Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


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FREEDOM

This past Friday July 4th was Independence Day in the United States, when we celebrate our independence from the United Kingdom after the American Revolution. As is typical on this national holiday, the weekend saw lots of fireworks, parties and barbecues. Traffic in Los Angeles was lighter, the beaches more crowded, and people generally seemed more relaxed.

I was quietly celebrating for personal reasons too as Thursday, July 3rd, was my last day at work.

Quitting is something I had been thinking about for years but wasn’t prepared to do for a variety of reasons. I was still grieving the loss of Kaz and unable to concentrate. I didn’t have a plan for what to do after I quit. I was afraid of being on my own. I knew I wanted to write full-time, but wanted at least one “break” before I could justify (to myself) making such a big step. So, I kept plugging away with my writing and patiently waiting for the deepest grief to work its way through me.

Slowly, I started to feel stronger, more focused. Then this year I took a writing workshop, met a bunch of new writer friends, and sold a couple of personal essays to Modern Loss and Narrative.ly — the latter essay leading to my first book agent.

None of these things made me any money to speak of, but that’s not how I defined the “break.” To me, the “break” was a sign (in the form of a significant opportunity or development) that would communicate, unequivocally, that I was on the right path. The events and momentum of the past few months gave me that sign.

By leaving my job, I’m taking a huge leap of faith and jumping off the ledge of security. To say I’m jumping without any fear would be a lie. But I relate to fear differently than I used to. Before I would have been paralyzed by it, or I would have confronted it to try to ‘understand it better.’

Now I move forward with only the slightest nod of acknowledgement. I know the fear (and danger) is there, but I don’t give any energy to it. What would be the point? I’m only interested in giving energy to things that will help me achieve my goals.

When Kaz died, I decided the most important thing in the world is to live an authentic and productive life. For me, that means operating at 100% of my true self and potential 100% of the time (or as close as possible). This is a large part of why I left my former job. It wasn’t a bad place to be. I’ll miss the people I worked with A LOT. But it wasn’t me.

Now that I’m out, I don’t take my new freedom lightly. On the contrary, it comes with enormous responsibility. Technically, I’m free to do whatever I like with my time. I don’t have to punch in and out like I used to. I have no supervisors, and no threat of being reprimanded or fired.

But I see my new reality like this:

  • My new job is being a writer.
  • I am my new boss.
  • The business is me (my career).
  • I cannot be fired, but if I fail to live up to my responsibilities, the business will fail.
  • Everything I do from hereon is a business decision.

One day, I might have supervisors again. But for now, it’s all on me.

I believe I can do it.


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A Big Decision – Not Forever, But For Now

I don’t know how to say this in a non-shocking way, so I’m just going to say it. I’ve given notice at my job. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for a while, or know me in ‘real’ life, shouldn’t be completely surprised. I have wanted to do this – been talking and writing about doing this – for years. It was only a question of when. Now, that question is answered. My last day at work will be July 3. (Yes, I timed it to coincide with Independence Day.)

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Remember when I wrote about my rural fantasy? Well, I’m finally doing it. After I leave the job, I’ll spend a few weeks preparing to leave Los Angeles, then driving across country with Ruby to upstate New York (Northern Catskills). I plan to arrive in late August.

Catskills

Catskills

This move is not forever, but for now. There’s a good chance I could wind up back in California. I just don’t know right now. In fact, there are a lot of unknowns.

For one, I’ve never actually been to the Catskills. I’ve heard it described and seen pictures of the area and apartment I’m going to be renting. I know it’s rural, beautiful and conservative. I could go and check it out first, but I don’t want to spend the money, time and energy. I’d rather just go.

I also don’t know anyone in the Catskills except for the woman who’s renting me the apartment (she’s a friend of the family). When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know anyone and had never been here before either. I drove out here from Philadelphia alone with a 10-day old license because I had just learned how to drive. Granted, I was heading to film school, but I didn’t know a single person or street when I arrived exactly 19 years ago.

 Can you imagine trying to navigate all of this without GPS?

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

One of the bigger unknowns is how I’m going to make money. I can’t rely on finding work locally, so will have to  work from home, or in nearby cities like Albany or Hudson. I do have some savings and a rough plan for work, but nothing set in stone yet (more about this in another post).

