I turned 30 this month. Whoa. It feels weird to type that. I’m 30. I am now 30 years old.
Don’t get me wrong, I think I belong to 30. I feel like I have lived 30 years, at least. Let me think. Yep. I’ve definitely been around that long. I definitely know at least 30 years worth of trivia and have at least 30 years worth of life experiences. I’ve lived in many nooks, been on many planes, gotten into debt, met and left many people, have had multiple colds/illnesses, gained and lost weight. All the signs of being 30 are there.
And I definitely, definitely, definitely don’t want to go back to an earlier age. God, does anyone? Like, seriously? Contact me if you really truly do wish you were younger. Because I really need to know why. I know they say we’re supposed to feel that way in movies and on birthday cards, but the concept of going back to a younger me has a very Flowers for Algernon feel to it, and I don’t want to that mouse that dies in a maze.
This, of course, is all way easier for me to say now. I’ve had years where I’ve dreaded feeling older. The birthdays made me feel like I failed in life, like I wasn’t gaining fast enough to really call accomplishments “milestones.”
Take even December of last year. I just turned 29, and was finishing up as an assistant on a Disney Channel show, living paycheck to paycheck until the show wrapped for the season. I initially was dreading 30 because I didn’t want to be 30 and an assistant, living paycheck to paycheck on a show that was never going to hire me as a writer and quite honestly wasn’t in my wheelhouse to write anyway.
But then… change happened. Wonderful, lovely, sometimes-dreams-come-true change. And quite unexpectedly, (or expectedly? You can be the judge) this year has become the best year of my life.
But more on that later.
If I were to really be honest, I think overall these last 30 years of my existence have been pretty fucking great to me. Each earth’s rotation just seems to be a building block off of the last go around, even if in my journey they’ve included detours and have felt like I’ve been standing still/doing everything wrong/been angsty as hell.
You can’t see overall life events until they’re in hindsight. You almost can’t see yourself until you’re in hindsight. I’ll probably have a whole sack of hindsightfulness about writing this blog when I go back and re-read it a year from now… and still find typos.
Because even the shittier times, I am glad I’ve had them. The super embarrassing, mind bogglingly complicated, stressful to tears, “I don’t know what I am doing” times. Yeah, I’ll keep them.
Because as much as I want to cry all the rivers about all the bad cards I’ve occasionally been dealt, I can at least admit that I never personally have had an overall truly awful year. I’ve more just had terrible stretches within a “meh” year.
Worst case scenario, by New Years Eve, I’ve most likely broke even.
And “fine at best” does not equal “shitty.” Repeat that, Millennials. Make it your mantra. Fine at best does not equal shitty.
Trust me, I know how lucky I am. I know I know I know. And trust me, I also know my shit-tacular year is yet to come. We all get to have them, I’m not fucking immune. I’m just thankful it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe when it does I will be more ready for it than 20-something me ever could have been.
But, I digress…
My dilemma at the moment, this moment of 30, is seeing the juxtaposition of my 2016 good fortune up against the horrible all around shit show of a year 2016 has been for friends, family, politics, the civil/gay/women’s rights movements, cool famous people who died, and let’s just say it, society.
2016 has been the best year of my life. I do believe I might be the only person who can say that right now. Because, conversely, 2016 has also sucked major major balls.
So, like, what the fuck?
What the fuck am I, a newly minted 30-year-old comedy writer, supposed to do with that dualism?
Let’s hop back to January Alison. I was unemployed. I felt fat. I was uninspired. I was sad.
There was a possibility I would be promoted when work started up at Disney again, but it came with a lot of caveats and guilt and not an overall warm-in-my-belly-thanks-to-my-life-decisions vibe. I paid for yet another improv class despite being at a higher level than “beginner” and worked-out like my life depended on how slim my body looked. In a nutshell, I was not a happy camper. A non-happy camper trying to do things just to say I did them.
But January Alison made a very important New Years Rezzie, and I think it was one that set off the string of cool dominos that has been my neat year. I decided to seek joy. Find it in the cracks, in the crevices of everything I did. And when something didn’t bring me joy, I stayed away.
Yeah, I was doing the tidying thing that woman who wrote the “throw out your clothes” book told us to do. Only I didn’t read the book and I only threw out clothes that had noticeable holes in them. I mean, I needed my clothes, dammit.
