When I think now about what I thought when I was just starting out in my career, I definitely have a palm to forehead moment. I was so naïve. I was so oblivious. I was so blind and unrealistic. But, you know what? That’s also exactly how I was supposed to be. You sort of need that completely unrealistic hope and those impossibly high expectations in the beginning of your career just to fuel you to get off your butt and take that first step. If someone were to explain to me what things would actually look like for the ensuing five to ten years, there would be no way I would have even began.
That’s not to say I don’t like the way the last five to ten years of my career have gone. I’ve loved them. But I love them in retrospect, and, as they were occurring, I felt all sorts of things. I felt confused, excited, disappointed, surprised, and challenged—so very, very challenged. I went through growing pains, but they were the type of growing pains that felt good. But, imagine telling someone young, just starting to chase her dreams, that that’s what she was in for? It doesn’t sound very appealing.
We have to have some absolutely unrealistic, higher-than-the-sky vision of what our career will be like if we’re just going to get started. So, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t tell 22-year-old me to think any differently. There are, however, some things I wish others had told me about that would have helped me know that, at the times I felt everything was failing, I was actually right on track. There are some elements of chasing a dream that can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, but are really just part of the process.
In the beginning, you might be bad
Whatever it is you’d like to do—become a novelist, become a musician, become a comedian, become a publicist—in the beginning, you will likely be, well, bad. You’ll eagerly put your work out to the world, thinking it’s the best thing ever, and be totally shattered when people come back at you with some criticism. Some will be gentle, and some will be quite harsh. But the thing is nobody is great at what they do on day one. You have to start somewhere.