I’ve literally quit everything I’ve ever done.
It was always the same cycle.
I always had big ideas.
Big, big ideas.
My mom said that I was always dreaming big, but that I was too lazy of a person.
And you know, she was right, in a sense.
But laziness isn’t necessarily a character trait.
Sometimes it’s a symptom.
And so I would get these big, grandiose ideas. I would get super excited. Ultra motivated.
Man, I loved the beginnings of things.
Why not, if you were me? I was always a fast learner. And I loved showing people how fast I learned.
LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT HOW GOOD I AM ALREADY. BAHAHAHAHAHAH. I’M AWESOME.
I AM SO.
But really, I sucked. I was a newb.
Because as soon as stuff got hard, which it inevitably did, as soon as the honeymoon period was over, I bailed.
I couldn’t take it.
I couldn’t take the hardness.
I just wanted the fun part. I wanted Sour Skittles. I didn’t want to eat my vegetables day in and day out.
And so things would get hard and I would quit.
Quit and move on to the next shiny new toy.
See, the problem wasn’t me.
The problem was the toy.
And the solution was clear.
I just needed a new one.
So the cycle would start all over again.
The crazy thing is is that this cycle kept going and going and going!
So after I quit finance to do writing, I started writing and it was like, I mean at first it was OK.
It was new, it was fun, it was exciting.
I remember when I published my first piece.
It wasn’t any good, but that didn’t matter.
BECAUSE I WAS PUBLISHED.
GUYS LOOK AT ME.
I’M OFFICIALLY A REAL WRITER NOW.
And then I published some more pieces.
They were also crap.
The difference with your second and your third and fourth and fifth piece is that there’s nothing exciting to share about them.
It’s not like the first.
The first piece can suck and you can still be excited because look, you lost your virginity.
But after that, you need to actually develop some skills.
Because sex isn’t that fun if you suck at it.
And so invariably, we got to the point of writing where it wasn’t this new, fun thing anymore.
Now, suddenly, it was this hard thing that wasn’t so flashy and kewl.
But a hard thing that you had to endure with no end in sight.
No champagne showers in the near future.
What the heck, man?
This isn’t what I signed up for!
And so I started dreaming about greener pastures.
See, the problem wasn’t that I sucked. The problem wasn’t that I was soft and talentless, a man of limited resolve and grit and vision.
The problem was that I didn’t actually want to be a writer.
What I wanted to be was a director.
[Enter scene, Walter.]
(Walter, if you’re reading, that’s correct screenplay notation, ya? No? OK, whatever. I hate you, anyway.)
I met Walter freshman year of college, basically the first week.
We lived in the same dorm on the west side of Washington Square Park.
The most notable thing about Walter at the time was that he had this gigantic jar of Jelly Bellies from Costco.
Naturally, this made him quite popular and his bedside was a regular rest stop for many a dormitory wanderer.
I was pretty shy at the time and lacked any sort of social skills or innate confidence so of course I gravitated to closest shy Azn dude in the vicinity.
Walter is Korean American.
He was also shy, like me, at the time.
(No longer. Now he’s a fucking rockstar now, but we’ll get to that.)
Anyway, Walter and I became fast friends given his jelly bean liquidity.
Well, also because he was an alright dude, I guess. Just OK, nothing spectacular. But good enough, sure.
Facebook had just come out and one of my favorite things to do was sit at Walter’s desk and message random classmates, mostly female.
For some reason, Walter didn’t seem to like that. (Yeah, OK, I was a terrible person. But seriously, the scenes at the time, you wouldn’t believe. Oh man, my stomach hurts just thinking about the laughter.)
So Walter and I were both shy Azns but there was a huge difference.
I was your prototypical boring, newb Azn, enrolled in the business school.
Walter, on the other hand, was a unicorn.
He had, against all odds (ie parental control), decided to follow his dreams as early as high school!
Seriously, you have no idea how insane that seemed at the time.
Who is this kewl Azn guy enrolled in Tisch, the ART SCHOOL?!?!
Yeah, Walter was majoring in film and television.
And so, from day one, I was awestruck.
How could I not be?
This kid, this unassuming guy with the jelly beans had balls of steel.
