When I was a young “snip” of a hairdresser in Long Beach, California, I wanted everything everyone else seemed to have: money, success, two fabulous cars, and enough Hollywood clients and friends to make sure I got into every club at anytime or get a table in every trendy restaurant. I’m not bragging, but I achieved all that, grew up, and then lived to write a book about it.
And what I learned from that experience, as well as all of the other episodes of “success” in my life was that there are very few people who become overnight successes. The few who have made their way around the all too maligned obstacles of step-by-step-achievement become crack-whores or Kardashians. But if there were a lot of people who soared to the top quickly we’d all be helping each other, like, “Dude, this is how all of us over-night successes do it so you don’t wind up in the gutter or on a reality show with the Kardashians.”
I’m not one of those quick learners either. Whether it was learning how to use social media, anything to do with the computers, learning how to drive a car, the art of hair cutting, cooking or skydiving, I was the one who would screw it up the first time, then go home and sleep on it, and then come at it again and again until I got it right. But I never woke up any day in my life and discovered that I was naturally or particularly brilliant at anything.
Like most people, I’ve always had thoughts of what it would be like to “be discovered” while walking down the street or, on a whim, try out for The Voice, win, and then becoming friends with Christina Aquilera or Cee Lo Green. (I’d also wanna hang out with Blake Shelton and Adam Levine but three’s a crowd…) And I see so many younger people wishing the same thing, only they want to be a Kardashian and be on any reality show.
Maybe it’s a good thing about being my age–because if I was of this generation, I’d probably be as stupid as my peers. I have a gal-pal who made it big in acting about the same time as I got noticed as a writer. Her name is Lee Roy Rogers and she lives in New York and was nominated for a Drama Desk award and is now competing for the same roles as actresses like, Olympia Dukakis. After her nomination she said to me, “Can you imagine if all of this success happened in our lives when we were younger?” I said, “Yeah. I’d be an asshole with a coke habit.” She agreed that she too would have let fame and fortune go to her head but that she would not have done the drugs. Whatever.
I don’t fault any younger person for wanting to “have it all” now. But, at least when I was young, I knew I was going to have do “something” to get noticed to get-rich-quick or earn it by learning to do hair or be useful. Most people today want to get-rich-quick and do it the way the Kadashian’s did it: by doing and learning nothing.
Crap: I forgot the dangling point about not doing sky diving correctly on my first jump. Well: me and my dad decided to get into skydiving. And we only did it about 5 times each, and then, I think, we got too busy to keep it up. And this was the days before tandem was known to us so we sat in a class for 8 hours and had the step-by-step drills of a first jump bored into our brains. (Fact: For our first few jumps, Patrick Swayze was learning along with us for a movie he was doing at the time called Point Break.) The first jump: I tumbled, which is not what your supposed to do. I righted myself quick enough so as not to completely panic the two instructor jumpers who were also hurling towards the earth just a few seconds behind and above me. When you pull your ripcord, it detaches so you’re supposed to hang onto it for future use–I threw mine to the ground. And when I deployed my chute, there is a gadget called a slider that keeps the chute’s cords from ripping your shoulders apart and the slider is supposed to slide–mine did not. When a slider does not slide, your parachute will spin and eventually collapse unless you spin your legs in the opposite direction of the winding collapsing parachute, which I did; and then my slider slid and all was well until I accidentally turned off the helmet headset radio. Thank God the adrenaline in me made me recall what I had to do next to “steer” my way down to the big X on the ground–which I missed. But I did happen to land (too close!) to the building where our original class room building was. So it was just a skip over to mine and my fellow jumper’s “debriefings” where the instructors kept using me as the perfect example of how almost everything could go wrong, by self-fault or no fault, and how one must quickly adjust but can only do so by learning intently. I’m glad there wasn’t a four-hour class available.