Most of my professional life, I’ve been a grinder. The kind of person you can trust to get the job done, no matter how long it takes. The guy behind the guy. The one taking a little bit of secret, snarky pride in staying later than anyone else and getting up earlier than anyone else. At home, it was the same. When my son couldn’t breastfeed, I made a job out of pumping, 3.5 hours a day, 24.5 hours a week. 

A necessary part of grinding is constant motion. Grind up the first job, move to the next one. Never stop moving. Forward motion above all else. When I was an executive director, I ground myself into constant anxiety (or, per Mel Brooks, High Anxiety). I developed acid reflux. I booked massages I couldn’t afford just to keep my body moving. I had a cocktail at the end of a hard day. I had a cocktail at the end of a great day. 

Then I got a job in philanthropy and spent my eight-year term debriefing my experience as an ED. Eight years of unwinding the stress, practicing not having the right answer, allowing myself to be vulnerable at work. I stayed until the end of my term, and I savored those last few months. I did not look for a new job (I could afford not to). I did not move forward. I marinated in a work environment with people I loved who were kind, with work that I cared about, with lunch that was always free and almost always delicious. And it was only after slowing down and savoring completion that I achieved clarity about the grind. 

I don’t want to grind anymore. I don’t want to push. I don’t want to strive or make things happen. I want to relax. I want to look for opportunities and act without panic that they might disappear. I want to write stories and create fantasies and support others using my imagination, my heart, and that vulnerability I hid so well when I was an ED.

This summer we moved to LA because I want to be a writer. I want to create and tell stories. I want to make magic with other people. I know what they think it takes to succeed here. The grinder in me recognizes a grind when she sees one. Hustle, grind, hustle, grind. 

But I’m not willing to do that now. I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my health, happiness and closest relationships for someone else’s version of success. I need to find my own version of success. It looks something like “Eat the Mama,” the play I wrote and performed September 14-17 in San Francisco. The play was my story, but ultimately it is what it is thanks to the contributions of a team of creatives – May Liang, our incredible director; Sophia Craven, our brilliant lighting designer; Sara Witsch, our otherworldly sound designer; Tim Mele, our insightful set designer (who happens to be my brother). And Jacqualynn Metcalf, the stage manager who stitched it all together. Success, for me, is creating something new, exciting, vital, vulnerable, in collaboration with other people – theater magic. By the transitive property, success is magic. 

Magic happens in the spaces in between our imaginations, in the molecules that float between you and me. Magic happens when we create something together that never existed before and would not exist but for our coming together. I’m not interested in success the Hollywood way. I’d rather make the road by magic. With you.

Playlist for this post:

High Anxiety by Mel Brooks: (1) 1977 Mel Brooks lounge vocal: High Anxiety – YouTube

Make the Road by Walking by Menahan Street Band