(This column was originally posted February 21, 2011 just one week after The Reinvention of Me was posted. )
So, last week I wrote a column about quitting the business of “show” and possibly washing hair for a living. The reactions to that piece have been everything from loving and supportive to downright hilarious and inspirational.
For starters, I have discovered that trying to quit show business is a lot like trying to get out of the mafia. It ain’t easy. You may think you want out–hell, you may know you want out–but just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.
Sure, my mom and dad and friends said, “Do what you have to do. We’re sad and heartbroken, devastated and confused, but we support you.” And, yes, my manager told me I was nuts and filled me in on an agency who wanted to sign me. And there were even strangers who simply read my column and told me not to give up.
But it was one voice in particular, as always, that protested the loudest and got my attention.
My 9-year-old girl.
The conversation went something like this:
I was giving her a bath (washing her hair, of course) when she said, “Hey, Mommy, what was your column about today?”
“Oh, it was about how I’m going to quit writing and look for a new career.”
“Bunny? You okay?”
She was crying.
“Baby, why are you crying? It’s okay. I’m ready to let go. In fact, I think I’m going to look into washing hair at a salon.”
She stared up at me, in tears, “Mommy, you are a writer not a hair washer.”
“Honey, I need a job. A real job. There is so much I want for you, so much I want to give you.”
“Mommy, I have everything I need, please don’t do this.”
Later that night after I tucked her into bed I thought about my daughter’s reaction. How strong and emotional it was. How angry and hurt she was that I would make such a big decision without talking to her about it.
What I realized was that after being my daughter for all nine years of her life, my own child had grown attached to my dream. Maybe even more attached than me.
She said she loves telling people that her mom is a writer. She loves listening to me talk about story ideas and characters. And she said that it’s because of me that she wants to go after her own dream of being an artist and one day have her paintings in a museum.
My feelings about this?
Oh no! What have I done? I’ve passed the family curse down!
The life of an artist should’ve ended three generations ago, but noooo I had to go and follow some ridiculous dream of being a writer and now I have a kid who’s destined to be as messed up as me!
The next day on the car ride to school, I tried again, “Honey, hair washing could be fun.”
She closed her eyes.
And then, that afternoon, I got an email from a friend who informed me that I would need 1,600 hours of cosmetology school and have to pass the state board exam to get a license to wash hair. I was stunned. I had no idea. I mean, I’ve been washing hair for years now (my own, my kid, even my dogs!). Have I been doing it all wrong?
I told my daughter the news on the whole hair washing school deal. She looked at me, confused.
“You have to sit in a classroom and study hair washing?”
“What do they teach you, the history of shampoo? How to place a head in a sink? How to move your hands–’first rotate to the right, then squish up and down, then rotate to the left?'”
She really is the funniest person I know.
Needless to say, I am now mourning a dream I never even began… hair washing.
I then got a call from a director (an Oscar-nominated director) who had read my column and wanted to share with me his own “I quit” story moment. We talked for a long time and before we hung up he made me promise not to give up writing.
Maybe the reinvention of me is not about leaving a career, but about starting again… from scratch.
I went back to the dictionary to re-read the definition of reinvent. It said, “To make over completely. To bring back into existence or use. To do something again, from the beginning. To recast something familiar or old into a different form.”
I think I see.
INT. SUSAN’S APARTMENT–NIGHT
Open on Susan, a single mom washing her 9-year-old daughter’s hair in the bathtub.
DAUGHTER: Mommy, what was your column about today?
SUSAN: (pause, then) It was about starting over, baby… starting over.