Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hopefully It’s Just a Detour

Senior year in High School. As if high school itself doesn’t suck enough, it’s also the time you are supposed to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. You have one year to decide what the next 50 years ahead will look like. Of course you can always go in to college undecided but sooner or later they will force you to pick something, unless you feel like racking up thousands more in loans by staying in school another year or two or three. Most people you talk to aren’t on the career path they intended anyway.

I had always been in to the arts. I started dancing at age 3 or 4 and performing at competitions, I sang in the choir, I played the flute and attempted the trombone, I was always in plays, was on my HS radio (as pathetic as it was), and loved theatre most of all. I had intended to enter college for theatre management but allowed myself to be talked out of it. So instead, I chose the next best thing, television production. After attending my first taping of Late Night with Conan O’Brien I was sure I wanted to be a Stage Manager although I honestly had no idea what that entailed. Maybe I thought it just looked cool.

So I entered college as a Comm major with a concentration in TV and Radio. Sounded fun. And it was. With the exception of all the bull shit classes they make you take like Statistics and Geology, most of my core classes were rather fun. Watching classic films, learning about Irish cinema, making ridiculous radio commercials, and running around the school parking lot at night with fake guns and blood pretending to be Steven Spielberg. Didn’t think it got much better than that.

Senior year came quickly and it was time for a taste of the real world. And by real world I mean stepping away from the classroom and text books, and getting to see what TV and radio are really like in the form of Internships. My first one was in radio at Radio Disney. I was lovin’ it because my first week I got to go to a Devils game. I mean c’mon. This is gonna be great. I quickly realized however, that radio is probably made up of 90% sales and marketing. Plus, radio is not like it used to be back in the day. It’s so computerized now. I went on a bunch of on-site events but they were a nightmare to me – dealing with all those crazy parents. Thankfully I never had to get on the mic. That truly would have been a disaster.

Along with that internship was the one day a week at Extra. That seemed like it would be pretty cool. I’d get to go on some shoots and learn a lot from the producers and crew. So wrong on that one. I would arrive at the Extra offices at 8:30am per their request. No problem, except no one would speak to me until after 9 when the phone call from LA would come in. (Actually, no one really spoke to me even after 9am). After that they would inevitably stick me with the editor to watch him endlessly edit until a shoot came along where I would tag along and do NOTHING. Going on shoots was sometimes fun. My first day I went on a Victoria Secret photo shoot with Heidi Klum. I met some cool people yeah but learned NOTHING.

Now I am getting a little frustrated and perhaps wondering really what a career in the entertainment field would be like. Last up in college is the senior seminar where you make your last big project. We had fun writing, directing, acting in, and editing our little documentary – sure. It wasn’t until one of the very last seminar classes that I really began to second guess myself and this whole TV thing. We had a speaker that really just scared the hell out of me. The only point I actually remember her making was that TV/Film is all about sacrifice and living on beans and water. Wow – the text book didn’t say anything about that. About how unstable the industry is, how shitty the pay is and the treatment is when you just start out, and how if you don’t kiss some serious ass you most likely won’t succeed. What a wake up call.

After graduating, my first TV job was a non-paying one on a Children’s candid camera show. Welcome to the real world. Six days a week I would trek in to the office, pack up the van with cameras, props, audio, coolers, and fake trees and head to some god awful location somewhere in Manhattan. The day would basically go like this…..pack van, drive to location, unpack, carry heavy equipment really far, piss off NYers walking by, ask those pissed off people to give me permission to air them being humiliated, re-carry, re-pack, unload, and head home tired and broken.

The next job in TV I had came a few years later which led to the next and the next and finally to the last long-term TV job I had which ruined me and made me an angry bitter person. I really truly found out how unless you kiss ass all day and be little miss “whatever you want”, it is really really hard to move up. And people will LIE many times to your face and not give a damn about it. The EP was the only one that gave me hope. She was the first genuinely nice person I met that made it that far without sacrifices herself or her soul. So after a year and 3 months of that job I decided to give it up and get a real job. I just don’t love it enough to put up with it and clearly I am not the right kind of person for that field.

I got a taste of what I had been missing when by a fluke my aunt called to let me know her company needed a temp for a few weeks. Well that few weeks turned in to 4 months and I only wish it could have been even longer (damn stocks!). I realized that this whole bloody time I could have had a life, not working 8am-who knows when. I always saw myself married at 26 (well that’s what the psychic in New Hope told me anyway), hopefully with some kids soon after. I feel like I have wasted my life heading down a path that clearly was not meant for me.

I hope that this was only a small detour in my life and happiness and stability are not too far down the road. I see my friends from High School getting married, having babies, buying houses…… that’s what I want. If I had chosen a different direction to head all those years ago, who knows what my life would look like now. Don’t get me wrong though. I have met some amazing people along the way and have some great memories. But they aren’t any memories that impact anyone but me. I would love to make a difference in the world and to people other than myself. I want to make someone proud. I know there are millions of people in this world far worse off than me so I probably have no right to complain and I should be happy and grateful that I have an amazing family to support me.

Here’s to hoping the next 10 years will bring all that I have been seeking.

Jill E.


Kayla said...

Please - we're ALL still trying to decide what we want to be when we grow up! It's more fun when you grow up late! :)

jude said...

First of all, let me say that I am soooo proud of you. You have become the most wonderful person that I have the honor of knowing....not because you are my neice, but in spite of it. I must say that just because you are not aware that you have touched someone's life, does not mean that you have not made an impact on them. Good intentions always touch someone - even if it pisses someone off because you are a good person. That's sad but true! Be you, be happy, and to quote my parents - always have fun! You can't miss. Believe me, happiness and all the things you're searching for will find you once you stop looking. It's like the ladybugs in "Under The Tuscan Sun" I have a copy if you need it! Love ya....j