In the winter of 1995, I was facing dire circumstances. I had no regular job, aside from the occasional temp job here and there, occasionally working the front desk at a tattoo shop, and even more occasionally landing work as a production assistant on some sort of commercial shoot. More than anything, I wanted to make my own movie, but back then I couldn’t even make ends meet. That’s when a friend told me about a store at the mall that was hiring holiday help—Hot Topic. I went down and filled out an application, figuring I could work through November and December, and collect enough money to keep on floundering without the real fear of drowning. Much to my surprise, after the holidays were over, I was asked to stay on at Hot Topic. Believe it or not, I was one of the better employees, with high sales, a good work ethic, and I could sell anything to anyone. And at the ripe age of 27, I was their oldest employee, which meant everyone of my co-workers looked up to me like some kind of father figure. With no other prospects for employment, I decided to stick it out after the holidays. That’s when they offered me a management position.
I had gone into the New Year of 1996 with a job at a clothing store in which I was an old man amongst my co-workers, where I quietly kept my filmmaking and writing aspirations to myself. And then I was offered a management position. What’s more, I could transfer to any other Hot Topic in the country. All I had to do was pledge allegiance to HT, and put my dreams on the back burner. I won’t lie and say the decision was easy. I actually looked at other stores, and thought about taking a position somewhere on the East Coast. I mean it’s not like much else was going on in my life, and a steady income, with benefits, and the trappings of the safety net provided by a “real” job were more than a little tempting. A management position with Hot Topic called out to me like a siren calling out to a sailor. I spent several months mulling it all over, before I turned down the position, quit the job altogether, and went back to a life of always being broke, chasing my dreams, and worrying if things would ever change for the better.
In the end, things did change for the better. It took a long time—far longer than I wanted it to take, or even thought it would take, but things did come together for me. Sure, I had more crappy jobs before it all happened, and there were days when I thought about giving up all that I was working for, but I managed to tough it out just one more day, day after day. Eventually, I made my first movie. I started getting work as a writer. And not once did I ever regret not taking the management job with Hot Topic.
I’m sharing this story with the world, not so much to inspire others to stick with their dreams, but to simply remind myself to stick with my dreams. Times are tough right now for me. Everyday is a struggle, and I don’t have the endurance or blind optimism I had when I was 27. Hell, I don’t even have the job at Hot Topic—or an equivalent—to give me even a false sense of security. All I have are my goals—the things I want to do so bad I can feel them in my soul. It’s like a fire burning deep inside me. It was burning back at the end of 1995, just as I was facing the question, “What am I going to do with my life?” And a similar fire burns deep inside me now, at the end of 2013, as I ask the same question. I could look for a way to put my dreams on hold by finding a job with all the trappings of security, or I could do what I’ve always done and keep fighting the good fight. I may not move like I used to, or have the same stamina I did back in the old days, but I still pack a mean punch. Just wait, you’ll see.