"You have to find the next version of yourself."

Scarlett Johansson and I are quietly
judging you... 
I have to find the next version of myself. And that version begins with things like Joan Cusack and Chris Farley and the Tron soundtrack. But I'll get to that.

I want to start with something random. I had a life-changing art teacher named Mr. Haas in junior high. One day in our art class, we were doing cloisonne. That's where you cut designs out of metal sheets and then glaze them like pottery. I was digging my heels in about the idea of cutting out and glazing a Nike symbol. (I know...barf.) And Mr. Haas did something awesome, but I'm going to wait until the end of the blog to tell you what he did. Because that's a trick that writers do to make you read things that are way too long.

I can't tell you anything about the movie yet, but I got to see "Marvel's The Avengers" last night. You can read my review of the movie on the Orlando Attractions blog on May 2nd. But what I can tell you is that it's been a long, long time since I had a.) that kind of fun being out and about and b.) enjoyed a movie that much. It was, as my husband has been saying I needed, a "shakabuku". I take you now the the incomparable Joan Cusack in the movie "Gross Pointe Blank" talking to her brother in reality, but not in the movie, Jon Cusack. In this movie, she is the delightfully demented secretary to his professional hitman...

Debi: You know what you need? 
Marty: What? 
Debi: Shakabuku. 
Marty: You wanna tell me what that means? 
Debi: It's a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever. 
Marty: Oh, that'd be good. I think. 

It's healthier to break down a la Holly Hunter in
"Raising Arizona" than it is to have a months-long
whine-tastic decline.
Jake has been telling me I needed one of those. I can tell you more about how it happened on May 2nd, but I needed it because I've been embarrassingly depressed. Such a cliche. Like, Kleenex box out, crying at movie musicals depressed. If you've been visiting my blog at all over the last ten or eleven months, you know that times have been dark. There have been long and winding essays about depression and the escapism of Bollywood and exhaustion and the horrors or being broke in a tourist town. It hasn't been pretty.

And by the way, I don't think that things always have to be pretty. Life is upswings and downturns and I think it's almost stronger to admit when you're weak than it is to just stand up and pretend that you are strong. Got that? It was a slippery sentence. I'm trying to justify my emotionally blown fuses. But I'm a writer and I write wherever I am and my friends, I have been living in blown-fuses town. 

I knew that moving two thousand miles away from my home would make for at least one rough year of adjustment, but I didn't know just how rough that adjustment would be.

I tried to prep myself. My husband and I had long pep talks about trying to remember our awkward first years at college, or even our first year of marriage (nobody tells you that the first year of learning to live with another human being, even one that you love far more than yourself, is not always easy) and we tried to collectively power up with the strength that it takes to endure such a cold-water shock as moving away from all your friends and family. But nothing can really prepare you for that level of change. But there have been two quotes that I've been leaning on the past several days. 

1. "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." - Isaiah 43:19

2. "You have to go somewhere else, sweet pea. You have to move beyond despair. You have to find the next version of yourself, the more evolved iteration of the woman you used to be." - Dear Sugar at The Rumpus

The trouble was that I could picture a few different versions of my post-grad school life. But the thing I daydreamed about most was that I wanted to move closer to my best friend or my sisters, I wanted to be in their lives everyday. Helping with laundry, watching the kids, seeing movies together. Going to special events, continuing my life as a kind of low-level blogger. (The best thing about being sort of half successful is that you can hide out. You still get press passes and screeners and you get to do fun stuff, but you also don't have to get exposed to the criticism or the vitriol or the pressure that a highly visible job in the press can get you.) I was SO into that vision. It seemed so right. But as they say, "Life is what happens when you're making plans."

Despite the fact that we talked about it almost from the moment that we met, I don't think that my husband and I ever really suspected that we'd move out of Indiana. So when it actually happened, and when I actually started getting work in the field I was trained for...it overwhelmed me. That's right...an actual job. One where not every day was a cake walk. One where I had to write and edit stories about things that didn't always have to do with geek culture. Oh the horrors of being forced into a position of leadership and responsibility!

