I was asked to do a trial writing for GNW the week I started Year 11. The trial lasted five weeks and for those five weeks it was all I thought about, all I talked about, all I did. I threw myself into writing jokes with a fever that was slightly manic. I really wanted to succeed. I knew this was an opportunity that might not come around again and damn, I was going to take it. Nothing else mattered.
I came out the other end of those weeks feeling dizzy and disorientated. At the time it felt as though a small hurricane had whizzed through my life. I can’t really explain why, but it was like while I was buried neck deep in puns my whole world view had crept off and left me. In the weeks that followed a number of things happened which made me question a fairly large portion of my existence. Some of my friendships started to slip. My first relationship fell apart. They weren’t big things. Not really. But I started asking the question: what if?
If I was willing to totally neglect all the relationships in my life in favour of work at the tender age of 16, would I be willing to do that again? As I got older, as I started to cement my place in the industry, would I neglect things more? If work mattered so much, would I miss other things? What if whole pieces of life slipped past while I was in an office?
It was the first time I’d ever realised that I might not get married. I might get divorced. I might not have children. For a 16 year old who’d always had a vague plan of how her life would turn out, the realisation that maybe it wouldn’t turn out that way at all was rather distressing. Ever since, one of my greatest fears has been that I will find myself at 35 and realise I have a job, a couple of friends and not much else.
From the moment I started watching 30 Rock
, Liz Lemon was everything I wanted and everything I was afraid of. Watching it was like watching one possible future play out in front of me. On the one hand, she was exactly what I was dreaming of and aiming for. She was a writer, succeeding where so many fail. She was funny and clever and excellent at managing a difficult job. But she also had a disastrous relationship history, little to no social life and a habit of staying at work for days at a time.
The allure of “Head Writer” has haunted me for a long time. I remember Ian Simmons, GNW-TV’s Head Writer, saying to me during one the first days of our acquaintance “Don’t be a Head Writer. Stay a normal writer and keep your life”. This is sound advice. Unfortunately it didn’t take me very long to realise that I wanted Ian’s job. Even though I know Ian regularly arrives at work before it’s light and leaves after it’s dark, I couldn’t help but be drawn to that world, stress, ridiculous hours, nightmare deadlines and all. If someone offered me a Head Writer job, I wouldn’t turn it down. Even if it meant saying goodbye to my life, I’d probably say yes.
became this strange sanctuary. While I revelled in the jokes and fell in love with the characters, there was a little part of me that had attached itself, parasite like, to Liz Lemon’s happiness. If I was going to become her, I needed to know that it was going to be all right. I needed, so desperately, to know that my worst fears wouldn’t come true. I guess, almost without realising it, I’d pinned a lot of my hopes and dreams on Liz Lemon. For two years I’ve been drawn to the feeble hope that if Liz could do it, if she could have her cake and eat it too, then maybe, just maybe so could I.
Approaching the final episode of 30 Rock
could have been an awful lot worse than it was. Just as Liz has changed dramatically since the beginning, I’m not the person I was when I watched series one. I’ve learnt how to feed myself on things that aren’t cheese, how to keep my ambition within sane bounds and (most importantly) I’ve learnt how to say no sometimes. Sometime between series five and series six I realised something: I could be Tina Fey. Tina Fey, who successfully runs a show and has a family. Tina Fey, who is (from the outside at least) Liz Lemon without some of the more concerning bad bits.
It was still hard to watch 30 Rock
end. I felt more emotional about last week’s finale than I have about any TV in an awfully long time (and I’m an expert when it comes to getting emotional about TV). Letting 30 Rock
go was letting go of that imaginary future, the projection of what my life could be. Last Friday I guess I started living my own life, making my own mistakes, facing my own fears without the beacon of Liz’s life to guide me. And that was always going to be hard.
But it wasn’t all that that made me cry, right at the end, after the credits had rolled. When I thought I wasn’t going to cry for 30 Rock
, the tears snuck up on me. I cried because (spoiler alert) Liz was happy. And maybe that means it’s possible after all.