with a capital F.  I also spent many years toiling at stand-up comedy, but let’s face it, late night comedy club sets and month-long road gigs are hardly ideal when you’re a parent.  My Phyllis Diller-inspired dreams fizzled the minute I gave birth (and it probably didn’t help that I’m actually not that funny.)  So here I am, living in a city that revolves around the Entertainment Industry, and the only entertaining I’m doing is when I dance around to The Wheels on the Bus trying to get my six-month-old son to stop crying.  While the Muffin Man may think my performance is Emmy worthy, I’m pretty sure no one else in town shares his opinion.

Living in Los Angeles when one has failed to succeed in the Industry is humbling (humiliating?  It depends on the day and my anti-depressant dosage).  Life here is all about who you are, whom you know, and what kind of car you drive.  I’m pretty sure the kind of car I drive says it all: a 2006 Toyota 4 Runner that hasn’t been washed in three months, has 100,000 miles on the odometer and a dented front fender.  I’m sure there’s somewhere in the US where I would at least get props for the fact that I’ve paid off my car loan, but that’s not really how people roll in LA.  I don’t have famous friends or live in a fancy house, and I certainly don’t make anything close to a decent living from my chosen career.

Here’s the biggest irony: it’s exactly because I’m a failure that I get to be a stay at home Mom.  The amount of money I would make from my crappy day job (i.e. waitressing or personal assisting) wouldn’t cover the cost of childcare.  If I had, in fact, managed to make it big I wouldn’t have the time or the privacy to take my kiddo to park play dates or outings at the museum.  Most days, I’m extremely grateful that I get the opportunity to spend time with Noah.  There are many, many times when I get down on myself and wish that I had achieved more or worked harder to succeed at the career(s) I pursued, but Noah doesn’t care about any of that.  He never looks up at me and sees someone who didn’t live up to her potential; the fact that I wasn’t funny enough or pretty enough or talented enough or anything enough doesn’t matter to him.  I happen to be ENOUGH simply because I am myself, which is definitely one of the absolute best perks of parenthood.

I’m not really sure what I’ll say to the Muffin Man when he asks me, at some future date, if I’m happy with how my life turned out.  Ultimately, I think the only thing that really matters is the love and guidance one gives to her children.  In the grand scheme of things does it make someone a better parent because he or she is an Oscar winner?  Will it negatively impact my child to grow up in a city so driven by fame and fortune?  I worry that Noah is already getting the short stick in life because neither his Father nor I are part of the Entertainment Industry and we don't make a lot of money.  I practically have a panic attack every week when I think about the damage I’m doing to my kid by dressing him in used clothes and delivering him to Mommy and Me in an old, dirty SUV.  Hopefully, he’ll turn out just fine.  But if he doesn’t at least I can comfort myself with knowing that he’s sure to meet plenty of famous and well-connected people in rehab.

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