Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I Did

*This post was originally written on April 21, 2010 and appeared on my first blog

This is going to be a long one, folks. Bear with me…

Tomorrow, I will be returning from vacation to tell my boss that I’m leaving my job. I’ll give you a moment to process that

Yup, leaving my job. To become a full-time writer.


Ok, well only sort of. You see, this incredible opportunity fell into my lap, to take on a 17 hour a week gig in the admissions office at a local, High Fallutin’ College that shall remain nameless (though I’m sure you could guess). It pays well (broken down by the hour, I’m making $10 more an hour than I am at my current job, working almost a quarter as many hours). So I will have 17 hours worth of income rolling through my bank account. But beyond those 17 hours, I am an Author. Capital A. Author.

It’s a risk, I know. I’ve only been at my current job for a year, so I may very well be burning a bridge (aka a reference). I’m saying adios to a full-time salary (which, though not very good, is still a full-time salary…). I’m also stepping off the career path I’ve been on for the last five years (two years of a master’s degree and three years of employment). But it’s not the path I want to be on, and I’ve spent too much of my short life taking the path of least resistance. I’ll take the rocky road full of snakes and bullies with the big dose of professional satisfaction at the end, thankyouverymuch.

I started writing when I was in elementary school. I attempted my first novel in the sixth grade. I attempted several more throughout middle school and high school. I got seriously derailed by college, when I bounced from a journalism degree to a history degree, and then by my decision to apply to graduate school for education.

Then, during my first semester of graduate school, I started writing a novel I called “Preppies, Yuppies, and Movie Stars.” I was really in love with it. It was the first time I realized that I can be funny on paper while telling a story. I queried for it, and got some great responses. Stephen Barbara told me I almost made him spit out his drink while reading one of my scenes. More than once I was told I made people laugh out loud, but ultimately, I didn’t get representation. Why? Because while writing this novel, I was also taking a full graduate course load, working at an assistantship, and planning a wedding. On top of all that, I thought I had time to devote to writing and editing and editing and editing a novel.

Hey, stop laughing. STOP LAUGHING!

Preppies needed a lot of editing to get it ready for attempt #2 at submission, and I just didn’t have that kind of time. The novel went into a drawer (otherwise known as my hard drive, my external hard drive, and two flash drives, plus a hard copy printed out on my book shelf). I threw myself into grad school, then threw myself into the job search. And when I got into my first job, I was itchy. Restless. A little nervous that I wasn’t as blissfully happy as I thought I would be having accomplished my goal of graduating and moving up in the professional world.

So I started writing again. I went back and did some work on Preppies, then started outlining a new idea about a teenage romance novelist (which became I Was A Teenage Pseudonym). I was having a grand old time, but writing was still a crazy dream at that point, and I was still 100% committed to my career in education (which I kept telling myself would soon feel good, rewarding, fulfilling, or one of those other adjectives that career counselors wax poetic about). I thought maybe my unhappiness stemmed from that one job, and not the career as a whole, so I set out to get a new job. And I did. A very prestigious one with a great organization. I convinced myself that this was the dream job, the one that would take me great places and would make me feel like a happy, fulfilled professional.

Only it didn’t. Not at all. It was, in fact, a rather miserable experience. I’ll take ownership of that misery and say it was probably due to the fact that I expected this job to do too much. I expected it to make me happy, to make me feel fulfilled, to change my life. But in the end, it’s just a job, and a job can’t do all that. And so I spent a year in almost complete misery, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life and if I could ever make myself professionally happy … or even make myself like work. I hated myself for being unhappy in a job again. I don’t want to be a miserable, complaining person. I know there’s no such think as the perfect job, but I was getting kind of freaked out by the fact that I hadn’t even found the ok job.

While all this internal turmoil was going down, my relationship with Paper Lantern Lit began. You can read all about that process here, so I won’t rehash it for you. I will say that all those feelings of professional fulfillment, even when I was struggling to get words on a page, were there. I finally knew what those career counselors were trying to tell me. I’d found it.

To make a long story short, I couldn’t quite support myself on the writing alone. And about the time that realization came about, so too came this opportunity at High Fallutin’ College. I’ve spent the last five days AGONIZING over this decision. Seriously. I’ve asked anyone who would listen to offer up advice. After all of that, I finally decided. I’m doing it. I’m taking the leap.

It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I know this … I’ll never regret it. At least if it all goes up in flames, I’ll always know that I tried.

And if it works? Well, then this becomes one of those parables about great reward coming after great risk.

I have to thank my buddies Alana and Megan, who were my grad school confidantes and who are both working in the field I’m leaving. They told me not to freak out about my resume, and to take the big risk. They told me that even if it didn’t work out, I had enough experience and good will in the field that I could probably come back if I had to. They told me they would buy my book (in exchange for an acknowledgment, which they most certainly will get!). Alana, who is also currently stepping off the track by applying to law school, was a great inspiration, as was a former grad school classmate who left education to pursue her dream of being a wedding planner in LA. Cynthia has never been happier ).

I have to thank my mom, for giving me advice, even if I chose not to take it. My mom is highly sensible and I almost always listen to her, but I can’t be sensible right now. I need to be daring and adventurous and be a RISK TAKER for the first time in my life.

I’m actually going to take a page from my younger brother, who blew up his life by dropping/failing out of college after his first semester. He’s back now, after four years of doing not much, and is pursuing education AND a career in music. He (and his band) was recently featured in the New York Times. His experience showed me that life is long and you can bounce back from most anything, including a couple of arrests for reckless driving and vandalism (my brother is quite the graffiti artist).

I have to thank my guy, who told me he would support me (emotionally and financially) in whatever I decided to do. As long as I use some of the free hours to walk the dog. (Done and done).

And finally, I’m giving big ups to myself, for having the guts to do it. I’m still a little freaked out about having to deliver the news to my boss tomorrow. She’s going to be a little blindsided … but I knew it wasn’t all going to be daisies and roses when I picked this path. Here’s to hoping it’s a big damn bouquet when I get to the end.

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