Monday, October 20, 2008

why i had to kill my ego in order to leave hollywood and find happines in piscataway, nj: a homework assignment in memoir writing

coming out of the canyon, coldwater canyon, crossing the intersection of sunset blvd and beverly drive, i am struck by the odd nostalgia and pathetic excitement of having once known when russell crowe would be staying at the beverly hills hotel that rests on that threshold.

i continue forward, struggling with a borrowed manual mustang on loan to me from my father for my short visit home. i pull into the old neighborhood and the hotel that i used to look out on during construction has now been completely built in the last six months. i valet park even though at first i looked around for my parking key. this is no longer my work. i take the elevator straight to the 7th floor and enter the space i used to run. i greet the receptionist who has been there too long, perhaps a little angry with me for having to fill my shoes after five months on the job. No one in the company's history had climbed so fast to be the lowest man on the totem pole in the boys club of hollywood.

i am waiting to meet with my old boss, whose life it was once my job to manage, which in turn made it my life. i exchange pleasantries with his new assistant and for a second i am oddly jealous. she is at my desk, answering my phones, all wrong of course, and yet i had gladly given up this throne. he comes around the corner and greets me with a warm hug. we are no longer boss and assistant, but dare i say friends. we council each other on the directions are lives are going after a six month seperation, almost like a break up.

at first i lie to him and tell him how GREAT and FANTASTIC i am doing now that i gave hollywood up to be a real artist with integrity in new york. within minutes, i reveal that i have not written anything brilliant nor have i found a great job or cool studio in williamsburg. i am, in fact, a receptionist for the second time in my life, only this time i don't answer calls from russell crowe. i answer attendance calls from overly neurotic parents in greenwich village. i am living in new jersey with my boyfriend who is a large part of why i moved. and i am broke...very broke. he laughs, "you seem happy."

a smile takes over my face, "i am. i haven't quite figured it out yet, but i'm happy." and for a second, honesty prevails and we both recognize that leaving my pseudo-hot shot job in hollywood to become a confused receptionist in new york was the right decision. i tell him how i battle my ego on a weekly basis but in the simplest of ways. on weeks where i am confident that i am a writer struggling to make it, when people ask me what i do for a living, i say, "i'm a receptionist." and on weeks where i am not sure i will ever make it, i say, "i'm just a receptionist right now," as if to say, "please don't judge me. i am really brilliant."

he reiterates the idea of fear. "fear is as real as this table. it is as real as you or i. you gotta fight it everyday with everything you got."

after our reunion, i stroll the office and visit my old friends. i am a breath of fresh air. i am "the other side."all notions of nostalgia melt away as they confess their miseries in sarcasm and overly dry humor. they ask me what i'm doing in new york and i smile and say, "i'm a receptionist."

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