Dreamers v Settlers

There are two types of people in this world, the dreamers and the settlers.

“I was more at ease with you going to Europe than LA… anywhere in the world is potentially unsafe but at least in Europe you had an itinerary.” These are the words of a settler. They are the words of my concerned but supportive father. A settler has a low appetite for risk and likes a clear itinerary in life. The settler settles for comfort over risk and therefore usually takes a stable career in industries with a lot of job security and financial comfort.

This is not to disparage the settler types. Settlers are happy in their decision to hold onto a secure job which gives them guaranteed benefits and a solid understanding of how their life will play out. All my dad had to do was move up in rank while inching closer to retirement. Granted his job as a NYC fireman was hard from guarantees in one respect- safety. He was a 9/11 first responder and I am supremely proud of his heroism. Still, a government employee now enjoying a secure retirement, he is very much a settler.

My mother too is a settler. For a while she wouldn’t talk to me due to my decision to move. She is a nurse manager who worked at the same hospital for 35 years as a nurse manager. She’s done well and will be traveling to France for an entire month in May. She settled for a secure job, a good salary and certain guarantees.

But I am a dreamer. I have already seen France in my 20s because I want to see the world young – not in my retiree years. In fact I don’t want to wait to enjoy my life in retirement. While I think my dad enjoyed the FDNY I’m not sure my mom was always very happy at work. It was very much just a job to her. A dreamer like me reasons that if we have one life to live and most of it will be spent working, we may as well love what we do.

So I am taking a huge risk in moving to LA without a job and savings to get me through the summer at most. Dreamers will take risks that a settler would be terrified of – naturally my parents are terrified for me. But I’m not scared. Dreamers can’t waste time being afraid of failure for they must only concern themselves with the prospect of success. Dreamers are the people who change the world because they are the unconventional, the risk takers – the ones who won’t just settle for ‘that’s the way it is.’

“So you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” – John Lennon

Lennon was a dreamer too. Some of us dreamers will fall short of the stars he reached. If you shoot for the stars, you might still end up on the moon. And I’ll take that over the same boring place on earth until my 60s. Life is an adventure – go live without any regrets.
Side note: I shared this piece with my parents and for the first time I believe they understand the differences and why what made them happy won’t make me happy – and vice-versa why taking huge risk wouldn’t make them happy. Finally I believe they respect who I am and that this is how I must live my life. I think now I finally have their support, even if in addition to their concerns.


One week from now, I’ll spend my last weekend in NY. For a while anyhow. I’ve got barely enough savings to hit the ground running – and that’s if everything goes smoothly and according to plan. In many ways this move to LA feels like jumping out of a plane with a busted parachute, it may or may not open.

I had a dream last night that I’d wind up begging in front of the supermarket for food. My mother has decided not to talk to me, hoping I might change my mind. Yet somehow I must remain mentally strong enough to make this life altering decision with little to no support. Somehow I’m expected to write, work on this feature and apply to jobs with an albatross of fear and anxiety around my neck.

Harder still is knowing that as I write this it is cathartic but few to nobody will read it – including him, the one person I’d hope after all these years would reach out again. It’s never going to happen. During this time this blog has become more personal than ever. Yet, while I write for me I don’t do enough for me. I don’t put myself first. That’s why moving to LA is a necessary step for my own career and goals.

My single greatest fear is winding up just another shattered soul along the boulevard of broken dreams. Part of this whole journey is starting to feel like the fallacy of sunk costs. I’ve put so much time into saving money for this move to pursue a career that I fear switching plans. Then I remember that I don’t know what else I’d do. I also don’t know how I’m even gonna keep my head above water and get started. I feel old next to 25 year old assistants – a job I’d kill for. In this industry, I’m like Robert DeNiro in the intern.

There doesn’t feel like a happy end in sight for this Hollywood tale. I’m moving without anybody in my corner and everyone I speak to seems to want something from me that I can barely give to myself. I’m near tapped out of energy, spinning toward the ground with this faulty parachute. I just hope to find a soft enough spot to land…

God speed.


It’s very easy to consider yourself a failure before you’ve even had the chance to become a success. That’s because society and those around us have established timelines for success. This timeline has not budged much in expectations despite economic recession and new generational attitudes. You will still be judged by this timeline, and you will be rated by where you rank on it. Approaching 30, by most accounts I am  a failure according to it.

