A Whole New World
Last week was the first week of my new job as a television writer.
It was also my nine-year anniversary in Los Angeles. In other words, I’ve been working toward a job like this for almost a decade.
I should have been giddy. I had the beginnings of my dream – I was holding it right in the palm of my hand.
But in the weeks leading up to my first day, I felt a melancholy I hadn’t expected. I binge watched Netflix, I ate a lot of old Girl Scout cookies, I snapped at my husband for eating too many of my Girl Scout cookies, and occasionally – in brief moments of clarity – I would lift my head up and think:
“What the %&#$ is wrong with me?”
I should have been going out every night, taking shots, standing on tables and screaming, “I’m a TV writer!!” until they kicked me out and banned me from ever coming back.
Instead I was moping around the house in my polka dot pajamas.
My life was about to change and all I could really feel was… a little scared.
It was just like scuba diving. (Stick with me here.)
After getting my scuba certification in Los Angeles – a process that involved exactly one panic attack and three imaginary shark sightings – my husband, Jason, and I flew to Mexico to dive in the clear, warm waters of Cozumel.
That first day, we got up before sunrise and sped across the ocean just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. The air tasted like salt and the water was crystal clear. I loved being in that boat but I couldn’t fully relax because I knew what was coming.
Soon I was going to have to leave this sunny, dry seat and jump into the water – into an exciting and terrifying world I’d never seen before.
I knew I was about to experience something life changing, but as we slowed to a stop all I wanted to do was stay in that boat. It was safe there. I recognized things. It was warm and comfortable and I knew how to breathe the air.
But after a lot of silent motivational pump-ups, I splashed into the water. As I descended I looked down into the clear blue and there, about twenty feet below me, was a shark. (A real one this time.)
Sure, it was a “harmless” nurse shark but the only thing my panicked mind kept saying was, “SHARK SHARK! You’re going to die in this watery grave. SHARK!”
I was only about thirty feet down and I froze, hovering in the water as I sucked in air through my mouthpiece. Blackness pressed at the corners of my eyes and I started getting dizzy. Jason noticed and tried to help but I pushed him away.
I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t breath down here. This world didn’t belong to me.
Finally, the dive master swam up and touched my shoulders. He looked directly into my eyes and motioned for me to breath, slowly, in and out.
Eventually, mostly from embarrassment, I calmed down.
I followed the dive master deeper, past the shark who didn’t care less about me and into a world I had never imagined. I floated with sea turtles, swam through giant coral caves, and let the underwater current guide me along a massive ocean wall that disappeared into deep blue.
On my first day of work, driving down the freeway, I was back to feeling like I had in that little boat in Mexico – unsure of the world I was about to plunge into.
Could I do it? What would happen? Would I belong in this new place?
I parked my car and walked up to the office, my heart racing. Finally, I pushed open the door and dove into my new life.
I was relieved to find I could breath the air in that new world too.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.
Photo by Jason Elias.