Every time I write, I get stuck in a loop. I play a song I like; the intro part always gets me going. I let it play, the ideas flow, and then...I swipe my right ear to restart the song. Rinse and repeat. It feels like I do a lot of initiating and lack all the follow-through. That, or the follow-through is grueling, tiresome, and in that familiar face of perfectionism, I back down before I can ever discover what the end result could be.
Lately, everything in my life has fallen under that same scope. I'm pushing, pushing, pushing, and I get frustrated with not being where I want to be that I consider giving up and switching gears, which leaves me with nothing but a graveyard of half-constructed notions. The worst part of all is being unsure of where to differentiate between walking away from something that's no longer serving me, or being a little bitch when things get hard. Frankly, the latter seems most likely but everyone in my life seems to think otherwise. That leads me to my next point.
Back when I lived at home, I felt like a high achiever. An annoying teacher's pet. A golden retriever-type daughter too, always looking for a "Good girl!" I enrolled in the international baccalaureate program because everyone else did, and I didn't want to look stupid. Kept my grades up, just under a 4.0, and leaned into every possible after-school club to fluff up my resume. Staying up late, juggling coursework, passion projects, and YouTube binges, I felt myself being worn down and had a few stressed-related bloody noses as a result.
One day, I was pulled into the office and learned an advisor had misled me and I was missing the necessary credits to graduate; I could either take on another college-level class or drop the entire program to keep my single elective, chorale. I sat in an economics class, head down, moping the entire hour and a half. I'd spent nearly two years busting my ass for bragging rights but there I was, furious and bitter. The sunk-cost fallacy is a fallacy for a reason, though. I missed singing. I missed the ONE performing art I allowed myself. So, I dropped the program and finished my last year as a first soprano. I felt infinitely more satisfied than I had before.
Did "failing" change anything? NYU would've rejected me anyway. The full-ride scholarship wasn't going anywhere either. That burning passion to commit to something that I felt free in wouldn't have ever gone away, either. So why, now, do I feel like I can't walk away? Feeling like I've invested too much time, so much worrying, and so many nights of crying in frustration and spite! What would I be walking away from anyway? Social media? A long-spanning, bragging-rights career? Climbing a corporate ladder? Living in Los Angeles? Dreams of becoming a screenwriter in a dead and dying, cold, fruitless, and tech-bro-run industry? Everything, I guess.
Last year I had a full mental breakdown from the sheer stress of the world and I slowly worked to piece myself back together lovingly, like Kintsugi. Mending myself with considerable golden webs of confidence and forgiveness. Yet here I am, frustrated with the lack of visible progress, success, direction, and an overall absence of purpose. Every opportunity presents itself as a departure from daily monotony, but far and few are anything but a mirage.
In February, a new opportunity presented itself, and juggling two jobs became so tiring that it was difficult to keep my eyes open sometimes. The extra money helped me fix my car (my car always needs fixing), I could spoil myself a little (I never spoil myself), and I felt close to being rich (I was still making a cool 5-10k under the low-income wage for a single person in LA). How else would someone not feel compelled to give up?
My graphic designer friend worked for nearly two years before her salary reached $41,600. My teacher friend signed a contract that averaged out to just over $12/hr. My NYC friend received a raise, and after the proper taxes were taken out, she received the same amount I did at the time, making $9k less. It doesn't feel like there's a way out. Maybe it was easier than before, but not by much.
Pedro Pascal's entry-level career spanned 15 years and he's remarked that his success wouldn't have been achievable without his residuals and Sarah Paulson partially footing the bills. Jacob Elordi was living out of his car before landing Euphoria. Everyone knows Sylvester Stallone sold his dog. The American dream! If only it was exclusive to film. Unfortunately, most entry-level annual salaries begin with a 3, regardless of the industry. The average Gen Z salary is believed to be anywhere from 32-38k. Before taxes. When will our "complaining" be recognized as a plea for a liveable wage?  
Before I get carried away, the above is not necessarily what this entry is about. I'm caught in the crosshairs of both all that and that classic mid-20s crisis. The latter is what this is about. I want to try everything, but it feels like I have no time. What if I go to law school and learn that I hate lawyers? What if I scratch the itch of adolescent Elena, and throw myself into history or journalism? What if I take pole dancing? What if I stick to barre? What if I pick up a camera? What if writing just isn't for me?
