Nov 28 2012

Tribulations, Tenacity, and Truth By Nikhil Jayaram

When the mentally ill homeless man struck my mother, his fist breaking her neck, paralyzing her, the irony was lost on no one. She had dedicated her life to psychiatry, working in Johns Hopkins’ free clinic, and while other physicians catered to the wealthy, she fought to get the indigent the counseling and medicine they required and the dignity they sought. As she struggled to regain use of her limbs in spite of the odds, it would have been understandable for her to condemn her attacker and the homeless population, decrying them as the menace others made them out to be. Instead, my mother lamented the system that failed this imbalanced man who had requested help and been turned away. She progressed through her physical therapy at a torrid pace. And mere months later, despite the physical damage and her limited mobility, she returned to Hopkins’ free clinic and her calling.

As with my mother’s extreme ordeal, when we face adversity, we reveal the truth in ourselves. And nothing has tested me more than my journey in entertainment. From my first moment in Los Angeles, the embittered folk whose dreams died years before descended upon me, reasoning that if they could not or would not achieve their aspirations, no one should. The well-meaning strangers who encouraged impressionable young scribes to opt for alternative professions outnumbered those who believed my future was in my hands. Eager and green, I accepted a position in an unprofessional workplace with unhealthy personalities, giving rise to questions about the industry I had chosen and the people who might populate it. With so many of my peers experiencing much of the same, I understood why attrition became the norm.

I was fortunate enough to gain mentors who encouraged me and sped along my improvement, but even when making progress, it often felt that for each step forward, I took two steps back. The closer I was to my dreams, the more each failure stung. I honed my skills for years, developing a portfolio and career momentum, until the industry was turned on its ear in 2007, changing the rules and exponentially decreasing the already-scant prospects for every writer attempting to break through. I made the final round of interviews for several assistant jobs on shows, only to find out that my political connections were weak from never having worked on a show, the catch-22 in full effect. Contacts lost their jobs, and connections sent the wrong material. It seemed that every time I spied a glimmer of hope, the sands would shift, burying opportunities. Each setback exacted a mental and emotional toll, compounding the stress and uncertainty that accompany the nebulous journey to becoming a working writer. And every birthday, every bill, every bank statement only drew attention to goals not achieved.

Yet, I remain. In another field, I could have money, stability, stature. A change of lifestyle could bring about the family my girlfriend and I envision, the peace of mind my peers have and my parents could enjoy. A defined trajectory would allow me to determine the rest of my life. And I abjure all of it. Instead, I create new material, solicit criticism, and endeavor to perfect my craft. It is through this unyielding sacrifice that I know I possess the purest love for my desired profession. It flourishes regardless of pain, turmoil, improbability, and doubt. It reveals my truth time and time again: writing for television is what I am meant to do. Gaining entry into the CBS Writers Mentoring Program has only reinforced this belief and fortified my vow to see it realized.

I am grateful for having stayed the course and for the difficulties I have encountered and will face. Meeting these obstacles and surmounting them is how I know unequivocally that I love what I do and have the talent to succeed at it. And that is infinitely more valuable than any comfort other paths may offer.