Layer asked, “so… what did you want to do [when you grew up]? and if it isn’t what you’re doing now, why not?”
I have a tote bag which reads, “When all the little girls wanted to be ballet dancers, I wanted to be a vampire.”
That’s pretty accurate. When I was little, I dimly remember I wanted to be either Darth Vader’s apprentice, a vampire, or a professional pony rider. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an actress. I quickly discovered that being able to tell a story entertainingly at parties does not, in fact, mean you have any skill as an actor, so I gave up on that. Really. I am a sucky actor. I took four semesters of drama in high school, and they didn’t help. They did, however, lead me to discover that I love writing. I wrote a short play for a class assignment and loved it. So I decided to be a writer. I knew novelists usually didn’t make much money so I decided to go into journalism, planning on being a movie reviewer (in large part because a dormmate my frosh year edited the entertainment section of the college paper and nagged me into writing reviews instead of talking about movies at her in the bathroom while we brushed our teeth).
Sadly, while an intern at a newspaper in grad school I discovered that I hate, hate, hate writing straight news. HATE. I’m too idealistic to be happy doing it unless I’m doing it really well, and I am too easily bored by the drudgery necessary to do it really well.
When I discovered that the only ways to get into professional film reviewing (ie, the kind that pays enough you don’t need five other jobs to pay your student loans) was to be insanely lucky or spend years paying dues as a news writer, I gave up on that dream. My reviews run in a local paper and the payment covers my mileage, tickets, and cat litter. That’s fine.
A few years ago, my Dad got me a gig as a technical writer, which enabled me to quit the teaching I’d been doing (and hating) to pay the bills. It’s writing, which is good. That makes me happy. It’s even useful writing. My current gig as a tech writer is at a company I adore with coworkers who are awesome. The actual work itself is pretty dull, but I don’t hate it, which is a start. And I honestly don’t think there’s anything I’d rather be doing — not that I know of, anyway. Being a full-time movie reviewer tends to burn people out — seeing one movie a week is already turning me into an unusual moviegoer with peculiar pet peeves — so I’m kind of glad I didn’t wind up doing it for a living. I think seeing 300 movies a year (the way Ebert does) would make me hate the art form.
So, I’m not doing what I wanted to when I was little, but I’m sort of doing what I wanted to in late high school/college. And it’s good.