----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: Making a Change

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Making a Change

Here's a comment from Jeff on my last post:

"I am at home recovering from major back surgery. I'm off of work for 6-12 weeks. Prior to the surgery, I used to work an obscene amount of hours.What I've realized after being in the hospital for 3 weeks, going through surgery that I had a possibility of not making it through, and that now my spine is fused all the way from T2-L4? ...work doesn't matter a whole lot. I do need to spend more time concentrating on the important things in life. Family, friends, doing good rather than pouring every waking hour into a job that though occasionally rewarding, never really gives back as much as it takes. So, your post resonated with me. I hope you're able to find a way to make this kind of discovery, preferably without as much back pain and narcotics prescribed to dull that pain."

This comment reminded me of what I thought I had learned from my big health scare. Back in September 2002, I found out that there was a possibility I had cancer. I was at work when I got the news. It was about 3:45 in the afternoon, and I was really shaken. I told my boss that I wanted to go home and call my parents, and he said, "Well, can you just finish what you're working on right now?" I was practically in tears at this point, so I told him no, I needed to leave right then. And as I left, I realized that I never wanted to work in a place that would put work ahead of someone's potential cancer diagnosis.

This all happened while I was living in L.A., but the doctor who gave me the news was one that I'd seen in Northern California. He told me that I needed to have a second biopsy done, and he said I shouldn't wait until the next time I was in the Bay Area. But by the time I got home, it was too late to reach my doctor in L.A. So my boyfriend and I drove up north on Sunday and we planned to storm the doctor's office with my mom on Monday to insist that he perform another biopsy. That doctor was happy to help, and he recommended that I stick around and wait for the results. On Thursday, September 12, 2002, it was official--I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I was 26.

I stayed in Northern California for my treatment, and during those six months, I thought I had life figured out. Work wasn't important. Stress was to be avoided at all costs. All the trivial little mundane details of life were just that...trivial. I wanted to be surrounded by family and friends. I wanted to laugh and enjoy every day. I wanted to make a commitment to taking care of my health. I wanted to spend time doing the things that made me happy: reading, writing, traveling, dining out, seeing movies and plays, enjoying good wines. I wanted to make a difference, so I started volunteering for the American Cancer Society.

And then my treatment ended and I got better. I had been living at home, so I hadn't needed money, but then I moved back to L.A., and my disability payments wouldn't even cover my utility bills. I had to find a job. And all the trivial mundane details of life suddenly seemed to become important again. I was dealing with a lousy commute, co-worker drama, money worries...all of life's little irritants were picking at me. I was so grateful to be recovering, but it got lost under all the everyday crap.

For me, in some ways, it's harder to deal with all the little things now than it used to be. I am not Zen and peaceful, as I imagined I'd become. I'm basically the same person. I still worry about all the silly stuff that everyone else worries about. I know that it's silly, but I don't know how to stop. And I know that work isn't the be-all and end-all of life, and in fact it should be given much less priority than it is. But I also know that I have bills to pay and that I want to buy a house someday, so I have to have an income. I guess the trick is to be able to shut work out of my "real" life, or else find a way to make money doing something that I really care about.

So, Jeff, I'm glad that you've come to the realization that work doesn't matter a whole lot. Health, family and friends are always more important. I don't want work to be the defining feature of my life. I don't want to let it make me as angry and bitter as my last job made me. I want to be remembered for being fun and funny, caring and loving. Thanks for reminding me of all that. I got in touch with my American Cancer Society contact today to volunteer again. That felt good. I went to the gym. That felt really good. And I'm realizing that yes, I need to work and have an income, but it needs to be at least partly on my terms. And that felt best of all.


Post a Comment

<< Home