Many people have asked if Amanda Gallo, the 29-year-old protagonist of my new novel, Amanda Wakes Up, is a thinly veiled version of me. The answer is yes and no. At 29, I was ambitious and resourceful like Amanda, but she figures things out faster than I did. I wish I’d been able to see my blind spots and tackle my personal and professional life challenges as quickly as she does. My learning curve was longer.
At 29, my career trajectory appeared to be blazing a meteoric trail. I was working at my dream job: national correspondent for a new NBC morning show. I’d done so well during my first few months of reporting in the field that I’d been promoted to substitute anchor. I’ll never forget the day the real anchor was on assignment and I got my big break to host the show. When the red camera light turned on, I was so excited that I thought I might spontaneously combust on set. At that moment, it seemed all my years of hard work, of dropping everything for breaking news, being sent on far-flung assignments, and pulling all-nighters in edits room, were paying off.
Then my show was canceled. My dream job went up in smoke and I had no fallback plan. I was devastated. It seemed like the bright future I’d imagined was a mirage. It was a rough year of feeling directionless and alone.
So now, with the benefit of time and age, here are the seven things I wish I knew at 29.
1. Any job can be therapeutic.
One scene in Amanda Wakes Up is directly cribbed from real life: Amanda’s career hits a giant pothole and she sinks into a funk, spending day after day on her sofa in her pajamas. I’ve been there. When my show was canceled, I, too, logged a lot of couch time. My weekly paycheck had vanished — but my rent and bills had not. I needed a job. So I took a freelance reporting gig at a local station that I quickly determined I hated, since all I really wanted to do was wallow in my misery, clutching a box of tissues, watching my favorite soap opera. I was grumpy every afternoon when I had to click off the TV and lug my sad carcass from the sofa to the shower to prepare for the late shift at a temporary job I didn’t care about. But then something interesting happened. I was so busy chasing stories that I forgot how sad I was. I learned that there is a psychological payoff to working hard every day. Get to work doing something, anything, even if it’s not your dream job.
Read more at Cosmopolitan.