At thirty, I realize I’ve officially been in the work force for half my time here, on Earth. Those who know me well know I’ve had many jobs – bookseller, barista, administrative assistant…those three weird weeks in 2008 when I worked for a telemarketing scam. It’s not that I’m a bad worker – in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only been officially fired once. To be honest, the reason I’ve moved from job to job is because my patience for people’s bull shit has reached an all-time low. That, and I have the flexibility of not needing a steady job – just steady pay.
As my last year of graduate school began inching closer, I changed my mind and decided I wanted a steady job. So, I sent out my resume and got hired at an insurance company not too far from my house. The office and the people seemed nice, and while the job was boring as fuck, it required the minimal amount of neurologic activity to be considered conscious.
The more I got to know people there, I discovered they had something in common: a good number of the women had been pursuing other careers (like nursing, medicine, and law school) when they decided to bow out, get their insurance license, and work at the office. Most said that their previously chosen field wasn’t for them – that insurance was a better fit. But I saw the draw – the not working weekends, the paid time off, the routine. If I stayed there, I’d wake up one day and be fifty wondering where my life and my drive went. So I quit.
I’ve been at my new job for a little over a month, and I really like it. The people are nice, the work is challenging, and it feels right. There’s just one thing – it gets in the way of my other job. The most important job: writing.
This is nothing new, though This is just how it goes – or so I’ve told myself. The only time in my life I’ve put my writing first is when I was applying to graduate school. I took two months off, and worked on my application piece every god damn day…and I got in.
Now, I’m coming to the end of my educational career, and I’m left wondering, “Am I doing enough? Am I working hard enough? Am I being the best I can be.” The answer – of course not.
I justify it to myself regularly – I have bills to pay, I want my own apartment, I need to save for XYZ thing. But the truth is, it’s easier not to write. Writing is the hardest thing there is. For me, writing is facing yourself, your choices, your dark side. It’s owning your life and coming to terms with things you’d rather bury. It’s admitting you’re not over it…and who wants to deal with that after rush hour traffic?
Tonight, I went to the New York book launch of an author’s debut novel. I watched as the venue filled with family, friends, readers, and writers – all amazed and proud of what she had accomplished. I watched her read the words that started in her head and ended up in a physical book. I watched her give encouragement to those of us who haven’t yet gotten to where she was. I watched her leave her mark on various copies, with words of wisdom and a smile.
It’s not just that I wanted to be her, or in her shoes. It’s that I realized the only think keeping me from it was me.
As I walked toward the subway, I thought about what would happen if I walked into my office tomorrow and quit. I think the girls I work with would be sad, but they would easily find someone else to take my place. But I also think it would be a mistake because I genuinely like it there…and I have bills.
On the E train, I glanced at the woman next to me. Her phone was open to a page from an e-book. It read:
“You should be writing.”
“I am writing.”
“No, writing full-time.”
Legit, I couldn’t fucking believe it. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her I had been struggling with the time I make for writing. We then chatted about New York, the subway – how Eddie’s Sweet Shoppe really does have the best whipped cream.
I’m sorry I didn’t ask her what book she was reading, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter.
What I’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working. I always say I’m going to put my writing first, but inevitably, I wind up doing the opposite. And so I bail on work, and throw myself into writing for a brief period of time.
So tomorrow, I’m going to swallow my fear and ask my boss for a modified schedule that will give me two, full days to write. Because after living thirty years in extremes, I think I’m finally ready to find the balance.