Hard Truths, Day 25: All the Things We Don’t Plan

This post is part of a series that is 5 days from ending called 41 Years in 30 Days where I’m talking about all the shit I’ve learned in my first 41 years on this planet. If you have people working on your drywall and want to kill time, you can read the entire series here.

I was conspicuously absent from your inboxes yesterday because I was busy having quite the lovely day.

And little of it went down as planned.

That’s the thing about life — if you could plan it, it would be called a “trip.” Instead, it’s fucking called “life.”

Today’s Hard Truth is about all the things we never planned, but happened anyway.

I wish I’d know about the difference between life and plans when I was a kid.

From the time I was in junior high school until the start of college, I was going to become an attorney specializing in International Law. I would attend American University and then go on to Georgetown Law — and of course from there, COMPLETE LEGAL WORLD DOMINATION.

This was the plan.

But then I decided that I wanted to go to this quaint little college in upstate New York called Bard, but it was really expensive but I applied there and got in and I also got into the University of Houston which was in my hometown.

And UofH gave me money. Hell, they gave me a full ride. So I took it.

And then I got bored in my freshman year, realizing that this pre-law track I was on was boring as watching paint dry on the ass of a gnat, except without all of the wonderment of how the paint got there in the first place.

I missed writing.

So I re-applied to Bard and got in as a creative writing major. But when I got there, they didn’t have rooms for the transfer students so for over $30,000/year, we got to live in a dorm basement on bunk beds until they built our dorm rooms. There also weren’t any classes really left for transfer students because we registered last. But there was this one creative writing class and I had to show samples to the professor to be able to get in.

He took one look at my writing and said, “No.” I wasn’t ready for his classes.

I was a creative writing major who couldn’t get any classses as a creative writing major. Wasn’t that fucking splendid?

When I’d gotten back to the basement dorm wonderland from registration, one of my roommates asked me if I had work-study. Hell yes, I have work study because how the else am I going to pay for this place?

She asked if I could sew.

Hell yes, I can sew. I was raised sewing and I knew my way fine around a sewing maching. She said the costume shop in the Theatre department was looking for work-study help.

And that is when I walked into a Theatre department…and never left.

I ended up transferring back to the University of Houston and getting my scholarship back (because it was $28,000 less per year). I stayed in the Theatre department.

Then I met Joseph. While I was working at a strip club. He was the doorman.

Hard Truths 25

He’d become my first husband. Which made me move to Knoxville (pronounced KNOCKS-vul, as in vulva) and call my mom in a panic one day because I had to get out of this marriage I didn’t want to be in in the first place so she sent the money to the attoney so I could get divorced and leave.

Which brought me to Virginia where I went to work for the Virginia Opera and Virginia Scenic as a professional stagehand (I do believe at one point “Head of Stage Operations” was my illustrious title for $360/week — be jealous). While there, a year after arriving, I met Scot.

Dancing in a nightclub. We danced all night. We dated. He got sent to Japan. He was in the Navy. We said farewell, it was fun.

But he came back a year later for a Navy-school-thing and a mutual friend put us back in touch. So we decided to have dinner, Scot (one T) and me. And naturally, I’d had my widsom teeth out the day before and my face was swollen-up like a chipmunk. I’d also decided to get fat during this time period, my 5’4″ (cough — that’s accurate) frame tipping about 165-170 lbs.

But Scot and I say down to dinner that night and laughed. We laughed so much my jaw hurt.

And later that year, I took a trip to Japan where Scot asked me to marry him using a pull tab from a soda can. And of course, I said yes.

About 2 years later, we were living back in the States and for our anniversary, I took him to see STOMP! at a theatre in downtown San Diego. All I could think was, “I want to do THAT” as I stared at these souls syncopating their way across the stage. At the time, I was running my personal training business, having gotten sick of being fat so I has hired a trainer and lost about 40 lbs. I liked it so much that I became a trainer myself.

And so far as doing THAT, well, I went out and did THAT. I took some acting classes, ended up getting an agent straight away, and become the top booking talent at that San Diego agency. BIG FISH, teeny tiny teacup of a pond.

But three and a half years after Scot and I tied the knot, we came to a beautiful yet sad realization that we both wanted very different things. So we divorced. Amicably. And I ended up moving to Los Angeles.

Which is where I had two years of near-misses in my acting career. Which was exhausting. But I also met Dominic.

I left acting and dove face-first into a new career in business and marketing, which is all I’d ever really done anyways. Selling myself, selling ideas, making people buy me before they ever buy anything from me. And knowing that no one wanted to be sold anything. They wanted to believe it was their idea the whole time.

And in 2005, Dominic and I moved to Las Vegas because it was half the price of LA and we both loved poker and I’d gotten a job as a financial advisor trainee at UBS (y’know, the big Swiss bank).

