When I’m in the middle of doing nothing—I mean, when I’m really doing it well—I’ll sometimes Google little questions that I’m looking to answer. Are soul patches cool? Turns out they’re not as cool as they used to be. Where did Waldo go? Somewhere in the South Pacific. How much money should I save each month? More than I currently do. Am I too old to get pregnant? Yes.
Here’s one that I did today, just cause I worry about this kind of thing: How old is too old to change careers? I asked Google this for several reasons. First, honestly, if I got a real job, even my dream job, I’d consider it a career change, as I am currently the VP of Jack Squat. Second, I’m extremely worried that my chosen career path is evaporating before me. And third, because I feel like I’m starting to get past the age where anything is possible. You know, I’m not sure I can go back to school and I doubt if people want to hire someone my age as an intern and I’ve got to earn money somehow. So basically I wanted to know if all hope for me is gone… And Google seemed like the place to go for this vital info. Besides, my Magic Eight Ball was broken. It just kept saying, “Ask again,” so I threw it into a lake.
The first link that popped up directed me to a message board on which a man of my exact age came a-wondering if he was too old to become a journalist. The responses poured in and were all very positive. Of course not. You’re only as old as you feel. Never say never. One person mentioned many famous people who started careers later in life.
But one response stood out. In it the respondent questions the asker’s negative language, which, strangely, is a lot like mine, e.g. I won’t go back to school. I can’t find a job that makes me happy, etc. He suggested that the wannabe journalist ought to rework his vocabulary. Agreed. For many people, positivity has worked miracles in the past. Our forefathers’ positivity helped found this great country in the face of insurmountable Red-Coated odds. Positivity has helped countless sports underdogs (notably the 1997 Denver Broncos). And who hasn’t used a little positive thinking on a road trip through Nevada when there’s fifty miles ahead until the next rest stop and fifty miles have past since you stopped at Taco Bell for a bagful of bean burritos.
So me and the wannabe journalist should go with positive stuff. I will…. I can… Fine. Sort of. Perhaps I’m a Negative Nancy, but I usually reserve I will for certain things that I will do. I will take out the trash. I will eat some ice cream. I will take you to the airport. These are things over which I virtually have complete control. The wheels stop turning, though, when I try to be positive about tasks of less certainty (I will drive this ball down the middle of the fairway) or, even scarier, goals that depend on the willing participation of others (see below). Those scare the dickens out of me
Most applicable to my “professional” life is something like this: I will sell/publish this or that screenplay/story. **Silence, cricket chirp, cough.** Oh boy. Again, I may be a Debbie Downer, but how can I even begin to utter such a sentence. My brain starts working overtime: I have little control over such an event, I might jinx myself by saying it, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. C’mon, the only way I could convince myself that it was possible for me to write a novel was by getting a few words of it tattooed on my body as motivation. Because who wants to be the guy who had a small portion of an unfinished/unrealized novel permanently etched on his skin? Not me. So what’s next? Do I need to brand myself? (This is the kind of situation that leaves me wanting to eat a carton of fudgesicles and veg out on the couch watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. He makes me feel better.) Moreover, if I can’t utter the aforementioned difficult sentence, how am I supposed to get anything done, much less take myself seriously as a writer?
But wait. You’re saying there’s another word between will and won’t. And you’re right. There’s also that lovely word: try. I love this word. I fall back on this word. It’s cuddly. It’s theoretical positivity. It’s exact middle. It’s hoping for the best without being cocky. I like that.
But Yoda had to step in and be a jerk. In The Empire Strikes Back he clearly says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” He took a choice, the best choice, away. I can’t even try to be positive. I can’t try to not try. I have to do or not do. I have to either be negative, which is nearly impossible for me (even though I’m a quasi-pessimist, I don’t like quitting), or there’s that other thing…