This is going to be a tough one for you. And I keep asking myself WWPD? (What Would Penelope Do?)

I am going to be 50 years old in July. I am currently working as a Behavior Specialist for developmentally disabled adults.  I got this job after almost completing my master’s degree in behavioral health (didn’t finish cause I got divorced and had to pick up another job and raise three kids on my own – husband was financially ruined). 

Anyway, I am good at what I do but I don’t want to do it anymore. I loved it for quite awhile but I am burnt. And the industry is changing and heading in a direction I don’t have the energy to be a part of.  Truth be told, it wasn’t my true calling and I knew it.  I was meant to be (get ready) a comedic actress.

Wherever I am, wherever I’ve worked, people gravitate towards me because I am entertaining.  I am truly funny but not in an annoying way.  I wrote some material and did one stand up gig.  I had one “fan” in the audience yet got lots of laughs and applause.  I stopped there.  Why?  I have no fucking idea.  It was the best 5 minutes I can remember.

I write, occasionally, but have been quite lazy about it. Make excuses constantly.

On a great note, I got remarried and I could potentially quit my job – NOT WORK AT ALL – but I’m scared.  Scared to be too dependent (again) and scared I won’t find another job if I want to.  I also still have those 3 kids I am responsible for!   And I am scared I won’t buckle down and write/perform like I always promised myself I would if I had the luxury and time to do so.

Anyway I went to Quistic and took the personality test.  I am a ESFJ, if that helps.  It really did give a good description of me.

Thanks for listening,

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10 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    It’s extremely risky to create a life as a comedian. And you are not a risk taker. Just because you’re funny doesn’t mean you should be a comedian. Comedians have other things that regular people don’t – like a drive to perform that overruns everything else. Most women who are comedians don’t have kids. Because it’s a totally unstable life. It requires travel. It requires staying up late at night and not being home for the kids.

    So I’m sorry to tell you that this is extremely unpractical for someone who just got remarried and is raising kids.

    Another thing: You really just want to quit your job, because you don’t like your job and because you can quit. You just feel like you need to be quitting to do something else, so you are saying you will be a comedian. But you can just quit your job. It’s okay. Just raise your kids and make a nice, new family.

    Of course it’s okay to be dependent on a spouse. In a good marriage, that spouse is dependent on you, too. There are many forms of dependence besides financial. And if spouses cannot depend on each other then they are already preparing for divorce.

    Just quit your job. Enjoy your new family. It’s okay.


  2. Susie
    Susie says:

    There are so many forms that being a comedian can take shape as these days. Humorous career counseling. A web-based show. A podcast. The old view of having to stand on a stage and travel seems outdated. Go for it and test the waters. Build a following then be like Led Zep and do one performance people fly around the world to see.

    Just my 2 1/4 cents.

  3. Ella
    Ella says:

    I love this feature, Penelope. Despite being in a very different situation from the question-asker (currently engaged vs. recently remarried, no kids vs kids), I still get so much from your answer. This sentence in particular: In a good marriage, that spouse is dependent on you, too.

  4. Lauren Bishop
    Lauren Bishop says:


    I love this feature as well. Just sent it to a friend. So much interesting advice.

    I also love anticipating what you will say to someone. I’ve gotten pretty good at channeling you just from hearing your advice to individual people in mailbag over these years. (I knew, for example, that you were going to advise her to quit).

    Anyway, I just wanted to express gratitude that you brought this feature back. So, thank you!

    ~Lauren Bishop
    (The INFJ who wrote you craving more writing on INFJs)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. It’s hard to tell what people like about this section. What I should post and what I shouldn’t. Getting feedback like this really helps.


      • Lauren Elise Bishop
        Lauren Elise Bishop says:

        I think a big part of it is that we get to see how you think. That is the draw to all of your writing, but many of your blogs are chronicling your life, your homeschooling, your businesses, your family, your ideas about the world at large, career advice directed to broad groups of people, etc. So your writing breaks down into two main categories: Big Ideas, and your family/personal life.

        Mailbag deviates from your other blogging. It is an opportunity to see how you think in relation to a specific, individual case. I imagine it’s in a similar vein to your career coaching. People are fascinating to me, so I love learning about individuals’ struggles, and hearing you advise them. As a side effect, I end up applying some of the advice to my own life.

        I am a college admissions coach (very good at what I do) and am considering heading to grad school to become a Psychologist or LCSW. Hearing “real talk” from individuals about their professional and personal lives? My favorite! Hearing “real talk” from individuals and then hearing one of my favorite minds (you) dissect what’s going on? Even better.

        Truth be told: you have a fascinating mind/brain. I don’t always agree with you, but I love that you take unconventional stances. You make me think. Four years ago I would’ve laughed if you told me that I would want to homeschool my future children. Now, I will do everything in my power to make sure my kids don’t go to school.

        To me, the mailbag feature is just another place where we get to experience your dynamic mind and perspectives. It’s a place where we can come and hear someone “tell it like it is.” That’s a rare thing in this world. Especially from someone as smart as you. Oftentimes, people who are blunt… well, they aren’t the smartest or most informed. In school, we train our smart kids to tow the line. We teach them how not to say anything that hasn’t been said before. They go into PR, marketing, politics, medicine… they learn to deliver palatable news that doesn’t offend anyone.

        Somehow, you made it out of our school system as a brave woman who’s not afraid to startle people. I found your blogs by reading — and loving — Making Scenes. Your book startled me in the best way possible. Something so real and honest is preferable to me than something palatable. The fact that you’ve been so successful shows just how hungry we are for this kind of brazen communication. Keep up the good work. I read like a madwoman, and you are in my all time top 5.

        ~Lauren Elise Bishop
        (still the INFJ who emailed you craving more writing on INFJs in your blogging)

  5. MBL
    MBL says:

    There is an interesting, if somewhat depressing, article in the June issue of Psychology Today about comediennes and the challenges they face in a male dominated industry.

    • Paxton
      Paxton says:

      The way you framed the problem is inaccurate in my opinion. The fact that it is a male dominated industry is the result, not the problem. The problem is that women are not percieved as funny to the general population. I am not speaking my opinion here, just common perception. Ironically, my ex-girlfriend was a comedienne and could be extremely hilarious.

      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        general-population-of-white-males-that-are-the-gatekeepers-of-traditional-media ≠ general population

        In other words, I think your unexamined biases are showing.

  6. Paxton
    Paxton says:

    Penelope, it is always so pleasantly shocking to me because I constantly find so much wisdom in your posts/comments/mailbag. “There are many forms of dependence besides financial” is so true! In a previous post you mentioned that emotional support (or something to that effect) does not get enough recognition. This is a shame especially in light of all the literal crazy shit that has been going on recently.

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