Progress Not Perfection

Spoiler warning: if you have never seen Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, do not play this initial video. It’s a huge spoiler & I wouldn’t want to kill that film for anyone. This clip is only meant to enhance my piece and is not essential  to the comprehension of the rest of the entry.   

I was told recently by someone who I highly respect that we are all works in progress.

While there hasn’t been much to make me feel positive about my situation as of late, to an extent, this statement (and the person it was coming from) did. It came on the heels of having spent an incredible summer day with the women that I went to Catholic-all-girls-school with. Most of them are married, with babies, good jobs, productive lives. Hell, even my punk rock math teacher was there, reminding me that I had been in honors’ math (me?? honors math?? I can’t even figure out a proper tip at dinner with friends anymore! I was good with numbers at one point in my existence???) and quoting the Descendents. Man, she was a great teacher.  I sat there, we laughed, caught up, talked about the things that we got out of our schooling that few others did- why do women these days seem to hate each other so much? And why do they think it’s “cool” to smack each other down and say “Well, I like having guys as friends better”? You need your ladyfriends, yo. Just like guys need their guys! It was a great afternoon talking about how we were inadvertently trained to develop a very strong idea of sisterhood that has lasted us throughout our lives.

We are in our mid-30s. We have known each other since we were 12/13. That’s a fucking long time. Every one of us has made inordinate amounts of mistakes. Pissed our friends and lovers off, learned to fix it. Then learned that each “fixing” method changes for each person. We’ve changed careers, regretted treating our parents or family members in certain ways, learned that maybe certain friends or family members were incredibly toxic and it was our responsibility to play Personal Doctor (we know our own bodies best- mental and physical) and cut out that tumor before it became a larger cancer and destroyed larger portions of our Lifebody.

This is what we call Progress. None of us will EVER EVER be perfect.

I keep thinking of this film by Christine Lahti that I love, called My First Mister. It stars Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski.  I cannot count how many times I’ve watched that film. If you haven’t seen it, it will simultaneous make you fall in love with life, laugh and cry. It is one of my all time favorite pieces of film work, and I don’t say that very often. Friends, you can judge me for my excitement and frequent hyperbole when it comes to cinema, but certain films? This is on my list of Films I Would Marry. Come to think of it, I should write up a list like that sometime. But back to My First Mister.  I probably like it because I see bits and pieces of myself in Leelee Sobieski’s character (especially the scene that was shot in Retail Slut on Melrose, RIP). But Albert Brooks character serves as just as much of a mirror. It’s a heartbreaking and heart-fixing story about two broken off-kilter people who walk around limping and frowning through life until they find that other person who makes them laugh and dance. But it is not a love story. The film is a perfect story about how people are simply not and that is a beautiful thing.

My First Mister explores the ways in which we make progress with each other and relationships in ways we never counted on. Did I ever think that 20 years after meeting these women I would be sitting in the sunshine with their babies and realizing that we all basically look the same and are just as sharp-witted, strong, loving and quirky as we were in 7th grade? No way. I would’ve laughed if you had told me that a few years ago. But that’s progress. Progress is also the realization that I need these women in my life. They are so good for me. I hesitate to say it, but I feel like the insecurity that I have now was all received because I was put in an environment that was not as progressive and diverse as that which I spent my early teen years. Not to say that we weren’t all normal jerky teen girls (we totally were, in our own ways), but we also related to each other in a different way. I’m romanticizing it a little, but I think of the way that I entered that school and I remember the way I left and the people I have now. I look up to them. Those relationships were hibernating building blocks. I’m glad that they were awakened.

Internet radio has decided to play “Under Pressure” by Queen right now. It couldn’t be more appropriate.

