“Maybe I don’t want a Happy New Year, he said. Maybe I want an intense New Year with a lot of growth experiences & I had to admit I’d never thought of that” –StoryPeople
I wanted the happy new year. I got the intense one.
Not horrible intense. Not tragic intense. Not depression intense. I can’t even say it’s been a bad year. So many people have had so many worse years. I got to move in with my previously long-distance boyfriend. I got to adopt kittens. I am able to pay all my own bills for the first time in my life (as long as we don’t crash another car). And I am very aware that if any of the kids I taught in India could see my modest apartment and broken dishwasher, they would think I must be president of the United States.
Before I moved here, I had been experiencing a rare moment in my life when all the important things happened to be going well at the same time. My relationship was getting serious, I was surrounded by good friends, I was finally able to be a therapist, and I was focused and passionate about my writing. I left that place with a lot of momentum. I left that place ready to forge my own way into the real world. I was ready to start a satisfying career. I was ready to get serious about getting published.
What I got instead were rejections. Job rejections and literary agent rejections by the dozens. Daily. I would literally wake up each morning to at least ten rejections waiting for me in my inbox before I even put in my contacts. And I mean, I get it. It’s not about me. It’s a sucky economy and I’m young and geographically limited and every writer starts out with a buttload of rejections and even Kathryn Stockett and yada yada yada.
What I got instead was a string of bad jobs. I can’t even tell you the number of jobs I have quit in the past year because it’s embarrassing.
What I got instead was a lot of doubt. Doubt about the world: Is it even possible for anyone to support themselves doing anything remotely satisfying? Is anyone happy? Is everyone corrupt? Does the world let anyone keep their dreams? And doubt about myself: Is this my fault? Do I not have what it takes to succeed in this strange world? Do I even want what I thought I wanted? Am I good at those things? Am I helplessly idealistic and naïve?
I read once (perhaps in Stephen King’s book on writing?) that trying to become a published author is like being on the outside of a closed glass box, looking in on all the published authors who are inside. And you want desperately to know how they got inside this box, because you want to get inside too. But if you ask any of them how they got in, they don’t know what to tell you. Because none of them are really sure how they got in. And even if they were, that information wouldn’t be helpful to you anyway. Because no two people can get in the same way.
One year down, and I have not yet found my way into the publishing box or the career box. I am still knocking at the glass box of adult life mouthing to people on the inside, “Where the hell did you find a door on this thing?”
I don’t know if I’ve gained much wisdom about what I want out of life through my crazy job experiences in the past year. Just that I don’t want to work somewhere that makes me hate Mondays, or where people make jokes about not having had their coffee yet, or where anyone has ever said “If it’s not in my planner, it doesn’t happen.” I do want to work somewhere where people leave baked goods in a communal area and where I can leave Valentines in peoples’ mailboxes.
So maybe I have learned a lot.
A couple months ago I swung by the post office on my way home from a job interview to pick up a new book of literary agent listings I had ordered. As I tossed it on the passenger seat and began driving home, I realized something: I was still looking for the exact same things I was looking for a year ago. An agent and a job. But I didn’t feel discouraged by the revelation. I just thought about how maybe years like mine were necessary, because maybe they are what separate the people who don’t want their dreams badly enough from the ones who really, really do.
So I am still one who wants them. My momentum may have dwindled in the face of the real world but it is far from gone. Because I still have high standards for my life that I refuse to lower. I still will not settle for a job that is unethical or that sucks away at my soul or that keeps me secluded in a storage closet when I was made to be around other human beings. I still insist that “fun” is a perfectly reasonable requirement for something I commit to doing five days per week, seeing as I only have 70 or so years left to live. And I will not try to quiet the voice that has always told me that, at the end of it all, I am going to be a writer.
I wish I had some great literary reference to use here (especially after having just declared myself a writer), but what I have is a memory of an After the Final Rose ceremony from a previous season of The Bachelor that I watched on YouTube. The newest Bachelor couple was struggling to stay together, and they were asking advice from the only three successful couples in Bachelor/Bachelorette history (one of those has since broken up). The woman who the Bachelor had chosen asked Ryan (who married Trista, the original Bachelorette, who went to my high school and my college, what what) how he had dealt with watching all of the episodes of Trista dating the other guys before she chose him, and if it made him question things, and this is what Ryan said:
“If someone were to come up to you and say: Listen. I’m going to set you up with the perfect guy, but you’re going to have to go through some hurt, but in the end you’re going to be with the best guy for you. If someone had said that to you before you went on The Bachelor, would you say ‘Done. I’ll go through anything to be with that guy for the rest of my life?’ I’m just gonna say… that you’d say yes.”
Replace “guy” with “career/real-world life” and that’s how I’m choosing to look at this period of time. I believe that things will work out, because I am going to make sure that they work out. I plan to look back on these trials as the difficult but necessary and relatively small period of time before my dreams started coming true.