What is this timeline I speak of? It is the societal expectations of the American middle class. It began with the Boomers, and has shifted little over generations. It goes a little like this: go to college, get a degree. Get job with degree, and by 25 have a career path outlined with stable benefits and income. By 30 you should have moved out, and optimally are looking to purchase a home. By 35 you should be making solid money and have married with plans for kids in the next year or two.

On this timeline, I am a failure. I feel the judgment every time I speak to timeline adherents, like my parents (both stable by 30). Or even my neighbors, including those five years younger than me —  they’re all on track to stable lives; one a policeman, the other a teacher, the eldest a corrections officer, the youngest born in 1998 is taking the FDNY exam and will probably be making stable income by my age (29). Sure they’ve all chosen stable careers which will promise middle class lives at most. They didn’t take a lot of risk, but they’re OK with that. They want stability, and the timeline adherents support their decision.

Settle. Plan B. These are words I hear all the time. From my parents. From neighbors when they politely say they saw a job opening at their boring company in the city. I feel it when out with friends who’ve become very successful because they entered a high paying field (computer science). I sense the judgment every time I cannot afford the same restaurants as them – let alone neighborhoods to live in. Everyone is more successful than me. Heck even my own [former] mentor, my idol in the industry, was at least an assistant working for an A-list production company at my age. He’d already started a career track with coordinator credits on major features to his name. By 35 he was a CEO. By 35 I hope I can at least afford rent!

What do I have? A blog and some writing samples – a few read by major players? Some sporadic work experience in the industry dotted around temp gigs to support my dream career? Assistant experience at an indie company where I barely made any money? Independent projects which look like a dime a dozen since thousands of kids will be calling themselves ‘producer’ making their friends films? What I do have is an appetite for risk. What I do have is good work ethic. Most importantly I refuse to give up no matter how many times I fail.

I will move to LA with no excuses left in two weeks. I am terrified. I keep thinking of the timeline, the disappointment I am to others, the possibility of failure. I also realize that I must live for myself and adhere to my own timeline. My former mentor said to me several years ago, “it takes ten to fifteen years to get anywhere in this industry.” He’s not wrong. I am barely five years into it. I got a base of experience and I know LA will provide me with more opportunities, and most importantly opportunities with career advancement.

I have no clue what will happen, but I will take the risk anyways. I know my parents hoped I’d grow out of this dream by 25. I didn’t. I’ll continue to pluck away. It’s a numbers game, and most will give up but I refuse. The longer you stay in the struggle, the greater the chance for reward. So if you’re like me ignore the timeline adherents and their judgmental comments. You’re on your own timeline, and you will make your own success. The only thing worse than failure, is settling for it.


Head in the Clouds

What do you want to do?

Such a simple, yet loaded question. Some know the answer right away. Others spend a lifetime trying to answer it. For me, I know exactly what I want to do – the trouble is it’s not an easy thing to do at all.

I often try and distract myself from my jealousy of friends who made bank in computer science. They have an abundance of both opportunity and money. I got angry when a friend said that because he works for a certain tech company he could live anywhere, including Paris. In fact, he told me he was considering it. It was like a slap across the face because it was him bragging that he could get what I most want…

What do I want to do? I want to be a writer and live in Paris.


Ok now that you’re done laughing at me, allow me to finish. I get this is a pipe dream. But only I’m stubborn and tenacious enough to try and squeeze through that pipe. In two and a half weeks I will take my life savings to LA to begin to try and accomplish that dream. Continue to write, get any job in the industry – we all start somewhere.

The truth is I know exactly what I want but no idea how to get there. I guess none of us really do. There is no strategy guide for life. There is no how-to. Not having the answers is frustrating. Within that frustration is the torment that comes from imagining having the answers – the day dreams of living in Paris. Oh and the day dreams of working for the man I call Paris.

I’ve worked hard getting the experience I need to take this next step. Two days back from my favorite place in the world and I feel a shadow of myself. I’ve lost all momentum. I’ve stared at the same point in my script for a half an hour before returning to relive my videos of Paris again. I’ve spent so many minutes thinking of working for Paris too that I just wish it were reality. It’s completely counter-productive.

I have my head so firmly stuck in the clouds I can’t focus on how to actually make my day dreams my daily reality.

What do I want to do? I know exactly what I want to do. I may not get there but I’ll spend a life time trying… if only I could get my head out of the clouds, maybe I’ll get back to Paris, maybe to work for Paris, to write this script… to make my dreams a reality or something close to it.

The truth is, what is life if there is nothing grand to aspire to? The only one who can make your dreams a reality is you – so it’s time to get to work.