I had fun in the improv class and ignored any notion that I needed to spend more time and money than necessary at that school. I tracked my food and celebrated losing the ten pounds I eventually lost this year. Likewise, I found joy in all the beers I drank (even taking up a hobby of beer tasting at a fun nearby liquor store on weekends) and food I ate. I enjoyed my writing, even when it was really, really sloppy and stupid. I even applied to a workshop in January, despite not being ready for it. I sent it in because the jokes I wrote made me giggle, which brought me joy. So, essentially, unemployed Ali sent of the not-quite-ready application simply because it made her happy to do it. Even after I applied I found a typo in my first joke. Oh well. It was the first of many workshops I applied to this year.
And by March I was back at Disney, with the promotion of caveats, determined to find joy in being a writers’ assistant. After all, many would kill to have this job. And the writers were all very nice to me. And one of my best friends had a desk next to mine. And the pay may have been garbage but it was better than no pay at all.
My boyfriend, as always, was the constant best. In my hectic schedule, I devoted Tuesday nights to him, as well as weekends. For the record, World, I still only do Tuesdays with him. So suck it if you want me on that day. Suck. It. I don’t do Tuesdays.
I taped a little square paper on my computer at work that said “Remember The Joy” just as a reminder to not go crazy whenever that one guy co-worker made a sexist comment, and that other guy co-worker made a more subtle but still incredibly sexist comment, and the pounds on the scale weren’t leaving fast enough, and my writing was getting torn to shreds by anyone who would read it, and I was working late nights and wasn’t particularly good at editing, and I was doubting all things I thought I was sent to this earth to do.
That’s when I learned that my job was going to go on a five week break!!! They called it a forced work “hiatus” so a beautiful, symmetrical, seventeen year old super star could star in a made for TV movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And because we were in pilot season there was truly no other job prospect in sight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I got a five week unpaid vacay on a job that didn’t seem to want me in the first place due to a younger person who was more successful than me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LOLOLOLOLOLOL. Lyfe. Amiright?
This is an example of those “terrible stretches” I was talking about. Nevermind the political climate with some douche bag sexist white supremacist revitalizer on the TV every day, or the fact that I’ve had friends and family going through a lot worse than me even though I’m not going to write in great detail about them here because I’m classy and also their stories go better in my screenplays anyway.
The point is, in spite of this terrible stretch, I pushed through with the joy agenda. After all, I still got to perform with my talented musical improv team “Musical The Musical” whenever I had the chance. They gave me happiness because they are all such talented and beautiful specimens. (MTM SHOUT OUT, YOU TALENTED BEASTS.)
I also still got to film and write with Charming Cheetah Comedy, the two boys who are and will always feel like are my comedy partners in crime. They gave me inspiration. (SHOUT OUT TO JB$ AND DAVID “STILL RIFFING” HILL. YOU MY HOMEBOYS FOR LIFE.)
And I still got to do a once a month dinner with a group of girl friends. They gave me support. (SHOUT OUT TO JAMES SPADER IMPRESSIONS.)
I still had my family. My health. My boyfriend. The world’s best boyfriend who would make me happy even if we were living under a rock. Yeah I had him.
Also, we got a cat. He coo.
Yeah, I was back at being a 29 year old unemployed loser, but I wasn’t going down without a joy fight. I just kept writing. I just kept working out. I, in essence, just kept swimming.
And right before this five week no pay vaycay, I got some surprising news. That workshop I applied to in January? The one that I did because of joy and not because it was ready? The one where I wrote Hillary Clinton’s name wrong? (I spelt it with one L and I will never forgive myself. Just because I have one L doesn’t mean the president in my heart only has one.)… yeah, I was a finalist.
I was a finalist.
I was a finalist into the NBC Late Night Writers Workshop. Out of a thousand people I was in the top twenty. I had to do a Skype interview.
Step 1 in my life being forever changed.
I had to do the interview in an empty Disney writers office when I was supposed to be in the A Room taking dictation. I told my bosses. They were happy for me, I think. I did the interview, nervous as hell. A writer interrupted to get his cigarettes in his desk drawer. He later apologized as he had no idea. I thought I had blown the interview as I didn’t hear from them for a few days.
But then I got it. They called me and I got it. I was chosen. I’ve never been chosen for anything, except that raffle at Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory in 2011 when I got $120 bucks in Tea Money.
I cried. I celebrated. I met a new hair stylist the next morning (and who has become one of my fastest favorite friends, SHOUT OUT TO MONIQUE MADRID) and she chopped my hair off because WHY THE FUCK NOT?