Huge balls of steel by which he allowed himself to do the sort of stuff I only dreamed of.
Ie, this guy actually followed them—his dreams, that is.
Walter was everything that I had always wanted to be.
(And we never said this to his face, but he was also kind of handsome. Tall, too. Ugh, Walter.)
And so over the next four years, I tried to participate in as much Walter stuff as I could.
Him, being the nice guy that he is, obliged, casting me as an actor or production assistant or what have you in a bunch of his projects, some of them OK, some of them masterpieces. Seriously!
For one of his TV projects, I even got to smoke cigarettes inside! On a stage! Because, acting!
Man, I felt so kewl.
Walter was busy working though, making sure the shots were right and that the actors were in place and that the vision was being executed to perfection.
And I was just there, smoking a cigarette feeling so fucking kewl.
Now, fast forward to the end of 2010. I had been a writer, officially, for about half a year now.
In other words, time to find the next shiny toy.
It was time to become a director.
And so the first person I called was Walter.
Yo, let’s make a short film, I said.
Uhh, OK, he responded hesitantly.
Hesitantly because he knew that he’d be stuck doing all the hard work while I sat around feeling kewl.
But Walter and I had been getting very drunk together for quite some time.
We were like, friends, at that point.
So he relented.
And thus began the beginning of a new adventure, my next shiny toy.
I was so excited!
We had all these big ideas.
Big, big ideas.
Like, we would make this awesome short film and then we would have the craziest after party, man, people would go wild!!!
And then our short film would go viral and we’d take the red eye to Hollywood to accept our Oscar for best Vimeo flick of all time.
Big ideas, I tell you.
But by the second month, reality was starting to set in.
This was not what I signed up for.
What was all this hard work?
And Walter was unrelenting.
See, unlike me, Walter had never quit anything in his entire life.
Walter was the definition of perseverance.
When the going got tough, Walter buckled down.
And the worst part? We were partners in crime on this.
I couldn’t quit this time.
Walter wouldn’t let me.
What had I gotten myself into, I thought to myself.
The budget kept ballooning. The actors kept disappointing.
And the script was just awful.
I could tell that this was going to be the worst short film of all time.
Still, Walter didn’t budge.
He just kept plodding along like Walter always does.
What could I do but plod along with him.
And you know what?
We did it.
We fucking did it.
With a budget north of $10,000 and a crew of over 30 newbz, we made a fucking 15 minute short film.
It was God awful and 15 minutes too long, but hey, we did it.
(I have since had Walter scrub it from the Internet.)
And we even had this incredible after party and everything.
Just as we had envisioned.
It was a formative experience.
It was the first time I saw something through for the sake of simply seeing it through.
And it let me feel that feeling of accomplishment when you do just that—even if the thing you did was complete crap, objectively speaking from an artistic perspective.
That experience would change the way I saw things forever.
That experience taught me how not to quit.
Well, not that experience.
Walter taught that to me.
Walter took me to the promised land.
Walter helped me break the vicious cycle.
I’ve kept that lesson to this very day.
(Soon after, I decided to redouble my writing efforts and take it super serial. There was no quitting now. Apparently, I’m still writing.)
(Walter is also part of our core running group that is running the NYC marathon next year. As you might guess, Walter is very fast.)
Anyway, a year or two later, Walter would quit his job.
But not to quit or anything, to move onto bigger and better things.
No big deal.
Oh yeah, along the way, he also fell in love with the girl of his dreams.
My friend Rahul and I were chatting the other day—the three of us all went to Burning Man together a few years ago—about how Walter is the ultimate badass.
Walter had just gotten married.
And usually, when you get married to an awesome girl, you need like, a job, a house, a car, you know, the works.
You need to check off some boxes is what I’m saying.
Walter, on the other hand, had been unemployed and homeless for so many years and with no career to speak of.
He was living in his parents’ house in New Jersey. Not even beautiful upstate New York but NEW JERSEY.
And yet, through the force of his personality and character and will, he somehow convinced some poor girl to fall in love with him.
They just got hitched.
Congratz, buddy, I love you.
(Top photo: Me and Walter at the premier of our awardless short film.)