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Playwriting and Parenting

New Year, New Me

This post is the eighteenth column of a regular series on Parenting & Playwriting. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, contact me at [email protected]



I won't lie. The end of 2013 didn't find me at my best. I spent New Years Eve doing laundry alone in my neighbor's house, crying my way through a bottle of red wine and Eat, Pray, Love. It gets worse: Eat, Pray Love, the movie. To add pain to misery, while washing a load of pants, the neighbor's dog bit me when I tried to take away a tray of Christmas cookies from her. I couldn't leave the house to get help with the dog, however, because I didn't have on any pants; they were all, you know, in the wash. So there I was, drunk, pantless, bleeding and alone, watching Eat, Pray, Love on TBS.

It was a wake-up call.

I want to do something that sends me out into the world to do good on a daily basis, rather than selfishly stew in my own neurotic juices. Something altruistic yet practical. Yes, something edifying that would please Jesus but with a reliable salary and benefits.

I decided then and there to travel the world over in order to find inner peace and a second husband but upon waking up the next morning and realizing I had neither the gumption of Elizabeth Gilbert nor the natural charisma of Julia Roberts, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist instead. She diagnosed me with having an over-emotional creative personality and since there's only one psychiatrist in Hays, America, I guess she must be right.

I'm not kidding. There is ONE psychiatrist in my town.

But I feel better, mainly because I've had a breakthrough in my do-it-yourself therapy. It seems to me that the problem is not my over-emotional creative personality, but my choice to pursue a living in the theater. Clearly, no one in their right mind would embark on such a path, when there are so many stable and viable careers available in America at this specific time in history for a woman of my means and intelligence.

I want to do something that sends me out into the world to do good on a daily basis, rather than selfishly stew in my own neurotic juices. Something altruistic yet practical. Yes, something edifying that would please Jesus but with a reliable salary and benefits. Something that involves wearing a cape, like Florence Nightingale.

When I told a roomful of friends I wanted to go back to school to become a nurse, they burst out laughing, which, I admit, dampened my spirits. Since the room contained a hospital administrator, a doctor and priest, however, I felt compelled to hear them out.

"It's not that I can't see you in a service industry," the priest said. "It's just that nursing requires a special sort of calling."

"Yes," said the Doctor, "you are too blunt and honest for nursing."

"And too fanciful," added the hospital administrator, "likely to incur lawsuits." After much discussion, they agreed the only field I was remotely suitable for that involved being paid to help people was psychology. Furthermore, they suggested that if I go into psychology, I ought to pursue the more fraudulent kind that might land me a talk show. "Something that involves a nice dose of showmanship," they said. "Something with a stage manager."

So I met my friend who is a psychologist for a beer. She said that while it's unfortunate I never took a single math or science class in college or eight years of graduate school (I'm a theater PhD drop-out, as well as an MFA), I could probably enroll in a clinical psychology two year program, if I did well in a couple of undergraduate psychology classes first. Are you kidding? Undergraduate psychology? I could rock that out in my sleep! Plus, I can do it for free at the local university where the Professor teaches.

Then she mentioned something about statistics. But statistics aren't really math, right? It's like pretend math, where numbers dress up in period costume and do interpretive dance. I'll just turn on some Stravinsky and reach, bend, hop through that syllabus. No problem! When I explained this to her, she nodded politely and ordered me another beer. Totally on-board.

I feel like this is a really solid life plan. I've evaluated my strengths and weaknesses. I've asked for and seriously considered the input of friends who know me well. I've mapped out a course of action that is both practical and financially feasible. All things are pointing towards this new life, this shiny, beautiful, neurosis-free creature. I feel like 2014 is going to be the year where I emerge, chrysalis-like, as the best version of me.

The only problem is: the Professor is not supportive. He thinks that my vocational scheming is all one elaborate act of procrastination, due to the fact that I am so incredibly behind on all my writing projects from the dicey mental health patch of 2013.

Clearly, this is why I need a second husband.

What do you think, readers, is the Professor right? And what career path do you fantasize about when the theater is giving you a nervous breakdown?



Thoughts from the curator

A series on balancing responsibilities as a working playwright and as a parent.

Parenting & Playwriting


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As I recall, the Professor has a colorful history of searching for a vocation as well. Also, once you said that statistics would be easy, I would have switched you to whiskey

This is very funny! Whenever I think of changing professions, I think of the fact that more than once, my sister's lawyer friends have asked me to read their spec pilots/essays/short stories and seem to envy my writer's life. Livin' the dream! (Although I do have a friend who got her MFA in Playwriting with me, then went straight to law school and spent years fighting for immigrants' rights and now, she feels that she's "selling out" by working as a public defender. I had to point out that in the movie, she would not be the sell-out. She still writes plays, by the way, in her copious spare time.)

Public defender sounds about as realistic as clinical psychologist! When it comes to having a good salary and a decent schedule, I think being a Physician’s Assistant or similar would be our best bet. Becoming a Potter is definitely out! There’s no money there, but we could open up a restaurant in Santa Fe...

I think you're very funny. I too, am in the arts, and recognize that it's not a great way to make a living. But I have a friend who's a psychologist, and a standup comic, and she is spending a lot of time and effort to get out of psychology and do her art for a living. I often think that it would be fun to go back to New Mexico and become a potter.

I have an entire parallel life in which I am a very noble and useful public defender who roots out injustice and abuse against my clients, but still has plenty of time to make jam with my kid. In this fantasy the reality of law school loans, underfunding of PDs and widespread corruption are non-existent. The steady paycheck and reliable healthcare though - That s**t is REAL!