I graduated with my MA in Media Arts. What is media arts, you ask? I can’t tell you what exactly media arts at the University of South Carolina is because it is so many nerdy, fantastic things under one underfunded roof. Thanks, Nikki Haley. For me, media arts was screenwriting, film production, and how to maintain a bit of sanity while editing in a small, windowless room aptly called, “the cave.” I don’t think I ever told anyone until recently, but my decision to go to grad school was a spiteful, spur-the-moment one. I was in the last semester of my senior year and my long-distance boyfriend at the time mentioned me moving to his city on the phone one night. I freaked. Of course I liked him & all, but I wasn’t ready to give up my life-choice freedom. I was only 21 and like any entertainment fiend, I had California dreams chase. He called me an idiot. “You can’t just move to LA with no job!” & “If you move to California, it’s over!” Not ready to move, not ready to give him up…I hung up the phone and filled out an application. Roughly three weeks later, I took the GRE, barely squeaking by the deadline and was accepted. Best decision of my life. Not because an MA in screenwriting really gets you anywhere…it doesn’t. But I got to learn and explore my art, and I got to do it with like-minded weirdos who became some of my best friends.
Cut to: January 2014.
Newly employed by my crack dealer (BarStucks) and alone in a new city that wasn’t anywhere near California, I felt only a tinge of hope amidst an overwhelming sense of disappointment and failure. I don’t know why I expected it to be any different after graduation…Oh, yeah. I was delusional. I would daydream that my web series thesis project was SO funny and SO well done and SO original that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would find it and would wait with bated breath each week for the next webisode. Then they would message me that they wanted to make it a TV show, and I’d be like, “Okay, cool,” and then we’d win an Emmy and be the three best friends that anyone could have.
When that didn’t happen, and when 6 months went by with no second interviews (including a make-up store that wouldn’t even have me in for an interview because I didn’t already have a year of experience working at a make-up store…), I felt lost. Sure, I was working and getting free crack and loving my co-workers, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in myself for not working hard enough to get a job in the field I’ve always adored right out of school. (Protip: INTERN, INTERN, INTERN). I was still constantly looking for jobs and on one fine day, I saw a message on my LinkedIn.
“We’re seeking an entry level marketing/production type person here, but I’d also like to talk to you about making mom-focused videos for YouTube. Please call if interested.”
I checked the date. She had messaged me a week ago. Horrified that I might have missed the best opportunity to come my way, I called immediately.
The woman on the other line tells me she has a kids’ television show and she would like to bring me in to talk about making YouTube videos for the brand. At first, all I could do was nod, which obviously was no good, but I couldn’t believe something so perfect was reaching out to me. I could feel all the previous rejection clogging up my throat, but I conjured up my most determined, adult voice and scheduled an interview.
The next week, I found myself standing outside a locked glass door, staring at a giant cartoon prop mailbox thinking, “If you don’t nail this, you will never work in entertainment, you know that right? Don’t screw this up. Don’t talk like a toddler. Wipe your sweat ‘stache. You should probably call her to unlock the door now, you’ve been standing here for five minutes.”
She lets me in and leads me through the office with orange, green, blue, yellow, and pink paint on the walls and giant props and wheelchairs strewn about. We sit at her desk and talk for a few minutes. It becomes painfully obvious I am not what she expected.
“You do YouTube videos for Mom in a Box?”
“No, actually, it’s Mox in Box. I just thought I needed a production company name for a project I did awhile back…”
“Oh,” she had misread my profile. “But you do YouTube videos, right?”
She pulls up my YouTube page and watches my most watched video, a quick 15-second clip of me wiggling my nose after having my face numbed at the dentist. She looks at me. My sweat ‘stache is back. She asks a few more questions and I can feel all my hopes and dreams throwing in their towels with every answer.
“So, what do you think is a good starting salary for someone like you?”
“I don’t know…Maybe $23,000?”
I stared blankly at her, trying to read her face but she was giving me nothing. I gave up. I started spiraling and venting to her about how I know nothing about job searching or salaries or how to go about marketing myself or even what I do best, but that I can do the things she needs done and I am lost and desperate. She looks at me while I try not to cry and figure out what I can say to turn this around. Unfortunately, quick thinking is not my forté so we just stare at each other. A few awkward and sweaty moments later…she starts talking. She tells me she also mentors young women getting started in this business and offers me a part time position for the summer. I couldn’t believe it. Still holding back tears now from excitement, we awkwardly shake hands as she walks me out the door. I call my mom immediately and tell her I just met an angel.
It’s been a year since that awful interview, and I’ve been working with this woman full-time for nine months. I still can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am that she misread my profile. I’m convinced the Big Man upstairs hid her reading glasses for me. I’ve gained so much experience and knowledge professionally and personally that it makes my head spin. Never give up hope that things won’t flail into place. Yes, flail. Falling sounds somewhat graceful and there was nothing graceful about me sweating profusely while begging for a job. Just work hard and have faith that you will find your way. Oh, & be nice. Nobody likes a sweaty asshole.
I am eternally grateful for what I get to do now and everything that led me to it, but it’s not what I want to do forever. I want to tell stories. So, this is me working out my writing muscle and telling you one of my stories. If you liked it, awesome! Let’s be friends. If not, that’s cool too. You can go shave your back now. 🙂