I’m subbing these days for the LA Unified School System. It’s terrifying and thrilling all at once. I love the kids. I love the bell schedule. It’s comforting to know that no matter how awful a hormonal middle schooler can be that in fifty five minutes he will, indeed, get off his desk and turn his cell phone on in someone else’s classroom.
What I don’t love about subbing is how inconsistent it can be. Some weeks I am on top of the world – everyone’s favorite sub and putting out flames like Miss Frizzle on a firetruck. Other days it’s slow. It’s me at 530am, barely awake with my phone on my chest, hoping above hope that the phone will ring – I can stumble through a quick shower – and I’ll be able to put 200 bucks in my bank account.
Add in the fact that I need to book at least 100 days this year to qualify for insurance for next year and the pressure, like Donkey Kong, is on.
When I start to question my sanity on doing this job, rather than get a 9-6 office job or stay at the steady eddy school aid job that paid very little but gave me insurance, I have to remember a few things:
Reasons for Taking Chances
- Not working on certain days
this entire week damnitwould give me a chance to write my tv pilot! My dream! I am doing just that.
- Working as a sub would give me a better understanding of what it takes to teach. (I’m getting that. What used to terrify me now makes me a bit giddy. Who knew I could handle 46 stinky general ed 7th graders, or a class of 9 non-verbal/diaper wearing 8th graders, and not lose my cookies? It’s been an incredibly exciting challenge and full of personality and joy.)
The Uncertainty of Life
The issues I am facing with both the writing as well as the work is that they are both incredibly uncertain. Maybe I’ll get called for the day, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll sell a script, maybe I won’t. (Oh, and tics? Those are kind of uncertain also. Fun times, this uncertainty!) Bottom line: I can’t have it both ways. There is ZERO point in taking these leaps of faith if I’m going to complain, protest and be a general crazy person for my family. (This week taught me that. As of this moment, I am putting it down. Dear Courage, Dear Jesus, I’m ready… Bring it on! And please bring coffee, too. Panic attacks are so much better with Starbucks.)
Fantasy vs. Reality
Let’s get real: The chances of selling like a show, at my age, are slim. It’s not that I am not talented, but it’s so much more than that. This business, as I am experiencing yet again through a class I’m taking, is incredibly, incredibly laced with competition, fear and desperation. I was told by more than a few students in my class that I came on “too strong” and like I had “something to prove.” The truth? I did have something to prove. I wanted people to know I could write! But guess what? They didn’t care! And that’s, sadly, the reality of this business. EVERYONE wants EVERYONE to know how good they are. It’s not just about writing well, it’s about navigating complicated personalities. Knowing when to open your mouth and when to just shut up. The truth? I failed and it cost me a potential workshop win.
Truth vs. Lies
Losing the contest was a bigger blow than I had anticipated. I originally told myself, “It’s just one class… get used to it…” but I’m realizing now the wound went much deeper. It triggered a core belief I had about myself… a belief that turned out to be a lie. And that’s this: Somewhere along the way I told myself this big story that unless I sell a TV show I’m a loser.
Typing it out loud, it sounds so silly, but deep in my gut, my motivation for this genre was flawed. And flawed never works. Even if I sold something, I’d be happy for a bit, but then that roaring lion would come out soon again, taunting me with its “You’re not good enough” barbs and roaring at my inadequacies.
My dear friend, Barbs, said it best, “Andrea, it’s not about writing. It’s about your idol. As soon as you make something bigger than God you are going to lose out on your true purpose for doing what you do. Set it down. See what happens.”
And so, on that note, I leave you with the idea of purpose. What is your purpose? What do you do when you think it’s one thing and it turns out, maybe, that God has other plans? Ex: I thought for a long time my purpose was to STOP THOSE TICS. And guess what? That was not the case. In terms of T.S., the purpose there was to teach me to not be so controlling – to accept my son for who he was. (Note: I fail with this a lot.)
With the writing, I know my purpose, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is to do this. But in what form? I don’t know. But God does. And until I am willing to surrender outcome 100% to him, everything else will be just a false idol of ego and proving that in the end will leave me flat.
A teacher I really respect, Graham Cooke, talked about this today.
I don’t know where I’m going these days, but I know that God knows. So for today, just for today, I will finish up that pilot for a workshop I didn’t win, and once again remember that when my sweet ticker comes home from school, it’s not about me wishing he would make different choices with his Tourettes. My son knows he is a child of the King whose voice deserves to be heard. And, whether in Hollywood, books, magazines or just here in my beautiful new office, mine does, too.
And so does yours.
Until next time,
May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.