No Regrets by the Girlfriend Mom
~:: by the Girlfriend Mom ::~
The question was, “Who, at 38 years old, chooses to walk away from 20 years in the entertainment business, to teach English as a foreign language? I walked across the Charles Bridge in Prague, the Czech Republic, as I moderated a press conference in my head. All the usuals showed up; confusion, pessimism, guilt, even that slut Pollyanna. I will admit that my decision-making acumen over the years hadn’t always been top notch. There was the time I attended film school, even though I wasn’t interested in film. Sorry Dad. Or the time I said, “I do”, when I absolutely didn’t. Again, sorry Dad. The list goes on and on, but let’s stay with this particular decision.
I genuinely thought that Prague was going to be different. I was older, wiser, and I thought that I had found a way to combine two things that I loved; travel and teaching. I had been living in Los Angeles for the last 16 years, and I did everything, and everyone (not really, but it sounds more salacious and interesting, n’est pas?) and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
It had been a roller-coaster ride of tremendous upswings and debilitating pitfalls. The constant rejection took a ginormous toll on my confidence and self worth. When you’re twenty-one, rejection is a right of passage. When you’re 38, and you don’t get cast in a cheese commercial because you’re interpretation of a mouse isn’t convincing, it’s time to reassess your life’s path.
It got to the pathetic point where I would measure my success by who I worked with, or rather, who I met with. In one such meeting, Courtney Love discoursed on Proust and anal bleaching. Curiously, we never ended up working together, but I used the details of our meeting at cocktail parties for the next few months. It made me feel popular…unlike high school.
The years that I dangled by my fingernails on the fringes of fame, and the weight of my childhood dreams were suffocating me, and I desperately wanted to let go. I wanted to find meaning in my life, and reclaim my friggin’ soul, but I didn’t know how.
And then I got a job as an assistant to an agent, that required me to email scripts to actors, and staple their resumes to their headshots. Crap nuggets! It was a job that a chimpanzee on an Animal Planet show could have done—blindfolded. It hit me. I had led my life all wrong. What other reason was there to explain why I was alphabetizing videotapes and faxing commercial copy to actors after 20 years. I was driving in reverse and I desperately wanted to run myself over.
After one month, I nutted up and I quit. That’s when I decided to move to Prague to teach English as a foreign language. It all felt so right; in body, spirit, and checkbook. Prague was super ass cheap. I sold everything from fork to car because I didn’t want anything dragging me down, not even a spatula. Some friends envied my position, and some were only too glad to take that pesky bureau, that they’d been eyeing since the day I bought it, off of my hands.
As it turned out, it wasn’t so much the teaching that I loved, as it was the pure excitement of standing in front of a group of people and talking at them. And teaching English? Please, most of the time, I feel as if English is my second language. I remember when we were asked to give a grammar lesson. They might as well have asked me to teach Quantum Physics—in Chinese, because that shit wasn’t happening. I quit after two weeks.
Now I know this adorable tale includes quitting, which is often frowned upon, but sometimes, when you go out on a limb, and you put on your bravery pants, so you can step outside your proverbial comfort zone, things don’t always work out, and you have to improvise. When this is the case, I don’t see it as quitting (it’s horribly negative sounding) per se. I see it as productive time management. When you know that something, or someone, isn’t right for you (and sometimes we don’t, like staying in a passionless marriage for nine years) you don’t want to waste time.
Ideas and dreams are just words and pictures in your mind. It’s only in the action of doing, that you’re able to experience those ideas and dreams, never having to confront the what-ifs. Sometimes we fail, and sometimes we abruptly leave programs in Europe, only to crawl into a gelatinous ball of regret on Metro floors. But how would I have know that teaching English wasn’t what I was looking for, had I not left Los Angeles?
Change is scary, and it can certainly be paralyzing and overwhelming, but it’s only when we change things up, or shake the snow globe, as it were, that we truly grow and learn. And because I made that drastic (and perhaps hasty) decision several years ago, I wouldn’t have battled a rogue bat in Ireland, or unwittingly hired an anti-Semitic travel guide in Auschwitz, or suffered from bleeding gums, calloused heels and acute loneliness. The truth is, I don’t regret a thing.
Go ahead, and jump in. The water isn’t nearly as cold as you think it is.
About Dani: Dani has written feature films, and performed stand-up throughout Los Angeles. She is the author and star of several solo shows, and is the writer, director and star of the film, A Really Intimate Portrait… Of a complete unknown. Dani is also a Pilates instructor, and she lives with her Portuguese lover; a divorced dad of two. She’s The Girlfriend Mom, and on an impossible mission; to remain a girlfriend, (and naked), while domesticating herself for the kids. Dani’s writing appears in Pilates Style Magazine, Blogher.com and ModernMom.com. She’s the sex columnist at, Funny not Slutty and lives in Jersey, where she flaunts a wicked sense of humor and a lot of Lululemon. Find her at www.danialpert.com.