birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Times, Roamin'

While I certainly have had feelings OF regret, I don't fundamentally believe IN regret. You choose your path. You place your bet. You live with the outcome. And you learn.

That learning, the recognition of choices made, the consequences experienced and felt, and the ability to move forward with that knowledge, are essential tenets of my worldview.

I'm fairly analytical. I listen to my heart but decide with my brain. So the concept of buyer's remorse, of wanting to get a second take on a key scene in life, doesn't really fit.

But if I could time travel and see my alternative self choose an alternative path, I'd book that ticket. Life lessons viewed twice, right? Perspectives on Option A AND Option B, even if only one is experienced directly.

I've got maybe a handful of moments I'd like to see in Do-Over-Vision™. My ultra-shy, inward self as a little kid, taking one big step with the confidence that I'd much later come to possess; a moment in college having to deliver difficult news to a friend and flailing in the effort; having just a notch more financial resources at a key moment in my twenties.

But the parallel path I'd most like to view through that prism of alternative perspective is my career choice.

I was lucky. Very lucky. Where other kids flail into their college years trying to determine their passions and possible trajectories, I was pretty sure what I wanted to do with my life as early as the 8th grade: make films. I absorbed every bit of information I could on the subject. I was a voracious consumer of movies. I breathed cinema. And I knew I wanted to attend USC to pursue that dream.

The second path that opened up soon after, and sparked equal passion, was journalism. I took over editorship of my high school newspaper as a senior. I worked at my local paper doing everything from sports writing to film reviews starting when I was about 15 or 16.

When I finally did make it to USC — no easy feat, given my family's financial limitations and the rigors of the cinema school admissions process — I was where I'd always dreamed I'd be. But as I applied repeatedly to the film school and ran out of general-ed classes, an advisor in the journalism school suggested I double major. I'd already taken a handful of basic J-classes, so once I got into film production I'd be on a good track to do both in relatively little extra time academically.

It seemed a natural. I loved the J-classes I had taken. The course listing promised only more cool experiences and storytelling opportunities.

And when I revamped my cinema-school application (fourth try) with an essay centered on storytelling in the non-fiction rigors of journalism as compared to the open palette of filmic engagement, I was accepted.

Cut to my final semester. Finishing up with nearly $40k in student loan debt, I faced the prospect of moving back to Chicago to do an unpaid internship (I'd interviewed for Siskel and Ebert's "At the Movies" program a couple of summers prior, underscoring the constant overlap I'd come to experience between my two passions) or staying in L.A. to make the rounds of P.A. gigs and trying to land a low-level production position.

I'd spent years living off ramen and mac 'n' cheese. I did a year on the couch of a friend who tolerated my near-freeloading while juggling two or more side jobs to contribute to rent while doing my classes. But I felt like L.A. was the right roll of the dice, even if it meant more time eking to make ends meet while working my into the industry.

Two weeks before commencement, though, one of my professors — a trusted and favorite working professional in journalism — said she had a lead on a job at an area newspaper. Copy editor. Full time. Benefits. I should apply, she said. She'd made the case for my talent.

A week before everyone in my class wrapped the academic year and their college careers, I took the editing test, and passed. I got a job offer. I accepted, and started working part time even before I donned my cap and gown. And I loved it. Covering entertainment in Southern California. Overseeing my own section. Writing headlines — glorious wordplay-infused headlines! My boss loved my contributions. I loved her feedback. I got to go to film screenings. I'd enlist friends as freelance contributors. I brought story ideas to staff meetings, eager to stake a place in the firmament.

My film friends from college took those non- or minimally paying P.A. jobs. They borrowed money from their parents. They slept four to a tiny apartment. They did go-fer work for low-level producers and companies.

Over time, the dues paying yielded dividends in both arenas.

I built a career in entertainment coverage, spending an amazing 15 years at Variety at the apex of its daily chronicling of the entertainment biz. My edits, my headlines appeared in 96-point type on page one. The leaders I admired appreciated my contributions and vision. I rose up the masthead. I saw a future shaping the direction of the enterprise.

And I saw that my film friends were landing better gigs in their 30s and early 40s. Staff writer positions on cool TV shows. Spec script sales on low-level feature films, then higher-profile studio projects. In their 40s, some became showrunners and producers of note. Their names appear prominently in the credits, and they're forces on some of the most innovative work out there.

And that's the path I'd like to have a glimpse into.

I was happy with journalism. Very happy. But I also know that a big part of my character is project driven, not daily-clock driven. That creating and writing original characters has always been part of my creative DNA. That collaborative art always has and still beckons.

I'd like to see what my alternative self looks like in that environment. I may still find a way there myself, but to view that path from its earliest course to full fruition would be cool.

It's not a do-over. It's a do-also.

All about the numbers

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