Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photo by Smaragdin

I've been thinking a lot about my creative path to success and realized I'm not exactly where I intended to be.

In a counseling session many moons ago I was instructed to create a life map. It could be any medium, so I literally drew a map with winding roads and I put a car at the beginning of the road and its first stop was college. I wanted to finish college with a bachelor's degree, maybe a masters or MFA if I was feeling particularly ambitious. The next stop was a job I would enjoy and a job that would further my career in the publishing world. I drew two options for places I would find this job. Palm trees for California. Skyscrapers for New York. I was not going to stay in Texas past my college graduation. That was just out of the question.

I can't remember where the winding road led. I think it trailed off the paper to happily ever after.

But here's the thing. A) I fell in love at age 20. That certainly wasn't on the life map. Up until that point I thought boys hated me. I thought I'd be single forever. No man to tie me down. Fortunately, it did happen. There were some bumps along the way (some very bumpy bumps), but here we are almost 5 years later.

B) I finished college and took a job at a local magazine, but I hated it! It probably didn't help that I was working for a magazine whose theme didn't interest me in the least bit, but I am grateful for the experience.

C) Bills, bills, bills, and all the extra stuff life throws at you that costs mucho dinero. I quit my job at the magazine to be with my boyfriend in "small town" Florida. Lack of jobs, for sure. I had to get something before my savings ran out. I didn't have time to think about whether or not this or that job would further my writing career. When you have to pay the bills and there aren't a lot of job options, you take what you can get! Of course my family and boyfriend helped me and I did get a rather interesting job at a funeral home, so again, I'm grateful.

D) Must go where the money is. It's true that my boyfriend chose a lucrative career in the computer world and he'll probably always make more money than me. That's why we moved to Tennessee. I didn't have to follow him. I could've decided to go at it single and move to New York and live in a box and maybe get a job as an editorial assistant, but I didn't. There's love again.

So...I didn't go completely off the life path. I graduated college, got a job in publishing, and moved out of state, but things didn't go exactly as planned. Do they ever?

I'm not unhappy and I don't regret anything. I'm grateful for all the experiences, but I have been thinking...and it's always the same thing. When will I be able to do something I half care about? If I had it my way, I'd stay home and write. Not worry about a full-time job, but that's not possible at this time. I have bills. My boyfriend has bills. There's money, but not enough to go around.

And it's not that I dread going to work everyday. My job is all right. But I don't care about any part of it and I hate that feeling. I know I won't put my all into anything I do because my heart isn't in it. And it doesn't seem like there are a lot of options for me in this neck of the woods.

The good thing is I can go home, leave work at work, and continue working on the things I do love and care about. I can be a writer wherever I am in life.


Betsey said...

lovely post, thank you so much for sharing it.
this is something that scares me so much- i know exactly what i want to do with my life but i am not optimistic at all that it will happen. there is too much in the way and i am afraid i will be forced to take a job that i hate and that does not interest me. what an awful way to live life! but it happens so often and i guess the best thing to do is make the best of it until circumstances change.
sorry this is not more encouraging! i have been struggling with this issue as well!

Michelle Johnson said...

At least you have somewhat of a direct path for family and career that you want to take. And, that's a strong starting point for you. Now let's wait and see where that path leads you. I wish you well on your journey. Have a nice night.

Maggie May said...

that last sentence- yes, exactly.

ingrid said...

Hi Cassandra, I love your blog. This last post made me think of a couple of things: Do you carry a notebook around with you, to record snippets of inspiration wherever you are? I hope so! I find comfort knowing how many writers and poets also have Day Jobs- TONS. I love the image of Wallace Stevens working every day at an insurance agency, and composing poems on his walk home. Also, when my kids were born, I was too exhasted to write and found that Haiku was really satisfying. And I called them Haiku translations- not even trying to get the form right- just to be writing and keeping the juices flowing. But mostly, when I was in my 20s I devoured the book, "Your Money or your Life." Have you ever read it? I highly recommend it. I still use what I learned from that to reassess my bills bills bills and make sure my spending supports my priorities. Recently my husband and I switched our family cell phone plan to Tracfones for a significant savings, we also bundled our land line/cable/ internet. (Total savings: 1,600 a year.) What I learned from "Your Money or Your Life" is to do the math- now I multiply my spending or savings by 12 to see what I am spending annually on something- It can be really illuminating. (10 a week on cholcolate is 520 a year... but I need choloclate!) One other thought is that staying home can be limiting too- we have to get out and LIVE and have a variety of experiences all of which will deepen and enrich our writing and our lives. It sounds like you've had some very cool jobs!

Pixie July said...

Oh my, I just love this blog! It is truly beautiful - poetry, magic, and thick hot chocolate! This post was also strangely relevant for me at the moment, as I'm trying to work out any kind of direction/vocation for myself - no matter how vague! - so thank you. "Cassandra, it's not all about faeries and magic" is my quote of the day! xx

Anonymous said...

we live on opposite sides of the world but seem to follow a similar path. the decisions you make make today, however small influence the next stage and the next and the next im a bit of a thinker, and i could never put my thoughts in writing the way you so beautifully did.

El-Community said...

great posting........
but i don't understand what kind of a map life you mean....... could you tell me please???

howunremarkable said...

Great post...I very much understand where you're coming from.

I left a decent job (which I didn't love, but it paid well) to move with my boyfriend so he could be closer to his work. His job is also in a computer field, and his salary doubles what I was making before and triples what I'm making at the job I got here just to get by.

It's frustrating sometimes, but sometimes you just have to hope it's worth it in the long run.

Gabriel Gadfly said...

I'm doing the whole "quit-your-day-job-and-write-for-a-living" stunt right now. I don't think it's sustainable: I've got enough in savings to last me about a year, provided no unforeseen expenses come up.

But it's the happiest I've ever been. So, in the meantime, I'll bust my ass sixteen to eighteen hours a day, writing. :)