The screeching brakes of hindsight, by Deb Katie

I went to film school in Tallahassee, Florida. Not exactly a hotbed of film industry activity. In fact, the film school was pretty self-aware about that. In order to give us a few months’ jump on all of the other matriculating film school students across the country, they assigned us an additional summer’s-worth of classes and kicked us out the door in December of what would be our senior year.

The not-yet-husb, of course, had even more ambitious plans for himself. Our school had an internship program, and he planned to finish his last semester in Los Angeles, finding fame and fortune and counting pages and doing precision stapling work as an intern.

I liked the not-yet-husb. I wasn’t dying for another soupy-hot autumn in the Florida panhandle. So I decided to tag along.

We arrived in LA in October and promptly found internships. We did a lot of script coverage (which is like book reports for grown-ups), photocopying, and counting of pages, which I still do, to this day—count every page of every script before it leaves my hands.

After six weeks, our internships wrapped up and we returned to Tallahassee, where we put on our caps and gowns (well, I didn’t–I actually slept through graduation (ironically, after staying up way too late at a party talking to a guy named Matthew—who, 7.5 years later, would become my literary agent)) and were promptly graduated.

Looking back, seeing how eager we were to get out of college and get on with our lives, I have just three words for myself:


First of all, there’s no prime hiring season. Film school grads aren’t scooped up the second they graduate. Jobs are filled when they open up, which is all year, and having lived in LA for an extra couple of months doesn’t do you much good.

Second of all, I have my whole life to go to work. What I don’t have is cheap and easy access to lots of information on topics that interest me. Well, I have the internet, but it’s not the same.

And I don’t have crazy fun football games to attend, even though it’s soupy-hot and a sunburn is 100% guaranteed.

Look, hard work is great. I’m a big fan. And pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps is also great. I’m all for it.

But everything has to come in its own time, and I wish I had taken a little bit of extra time to explore the relatively carefree life of an undergrad, surrounded by friends, on a beautiful campus, in a city where apartments don’t rent for 2/3 of your starting salary.

So that’s my reflection on graduation. My advice to college students is to stay a steady course, but for heaven’s sake, enjoy your time in school. Take classes in subjects that interest you! Hang out. Go to football games. Look around. And try to remember that life isn’t always going to be this way.

(This may sound like I have regrets, but I don’t. How can I regret the things that changed me into who I am today? If I hadn’t hurried out of school, I probably wouldn’t have spent that evening talking to Agent M. I wouldn’t be married to the husb. I wouldn’t have written Bad Girls Don’t Die. So it’s not regret… it’s just a sort of marveling that I was in such a hurry.)

~ Katie Alender

11 Replies to “The screeching brakes of hindsight, by Deb Katie”

  1. Very wise, Katie. I was in a big old hurry to get finished, too–and I’m not sure why. I think I was eager to become a “grown-up” and be with my boyfriend (now husband). Youth is wasted on the youth!

  2. That is such a cute picture! I can absolutely relate to this: “But everything has to come in its own time, and I wish I had taken a little bit of extra time to explore the relatively carefree life of an undergrad, surrounded by friends, on a beautiful campus, in a city where apartments don’t rent for 2/3 of your starting salary.”

    Not the film school part, but realizing that college is something special that will never be repeated. In my last two weeks of school it suddenly hit me: wait, I’m really leaving this place. I started going to all those interesting lectures advertised on flyers around the school and trying to soak it all up. I remember sitting on the front porch of my friend’s co-op drinking a beer in the afternoon, watching some guys play Frisbee and thinking, “Wow, this college thing is pretty great. Too bad it’s over in 12 days.”

    I was in a big hurry, too (the impending wedding had a lot to do with that). Isn’t that always the way, though? Rush-rush-rush to grow up, then realize how good we had it.

  3. This is clearly something we all have in common. Rush, rush, rush. I’m still that way–always running ass over head first into things. It drives my husband crazy, but I just can’t help it. And, like you said, when I get there, I’m like, what was the big hurry?

  4. So true, Meredith! A statement that starts to make a lot more sense once you hit one of those major birthdays (and I don’t mean 21!).

    Kristina, I think by the time it occurred to me how great college was, I was already spending 9 hours a day in the lobby of a building being treated horribly by C-grade celebs who were late for their meetings. I have really, really tried to slow down since then. And strangely enough, my publishing journey has been a big help with that learning process.

    Tiffany, hmm… maybe writers are all just rushers trying to recapture a sort of stillness in time.

  5. Oh my god! You are all so young! (I don’t know why, but this week’s post are making me feel so much older than the rest of you. Which, I think, I actually am!)

  6. Oh, you two just cut it out!

    I had to put my journal away last night, because I started the entry by saying, “My last week as an XX-year-old…” and then I got depressed and couldn’t think of anything else to say.

  7. Great advice, Katie. However, I needed someone to tell me ‘for heaven’s sake, do some work!’ I majored in having fun, unfortunately. 😀

  8. Goodness, what was the rush for all of you? OTOH I didn’t want to leave academia and stayed around for two Masters. 😉 Yet whatever route we took, it worked for us and, Katie, as you wrote: “How can I regret the things that changed me into who I am today?”

    P.S. Kristina’s right, the photo is too adorable!

  9. Ah…totally. I am with you 100%. After my graduation I decided to pursue a post graduation degree. I selected the one (out of 2 which were very similar) which was for 3 years instead of 2. I wanted more college life.

    When doind post-grad, I took up a summer job (which paid a lot) but left it when I realized I was not able to concentrate on college life. I was missing out on parties, inter college competitions and so much else. I left the job. It was hard but I did it.

    You are right when you say you will have all your life to work. Thats what I tell my younger sis who’s in college too.

    okay, enough blabbering 🙂

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