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For about six years I wore suits like Alicia Florrick.
Perhaps not of the Narciso Rodriguez caliber. But Elie Tahari? Sure. Calvin Klein? Absolutely.
In spite of my perceived creative sensibilities, I took a more standard corporate job out of college in order to pay off my loans. And to my surprise, I did really find a sense of accomplishment and joy in it. I worked as a financial headhunter for five years and then in advertising/sales for a publishing company.
Steadily increasing paychecks due to commissions and long hours in the office led to my Alicia Florrick suits. A fancy car. Dinners at restaurants where you might spot a celebrity. Having grown up on the lower end of what's considered middle income in the United States, I found this to be incredibly exciting and rewarding. Hard work really did pay off.
Until the economic implosion of 2008-2009.
Regardless of my dedication to my job and the substantial revenue I brought to the table, I was laid off. On a day where it took me two hours to slowly make my way to the office in a treacherous blizzard. After working fourteen hours the day previous to land new accounts at a company function after an already trying day in the office.
The bottom line doesn't care if there is a state of emergency snowstorm. Or that I had just bought a brand new pair of Versace sunglasses. I was summarily let go by a male employee of the company who not only brought zero revenue into the company while collecting an exorbitant salary, but had often made lecherous remarks regarding my body and my personal life with no consequences from Human Resources.
I don't know if anyone has ever adequately explained how debilitating unemployment feels. In my case it created the same emotions as breaking up with someone whom you still love. Even though you gave all your energy, time and devotion, in the end, for some reason it was not enough. And you're left wandering about in a stupor wondering where it all went wrong.
Away went my beautiful spacious apartment, weekend trips and designer clothes. I interviewed for jobs with companies that wanted to hand me all the responsibilities-and then some-of my previous positions but slash my salary by forty percent or more. I moved back home. I ran up debt on my credit cards just trying to handle my now too expensive car payment and high insurance premiums while I frantically searched for work and debated going back to school.
I felt lost, frustrated and angry that my six years of hard work and loyalty seemingly meant nothing. I can only imagine how someone with decades of experience would feel in the same position, being that it was happening all over the country at the time. (And still is.)
Then I took a job as a non-union extra on a film and really learned the meaning of starting over at rock bottom. But I just couldn’t sit home for another minute in my bathrobe sending out resumes and emailing friends and acquaintances for job leads that just wouldn’t materialize.
All of a sudden I was making seventy five dollars (before taxes) to sit in the background of a movie for upwards of fifteen hours. Being assigned a number instead of anyone knowing actually my name. Having to ask permission to get a drink of water or use the restroom. All of these things were simultaneously fascinating and extremely humbling to me. I was sitting in a room full of hundreds of folding chairs and people dying to have a moment on camera, when I had just been in my corner office and had an assistant to order my lunch every day. But I met an actor on this film who explained to me all the perks of becoming part of the Screen Actors Guild. Better pay. Insurance. The possibility again of making a living. And please God to get me out of my parents’ house.
My wheels started turning and my competitive nature awoke from its long dormant and depressed slumber.
I was going to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
It took me six months of non-stop hustle. Sometimes I would go straight from one job to the next without sleeping in between. I was working awful non union jobs wearing summer clothes in winter, winter clothes in the summer, but somehow mixed these in with three very special waivered union gigs that granted me access to join.
I could talk about those three jobs, especially the one with Martin Scorcese specifically choosing me for a commercial-although unfortunately today I'm sure he wouldn't know me if he fell over me, he literally changed my life. And it will make a great story during my awards acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay one day. But I'd rather talk about "The Good Wife."
About halfway through season one of "The Good Wife," I started getting calls to work on the show, mostly on their secondary units, not their principal photography units. But at the beginning of season three I was asked if I wanted the job as Julianna Margulies's stand-in.
I couldn't say yes fast enough. Even though I spent and still spend a great deal of time explaining what it is that I actually do as her stand-in.
From the moment the show first aired I felt a connection with the Alicia Florrick character. The whole concept of starting over while you feel humiliated and defeated, right when you're at the point in life where you feel like you should be approaching your peak of success and happiness hit me right in the gut. To have it all disappear and the only option be to hold your head up high, swallow pride and bravely forge ahead. It’s not just a great plotline. It’s real. It’s every day.
I watched Alicia Florrick get back up after being knocked down. First from my living room and then in person on set. I watched her flounder, I watched her succeed. I watched her try to always do what she believed to be the right thing. I've seen her be hurt, be strong, be funny, and always be beautiful. I also watched Diane Lockhart (played by Christine Baranski) become her mentor. Encourage her and support her. Which is exactly what Julianna Margulies is to me.
She is my personal Diane Lockhart.
Not only a co-worker, she knows details of my personal life, supports my endeavors outside of working on the show and is always excited for me when I achieve even the tiniest of accomplishments. She accepts that I stumbled on the way to figuring out where I want to be in my professional life and that I didn't choose the circumstances surrounding such a drastic change in my life. She doesn't judge.
Instead she consistently makes me feel empowered in my decisions of where to go next and is always rooting for me. Both Alicia Florrick and Julianna Margulies embody the belief that it’s never too late to try again. Try harder. Do better. And just not give up on yourself.
On episode 515 of "The Good Wife" (SPOILER ALERT), Alicia Florrick loses Will Gardner who (arguably) may have been the love of her life. In a scene for episode 516, Diane holds Alicia while she sobs, needing a moment to grieve and not have it completely together. To let someone else tell her that everything is going to be ok.
Julianna has given me one of those hugs. On set recently, when I was fighting back tears after I had just broken up with someone who (arguably) may have been the love of my life. Someone I lost in the tumult of bad timing, the common enemy that has always plagued Alicia and Will.
As she hugged me, she said, "It's going to be OK. You're smart, you know what's good for you. You'll be OK." I clung to her that day and buried my head in her shoulder, hurting in every part of my body but somehow I believed her.
And now with season five coming to a close and season six looming right around the corner, I have no idea what's next for Alicia Florrick. But I am positive that she (and I) can handle it.