And I realize that that might be a long time from now. To be honest, I’d been putting off writing a post like this until I could look back on these difficulties as things that had passed. But I understand now that there is not just going to be a day in the next week or month or year when I wake up and suddenly I’ve arrived. It’s a process.
But I am certainly hopeful. Next month I will be starting a new job that seems quite promising—but we all know that I’ve been so, so very wrong about these things before. Good or bad though, like everything, it will at least be a stepping stone on the long, winding path toward where I long to be.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like On Moving.
Good for you. I didn’t even KNOW until my 40s and after my divorce that I was meant to be a writer (and photographer). At least you know now so you can put your energy toward it. There are many ways into that glass box. You just have to keep trying until you find the hidden lock and key. Good luck with the new job.
So that’s the case? Quite a reaotvlien that is.
God, I feel like I should be takin notes! Great work
This line made my day, “And I will not try to quiet the voice that has always told me that, at the end of it all, I am going to be a writer.” I don’t know how you are going to enter the glass box but I have no doubt that you will!
Wow – you have my respect. When I was in this position, I took whichever job I got but then I couldn’t afford to pay my own bills – how are you doing that?
The being able to pay the bills thing is pretty recent…. I finally got salaried so that helped, but before that I was floating on my leftover student loans and my boyfriend’s student loans. I also have a second job. Its tough. I don’t know how people do this with kids and mortgages!
Stumbled across your blog from 20sb.net! I love it! Love the way you write.
Thanks Deanna! Glad you found me 🙂
For every successful writer, leader or inventor, it took thousands of failures to eventually figure out how to be successful. Look at Thomas Edison, he said “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Keep at it 😉
Very true. Thanks!
OMG you started a post with a StoryPeople story!!!! Wanna be BFFs????? I LOOOVE StoryPeople.
Really great post. Sometimes, I get kinda down that things aren’t necessarily going MY way (ex: I’m soo ready for my LDR to NOT be LD) and I get all down in the dumps then realize that, “Hey, things could be MUCH worse. Things HAVE been much worse, so just appreciate it what you have now.”
StoryPeople is great! I stumbled their headquarters in Decorah, Iowa a few months ago. Who knew!?
I know how LDR goes, but it will all be worth it when it ends someday!
Love reading about your determination. I’m currently at a crossroads in my life and I’m really struggling with the whole “follow this path not matter what” or “learn to adapt” issue. It’s nice to see others who are feeling a little a little…not completely on track. Or however you describe it.
I definitely know the feeling! I like knowing that others can relate too.
Wow. I can relate to your life. I think many people probably can. I read your post while I was on vacation but couldn’t comment from there without borrowing someone’s computer…. I am often reminded of the Thoreau quote about people living lives of “quiet desperation,” because my dad likes to share that quote with me too often. I want to believe that he (both “he”s) is wrong; that we aren’t all striving without making much headway.
But I can tell you that at 40, which is my age, I am still striving. The good news is that I have realized, after living many years past age 25, that a whole heck of a lot can happen in a year–good and bad. And we have to keep striving and hoping that our striving ends up making change for the better. I wish you the best in the rest of 2012. And here’s hoping that by this time next year, your August 2012 blog post finds you in an excellent, amazing place.
Thanks so much for your kind words! I like your point about how much can change in a year. I’m excited for the future with all its ups and downs.
Where did you go on vacation?
We went on our annual family beach vacation which is full of extended family, drinking and food. It was excellent! But I was really, really glad to get home, too. ; )
Extremely thought-provoking post. Are you really in your 20s, or is this some sort of psychology experiment where a doctor takes on the persona of a youthful individual but asks deep and meaningful questions to see if they’ll be perceived differently from a younger person than they would from an older individual?
Whatever the case, you’re about 20 years of me in terms of self-awareness. I didn’t even figure out the purpose of the lint trap on the dryer until I was in my 30s.
Thanks so much for accusing me of being a doctor, I’m flattered!
I thought of you when I cleared out the lint trap today. Don’t worry- I only just learned how to boil water. And cut a peach. I still don’t know how to withdraw money from the bank.
There’s a secret about your post. ICTIBTYHTKY
I’m glad I found you via my own blog. Your writing is wonderful, so I believe you will get published some day! (Have you considered self-publishing via an eBook?)
I will be following your posts from now on and sending good vibes your way for your job to be great and your book(s) to get published. Now I have a lot more of your blog to keep reading, so I’ll respond more later.
QullVideo on May 19, 2010 Waking up on a cruise is part of the enxeriepce because you never know what the view outside your window will be. Although I can\’t say any of the place I\’ve been in the Med or Carribean have been as nice as Alaska. It\’s cold there though, no? I do like the cold