A friendly soul. I don’t usually speak with seatmates on flights. But immediately, I can tell this guy has a good heart, that his travel companion too has a kind demeanor. So we chat, in the natural way that is generally reserved for people who are not me. He’s a teacher, he says modestly, even if the truth is clearly itching to get out. Really, he’s a screenwriter. Just sold his first, he can’t help but beam. He had always wanted to, he says. An ex had bought him the software. And so he wrote and made a short film, got some recognition for it, hired an agent, finished a script, sold it. Simple as that. He spent most of the 14 hour flight working on his next project.
His journey was inspiring, frankly. But it also felt so detached from reality – my reality, at least. I totally understood where he was coming from. I’ve always loved movies, enough to have written a screenplay of my own. But once it was over and done with, it just sat there, never to be edited, never to be reworked, never to be shared beyond a competition for which I received an “above average” score, but without advancing to the next stage. A second screenplay went about 20 pages before I hit a wall, lost interest, and ultimately deleted it – the concept perhaps more attractive than the work required to executive it. So my screenwriting career lays dormant, seemingly a passing fancy.
This is the story of my life. Laziness, lack of follow-through, frustration with the absence of instant gratification. I wonder if I have already used up all my energy for this PhD, or whether I was only able to achieve even that precisely because I had relative security the entire time. I look at things I actually care about or love, even, and I no longer have that patience, if I ever had it in the first place. I look directly for the payoff, wonder what the best case scenario would be. I love comedy, enjoyed performing – or more precisely, writing a stand-up routine, but I cannot fathom life on the road, putting up with hecklers and shitty venues, all for what – a long-shot to secure a comedy special or a network sitcom or something. I am too cynical to have the love of the art be sufficient, too lazy and poor to start from the bottom. The screenwriting endeavor appears no different.
But where does that leave me then? I fall back on the excuse – rationale – that my hobbies and my job should not, cannot be one and the same, fearing that my “passions” (the quotation marks are purposeful) will become the mundane. But meanwhile, I struggle to reconcile that what the world has heretofore valued of me is not anything I value beyond its practical utility for my survival. And so I face yet another crossroads, two years after my previous one, in which I find myself almost wishing for a clean break and an excuse to have to start from scratch, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, even as I fear (or perhaps know deep inside) that doing so would not inspire me in the least but only relegate me to a life of mediocrity while flushing away the work I have managed to put in to this point. Again.