I just feel lost. I feel like putting everything in storage and escaping. I always wanted to study abroad in London, for no reason other than being ostentatious, I guess. I'm constantly inspired by movie scores, brilliant producers, eclectic directors, perfectly composed writers, cool and serious painters, and the list goes on; yet to do these things myself feels impossible. I'm always thinking that I couldn't possibly be good at them and should pick something fully analytical and lucrative.
Entirely undeterred, there is a constant, burning desire to connect with others that I just don't know how to scratch. And it has to be authentic. It has to be so incredibly raw and real and not for the sake of being seen, but being heard! I don't know what it looks or sounds like and I'm so unsure of how to even conceptualize it at all, I just feel it so deeply and it's goddamn frustrating. 
This is the part where I mention I'm quitting my job and the other is ending; the part where I say I'm finally in a predicament to once again, apply my thorough understanding of the sunk-cost fallacy. I'm 3.5 years into social media work and let me just say this: I fucking hate social media. There, I said it. Loud and proud. If you're a future employer reading this, please disregard this paragraph. Seriously. I'm fantastic at my job but it's a major pain in my ass having only been overworked, underappreciated, and underpaid. Maybe it'd be better in film, TV, or music. I may be so much more passionate. There are just so many illegitimate people, items, and concepts in this world, and helping successfully promote those things (for pennies) has been one of the most mentally draining undertakings I've experienced outside of previously getting shitfaced every weekend. Also, I cannot overstate one's annoying desire to "go viral."
Some time in the digital age, we've confused content and visibility with legitimate connection and authentic storytelling. "I'm a creative," the girl with the Amazon storefront says. She's linking out to nylon booty-scrunch shorts and is selling an MLM guide. "I'm an entrepreneur," the other man says, selling Temu gymwear and lead-laden protein powder on TikTok. "We care about our audience," says whatever fucking B2C I'm working with; we're in a Google Meet and they want to convince people to overconsume. I endure all this, along with content-mill writing for a nearly bankrupt corporation, 9 AM—5 PM, Monday through Friday. I am...sad.
Not knowing what's next would've sent me into a downward spiral before, ending in tears and apprehension. Now, I just find myself somewhat agape, not necessarily unaffected by the uncertainty, but aware and tolerant of it. For now. I've no idea where I'll end up, or what will happen, but I know I can't mentally stay where I was before. If I'm not eventually working in film & TV like I imagined, I think I can accept the 'other', if it's truly meant for me. If I'm happy. Whatever 'happy' is. There is absolutely no telling I would enjoy working in film and TV either, nor that I'm cut out for it with how scarce my screenwriting is.
Really I feel most compelled to journal. Screenwriting just seems too hard now while being this tired and uninspired after a long fucking day doing work for everyone else without credit. The most I've done in just over two months is scribble ideas on notecards and daydream about complex characters, miserable and human embarrassments, and passionate connections. I know it's a difficult thing regardless, but if I can't manage to crank out a few pages while busy, then the industry just probably isn't a good fit for me. That being said, I do work a very similar 60-ish hours a week. Anyway...
I just want to stop feeling lazy and/or burnt out. I want to stop dreaming of taking singing lessons and take them already. Stop imagining myself as a pianist and play. I want to stop fucking seeing myself performing art again and just do it. I want to be an old woman with long, silver hair, and hands that say I've lived! My mom sent me a video recently, and my grandmother, despite her state of dementia, was playing the piano. Maybe it had been decades since she'd last touched a key, but I love how our bodies, or maybe our souls, have interminable memory.
Ah, well. I'm tired. I'd like to say I feel more inspired to begin any of the above, but then I'd be lying. And disappointed. I'll leave with one more thing, though. A few months ago I paid a poet for an impromptu poem. She placed a white card in her noble typewriter, thought long and hard, and began. She was clacking away a few words at a time, occasionally pausing to rub her wrists as she went, as if she were milking the verselet into her fingertips. She adjusted the ribbon maybe six times before finishing and stamped the back of the little card with her logo before handing it to me. "Another kind of weird, abstract one," she said.
-for Elena-
I know how to slash

and gather
this life requires a discerning eye
and a passion for fresh fruit
an overzealous means of survival
as an artistic pursuit
but is it not the flesh of life
that stains fingers
with bright red sweet?
is it not my purpose, my grip
to greet the sun
and hold it close?

cover photo: S. Burkett Kaiser, Strawberry Moonlight, 1946, oil on canvas