I’ve always known age to be a critical factor in succeeding, working, and being in showbiz - even before I was an adult. I purposely started early and I hope I logged my 10, 000 hours like Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers. Now that I’m a “real” adult, how I define success, how my thinking has shaped who I am, and all the changes I went through are starting to become apparent. This is what they must mean by enjoying the aging process! :) I’m really starting to enjoy adulthood by seeing how far I’ve come and what I will continue to learn about myself.
I started working at age 12 babysitting. At 14, I was a waitress where people thought I was 18. At 16, I was a journalist and on local television as on-air talent and doing voice over work and teaching ESL to scientists, doctors, and children. My bosses and clients always marveled at how young I was, eager to learn, able to be around people at least twice my age. When I was in college, people thought I was a decade older based on my demeanor. By the time I hit Hollywood, being so young was obviously in my favor. One look at me and my resume and you could tell I was a go-getter, hungry, and would hustle tempered with enough work experience to get caught up to speed rather quickly. All my hard work at part-time jobs, internships, and self-awareness paid off.
I worked for CEOs, well-known companies, and had a diverse overview of showbiz ranging from radio, print, television, film, marketing, and event planning. It felt good to be the youngest person in the office. Although I was very junior, I took pride in the fact that I was there, allowed to observe, soak in the daily grind of well-respected executives, and assist them. In showbiz where anyone would kill for your job and even do it for free, I knew how extremely lucky I was to “just be an assistant” and have down-to-earth supervisors. I loved it and still do. At that point in my life, a great majority of my success and identity was based on being the youngest person. I got my foot in the door early. I was given access. I would experience things most people never would. However, what happens when you are no longer the youngest person?
At some point, you realize the next young batch of go-getters are right behind you. I noticed this when other younger, newer assistants would come to me with questions and I began mentoring them. It was great to help them and to know that I was no longer the newbie assistant with the worst paycheck. But of course, helping others and money, isn’t a healthy lifelong marker for being happy and being fulfilled. And I certainly wasn’t unhappy or unfulfilled. Constant change, reinvention, and growth are the key to sustained happiness and emotional well-being. It’s just that now that I’m older, I can see myself back then with fresh eyes and observe my way of thinking a little more objectively.
From being the youngest to earning a good paycheck and being able to help others, my sense of accomplishment then came from being headhunted by Oprah, Apple, major cities across the nation, and having recruiters checking in with me periodically. When people seek you out to fill a position, you know you are on the right track. However, life and success not reflected upon wisely can just become a non-stop treadmill of external validations and false happiness, which brings me to the present. How will I gauge success and happiness for the next 5-10 years when youth, good money, stability, and progressive work experience are under my belt?
I have always lived my life mindfully and have tried to live it with balance. In the beginning, I wanted phenomenal work experience and to convey my great work ethic to have a strong foundation for my career. I became a workaholic. I was an independent adult. Then I wanted stability and comfort. Once I got that I sought work/life balance. Now that I have what I’ve worked toward all these years, I contemplate what I want my life to be in this phase. In some ways, I’m having to restructure my life from scratch and reassess all my values to fine-tune old ones. I’m sure it’s obvious why I’m at this point in my life; I just had a birthday.
As I celebrated, friends and co-workers joked I will forever be 20. Odd that they chose 20, not 21. I still get mistaken for being 16 and have for the past few years. I’m short, I have a baby face, and I stay out of the sun. I guess I look very youthful, not even I’m-21-I-can-buy-alcohol-youthful, but slightly younger. The cashier at Fresh & Easy said I’d be carded forever.
Except now that I’m no longer 20 and find myself in the adult world among peers, I worry the youthful look will work against me. I’m researching volunteer opportunities to help adults re-write their resumes or teach teens technology. I’m afraid my babyface will offend older adults and have them question my skills. I’m afraid the teenagers will not take me seriously either because I will look their age or not command their respect. And not knowing what the “best” age is in showbiz, Los Angeles, and in life, I’ve now taken measures not to date myself to avoid the question of how old I am completely. I removed the year I graduated from my resume and LinkedIn. I don’t correct people if they assume I might be a different age. I’m mute on the whole subject.
So I will have to ponder a little longer how I will re-define success, happiness, balance, and being a well-rounded individual. I will have to re-organize my priorities, social life, and my precious hours of free time. I will have to have a better understanding of myself and my goals. And I will have to strike the balance between using my babyface to its best advantage while fully utilizing all the self-awareness and life lessons I have today. It is a time for re-birth. How interesting and dare I say, fun, it will be! ;)