Road Not Taken
Robert Frost’s wonderful poem – The Road Not Taken – beautifully and masterfully alludes to the choices that we make in life, and how sometimes following a more difficult, or less familiar path – while it might not be the easiest way to go – might ultimately bring the greatest fulfillment to your life.
Leaving Canada and moving to L.A. (by myself) – with only a suitcase and two boxes – definitely was my first step on my road not taken. I was already on the familiar path: I had a great job, a loving family, and tons of friends. So when I fell in love with an American man, and subsequently secured a Green Card to come to the USA to be with my American man, only to have the relationship dissolve just as my shiny Green Card showed up in the mail, I had a choice to make.
I could forfeit the Green Card, which would nullify it, making me ineligible to ever apply again; or move to the United States within the required three-month period of issuance of the Green Card, and see what the hell happened. I had one GIRLFRIEND who lived in ALL OF THE U.S., and she lived in L.A., and she said that I could come and stay with her and try it out.
I wish I could say I carefully weighed all my options, but I decided worst case, I could always go back to Canada – granted with my tail between my legs and in defeat, but hopefully with good stories to tell. So I rolled the dice, and started my adventure on my road not taken new life, and landed at LAX the day before my 90-day entrance period expired.
The reality of my decision hit me quickly as I woke up a bit stiff from sleeping on my GIRLFRIEND’s sofa, with no car, no job, and at a time when the Canadian dollar was worth 60 cents to the American dollar. It took months to get a social security card, apply to have my teaching degree accredited for California, and learn how to drive on the freeways so I could get my California driver’s license. And during this time, my savings were dwindling to a scarily low number. My road not taken was starting to feel more like a highway from hell.
My L.A. GIRLFRIEND – whose sofa now felt like home – had an acquaintance that was looking to hire someone to work in his high-end auto-body shop, and she recommended me. At first, I was like, are you serious; me work in an auto-body shop? But GIRLFRIEND reminded me that I wasn’t doing anything, and as it serviced high-end automobiles, she thought that at least I might meet some cute guys driving fancy cars, while waiting for my life in LA to fall into place.
Plus, truthfully, I was staring poverty in the face; and knew I was wearing out not only the sofa in general, but my overall welcome in GIRLFRIEND’s tiny apartment. So, I sucked it up, and once again embraced my road not taken mentality and took my second step along this new path, and accepted the 10 dollar an hour ‘sure be greasy’ job. I remember when I called home and told my father that I had a job for ten dollars an hour working in an auto-body shop, he literally almost peed himself with laughter.
As I still hadn’t rectified my car situation, and this was way before Uber was part of the urban dictionary, I had to walk 2.3 miles every day to my new job at the auto-body shop, and of course 2.3 miles home. My job was the intake girl; I met the owners whose cars had been in accidents and inspected the cars for damage, recorded the mileage, their level of gas and VIN Numbers.
It was an easy job, and I always try to make the best of everything. As the weeks progressed, my knowledge of Spanish increased dramatically – I was the only non-Hispanic working there, other than the owner. I also enjoyed conversing with the customers as they dropped off and picked up their cars, and my daily walks became my daily workout.
After two months, I was quite at home in the auto-body shop, and actually enjoyed my little job. One day a client came into pick up his car. He had a fancy BMW, and we had spoken on many occasions over the course of his car repair, and finally it was ready for pick-up. As he was paying his bill, he looked at me and said, “You know you really don’t look like you belong here. Is this what you want to do with your life?”
And so I told him my story, and who I was, and what I had done, and how it was that I landed in LA. He said that he was a LAWYER, and that he represented actors, producers and writers. As well, one of his clients was looking for an assistant, and would I perhaps be interested in doing that?
I looked at him, and the thoughts that were racing through my head at that time were … ‘An assistant?!?’ … ‘I didn’t go to University for 5 years to become an assistant!’ … ‘I have a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Education, plus a French linguistics degree.’… ‘Why the hell would I lower myself to be work as an assistant?’
And as these thoughts were flooding my brain, I also felt somewhat angry at LAWYER – as obviously he had not carefully listened when I was regaling him with my life story. But then I took a look around and realized that my ‘5-year University educated ASS’ was sitting in an auto-body shop. So with a smile on my face, I said that “I would love to, absolutely love to be an assistant.”
The following day, LAWYER called me and said that he had spoken to his client about me, a very famous ACTOR-PRODUCER-DIRECTOR, and he wanted to meet me. As I had zero experience in the entertainment industry, I felt like my chances of getting the job were virtually nil, but ACTOR-PRODUCER-DIRECTOR was a handsome man, and I was truthfully more excited to meet him than interview for the position. It was worth the interview just to have a story to tell, even if I didn’t get the job.
As it turned out, ACTOR-PRODUCER-DIRECTOR was more handsome in person than on TV or in the gossip magazines. When ACTOR-PRODUCER-DIRECTOR asked me what I knew about the entertainment industry, I was truthful and said that all I knew was that I liked to watch TV and Movies. I remember him laughing; likely at my candor – as now living here this long in L.A. – my brutal honesty was likely a breath of fresh air to him.
He told me that he was going through a very bitter, public divorce, and had fifty percent custody of his two little kids. So for him, he wanted someone who was compassionate, and also someone who was good with kids and wouldn’t be annoyed with children coming in and out of the office and running around screaming as kids do. He also reassured me that knowing the entertainment industry wasn’t crucial. He said that with my education, he could tell I was smart, and he could teach a smart person anything. But compassion he added, that was something he could never teach.
The interview went well, and that night I called all my friends in Canada to dish about the sexy star I had met, and to reassure both them and myself that I had not completely lost my marbles by fleeing Canada. The next day, when I was back at work at the auto-body shop, the LAWYER called and said ACTOR-DIRECTOR-PRODUCER had loved me, and wanted to offer me the position as his assistant.
And I took it, and once again I decided to follow the road not taken to see where it went. And here I am. Still in L.A., and still thriving. I have built a career out of being an assistant, and worked with and met many interesting, talented and eclectic people. I have done and experienced things others only dream or read about as a result of taking a chance on the road not taken. And this all happened, because I … didn’t say no to taking a job in an auto-body shop.
So the moral of this Road Not Taken story is…..
- Never feel like doing an honest day’s work is a job that is beneath you. You never know what you will learn, or who you will meet. Being productive and engaged in life will get you further than being miserable and stuck.
- Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. When you tell yourself that you can’t do something, you won’t. When you allow yourself the possibility to try, you just might.
- And….The road not taken isn’t always paved with gold, but I have to say my divergent path has led me on a journey I never could have imagined, and for that I am grateful. So never be afraid, you can always turn around and head back from where you came, but if you don’t try to travel in a new direction, you will never know what you might have missed.
Below is the Audio Link for all of you who are trapped in your car on the freeway, or waiting for ten minutes in the car pool lane…enjoy!
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To check out the poem THE ROAD NOT TAKEN, click on the link below
Written By Janell Martin
Helpful proofing by Mary Beth Sterling – grateful for your help Mary Beth!