Now my five week no pay vaycay included a ten day stay in New York City where I attended the workshop and finally felt validated that my writing was funny and liked. I stayed with an old college friend in her cool apartment and I saw her box up art and saw her boyfriend sing karaoke. I saw my cousin and we ate tater tots and got drunk on vodka. I had a coffee and a croissant every morning and jogged listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. I went to 30 Rock to learn and write jokes every day. I met five other talented writers. (“ONE OF SIX”) I laughed. I was creative. I saw Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and met writers from Seth Meyers (AMBER RUFFIN I LOVE YOU, MORE ABOUT YOU LATER). I saw two Broadway shows. I felt joy without forcing myself to be it. It was magical.
New York, I love you.
And if that all 2016 was to me, then I’d call that a personal win. A good year in spite of a pussy grabbing idiot on GMA every day.
But then, after New York, I came back to LA. I thought my world would immediately change (see Step 1), but, to be honest, it didn’t. Not right away at least.
I had to go back to my assistant work. It felt like it was just a dream. I was back to working late nights and getting paid very little and feeling very stuck again.
A climate change denier was running for president, which was terrifying. I had a sick family member, which was terrifying. My parents had a sick friend, which was terrifying. My best friend was going through a life gauntlet and my heart broke for her, which was terrifying. All of it… terrifying.
But joy pushed on. I controlled what I could. I revised a pilot. I lost two more pounds. I went home for my mom’s retirement party. My boyfriend’s parents came and visited us for the first time. I discovered that a new co-worker loved games as much as I did, and we bonded on hating the late hours, hating the belittling treatment, and a mutual love for movies, Queen, and Star Trek Catan.
I had all my hopes in the LNWW basket. I thought I would land in Late Night immediately after, but that’s not how the biz works. I, of all people, should’ve known that.
Joy pushed on.
If anything, the workshop motivated the hell out of me not to sit and wait for my life to change. I told as many networky people as I could about the workshop (“NBC BABY! THEY LIKED ME! YOU WILL TOO!”), I passed out as many writing samples as I could and performed as much as I could too.
Finally, I got a meeting with a manager who contacted me while in I was in New York based off a recommendation from his client, a former co-worker (JOE CRISTALLI DESERVES GOOD THINGS, FYI) who I had given a writing sample to a while back.
Motivation + Joy = something good. And good things trickle.
Step 2 of my life being changed.
For a bit, my life was a like a heart monitor, it jumped up and down between good signs and bad ones, almost all at once so it just blurred together to remind me that I was living.
I signed with a manager. : )
I was told I didn’t type fast enough.
I had my first general meeting.
I had my debit card rejected at a restaurant.
I signed with an agent. Three, actually. DA BIZ IS WEIRD, YO.
I was on lock down at my offices because a strange person with a gun was on the loose near the lot.
I had my first ever writing job interview.
Now here is where I talk about the BoJack of it all. And this is where I get super sentimental (as if my passion for New York and 30 Rock wasn’t loving as fuck). Because in all of this up and downs of suck and good, I also had discovered BoJack Horseman.
Actually, I discovered BoJack when it first premiered on Netflix in 2012. I remember watching it, reluctantly, because I never thought I was into cartoons (minus South Park. I am from CO after all) and within two episodes, I was hooked. Not only was I hooked, I was moved. I found myself thinking: “I would never be smart enough for this show” and “Man, I wish I could write this” and finally “GET OUT OF MY BRAIN BOJACK HORSEMAN.”
BoJack Horseman had everything I wanted to do as a writer. It had complex character who behaved hilariously and badly through a satirical scope in a surreal yet close-to-home world where happiness and sadness were two sides of the same coin. I watch a lot of TV, so to say it was my absolute favorite show on TV is a bit of a hyperbole. To say it was the show that most inspired me to write is not.
I even knew two writers on the show from my Raising Hope days so whenever I saw an episode they wrote, I had no shame in writing them a total fan girl email saying “Thank you for writing on this show.” They rarely responded but I was happy to tell them anyway, if only because I still believe it’s good to tell people nice things when it is sincere.
In my stress during that time this year, I often turned to episodes of BoJack Horseman for my joy. Mostly because it remarked so honestly on how the business is out here, and also, it made me laugh real hard. I love this show so much.
So, in my first meeting with an agency, the meeting that was just me and my manager trying to sign with a team of three agents, the head one, the baller, shot caller, asked me, “So, what would be my dream show to work for?” I immediately responded: “BoJack Horseman.”
It was an off-hand remark. One I knew was the dream and was not, could not, at all be the reality of my newly inhabited writing career. It was real “shoot for the moon” answer, hoping that it embodied what I was looking to do as a writer, and also wanting to squash all hopes to my agents that I wanted to land in children’s television, as that is where the vast majority of my ties were at the moment.