Lastly, the closest I’ve come to the kind of rural environment and brutal winters they have in the Catskills is the month I spent in Vermont last year. I suspect that where I’m going to be is even more rural and more brutally cold, so this is another obstacle to overcome. The good news is I’ll have wi-fi, my car and my dog. Also, if/when I get completely stir crazy, NYC is three hours away.

Catskills

Catskills

I know that a few people are scared for me, and I understand. It IS scary, and I’m not going to say I have all the answers right now because I don’t. All I can say is that I’m following an instinct I’ve had for a long time. My heart has been yearning for a change and, for better or worse, I’ve decided to give my heart what it wants. I’m doing it now because life is short, and there is no perfect time. I also don’t want to move in the winter, nor do I want to wait another year.

A friend recently told me, “Being compulsive is one of your best and worst traits.” Yes, and once I put my mind to something, come Hell or high water, I get it done. Of course, now I have a million and one things to get done. But I’m ready. To coin one of my favorite phrases, it’s “balls to the wall” time. 🙂

I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)


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A Life Worth Living (Daily Prompt)

Yesterday, I ran into a colleague and fellow writer in the hallway at work. “I gotta get outta here,” he said, shaking his head, “THIS year.” “Me too,” I responded and raised my right hand. We high-fived each other and parted in opposite directions back to our assistant desks. 

When I interviewed for this job, my late husband Kaz had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we had just become engaged. We had no idea how long he would live, let alone work. We needed another steady income, support network, all the benefits and stability that come from a regular 9-5 gig.  

The following year, as life became a swirling storm of stress, unknowns, and emotional highs and lows, my boring assistant job became an oasis. A place where things were normal, where my responsibilities were easy and banal, even pleasantly (at the time) mind-numbing, and where the stakes weren’t life or death. I was so grateful, I started baking things and bringing them to work. Even Kaz was surprised by that. I worked full-time throughout his illness until he went on hospice. Then I took several weeks of personal leave. I returned to work three weeks after he passed away. May 2014 will be my four year anniversary, the longest I’ve been at any job.

I had wanted to quit immediately. After seeing his young, vibrant life end so short and so quickly, my soul screamed for a more purposeful existence. The banal, mind-numbing routine that I once appreciated now seemed like a dead-end, and I suddenly realized everyone I worked with was miserable. But I could no more leave my job than I could lift a car. Grief was like a choke-hold, making me physically weak and mentally delirious. Depression lead to a complete lack of motivation. Even after the depression lifted, I still felt utterly confused as to what do do with my life.

I can’t say any of those reasons are why I’m still here now. Now, I’m basically biding my time, building up my arsenal and stockpiling my supplies for the day I eventually leave. Ever since the Vermont residency, I’ve been slowly but consistently making progress towards my career goals. In the past six months alone, I have accomplished the following:

Made an exploratory trip to Georgia and new contacts, completed a new director’s reel (you can see it here), took a television pilot writing class and a seminar on how to write a film business plan, continued writing memoir and received valuable notes from a trusted/respected colleague, wrote a new bio, continued developing feature film screenplay and received notes on that too, joined several professional organizations and started networking again, applied to two fellowship programs, did my taxes (early!), started Tweeting (@nivaladiva), accrued almost 2,000 followers to this blog, and almost 1,000 followers on Instagram (@nivaandruby).

Life has been hectic lately, and it’s about to get more so. I recently blogged about dating, but honestly, that’s not a priority right now. What matters most to me, other than my health, family and friends, is my career. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to work merely to pay the bills (which this job barely does anyway). I want to enjoy and be mentally and creatively challenged by my work. I want to work with people who inspire and push me to be a better artist. I also want to make significantly more money than I do now.

My finger has been on the “quit” button for some time now and pretty soon, I’m gonna pull the trigger. It’s scary as hell to think about what will happen after that. I literally wake up nights thinking: “I know how I plan to make money, but will that plan actually work? Can I make enough money?” The optimist in me says “Yes! Just stick to the plan.” The doubter in me is tied up and gagged until further notice.

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: If You Leave