I graduated from my moving image archive studies program in June. It’s about to be September. In my albeit small graduating class, every single person I have spoken to or heard about already has a full-time job but I do not. The minute that my classes were completed, I applied for unemployment and I was denied. I have appealed the decision, gone to court, and been dealing with this for months now. I have had EDD employees tell me that leaving a full-time job  to complete grad school and do freelance online journalism was a “bad decision” and if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be in this situation now. I have had them tell me that freelance work and online journalism/writing wasn’t “real work” so that’s why they didn’t count it. They basically yelled at me and told me that my current state was of my own making, and had I done the smart thing and kept the “real job” and not gone back to school, everything would be fine.

Of course, this woman’s rant just seemed to realize all of the fears and terror-dripped paranoias that I have been pouring out to my boyfriend for the last few weeks, as my job applications kept getting sent into these black holes and no interviews or interest has been shown. He’s a great guy, but it’s frustrating for him. He wants to fix this situation and make me feel better. He just wants to fix everything, just wants me to feel better and see the woman that he sees. But this isn’t a “fixable” situation. And what a terrible thing to lay in the lap of a basically new relationship, right? Poor guy has to listen to me cry about how I wish that I hadn’t gone to grad school and how I feel like I’m no good at what I do. Logically, of course, I know that both of these statements are patently untrue but I feel completely helpless when I cannot do anything for myself economically and when I am not working. The me that I like the least is the unemployed, unassignment-ed, undeadlined me. I am at my most shining when I am powered up and whirlwinding through tons of stuff, 100mph. I glow. Right now, I feel dejected, rejected and like I’m doing nothing.

Another one of my favorite films that I have basically memorized comes to mind at this juncture. Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming. A brilliant film about the foibles and follies that befall a group of (yup, indeed) college graduates, right after graduation, and coming to term with adult life. If you have not seen this film, SEE IT. But, basically, right now I feel a hellovalot like Max.

Thing is, I’m not Max. I do many things. It’s just all volunteer work. I’m the chair of a committee and have been diligently working on that as things have been moving forward. I volunteered for Outfest, the LGBT film festival, and worked like crazy for that. I recently began involvement in another project for cataloging standardization as well. Pure and simple, applying to jobs is work and, to be frank, new relationships are work. I seem to push all these things to the back of my mind because the only thing that counts in my eyes is getting that “real” job out of school, getting the “real” work that everyone else is getting. This, of course, backfires completely on me because what is “real”? What is that qualifier? Who is to decide? It seems that the qualifier is The Paycheck and that discounts the very real work that I have been doing elsewhere.

I’m working on this, though. Slowly but surely. Because while I am not perfect, the one thing that I have the utmost faith in is my ability to make progress and be productive.

I’m not going to lie. I’m scared.

But I’m scared because I actually care about this. It would say quite a bit if I wasn’t scared. This is my dream and my greatest love. It irritates my guy when I say that, but it’s a different kind of love than I got for humans in my life; I can’t explain it. Film will always be That Thing for me. I am the most fulfilled, the most ME I can be when I am within that realm. I would be disturbed if my unemployed status wasn’t causing a pre-ulcerous condition. I’ve never found any career path that I gelled with like I do this one.

So I have one basic option: keep making progress. And this involves a variety of things.

1) Be realistic: the things that are being done are not nothing. They exist and they contribute to larger bodies of work. My place in the field is important, whether I am actually employed or not. Dropping out is not an option. The healthiest addiction I have ever had is being addicted to film archiving & preservation work and not being able to keep my mouth shut about needing to be active in these pursuits. This isn’t a bad thing.

2) Be grateful: the new people who have entered and re-entered my life are some of the most charming and supportive people I have ever met. And they are adults. Change is good, change is progress. Many times, positive progress comes from the most unlikely of places (see: My First Mister).

3) Listen to Wilder: Billy didn’t write bad dialogue. Always listen to him for advice. Every time my brain is arguing with me on the things that I can recognize are untrue, I will simply revisit Some Like it Hot and get smacked in the face by the reality of me being, as my boy is wont to call me every so often, a silly goose.

I realize that this is a bit more personal than some of my other entries, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Thanks for listening.

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