And, our move also filled me with guilt.

This has been me on the inside lately.
Who did I think I was? What am I, too good for Indiana? What kind of a brat snob leaves everyone she loves to go to Florida. Abandoning your family and friends for warm weather and theme parks and big city life. I feel like a jerk. I feel guilty. When I lived in Indiana, my daydreams of living in Florida were dressing like Fiona from Burn Notice and a working at Barnes and Noble and I admit...more blogging and writing and eventually filmmaking. Eventually, always eventually. Someday I'll write and direct funny comedy shorts. Someday I'll have the guts to try stand-up once and for all. (I did sneaky stand-up in grad school, I just called it "doing a reading" of a "funny essay".) Someday. Someday. Someday.

Since we've moved here, I've been clinging to John Hughes movies and the Chicago fantasy and the idea of moving to Naperville, Illinois just to be closer to The Hollywood Palms or Winnetka, Illinois where "Home Alone" was filmed. 

I'm dodging reality. But I don't want to anymore. I want to put my big girl pants on and figure out what I actually want to do with my career and what I should do to take better care of myself. Every month that goes by that I'm working on other people's TV shows and writing about other people's movies and other people's hilariousness is a month that goes by where I'm missing out on the chance to do my own work. 

I have the sneaking suspicion that the only thing holding us back in this life, is ourselves. People say things like that all the time, but you have to get it for yourself to really understand. And to get it, I had to become physically exhausted of constantly giving myself to the ideas and dreams of others. 

The most energized times in my life have been filled with music, running, and artistic incubation. Long periods of solidarity and alone time where I had time to gestate with an idea before bringing it to life in some way. And since we moved, my life has been the opposite. No time for music or exercise, everything moving so fast that there's been no time to write and redraft essays for publication or time to prepare a short film just for the fun of doing it and putting it on YouTube. I think I need the power of the movie soundtrack back in my life to start creative recovery. I need to feel the wind on my face while I run downhill to the sounds of "Tron: Legacy" to be okay. And hey, if you know what you need to begin to feel okay, then you'd be a fool not to do it. Even though I'm almost thirty and nowhere near the athlete I was in high school, I still need that rush of endorphins. 

I've been lucky to meet a friend, though I haven't been able to spend any time with him because I've been so overworked, but his name is Ron Schneider and he's funny and wise and he's just "one of us" as my sister would say. 

The other day, I was ranting on facebook. As one does. A movie had come out with a script remarkably similar to one Jake and I had just turned in to a client several months ago. We weren't copied. Our chosen subject matter was just in the zeitgeist. But this situation has happened to us before. Ron said something so simple to me, but so kind of stunning. He said, "Follow your bliss, the operative word being YOUR."

How many times can you be like, "You know what's awesome? Geek stuff!" without getting bored with yourself. I compare myself to "The Chris Farley Show" all the time, but that's only because it's so close to the truth. I've learned this lesson before, but apparently not well enough. It's fine that I love classic Universal monster movies and special effects and classic comedy. It's great that I'm a fan, but there's more to life than being a fangirl. I'm proud of my fangirl-ness, but, there just has to be more.

So, back to Mr. Haas. He did the best thing he EVER could've done for me in that art class. For about an hour, he gently urged me to try an original design instead of copying a corporate logo. And when I wouldn't concede, he marched over to me, took the logo out of my hands and threw it across the room. It felt like getting chided by Captain Adama. It was horrible. And WONDERFUL. What was I doing wasting my time stamping out a logo when I could've been doing something original? A question I can ask myself again at this time in my life.

By the way, he came back in the room, started working hard on a pin of his own, and walked over to me the next day with a pin that looked like a hand making the peace symbol. Could you just cry a little bit? Tell me that's not a movie scene waiting to happen.

So where do I even begin again? Well, luckily, I don't have to start over. I had at least set my feet on the path all those years ago just by starting this blog and admitting that I am who I am and working in the "ballpark" as my husband and I like to say. We may not be exactly who we think we're meant to be, but at least we're getting closer.