We got engaged. Deposits were placed. A dress was purchased. The engagement ended at my hand because marriage wasn’t going to fix something that had been broken for quite some time before a ring came along.

I’d since moved to a hard money lending firm and was making metric ass tons of cash — selling my soul every day in the process.

And one day, I quit.

I refused to work for a 24-year-old who drove Bentleys and Lambourghinis and asked me where I’d been when I left the office to go meet with a client (because in his eyes, you always made the customer come to you which is quite possibly one of the dumbest fucking things I’ve ever heard IN MY LIFE).

And a week later, I had a job making about $33,000/year after taxes as a copywriter. And I loved it. I worked 60 hours a week for shit pay and I was finally in love with what I did for a living, telling stories. And yeah, this was 2008 and that’s when I got a Twitter account (early adopter).

Which led me to Denver, Colorado which happened to be where a client of the agency was based — who wanted to fire the agency and keep me.

So they kept me. For nine months, they kept me. And for part of that while, I had a boyfriend. Ryan. The one who for 11 months, wouldn’t tell his kids who I was to him. Refused to be affectionate with me when they were around. Where I couldn’t stay the night if they were there because he was terrified of his ex-wife and he couldn’t tell her I existed.

And during this time, I left the company because they’d run out of money and “forgot” to tell me and let me keep working and letting me (willingly) defer a paycheck because I was an investor. And one day I asked for some cash because Dire Straights were going on a new world tour in my bank account. They told me they were out of money. So I’d left and launched my own consulting business.

And about 6 months after, I ended things with Ryan. Because I deserved to be something other than an unmarried man’s mistress. The mother of his children deserved to know who I was and who was spending time around her sons. I deserved to live in the light and he wasn’t willing to do that.

Done.

Which is how it came to pass one day in August where I walked into a X-Box PR event and met the man with whom I’d instantly fall in love. And who would die three months later.

Which coincided with an offer from Entrepreneur Magazine to become a columnist and the time where I signed the deals for my first two books. I was swept into a spiraling, out fo control 20-month depression where all I wanted to do was be numb.

So I hid. I drank. I got a ride in the back of a police car. And mid-way up a mountain outside of Las Vegas in May of 2012, I broke down crying — realizing that none of this had gone how I planned.

And I wanted to come back. I wanted my life back.

So I got it back. And I got a therapist to begin dealing with not just losing Jason, but nearly 40 years of planned vs. life.

Which led me to my TEDxBoulder talk in 2012.

Which led me to The Second City in Chicago where I’d finally found freaks like me.

Which led me to leave Denver — my home, my friends, my LIFE — in the rear view.

Which led me to a year of crazy success after diving back into performing alongside a banner year for business.

Which led me…to you.

I didn’t plan to be writing this blog post today. In fact, I shouldn’t be. I should be somewhere in Washington, DC getting ready to litigate something. I should be in a Georgetown walk-up with 2 kids and a husband and a nanny (because we don’t have time for our own lives, much less the kids). I should be stealing kisses as one of us runs out the door and grimacing as we answer urgent cell phone calls late at night and on holidays.

But today, this life — is where I am.

I never could have planned this.

And if I’d tried a bit harder, it’s entirely possible I could have missed all of the wonderful things that happened when life didn’t turn out as I planned.

If only I’d tried a bit harder.

And that, my friends, is why “If Only” is bullshit and why planning is lovely but not the end-all-goddamned-be-all of this time we spend mortal.

Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans — cliché, I know. But so plainly true.

And I’d much rather have a fistfull of stumbles and unlikely successes that I never planned than one carefully crafted experience with every i dotted and t crossed.

Because the beauty comes from the space between what we plan…and what we wake up one morning and realize we have.

From there, it’s our decision entirely what we’ll do with it — fight it, embrace it, succumb to it, celebrate it. Whatever. But the choice is ours. And this is what I try to remind myself of when I’m having a Dark Day and realizing life didn’t turn out as I had planned.

7 comments
EvoletYvaine
EvoletYvaine

I LURVE this quote! And I liked getting another peek into your life. As a writer, I'm always curious about other people's lives and jobs. Your Ryan Experience sounds like book material. Not to mention the whole "working in a strip club" thing. LOL

KayWalten
KayWalten

Great post.  I have had my own meltdowns thinking my life was not what I planned.  But it has been awesome, even some of the not so good parts.  I have to stop myself from bitching at times because really my life is really fucking great, its just that I sometimes get caught in the quagmire of what I thought it was supposed to be.   Your blog rocks and your 41 years in 30 days has been awesome, raw and inspiring.

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@KayWalten Thanks, lady. This blog wouldn't be anything without people like you reading. So, thank YOU.

Mari_Kurisato
Mari_Kurisato

It always jolts me when I realize that an Xbox PR rep contacted me to attend an event here in Denver because they saw my twitter feed and assumed it was my thing, and I flailed and said no thank you and gave them your name instead.