For a while now, I considered 28 to be my scary age. Part of that stems on how close it is to 30. The other is rooted in some Laz Alonso interview I read years ago in which he declared that up until 25 your life is about potential, and every year after, results. I was on the verge of turning 25 when I read it so it spooked the hell out of me. I decided that when I came to Los Angeles that I would give myself three years to see where I was and to evaluate my life and career accordingly.
I’m now about a month away from my birthday, though I’m not nearly as afraid about turning 28 anymore. I didn’t have some grand epiphany about how silly placing such a timetable on myself is. No, it’s merely that things started getting scarier for me half way into 27 when I was laid off from one of my consistent and relatively well-paying freelance gigs. For years now I’ve survived juggling a couple daily gigs (entertainment writing, mostly blogs), others that offered me the chance to write 1-2 twice a week (essays), and a scant few involving magazines (doing whatever). I won’t say that I got comfortable – I’m never comfortable with respect to work – but I had became accustomed to knowing how much at base I’d make a month and what I could potentially make if I pushed myself harder. I’ve written about my mortgage-sized private student loan payments plenty of times on here and elsewhere. Needless to say, I always pushed myself harder.
As in 30 blog entries a week for work, sometimes 40, 1-2 essays a week, and trying to maintain this site along with some other projects that tie more so into my longterm goals. The latter and nonpaying gigs felt more gratifying because I felt like they each touched on my larger talent and potential than anything else I was doing.
Then everything just became harder after losing that gig…as if things weren’t hard enough already. Some health issues followed, which I alluded to before here, but while those situations have worked themselves out for the most part, other things have yet. I still write, mind you, just things are different. Normally when I lose something I quickly find something else to supplement that income. Maybe even something extra. Not so much lately. Opportunities have come up, only to not to come to fruition.
It’s frustrating. I take comfort in past accomplishments, but they don’t do much in the way of settling my uneasiness in the here and now. Even more frustrating is the work I lost was something I had started to hate doing anyway. Why miss it? Sallie Mae doesn’t take smiles and Citibank won’t look the other way in exchange for some cut. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and take the check, and in the meantime, be as true to yourself and your voice while fulfilling your duties.
Last Sunday, I woke up to tweets from someone who I used to think of as a good albeit new friend essentially saying that I hadn’t changed and that I was still “catty.” We haven’t spoken in a year, so I found the idea of someone coming out of nowhere to insult me without provocation as being “catty” while being catty funny as hell. I was never the one with the issue. She was upset with a piece I wrote about someone she works with. Or rather, a headline that I had nothing to do with and very much conflicted with what I actually wrote in the piece. In any event, it was a year ago and I responded respectfully even if I had every good reason to pop off. But, that seemed pointless.
Before falling back from whence they came, she did elaborate a bit on her original tweet — enough to say that I’m wasting my talent. I don’t agree with that in the instance she meant it applied to, but that is something that stuck with me ’cause it’s something I’ve been feeling for a very long time.
I have been very, very aggressive recently in trying to find a way to get closer to attaining goals that I feel will be more beneficial to me creatively and otherwise. I was listening to the new K.R.I.T. mixtape the other day and immediately one line in the intro stuck out to me for hours: “Did I do all that I could do to ensure my success? Did I really give my all and am I really at best?”
I think about this every single day and punish myself when I feel like I haven’t done enough. I’m a very ambitious person and always have been. While writing this, it hit me that I’ve always looked to my career as a way out from certain things, like my childhood. When I can afford a therapist I’ll talk to them more about that. Regardless of what they say, I’ll still want the grandeur I think my abilities are capable of if given the opportunity to foster. I want to do more, which is why I continue to try and create those sort of opportunities.
Funny enough, I might be drawing closer to one of my prime short-term goals that I know would help advance the mission to attain the long ones. It’s happened and is happening in the nick of time. Unfortunately, it’s simultaneously occurring around one of the biggest nightmare scenarios happening. I’m hopeful, though I have to say, it’s increasingly wearing on me. That scares me because I want to lead the life I deserve and hate the idea of that slipping away.
I noticed I’m not the only one publicly talking about where I am and where I feel I should be with respect to age. I read Crissle’s tumblr post about turning 30, and it’s something I definitely identify with. I’ve never been told I was going to fail. I didn’t come from the loftiest background, but everyone’s always said you’re going to be big. I still feel that I will be no matter how small I might feel on occasion.
However, while looking back on my own tumblr posts, there’s something I came across that I need to keep in mind as I have an awful habit of being too self-critical. It’s a quote from Morgan Freeman and his edition of Oprah’s Master Class:
“Things happen as they should I’m sure. Certain times in your life you say, ‘Well I should be doing so & so!’ but it’s not necessarily so. You probably should be doing what you’re doing, just do your best at it. I watched over many years actors moving on through your life, getting jobs, making careers and they seem to just be passing me by. And I just [question] ‘Why is that? I’m not bad at this, I’m pretty good at this so why is it not happening for me?’ Well it was happening for me all along, just not recognizably so.”
For all the horror I feel, this is something to be hopeful over. Everything I’ve done could very well be prepping me for what is to come. Still, I have to push myself harder. And in the meantime, I can take some little bit of pleasure in knowing that if nothing else, I’ve written well. That cannot be all for naught.