"You can fail at what you DON’T want... so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love." - Jim Carrey
Long weekends seem to scream for ambitious home improvement projects. Weeks before those three day weekends stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot run cheery commercials telling you that you can get it all done in just a few hours and then you are on your way to enjoy your weekend. From time to time, I fall into that trap and this past 4th of July, I overly enthusiastically needed to fulfill the promise of not only redoing my oldest daughter’s room who had just turned 18 and my 13 year old daughter’s room. It was just a paint job so how long could it take? I could probably knock out both within a day. Of course I forgot the first rule of home improvement - estimate the time it will take to finish the project and then double or triple it. However, in the process of cursing your own ambition you also need to keep in mind that makeovers can also give you a new perspective. Amber’s room was the one in the most need of updating. Her room was the first one that I had painted before we even moved into this house 10 years ago. We had just closed the day before and I wanted to give the kids rooms a facelift. The original colors in the house were floor to ceiling Army beige. So before we moved in I had my girls pick out their paint - light pink for Amber and eggshell for Danielle. We also picked out Amber’s flowered valance, the matching border and matching flowered stickers to put around the room so it would look like random wallpaper. It was everything an eight year old girl who was into Disney Princesses could ask for but now it was no longer a room that an 18 year old girl wanted to hang-out in. That I understood, but that room had been frozen in time - a snapshot of our lives 10 years ago when I was still working in the international healthcare industry and I hadn’t had the shit kicked out of me job wise so many times. I remembered painting her room the first time at the height of that Georgia summer in 2004 - sweltering under the noon day heat since we had not turned on the power and there was no AC - just stagnant air and a faint breeze every now and then from an open window. I had on my painting leggings and my white t-shirt which was drenched and clinging to my arms, torso and back. The smell of latex and stale perspiration wafted in the air with each roller full of paint that was slathered on the walls erasing the dull beige and replacing it with something more kid friendly. After about an hour, Amber’s room was done and I went over to Danielle’s room and made it a clean crisp white. Since we were moving in the next day, it was easy to get around and paint both rooms without furniture. By the time I was finished, I was covered in sweat with pink and white paint specs clinging to me - my hair was sopping wet (I’ve never been one of those women who glowed when it’s hot - I can perspire to the point that sweat balls roll off my nose and into neat little puddles). I prayed as I left that none of the new neighbors wanted to meet me because I was literally a hot mess. So here I was, 10 years later with my daughter who is a legal adult, moving things around her room that had not really been changed since we moved in. We carefully took the posters off her wall, took off the flowered border, peeled off the adhesive daisies and made the walls look empty. Empty walls to fill with new ideas and adventures. The need to refresh was not lost on me, not just because my oldest daughter was now 18 years old. I was now reconsidering a job change or more accurately - a career change. Did I want continue to work in non-profits or did I want to strike out on my own and be my own boss? The week of Amber’s big birthday, I had edited down our web series Death By South, made it into a sit-com and submitted it to the New York Television Festival hoping for the best. But after that more questions started to emerge - did I want to develop a career in which I could do improv for business and also use improv to work with at-risk kids and police officers? Would I once again retreat into the relative safety of another non-profit job with benefits in which I would attempt once more to save the world only to have the world slap me in the face after it was saved over and over again? I contemplated that as I put the paint onto the walls over the two and a half days it took to actually finish their rooms (note to me - expecting to do both places in one day was definitely overreaching). I thought about the past decade - going from my forties to the beginning of my fifties. The improv group had been started in 2005 and had seen many incarnations although interestingly enough it’s been the one professional constant in my life. I had been doing international healthcare for about two years when we moved in and an additional three years after that, then local healthcare for almost four years and finally working with adults with developmental disabilities. Amber had gone from being in elementary school, to middle school to high school. My mother had gone from being active to needing to be in assisted living with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. My older sister’s 30 year marriage had ended, she battled colon cancer and had gotten remarried to a really great guy. We have also lost and gained two cats in these 10 years - my kids learning hard lessons about love and heartbreak the way only the loss of a beloved pet can teach you. So much had happened since these walls were first painted. Now, I was standing in this same room - this time filled with furniture that I needed to paint around. I was in a different place in my life - not getting ready to start a new job in a new house but struggling professionally. My baby girl will be graduating from high school this time next year and her adult life is stretching before her - independence closer then it was 10 years ago. So as each wall was finished and the touch-ups applied, I wondered about striking out on my own as well. I’ve spent so much time making money for other people - writing grants to fund programs, making videos to promote charities, doing special events with the gala ladies from hell who could definitely give any nemesis that the Avengers encountered a run for Tony Stark’s money. Not having to deal with bosses who would throw you under the bus to save their own asses would be nice. I might be working for myself but at least I’d have some sort of control. Not that being on my own would be a piece of cake- I would have to collect money owned for services rendered. I’d have to keep track of what I would owe tax wise as an independent contractor. I would need to market myself and be out there selling constantly. I would need to find my own health insurance but I would have a bit more control over my schedule. I also had connections thanks to all my years raising money so folks might be willing to take a course from someone who had won awards doing special events or a course on how to speak confidently to a group of people since I’ve won awards doing improv as well. But how irresponsible would I be to turn down a sure thing - a JOB with all the benefits to support my family? The security that my paycheck would be the same thing every week so that we could budget - rather than feast or famine.
The biggest difference in me at 51 versus me at 41 is that I’m older, hopefully wiser and well shit - just tired of saving the world instead of myself for a change. Maybe I’ve been handed this opportunity to breakout and give it a shot for six months or a year and if it doesn’t workout then hell yeah, I’ll go back to sacrificing myself once again to make the world a better place but at least I will have given it a shot. Sounds like I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll do right? Not so fast, I have two job interviews - both with decent pay and benefits beaconing me to put my superhero cape on one more time to fly in and save (fill in the blank) again for old time’s sake. I’m really torn - I mean to the point of tears because like most superheroes - what if the riskier path is the one fight I don’t come back from? What I lead the people who trust me down a roadway of ruin? What if I’m not as strong as I think I am? My theoretical self is a total bad ass able to handle anything - even a Hulk with PMS but disappointing people I love because I wanted to start my own business - that would be my Kryptonite. So there you have it - my moral dilemma unfolding and I just don’t have the luxury of distance or time to say - “Hey I was scared shitless but it all worked out - so follow your dreams, kids!” Maybe it doesn’t have to be all or nothing - maybe a part-time job to start until the business gets going - that I could live with. Maybe it’s just one wall at a time - with random brush strokes that merge into one solid color and the imperfections which can be fixed later with a little touch-up paint. Those random pieces of furniture that somehow come together and make the room look like there was a grand master plan all along that you can step back from and say “Well hell, yeah, I meant to do that!” Maybe - but just like any good home improvement project - it’s not going to happen as quickly as you thought.