I thought I'd gotten out. A little over two years ago, I was doing our tax prep. Although I'd had a great year creatively, with 3 films either in festivals or theatrical release, TV work and a challenging play, my reward for that was less than 1/16 of my husband's salaried income that year. Shortly thereafter, Simon and I had a long conversation over many drinks. I was beyond tired of fighting for film parts I didn't even want, going to parties in the city or (yes) the Hamptons to chat up directors and producers in the hopes of finally landing a breakout role. I turned to my other life, my at that time 9+ year graphic design career, and decided that it was time to get a job. I'd had many rewarding jobs in the graphics field throughout my time in NYC, but for the first time I was going to put all my energy into one thing. Within two weeks I had the perfect job with a great company and a top notch salary at just the right time. Johan was 14 months old and in the process of weaning himself. The time was right and I leaped.
Going to work in a retail corporate headquarters is a little bit like being shot from a cannon every morning, and I ate it up. There was nothing I liked more than to dive into a project with a venti latte at 9am only to come up for air at around 1pm with a growling belly and cold coffee. Yes, I do eat a normal lunch every day, just not until I notice I'm hungry! My work was very detailed with lots of room for creative flexing -- my passions were fed, and fed well. I was happier, and it showed. Instead of looking around for industry professionals to meet at parties, I concentrated on enjoying where I was; a welcome change. It's more fun to first admire the gold sparkly drag queen at the party rather than wonder immediately if she has a script for you.
All of a sudden, producers from a series I'd screen-tested for a year prior called. They had a green light, a full cast, a crew and were ready to roll. Our lives had completely changed due to me going back to work full time. Did we really want to do this? The producers worked hard to convince us. It was a reality show, so wouldn't take up as much time as a drama. They'd film evenings, weekends and basically not get in the way. After much argy-bargy we said, "What the hell," and began a journey that continues today.
It's all well and good to film a reality show, but who knew it would be the monster hit it's become? My life took on sort of a split personality, which kind of worked as I'm a Libra. During the day I was worker Alex and upon leaving the building morphed into mom, wife and reality star Alex. I chuckled when co-workers occasionally brought in show posters or asked if other people on the show were really as they seemed in celluloid, but beyond that the office was my green zone. So it happened, until my layoff almost three weeks ago.
In that time I've been busy as hell, but somehow the time has been filled up with not much. After the initial shock and weekend, I "took some time to process" which is a polite way of saying I did nothing. Well, that's not exactly true -- I appeared on Mike & Juliet to weigh in on the Rihanna/Chris debacle with a side of the First Lady's forearms, and also began to update my resume. Everything's current, if not up-to-trend as per the latest resume styles. For that my company graciously provided time with a career transition service, and I began with the orientation session last week.
It's disconcerting to go into an office where everyone except the staff is looking for work. Prior to heading in I wondered if the air would smell of desperation and if everyone would be looking around furtively, protectively, and viewing all others as a potential threat to their job search. Oh wait, this isn't an acting audition full of wannabe gangsters, it's a corporate career center. I did see some of the furtive glances but not too many.
Apparently doing "not much" the first few days beyond dusting off the resume is exactly right -- though I'm not sure I believe that. I also checked the NY Times job section and discovered that in January a luxury retailer was looking for someone who did exactly what I do and thought -- "Great, the perfect next job was available 2 months before I was. Now what?" Bringing this up in orientation yielded a somewhat helpful response -- it turns out that surfing classifieds is also a good way to start, if nothing else than to get a feel for the language used in the ads to describe what you do, to then write your resume. So, I'm supposedly on the right track. A one-on-one meeting this week with a counselor yielded, "At what point do you tell people you're on a show?" Answer as of today is, "When you feel it's right." Thanks.
What makes this different than other job searches? When I walked into the career center, people recognized me. "Wow, you were laid off too? It really can happen to anyone." There have been hundreds of wonderful people who've written words of support on my Facebook page, and outreach from surprising places as well. From the star of another network show to the company who wants to do a luggage line to the agent who suggested the panel circuit and back to the happy news that my graphic design skills are portable across many industries...there are quite a few interesting suggestions. My method at this point is to talk to and follow up with everyone -- you literally never know where the next job/income source/path in life will come from.
At the same time, I'm enjoying a marginally less hectic schedule. I'm having lunch with people whom I've wanted to for a year. I'm really loving school drop off without having to throw the kids in the door and blast away at Mach 2, although in the afternoon it's a bit hard to write emails to colleagues when Johan turns up with a dripping red paintbrush wanting to know if he can decorate my monitor. I've taken the time to read the insane Real Housewives episode recaps on Gawker and wonder what would happen if Richard were tied to Maureen Dowd and left in a small room. I didn't immediately judge myself and think "Snap out of it," when I read about Natasha Richardson's accident and got a little emotional. Although I'm not where I want to be right now, at least I can feel, and in these times, that's as good a place as any to start. Once a week I'll post here and let you know how it's going.