A week later, that head agent lady landed me an interview for that show.
My first ever job interview as a writer was for my dream show.
(IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT MY AGENT IS REALLY GOOD AT HER JOB.)
I would go into great detail here about the interview but this blog is already going on long enough and also it was personal and also it was all a blur. In short, I left the interview walking on air. And then didn’t hear from them.
I didn’t care. I got to meet on BoJack Horseman. They rock.
Mixed in with the late Disney nights and low pay I also had a fantastic run of interviews thanks to this excellent team of people I was fortunate enough to get in my corner this year. There were other shows I loved that I got considered for, but no calls were being made in my direction, and I still found myself feeling relatively sad about the other goings ons in the world.
A human cancer boob was now in the top two for president. A friend had a blah blah thing happen. A family member did too. Blah.
I came in late to Disney on a Monday because I wasn’t feeling well due to lack of sleep. I wore my work-out clothes because I gave zero fucks, and I was sad and stressed and the work day wasn’t going in the favor of fun and I was typing as fast as I could and my hair wasn’t brushed… you know those days, right? I was basically a walking opening montage to a chick flick.
It was around 5pm when I noticed a few missed calls on my phone. Concerned it was maybe a family matter, I excused myself and took the call outside.
It wasn’t my family. It was my agent, and manager, and two other agents, and they told me to sit down.
They told me I was the new staff writer on BoJack Horseman.
Step 3. Life change complete.
I sat, shaking in my workout gear and unkempt hair, holding back tears.
“When do I start?”
“Tomorrow. You start tomorrow.”
In less than twelve hours I went from an assistant to a television writer.
Life is but a dream.
What made all of this such fucking icing to me was that the actual job of BoJack was everything I hoped it would be. There’s nothing worse than being a fan of something that actually sucks from within. It didn’t. The show didn’t. The people didn’t. It was writing boot camp and supportive as hell and fun and creative and… all of it.
I kept the joy throughout all that. I will stupidly cherish every second I spent there. I will cherish it if we get another season. I will cherish it forever.
Look for my name on an episode. I know, I can’t believe it’s there either.
One of my best friends from college got married and it was a blast of a wedding. My boyfriend got a well deserved job promotion. I had family visit for Thanksgiving and my Colorado BF w/ a V even surprised me with flying out, and my boyfriend threw me the best surprise 30th birthday weekend a girl could ask for.
In the meantime of all this spankedy goodness, unfortunately (I WISH THERE WAS A STRONGER WORD FOR UNFORTUNATELY, MAYBE UNFUCKTUNATELY???) a narcissistic horrible cootie of an idiot became president despite 2.3 million people voting for the better woman. Also, more famous people died. Also more close to home people died. Also, like, Russia. And fake news. And the divide. And a shit ton of shit happened. 2016 sucked.
The day after the election, I couldn’t stop crying, but luckily, neither did my work. Or my friends. Or family.
There’s a lot of great people mad right now, you guys, so just you wait. Buckle the fuck up. Because being irritated and brilliant will result in a revolution. I believe that. God, don’t we all have to?
And now we’re back to my conundrum. How do I deal with having things going good while other things seem to be going to shit?
Amber Ruffin (see? I told you I’d get back to her!) did a great segment on Seth Meyers in which she brilliantly said:
“… by doing what you do every day, you prove to them you are unstoppable. They can spend their time trying to pass laws to take away your rights and silence your voice, but all you have to do is live your lives right in their faces, and it proves we simply cannot be stopped.”
2016 has been a great year for me. The best of my life. And I’m going to use it by living my life right in their faces.
I’m 30 now. And I cannot be stopped.
So, other pros of this year to carry forward into 2017:
– I’m going to be an aunt! Congrats to my brother Brian and his wife Danny!
– Charming Cheetah has a few new sketches coming your way! Check out all that we did this year: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuJqzu_pAg28PkSswrRLnVQ
– Season 4 of BoJack Horseman is coming to you this summer! You guys, it’s gonna be good. Like, way good.
– Smalls, our cat, may be getting a little furry friend!
– Fellowships and workshops have started up again starting in January. You never know what will come from them, so apply!
– Ben Affleck has a new movie he directed coming out!
– I’ve lost weight with a solid and do-able health plan, so more is to be lost in 2017!
– And remember, there’s always new beer to try.
Cheers to 30. Thanks for reading my blog posts this year (Mom), and here’s to fighting the good fight in finding and creating joy for 2017.
Also, fuck Trump.
– One L
“Join the fun!” – Amber Ruffin