Living

Aspiration Desperation: Going After Something You Don’t Even Want

I remember, in the not-too-distant past, when I pursued men I knew would be a disaster. Unavailable, damaged…subconsciously, I thought saving them would give me some sense of self and satisfaction. Not that saving them was even a possibility. It was the wrong goal altogether; one that wouldn’t reward either of us.

Izzy: “Please tell me you’re not writing to that loser.”

Always focused, always a perfectionist

I’ve always been very focused on my creative endeavors. In middle school, I took adult drawing classes, and then I attended a high school that provided an immersive experience in art. After, as I touched upon briefly in my first post, I pursued a screenwriting career for decades, beginning with college, where dramatic writing was my major. I took a lot of pride in the fact that my career goal went unchanged for so long. For some reason, I felt like it was a virtue to know what you want and pursue it relentlessly.

And maybe it is a virtue. Except that I didn’t want it, which is why I wasn’t relentless in the least. One thing they didn’t teach us in college was how the industry – one with very few jobs, and even fewer open to outsiders – works. It’s one in which you seemingly have to “win” your career. Being discovered is a win. Getting an agent is a win. Selling a script is a win. Being hired is a win. I don’t know too many other businesses where this is the case. And it sets up a very weird internal and external dynamic fueled by desperation.

The more I learned about the entertainment industry, the less “flow” I was able to find. I spent time writing. But it was rare for me to feel a longing to do it. I threw a ton of money at it: contest entries, a writing coach, classes, script consultants. I thought investing in myself in this way was proof that I was serious about it. But all it did was fuel a fear that if I gave up after spending all that cash, it would mean I had failed. Worse, in addition to being a failure, I’d be broke.

I worried what others would think – both my writer friends who commiserated with and supported me, and my non-writer friends who always seemed so impressed that I could fill 110 pages with a world I alone had created.

A bad boy in the shape of 110 unwritten pages

Screenwriting was like a bad boy I was attracted to and pursuing. I threw money at it. I struggled though it. But I felt a high whenever I got praise for it or felt interest from a manager or producer. Those small hits of dopamine that never went anywhere kept me going. I had a toxic relationship with my aspiration.

I couldn’t even toss my digital script into a real fire.

Then there was the fear that without writing scripts, I would be goalless. Yes, I have a 9-5 job, but it was in an industry that I’d ended up in accidentally. I am still an innately creative person. What would I do without a serious goal? Of course, I had been passionless about screenwriting for years. I had expended a lot of energy, both mental and emotional, over the process with little reward.

The past year had reminded me of the fragility of life, as friends battled cancer and a family member lost his fight. I couldn’t imagine wasting any more precious time on something that wasn’t a requirement that didn’t also bring me joy. So this tangent led me to make a decision and approach this change differently.

“I dwell in Possibility”
– Emily Dickenson

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by this state of not knowing, I thought about how it could be a positive thing. Not knowing what my passion is leaves me far more receptive to possibilities, which is very exciting. Something completely unexpected could spark my interest at any moment.

Travel. Meeting people. Reading about others’ experiences and drawing inspiration from them. Fashion and experimenting with my style. I enjoy all of these things, and many more. That’s how this blog was born. Maybe this is my calling? Or one of them, anyway?

Most of my posts won’t be this serious, in fact, next week’s will be a lot of fun. But I hope by reading today’s, you’ll know that if you’re afraid of making a big change, you can do it. If you’re even considering it, trust your intuition. It can lead to something wonderful.

Robyn Kern is the Tangentier. A long-time writer based in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting and an interest in mindfulness, many tangents led her here: a place where people can come to find and share inspiration, dwell in each others' passions, and learn how to surround themselves with what they love on the daily.

4 Comments

  • Wendy Dutwin

    This was such a beautifully written post. I absolutely loved it. It’s so true, how we pursue things we don’t even want. Whether it’s society that tells us we must, our past, our fears of reaching for what we truly love, I know personally how that creates prisons we never meant to live in. I did this with a company I ran for over 16 years in a career I had for over 22, as you well know. Hating every minute of it. And yet once we take this leap into the unknown, to dwell in the possibility, as the brilliant Emily Dickinson wrote, there’s so much freedom and hope in that possibility. It’s hard and it’s scary, but so was pursuing something we didn’t truly love.
    Might as well have that uneasiness around a pursuit of what is true and authentic to who we are. I don’t regret my tangents this year and I’m so glad that you don’t, either! Let’s see what it all brings! I’m definitely excited for both of us!

    • Robyn Kern

      Thanks so much, Wendy! It’s so true, what you say about our “prisons.” But we can’t really blame ourselves for taking the time we did to come to the conclusion that we needed a change. I really believe that we did it at the right time for us.

  • Sharyn Fink

    As you know I walked away from a toxic job that I had for almost 6 years, not knowing what was around the corner. It was scary and liberating at the same time. I have now found a supportive, energizing environment where I’m thriving and love every minute of it! You never know what’s around the corner, but I feel more secure and sure of myself now than I have in years!

    • Robyn Kern

      Sometimes we just have to push ourselves into the unknown. Just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t mean that it will be scary or bad!

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