Getting My Dream Job Ruined My Life, But I Wouldn't Change a Thing

 

Failure is universal. It’s never fun, but we’ll all confront it at some point, be it through bad luck, bad behavior, or just sucking at something. Why are we so bad at talking about it, and why are we so afraid of it? The stories of Failure Week are here to help remind us that the world doesn't end when something goes horribly wrong, and that we can learn as much from life's disasters as its successes.

When I got the call, I screamed with joy. I was in the living room of my small Brooklyn apartment, screaming and screaming. I’d landed my dream job. I called my mom. She screamed, too.

Have you ever taken that vision test where you see two separate images, then there’s a point of overlap, and they finally become one? Getting the phone call felt like that. Before, there were two Emilys: The person I was—a 9-to-5 editorial director of a study guide website—and the person I wanted to be. After the call, there was just one me: a real TV comedy writer.

I’d wanted to write jokes for television ever since I realized it was a real job, which, embarrassingly, was in my senior year of college. So when I learned at 30 I would have to relocate, of course I moved. Not to L.A. like I had expected, but to Miami, where this particular show taped.

There was a lot I couldn’t take with me: a rent-controlled apartment that miraculously had no bugs, a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, and a community of comedy peers I’d made through performing stand-up. But for all I didn’t have in my sterile new Miami apartment, I had the dream job. And I told myself that was enough.

I want to paint you a picture of what Miami is like for a Midwest-born sweatpants enthusiast such as myself. Here’s an example: Women really do wear sequined minidresses to the grocery store. They teeter expressionlessly up and down the aisles like models, but instead of fashionistas perched nonchalantly in the front row, there is only canned soup.

Miami is a different universe where men treat women like objects, and women internalize this and spend their days peacocking in front of other objects, like boxes of cereal. Going out for milk was existentially unsettling.

I also quickly learned that Miami doesn’t take kindly to stand-up comedy. Slam poetry, music, and dancing are popular, but not my preferred form of expression. At the time, I thought my new TV writing credit would immediately open the doors to the city’s best comedy venues. Instead, I was booted off a show when a man in a rabbit costume wanted to do spoken-word.

But I knew I’d find my people at work. This was my dream job after all, of course it would give me everything Miami didn’t. I couldn’t wait to meet the other writers. I imagined we’d lounge in the writers’ room, tossing Cheetos into each other's mouths, discussing how one of us got propositioned for a sex party while buying Gas-X because of course we did, this town is crazy. And then we’d write jokes together, and the world would make sense again.

But in real life, the office was a gray box in a Miami suburb; there was only me and one other writer, both working separately, alone. Our staff was smart and talented, but when you’re trying to put together a funny daily show about the news with a writing staff of two, producing award-winning comedy is basically impossible.

I felt deeply lonely and insignificant. I tried to ignore it, because on paper, I’d become the person I’d wanted to be for so long. I was afraid that admitting I wasn’t happy would mean I’d made a mistake—not just about the job, but potentially the direction of my whole life.

But I cracked. I started getting fidgety during show tapings, like anxiety was trying to burst out of me. Then one day, I started sweating uncontrollably. I ran to the nearest bathroom and heaved and cried over a toilet until there was nothing left in me. I was withered, defeated, humiliated.

My boss told me to go see a doctor, and I did. Xanax for right now, Lexapro for the medium term. And the long term? Something bigger would need to be done.

As I contemplated quitting the job I’d worked for eight years to get, the show was canceled. Almost the entire staff was let go in one fell swoop, including me. I was crushed, but more than that, relieved. I could return to New York and be among people who inspire and value me. And this time, I wouldn’t be so focused on moving on to the next step. It would be paradise.

Of course, there’s no such thing as paradise—a lady smiled at me on the subway yesterday and then spit on my head—just like there’s no such thing as a job that fixes your whole life. Now I don't even have a job to give me validation. After saving cash from my "dream job" and another writing job for a network back here in New York, I recently quit to work on my own projects and stand-up comedy. When people tell me I'm crazy, I listen and nod, but secretly dismiss it. I'm in my 30s, healthy, with no children, and a slew of half-finished projects I care about. If not now, when?

I find it embarrassing to admit that I ever waited for a dream job to save me. It makes a not-so-distant version of myself feel so naive, like a millennial incarnation of the woman singularly focused on finding her Prince Charming to complete her.

If I were offered another "dream job" today, I'd look at it so much more pragmatically. What are the career benefits? What of my old life can I bring? Does it seem like an opportunity that would make me happy?

Jobs are just tasks that pay. Some are weird, some are great, but none of them can keep me from crying on a bathroom floor in Miami while eating a whole pan of boxed potatoes. I know now, that’s on me.

 

 

Source: glamour.com