It happened on September 31st at 35,000 feet. I was hit by lightning. No one else on the plane noticed. It was a feeling entirely inside my body and it shook me. I started to cry, which was a little awkward because I wasn’t watching a movie or looking at my phone. Luckily there was no one in the middle seat and the woman in the window seat was watching Isn’t It Romantic, so Rebel Wilson was keeping her distracted.
It was in this moment that I knew I was going to walk away from my six-figure salary and a successful creative career I spent 25 years building. This decision was final. There was no plan B. In fact, it felt like a design demon had just been exorcised from my body and I was now free – free to be the writer I had always been – free to make the movies that had always been playing in my head. Free.
I imagine the feeling is similar to falling out of love with your spouse, falling in love with someone new, and deciding to leave your marriage. How were you were ever in love with your husband in the first place, when you actually like women? You know you cannot spend another day living a lie, but the terror of burning down everything you have built and disappointing everyone you know is does it’s best to scare you into standing still. And yet you decide to march on into the fire knowing that life will be better on the other side.
There on the plane, breathing through the shock, I took out my notebook and started writing. I retraced my path trying to figure out where I’d been led astray. How did I end up as a designer in the first place? There were lots of twists and turns where I could have chosen filmmaking. I was so close to the NYU film program that I slept with some of them. In the end, I realized it didn’t matter. Placing blame is a useless exercise, whether on my mother, society, or myself. I am the sum of my experiences and my stories are powerful because of the specific cocktail of those experiences. So rather than looking back, I began to look forward.
I wrote down a date in my notebook. December 31st. I decided that by the start of the new year, I would be a retired designer, and fledgling screenwriter. At that point I had one bad screenplay completed, a solid outline for the second, and a concept for the third. I just needed to be patient. There were factors in play (a stock vest) and I had to hold my cards until the right moment to give notice. My seat mate snorted and then laughed out loud, and I looked at her. She turned to me with her hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her cheeks and nodded a thank you (I had recommended the movie). I smiled back, and gave her a thumbs up.