It feels like the harder I try to figure out what my next move should be, the more entrenched in confusion and frustration I become. Do I keep cleaning houses and writing, working to get published, or do I throw myself into a small business venture, expanding and promoting my cleaning services and give up some of my writing time, or do I get an unrelated job and put the writing on a back burner, or…
I have this vision of where I want to be, but it’s like I’m looking at it from across a bottomless chasm; I’m on one side and my dream life is on the other. The most frustrating part is that I could build a bridge but I don’t have the materials or tools, my education seemingly a hammer made of cardboard, a nail gun spitting marshmallows. So, I stand there, looking down, kicking pebbles over the edge and getting more and more pissed at myself.
I remember a particular crossroad of the past that was annoyingly similar to the one I stand at today. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. Looking back now, I don’t recall ever telling anyone “I want to be a _________ when I grow up.” It could be all that Candy Crush I’ve played, or the numerous drowse-inducing pills I take, but I seriously don’t remember aspiring to be anything. When I got to high school and it was expected that I figure out what I would make out my life and study at college, I scrambled to come up with something to placate my guidance counselor, my friends, my family. I’d always loved Science, particularly Biology and Anatomy as well as animals. I’d also always thought I might like a surplus of money, so I opted to study Biology and then move on to a veterinary program. It made sense to my logical side, to the bookish girl graduating sixth in her class, to my pushy guidance counselor. But when it came time to apply, I balked. I’ve always blamed the severe clinical depression I experienced my senior year, but maybe it was more than that keeping me from wanting to run off to college the fall after high school ended. Maybe I realized that wasn’t where my passion lay.
If I had been paying attention, my path was more obvious than dumping that ridiculous boy I dated when I was sixteen who wore his two inches of hair slicked and pulled back into a tiny ponytail and told me his uncle was in the Chicago Mafia. As long as I could, I’d been writing. As a child, I wrote stories on wide ruled loose leaf, tying the pages together with yarn and doing my own illustrations. I read the classics—and loved them. I memorized Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” when I read it in The Outsiders. I’ve always been the person my friends ask to proofread their papers. I was asked to join the Quiz Bowl Team in eighth grade because of my affinity for literature. I spent the summer between seventh and eighth grade in my room writing a novel length piece I eventually reread and ended up scrapping. The signs were always there as to what was in my heart.
I went to college two years later than most of my classmates and I began a Bio degree, still refusing to acknowledge the obvious. I was about a year and a half into school and taking a Genetics class I was figuring on failing. That subject had been my weak spot in high school as well. I was thinking a lot about the choices I’d made. The same time I was starting college, I was moving out for the first time. I was working part time and studying some of the most difficult information I’d ever read. In lab, I had to mingle with my fellow Bio majors, Chemistry, Anatomy, and various other science majors.
We were doing a lab that involved fingerprinting and my lab partner couldn’t get her prints to be anything but smudges. I may have made a joke that insinuated that she’d rubbed her prints off with excessive biblical-ish knowledge of the male nether region. She may have given me the nastiest look anyone’s ever shot my direction.
At any rate, I realized I didn’t fit in with these doctors-in-the-making. It was that feeling coupled with my sinking grade in Genetics that pushed me to make a change.
After years of thinking that my writing was just for fun, I decided to make it my life. It wasn’t an easy decision. I knew I would be forfeiting my employability, mostly because I had no intentions of pursuing a career in teaching. That had to be the first question anyone would ask me after they learned that I was an English major. The. Same. Question. Every. Time.
“So, you’re going to be a teacher?” they’d ask.
“No. I’m going to write books. Maybe work for a publisher. You know?” I’d reply.
And no, they didn’t know. And apparently, neither did I. While I did write a book, the chance to work for a publisher sailed away when I decided to stay in my recession-battered state, in a county where opportunities go to die. I have stayed because my family needs me and I’ve always seen this as my home. Also, I used to think I could never leave because of the friendships I’d forged over a lifetime. Not anymore. Amidst the self-discovery involved in pursuing this fire burning in my core, I’ve also come to understand that support is hard to come by. Writing is a career of a different color in that you can’t excel at it on your own. Well, most of us can’t. We rely on the knowledge of others and their opinions to make us better. In the beginning stage it’s family and friends and later it becomes agents, publishers, and editors. It’s hard to get to that later stage when you’ve been let down in the beginning.
So, my current crossroad is not only whether I stay and clean or stay and write but whether I stay at all. The opportunity exists to go anywhere. My husband is in a high demand occupation and it wouldn’t be difficult for him to land something he loves virtually anywhere. The fear of leaving behind everything I know is fading with every frustrating day. I’m to the point where loading up my grandma and my mom like The Beverly Hillbillies is not completely beyond the realm of possibility. At least then I’d be making a choice. With that choice, I’d finally have the opportunity to construct my bridge and get over that canyon that lies between me and what fills my dreams.