It hadn’t even been three hours of sleep, my mind was racing the whole night, spending time exhausting every detail of the ceiling. The alarm tore through deep sleep, my heart rate struggled to respond. Stumbling over the the mirror, my eyes stared back at a reflection they barely recognize, exhausted, unable to focus. Downstairs, the Keurig machine kicked in, groaning, taking its time as I roamed the cabinets for food. The cereal was stale so I made oatmeal with some cinnamon. It was about as bland as the box it came in. I ran out of creamer, so I drank my coffee black this morning. Returning to the fridge, half empty except for some chicken cutlets, I pondered what to take for lunch into the city. I had an interview and needed to eat. The only thing I noticed was a jar of jelly. There and then I knew it, it was gonna be another peanut butter and jelly sandwich day.
The real-feel temperature outside struggled to emerge from the teens, it was a cold so bitter two pairs of pants still gave way to a brutal exposure. The bus was running late and I was just trying to keep warm, $2.50 of coins jingling in my pocket competing for space against my cold hands. When it finally came it was too packed to get on, so I waited twenty minutes for the next one. I used to take the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan when I had a job. But it is a ticket that I can no longer afford. It took me an hour and a half to get into the city today — yet I live only 13 miles from Midtown. I walked over to the local CVS to check my ATM balance, my checking account read $168.43. I looked over my head a few times to make sure that no one could see the embarrassing figure. I withdrew a twenty, stuffing the pitiful balance ledger into my wallet in shame.
The coffee house in midtown was surprisingly quiet. Well out of hipster territory, the seats were all available for use. So I sat down in this seat and began writing this blog post, coffee and peanut butter and jelly sandwich by my side. I thought to a tweet I made last night, about how as everyone in Hollywood parties for the Oscars, I am just sitting here broke with my dreams of one day joining them. Many people have told me I am unrealistic. It’s been exactly 281 days since I last spoke to the producer I admire. On most days it seems that my dreams are farther than they could ever be, only weeks out from my most recent failed move to California.
I have this grand vision in my head of becoming a writer-producer and working in creative development. Every single dollar I have out of the $168.43 in my checking account says this is a ludicrous vision. The cynics always like to point out that the kids with a lot of money have a major advantage and kids like me don’t go anywhere in Hollywood. But they’re wrong.
Whether you come from money or not, everyone had those peanut butter and jelly sandwich days. Those days where if you were not lucky to have your parents pay for every single literal step of your dream, you were broke and eating a crummy sandwich. Some industry friends of mine like to try and put this cynical vision in my mind about my own professional influence, that he came from money and that’s how he got where he is. The idea comes from the assumption that simply because he was the product of a successful engineer he must have bought his way into the business. I really don’t care how much help he may or may not have had in terms of financial assistance. Why? Because I take him at his word when he told me about all the shitty jobs he worked early on, living minimally. People are so jaded, jealous and cynical they fail to see the bigger picture. The bigger picture is the HARD WORK, the dedication and devotion to the belief that you will be successful because there is no compromise.
I still recall what he said when he spoke last spring to his Alma Mater, he mentioned “following the magic.” It sounds so cliche but it’s really true. He just up and went to Los Angeles because he literally said “I am going to be a producer,” and sure enough he became one. Not everyone is as fortunate as he was in getting a break but it starts with that mindset. It starts with the mindset of refusing to accept the possibility of failure. It begins with imagining the only outcome as one of success. You know the other thing he mentioned in that speech, he mentioned not knowing what his next move would be. No one probably picked up on it at the time, but I know it has been almost two years since he has actively been in a project. That’s not to say he is not working, anymore than it is to say I am just sitting around not actively trying to get back to LA. But sometimes you just don’t know what to do next. I for one don’t, and that’s OK.
I have an interview in about two hours. I am sitting here, eating this shitty sandwich dreaming of working for him one day, dreaming beyond that point to one day even having a celebrated career of my own. I get up every day regardless of the money in my wallet and the deck clearly stacked against me. I get up every day with the only goal of getting enough money together to get back out to California, and more specifically to LA. And like my professional influence, I don’t know what my next move will be. It doesn’t really matter so long as you have that big picture in mind. I hope to follow the magic and one day make it. I tell myself every day that I will become a Hollywood writer and work in creative development, there is literally no other option I will settle for in this life. It will happen, I will make it so in spite of the odds and I will appreciate it all the more so because of these “peanut butter and jelly days.”