It happened again: another mortifying moment at a party.
It was just like the time about two and half years ago when the topic of my writing came up with people I admire. I ended up stammering — at length — tongue not tied, paralyzed. I displayed an utter loss of words and can now add “conversation stopper” to my list of titles. What the fuck is wrong with me?
I’ll back up. The party was a work party. When I say “work” — I mean my day job. And by “day job,” I mean how I earn money. I don’t write about it much here because it’s important to protect the confidentiality of my colleagues and clients.
To set the scene, though — my background is in TV & Film Post Production. Our community in Los Angeles is relatively small, and when you’ve been in the same field for 21 years like I have, relationships — however superficial they may have initially begun — morph into a real sense of connection and warmth.
But what does that have to do how I mortified myself?
First, a Quick Timeline
- It used to be my day job was a full time thing and I blogged in anonymity. In 2010, I left the VFX (visual effects) world and ended up managing a very small audio house (translation: audio post production).
- Then a year later, I quit my job (“in this economy?!”) and dropped off the post production grid altogether. It wasn’t a hiatus, it was a cocoon. Commence deeper soul searching than ever before. Lots of solitude. I loved it — made a job out of healing – excelled, even! — but the pay sucked.
- After about five months, I began freelance bookkeeping. I still spent a good 20 hours a week studying writing, actually writing and blogging. More and more, I linked the blog to Facebook and Twitter, until eventually I realized I had come out as someone who writes about her life online.
- During the past year, my bookkeeping work brought me full circle back into service for TV & Film people — many of whom I’ve known since Cosmopolitans were the new (ooh, it’s pink!) drink.
Flash forward to last week. There I was at a party, in my body (as we are), participating in affectionate banter as Post Production Ruth when the topic of my writing came up.
It shouldn’t have, but it really surprised me. My on-line persona got pulled into the room — by other people, some of whom were former bosses — Writing Ruth, in Post Production Ruth’s body. She doesn’t talk; she types. She has a dictionary at the ready. She’s alone for hours and hours thinking of the right words — none of which ever have to come out of her mouth.
She tried, though. “I’m working on blogging less and drafting pieces to send out for . . . um . . . I can’t think of the word,” hands to head.
“No . . . that’s not it. . . . um . . .” hands flailing (no keyboard around).
“No — I do need that, of course — umm . . . “
I have no recollection of how the moment was salvaged. It somehow ended and the night went on.
I think I wanted to find a word for having my work sanctioned by recognized professionals. I mean, that’s what being published means to me. But I’m still not conversant about it. Obviously.
On one hand, being asked about my writing was nice. I felt known — seen for the work I want to do, acknowledged for the person I want to become. But it showed me that my development into a writer is still on the fledgling side of the arc. And boy am I insecure about it. I wear my lack of self-confidence on my sleeves (both of them). It’s highly uncomfortable. Yes, mortifying.
Okay. I just looked up the word mortify. One of the definitions is medical and has to do with gangrene. Turns out “gangrene” means, “localized death and decomposition . . . ”
Why awesome? Because change — in my case, career change — does involve a form of loss and death. Death of the old career. It’s a process that takes time. As fast as time goes — children whose soccer games those bosses used rush out for are now in college — some moments stall, freeze, painfully so.
In retrospect, I’m kind of grateful for that discomfort. It shows me exactly what I need to do next. (Rehearse talking points? Sure). Also — keep working — submit writing. Simple. I can do that.