When I was seven-years-old I convinced myself I was secretly a princess.
I imagined that my real parents were royalty who had left me in the country to be raised by ‘good solid people’ so I’d learn the value of hard work.
I would dream about the day they would come to get me – their limousines kicking up dust on the long stretch of gravel road to our farm, their obscure foreign flags whipping in the wind. I imagined how I would nobly insist that my farm-parents join me in my new kingdom, as they were the only parents I’d ever known.
As I got older my dream slowly faded as I realized I looked too much like my parents to deny them paternity. What didn’t fade though – what has stuck with me my entire life – was the sense, that just around the corner something amazing was about to happen.
Last week, the dust settled around the wedding and I turned my attention back to chasing that feeling. Lately, rather than excite me, my dreams have seemed to loom over me, nebulous and unreachable. Feelings of excitement to write my next script or work on my next project lie buried beneath anxiety and frustration that I’m still not all the way to the top.
When I explained these feelings to Jason between a ‘House Of Cards’ marathon, he says what he usually says when I am standing on the corner of Panic and Feeling-Sorry-For-Myself.
‘You know we have a saying in Buddhism – “
I interrupted him to roll my eyes but he ignored me and continued.
“We say, ‘Abandon hope.’”
I blinked at him for a second thinking that that was the meanest thing he’d ever said to me.
“I mean, instead of focusing on the top of the mountain and wondering why you’re not there, you should focus on the path that leads there. Forget about the success, abandon it for happiness.”
Forget about success, abandon it for happiness.
I turned that over in my head for days. The more I thought about it the more it terrified me. What would I have if I let go of my anxiety and constant worry over my career? What would fill that hole?
My identify is so tied to constantly striving for something just out of my reach it feels a little bit empty to imagine life without it.
For a long time here in Los Angeles, I’ve felt that if I wasn’t struggling I wasn’t really doing it – wasn’t really pursuing my dream as hard as I could.
In this town, there seems to be a general feeling that if you aren’t immeasurably unhappy in your day-to-day life you don’t deserve success. If you haven’t lived in the worst apartment or worked at the most depressing job or cried over a bottle of Chardonnay while watching re-runs of “Will and Grace” then somehow it’s just not going to happen for you.
We wear the struggle like a battle scar to prove just how badly we want this.
But I’m getting tired of the struggle. Not the pursuit of my dream, but of putting my happiness on hold until it happens. Because by that logic, the only way to be happy is either to achieve my wildest goals or give up.
I don’t want to do either.
Since the day I’d imagined my secret royal family coming to get me in North Dakota I have believed that somewhere, just past the horizon, there’s something incredible waiting for me.
Maybe there is. Or more terrifying, maybe there isn’t.
Either way, I don’t want to spend my entire life waiting to be happy.
I may not be a secret princess but there is still so much to be happy about right now.
(Unless you are a Queen just remembering you left your daughter on a farm in North Dakota. If so, please disregard above and email me.)
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.