It’s hard to believe the Boston Marathon bombing was three months ago, but that week was one of the most exhausting of my life. I feel awful saying this since I was not directly affected by the unthinkable events of April 15 (though my Boston relatives were at the race, they left ten minutes before the explosions to find bathrooms in the city), but covering it for work from Monday to Friday was emotionally taxing and one of the most draining experiences of my career.
At the end of the first day, I turned to my good friend/colleague Tom, who could only think of heading home to see his girlfriend.
“I really wish I could just hug Andrea right now,” he said. “That’s all I want to do.”
But he couldn’t see his college sweetheart until much later in the evening, as he had to stay on top of the news cycle in case we caught the person, or people, behind the atrocious attacks.
Tom and I were not in a good place that week, and he even emailed me a humorous Onion article about how long it felt early Thursday evening. That was, of course, hours before the bombing suspects got into a police shootout at MIT, and we waited all Friday for the younger of the suspects to be found. It wasn’t a fun story to follow or cover, and after the seemingly never-ending week finally wrapped up, I decided to sign up for improv. The fear-mongering, perpetually negative media had been wearing on me for years, and it took covering the Boston Bombings to figure out just how much the industry had stolen from me. I wanted to revisit my childhood love for performing, even though I’d been told in high school that I’d never be pretty enough for the stage or big screen.
None of the comments about my pale skin, stringy red hair, or freckles bother me now. Since I attended high school a decade ago, many unconventionally attractive (but still gorgeous, in my opinion) ladies like Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, and Rebel Wilson have made it in entertainment. They didn’t try to slim down or conform to societal standards to shine as actresses — they just showed up as they were and the world loved them. It’s because of these women that I have the courage to consider entertainment now. People criticize them constantly, yet the more they’re put down, the more famous and successful they become, and it’s awesome. Though writing will always be my first love, I could be happy performing here and there, in any capacity.
Last week, I had to abruptly end my relationship with online media. I’d known for a while that there was no future for me in the field, and I even blogged about this frustration during the July 4 holiday weekend. Now I’ve been forced to face reality and embrace the reset button. I’m not going to be working in journalism or new media ever again, but I’m totally OK with that. I’ll always have my blog and be able to contribute pieces to different publications — now I can just focus on using my talents in another area of writing.
My goal is to pull a Ryan Murphy and go from journalist to TV show creator. He didn’t start writing scripts until his late twenties, so I don’t think I’m too old to make this big, drastic move. I may not even have tomorrow, so I refuse to waste any more time. This isn’t going to be easy, and lord knows I’ll suffer without structure or awesome coworkers for a while, but I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and God knew what he was doing when he threw me this curveball.
I’m looking into NYU’s screenwriting certificate program, but definitely taking baby steps, as I can’t even pretend to know how to approach this line of work. I am going to start from scratch just as I did with improv, and look how much I love that now. The point is, I refuse to look at my circumstances in a negative light. There’s so much room for opportunity here, and now I get to try something I’ve been curious about for years. I didn’t pursue it because I had immense training in journalism and first person writing, but I’m ready to evolve.
I’ve been keeping journals for 18 years. It’s time to move beyond confessional writing for a while. Maybe I’ll write a best-selling book someday, but as Vera Farmiga’s character tells her husband in The Conjuring, “On our wedding night, you said God brought us together for a reason. That reason wasn’t to write a book.” I’m starting to see that being a successful writer doesn’t mean you have to emulate J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. You can be Mindy Kaling (another woman who challenged Hollywood’s idea of beauty) and write and star in a smart sitcom. Not everyone can take Mindy Kaling’s path, but who said I can’t die trying? Better than dying in a field that stopped being fulfilling years ago.