Working for a living.
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I have many sayings in life, but one of my favorites is this:
No 18-year-old knows what they want to do for the rest of their life.
I recognize that there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. But, generally speaking, expecting a fresh-out-of-high-school college freshman to choose a major -- and therefore decide what they want to be when they grow up -- is an awful lot to ask.
I was one of those rare ones who knew from about the age of fifteen what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be a writer. Specifically, a fiction novelist. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my hero, Stephen King -- and make a living writing and telling stories.
A noble goal, to be sure. But, because I was only 18 and completely clueless, I didn't have the foggiest idea how to make that happen. I didn't know where to find the resources that could help me. Plus, an English degree didn't seem super...well, practical. I looked at the profession of "writing" on a spectrum: on one end I saw a starving artist, and on the other end I saw a successful businessperson. There really wasn't a lot of in-between, at least in my naive, inexperienced head. I couldn't stomach the idea of being a starving artist; I had places to go and things to do which required a steady paycheck. So I opted for a major that positioned me better for a successful career in business, but would also let me write: Journalism. With a minor in Business.
I can't say that I have many regrets. The career I've built in corporate marketing and communications has been good to me, for the most part: steadily growing, allowing me to have a house, a car, two kids, and a life. That's the American dream, right?
But. I'll be damned if that original dream of mine ever went away. Several times over the years I would be overwhelmed by the desire to write...only to have life get in the way again. I even took the GRE and applied for 6 or 7 MFA programs at one point (denied by all, back to real life). Looking back, I guess the universe decided I wasn't ready to dive into writing yet.
Turns out I had a bunch more life to live first.
In the middle of yet another existential crisis last fall, I had a revelation: if I'm not finding my current career fulfilling, why in the hell would I not pursue this lifelong dream of mine? What's the point of having a bucket list item if I'm not going to work toward it?
I took a class titled "Write a Short Story in Six Weeks," and I was done. I dusted off all my old short stories and hamstrung attempts at manuscripts, and I STARTED WRITING. And I haven't stopped. The first manuscript is written and I'm currently shopping it. The second book is underway. I'm making ever-so-slow progress toward my goal of publishing a novel. I'm basically working two jobs right now: one that makes me sublimely happy, and one that pays the bills.
Another of my favorite sayings: Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.
And that, ladies and gents, is my ultimate goal. Make a living doing what I love: writing and telling stories. And never working a day in my life. Is that really so much to ask?