My 20s were a hotbed for motivation. After graduating from college I was ready to set the world on fire. Everything seemed fresh and new. I could see an actual starting line in my life the day I graduated. I stood behind it, my mom holding the gun, and sprinted out into the world full of hope and gusto.
While in college I caught a glimpse of what would be my first, major life goal. I read an article in The Detroit Free Press about a copywriter named Chato Hill. It was a biography of a man who was wacky and creative and inspired. A man who wrote great commercials and took naps propped up against the door in his office and won tons of awards. I cut the article out of the paper (yes, this was pre-Internet when we had actual newspapers and scissors and thumb tacks and cork boards) and hung it on my bulletin board in my bedroom. An early Oprah Vision Board of sorts. I smiled and said to myself, one day I’m going to work for this guy. My stomach was full of fire just thinking about it!
So with pomp & circumstance, I marched from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan out into the world. Not knowing exactly what would await me, but knowing that whatever it was was going to be exciting and grown-up!
Cut to: “First Rude Awakening,” aka, “Things Don’t Always Work Out As Planned.”
My first job out of college was writing menus for the Chuck Muer Corporation. Well, that wasn’t my official first job. My very first job was sweeping up toenails for my brother – a podiatrist – in his office. I also had the honor of powdering people’s feet before they left so their bandages wouldn’t stick to their shoes. It was a job my mom insisted I take, when, after 2 weeks out of college, I still wasn’t employed. For some reason this horrified my mother. She guilted me into taking ANYTHING that would get me out of the house and into the workforce. So with broom and dustpan in hand, I embarked on a short career in the medical field.
Thank GOD someone answered the call of my resume.
I had been a waitress for the Muer restaurant, Eastside Charlie’s, during college breaks. In addition to local advertising agencies in town, I sent a resume to the C.A. Muer Corporation to see if anything in their marketing department might be available. Two weeks and three days after graduating from Central Michigan University, I got a call from the Muer marketing manager. She needed an assistant and – hammer toes be damned! – I ran as fast as I could into my first real job as a writer.
“Sauteed in garlic butter, wine & herbs. Served with rice pilaf,” was a standard line in our menus. Okay, so it wasn’t Shakespeare, but it paid the bills. And that garlic butter was damned tasty! It was during Crabfest ’85 that my first “A-ha Moment” transpired. We needed radio spots written. My boss called upon the guy who was then one of the hottest radio writers in the Detroit market. You guessed it, none other than Chato Hill. He took on our project! And it was one afternoon, when I answered the phone for my boss, that I got to talk to him for the first time. I was tongue-tied and goofy. I couldn’t believe that the man whose picture was hanging on my bulletin board a couple of years before, was on the other end of my telephone, making an appointment to come in to our office for a meeting! And I spilled my guts. I told him that I had followed his career since I was in college. Told him about the article on my bulletin board. Told him that I wanted to be a copywriter and follow in his shoes. Three weeks later I was working as a receptionist for Deleeuw, Hill & Associates. Less than a year later I wrote my first award-winning ad. I had officially reached my first goal.
It was during this time period that I realized I had “magical powers.” Seriously. Whatever I set my mind to actually HAPPENED. After years writing copy, I was encouraged by a friend to try stand-up comedy. My first night on stage was a huge success. (The second night, not so much, but fortunately a new-found comic friend encouraged me to continue). I wanted to be a comedian. I became a comedian. I wanted to be on Oprah. I got on Oprah. I wanted to be a comedy host in the Cayman Islands. I lived there for a year. I wanted to move to L.A. I was California bound in 1996. I wanted to get into talk radio. I became a talk radio host. I wanted to get married. I met my husband in 1997. And it was during this time that I had amazing life experiences, traveled to exotic locations, even got to meet my childhood idols! I worked for Robert Redford! Worked for a year for the two top agents at CAA! I appeared on TV shows. Told jokes on The Tonight Show stage! Everything I wished for came true.
Until the one day it DIDN’T. And I think that’s where my motivation hit a wall. And I’ve never been the same since.
Cut to: “Second Rude Awakening,” aka, “The Day The Music Died.”
I can pretty-much pinpoint the night. A comedy showcase at the Hollywood Improv, circa 1999. Maybe 2000. I had an okay set that night. I had better in my life. I had worse. I won’t name names here, but a TV producer exited the room as we – the comics – lined up against the wall in sort of a receiving line. Which in itself was humiliating. This TV producer made a point of stopping in front of each of the comics, and singing their praises. Until she got to me. Whereupon she looked right past me, kept walking, and headed out to the valet in the front of the club. I was humiliated, but not completely defeated. I shuffled out into the rainy night, and stood behind her as she waited for her car. Torn between saying something to her, and letting it go, impulsively I tapped her on her shoulder. She looked at me as if I was a mistress to her husband. Half angry, half put-off. I nervously got a “thank you for watching my set,” out of my mouth when she turned to her friend and said, “Is our car here?” Completely ignoring what I had just said, she handed a wadded up dollar bill to the valet, stepped over a puddle and climbed into her Mercedes. The car door closed and she never looked back. It felt like a sniper – sitting on the roof of the building across the street – pierced my heart with a bullet. Everything postive poured out of me that evening. I lost my “happy.” And I haven’t really found it again since.
Though I have had many jobs since then, the spark has eluded me. I can’t figure out if that’s just a result of age? Or a result of life experience? Or hormones gone bad? Sometimes I think I’m just too damned tired. Or is it just that I’m standing on a precipice peering into my golden years figuring, “What good will it do me to be excited about anything at this stage of my life? I’m too old to do anything about it anyway!”
I would do anything to get the feeling back that I had the day I pinned that article up on my bulletin board. If I could only muster up the energy.
So I continue to TiVo Oprah, hoping that one of her gurus will come forth with a book that will fix me. I continue to (think about) creating vision boards. I say half-hearted prayers. I start every Monday with the following Mantra: “This week I’ll lose weight! This week I’ll be a success!” I toil away by day making money at a job that affords me health insurance, while my flame is completely extinguished. My wick is wet. I wait for it to dry.