I've had little pieces of my future-self pie added to my trivial pursuit wedge over the last several years. But it's time to break through to a new...pie wedge? I don't know where that analogy is going. It's just time for something new and different. So let me start with things that I like. It's the easiest place for me to begin. (It should be noted, I accidentally typed "being" the first time I wrote that sentence. Coincidence? I think not!) So I have pieces of myself, but it would be much easier to find the next version of myself and just become that instead of holding onto the pieces of my past self. Spending too much time self-actualizing leads to vanity and self-obsession and general jerkness...and I'd really rather get on with growing than to wallow in self-worship and ennui. 

Sidebar: Life (and well-meaning people who want to keep you with them so you can help them instead of helping yourself) fools you into thinking that things are "too complicated" to bother growing into the next version of yourself. That it would be too much trouble to move beyond what you are now. That it would be foolish and arrogant to try. That it's a waste of time. Maybe they tell you by trying to minimize your ideas. (Which you shouldn't be sharing with all the world, by the way!) Maybe they tell you directly. Maybe they try to fill your head with doubt so you are afraid to try. Just know that misery loves company, and you don't have to be that company. Find your people. The ones who tell you, "Yes, you absolutely can! I can't wait to see it when it's done! Go, go, go!"

So it's back to the place where it's easiest for me to begin. Recognizing what I'm drawn to and hoping that recognizing those sign posts and somehow using them to act will lead me down some sort of road. Any path is better than no path at this point. I live somewhere different. I'm in new situations with new people and I'd rather become new in order to deal with that. Even though these seem like no-brainers to me, I'll just say them out loud again... 

I LOVE movies. For the way they make people feel and self-actualize and question and most of all, the way they inspire. I really love comic books. (Especially issues that star interesting and intelligent female characters.) I like to write stories, especially stories that make people laugh, especially if they are true. I like to teach creative writing and I like to help people take their own blinders off and recognize their limitless potential. I really liked the eighties, as in the decade. It was my happy place, surrounded by a house full of family and video game noise and home-cooked meals. I love old school production logos. Universal. Tri-Star. Orion. They make me giddy.

I love my friends and family. To me, they are life. Real life. Better than Star Trek. (And that's saying a lot.) My sisters are me and I am my sisters (all four of them, Heather, Lindsay, Shannon and Leanne) and there is nothing, NOTHING, in this world better than knowing there is another "you" out there. It's safe. It's knowing you always have somewhere to go if it really hits the fan. It's amazing to watch them out in the world, conquering. It's a slice of heaven to dream of what we could do together someday.

 I love to read. Especially memoir. Especially memoirs by funny women. 

I love Carol Burnett. 

I love things that are old timey and retro. I love art deco and flapper style and I binge on episodes of "Poirot" and new/old movies like "The Rocketeer" and "Clue" and "Radioland Murders" and "Haunted Honeymoon". 

Pretty much anything having to do with Jim Henson even remotely makes me cry tears of joy. I envision a life of creative partnership with my husband. Before we were even dating, we shared a meaningful glance across a room full of people when hearing husband and wife team Bill Huyck and Gloria Katz talk about working with Steven Spielberg on "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". We knew, even before we were supposed to by the world's standards, that we were going to love each other and work together in film. Build something independent of any studio system. I also look to Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh as role models. 

I could go on, but I should stop. So here's to finding some kind of newness. Creatively. Professionally. With my schedule. With quality time with my family. With actually sending birthday cards and thank you notes. With starting projects that I actually want to do. With cooking real food from time to time. With learning to say "no" when I really want to. With listening to music instead of watching TV. With exercising until I sweat. With remembering what I want to do, not just what I can do. With remembering my heroes. With beating depression and fear and coming back to life. 

So I'll leave you on a random note. I also love this. When I watched it as a kid, I thought, "I want to do something like this. Yes. THIS is somehow related to my future." I still don't know how, but it is. Watching it fills me with optimism and happy thoughts and safety. It's somewhere in the direction of my true north and even though I don't know much else right now, I KNOW that I love this. So I'll just start with this.