Guilt and Tequilla

Last weekend I went on a last-minute, one-day, surprise trip home.

My cousin Adam and I are more like siblings and in a few weeks he’s getting married. His bachelor party, as well as his fiancée Karrisa’s bridal shower and bachelorette party, was happening on Saturday. Thursday, he sent me a text.

“You should come home this weekend! I’ll buy the ticket. I want to surprise Karissa.”

When you live as far away as Los Angeles, an opportunity like that rarely presents itself. So after a lot of “No ways” and “I couldn’t possiblys” I decided to take him up on his wildly generous offer and take the plunge.

That night in bed, I couldn’t sleep and felt a familiar feeling working its greasy hands into the pit of my stomach.

Guilt.

I shouldn’t be going away for the weekend. I should be working on my career.

This week, I celebrate my seventh year in Los Angeles and when I look around I see people who have dedicated their entire lives to try and make it in Hollywood. Putting relationships on hold, digging themselves into debt, working around the clock, and almost killing themselves for a piece of this city.

Living in that kind of high-octane environment, I constantly worry I’m not working hard enough. Not killing myself enough. How maybe if I hadn’t watched that episode of Game Of Thrones or spent a Saturday baking cookies I would be further along in my career.

To mitigate that fear, I use guilt as motivation, which I’m sure any good therapist can tell you is not that healthy.

I tossed and turned under the covers in wild panic and was certain this trip was going to prove to the universe that I was not committed enough – that I didn’t deserve success because I take wild-haired trips across the country when I should be sitting down, chained to my desk, pumping out best-selling books and hit TV shows.

The next morning I was exhausted but promised myself I would work on the plane, something I’ve never been good at since I’m usually too worried about falling out of the sky to focus.

Our flight was delayed for a ‘mechanical issue’ (which sent me into a mental tailspin) and after we were in the air I had asked our flight attendant if she knew what had been wrong.

“Oh you know,” she chirped “just the main navigation tool. The thing that makes sure we don’t-“ she wobbled her hands wildly about. “That whole thing had totally gone south.”

I stared at her a moment in shock.

“Beverage?” She asked, brightly.

Miraculously, I made it and even managed to get a little work done.

When I stepped off the plane and breathed in the fresh Fargo air I knew I’d made the right decision.

The surprise was everything we’d hoped it would be and after laughter (and a few tears) we got down to why we were really there – celebrating the marriage of two people I love and tequila shots.

It was wonderful to be around my family, back home with no planning and no plans other than to spend time with them. It felt wild and unexpected.

The tequila shots helped too.

I didn’t think about work once. I didn’t feel guilty for a single second.

The whole day was a flash in the pan, an unexpected bright spot. A reminder.

As I flew back to LA on Sunday – deliriously tired but so happy – I realized maybe that was exactly what I had needed.

Working hard is important but so is living life. So is pulling your head up from the path, looking around, and recognizing why you are actually doing it. And that is so easy to forget in a city like Los Angeles.

I crawled in bed next to Jason that first night home and it felt so different from the last night I had spent in this bed. My body hummed with ideas and I felt excited to write. Excited to sit down and be creative again. Excited to spend the time pursuing my dream.

The guilt and it had been replaced (at least for now) with the exciting reminder of why I was here.

It only took one day in the Midwest to remind me of that.

And maybe a tequila shot.

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

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