One day when I was dropping Aidan off at school, I fell into a conversation with the mother of one of his friends. I was singing my familiar refrain, about wanting to get my writing life back. I told her I could really use a conversation with some of my mentors in New York, writers and teachers who have often provided me with just the right encouraging words—and kick in the pants—that I needed.
“I think you need to go to New York,” she said. “Do it in person.”
Hmm, I thought, not a bad idea. Maybe we could all go for a long weekend.
“Go by yourself!” she said. “Harlan can deal with pickup and drop-off for a few days. You’ll make it work. You need to start taking your career seriously again.”
Her words hit home.
I knew she was right. In my head I began imagining how much fun I could have in New York for four or five days by myself. I started calculating how we could tweak Aidan’s and Harlan’s schedules to make it work. I made a list of teachers, friends, editors, assorted contacts to call.
As luck would have it, a high school friend is throwing a bridal shower for another high school friend on May 19, so I decided to do it then. Even better: Harlan’s semester would be over so he could take care of Aidan with no restrictions. I could even be flexible with my dates.
I started to get really excited. I imagined lunch with my rockin’ teacher and mentor Sue, drinks with my old indieWIRE friends, coffee with my agent, maybe also with some old editors (if I was bold enough to call), mojitos at some great new restaurant with my sister. I could see the Cindy Sherman show at the MoMA! I could do yoga at Jivamukti! I could go to a screening! Or two!
Then last week, on Wednesday night, Harlan got a call from his agent: he was up for a job shooting a movie in New York. He got up early Thursday morning to read the script, had a skype interview with the director at 1:00, and by 5 he had been offered the job. He made a few calls to make sure there weren’t any work conflicts and by the following morning he had booked it.
There are a lot of reasons I’m thrilled for him. But I’m also crushed. He is leaving for New York on May 13, which is the same week that I’d planned my solo excursion.
Now rather than booking coffee dates and preparing to spread out on the train with old issues of the New Yorker, I’m stressing about Cambridge catsitters and New York babysitters and where we can all stay and whether I should drive or take the train and how the hell I’ll lug all our luggage if we take the train, which I’d rather do, but I’ll probably have to chase Aidan up and down the aisles the whole time.
Which has also got me questioning whether the whole trip was a stupid idea in the first place. I mean, what did I expect to get out of it? How can my old mentors motivate me if I can’t motivate myself? Why would my old editors assign me anything anyway? I live in Boston and don’t even get invited to screenings here. I’ve been out of the game for so long, what do I have to offer? Then I learned my former teacher Leslie, whom I wanted to see, is writing at her house upstate and the indieWIRE guys will be in Cannes (probably along with all my other film-biz friends). My friend Sue invited me to a book reading of hers and a book party she’s throwing for a friend, but will I even be able to find a babysitter?
Now I feel like I’m just going to New York for a bridal shower.
I don’t want a pity party, but the way this all played out made me think the universe was trying to tell me to shut the fuck up, shove my delusional dream plans into the laundry basket and embrace being the housewife and stay-at-home mom I was meant to be.
Or at least if I want to start writing for a living again, I’m really going to have to work for it.
When I told my friend Julie, also a mom who struggles with these issues, she laughed, shook her head knowingly and reminded me of one of my favorite quotes of all time from cynic-realist-dad Louis CK:
“You’re not a woman until people come out of your vagina and step on your dreams.”