On paper, stability is my soulmate (Keevin too, but oh girl that stability amirite). I’m responsible. I’m slightly anxiety-prone, a natural worrier, a perfectionist, a rule follower, a fan of direct deposit, pay schedules and yearly check ups. I know the in’s and outs of insurance more so than most 20 somethings, I always have a checkbook on me, and I spring for the every four months teeth cleaning. I could eat the same breakfast every single day, I love a good routine, I thrive in environments where I know where I stand, and every single person who has ever met me would say I’m dependable. I do the right thing. So it’s no surprise that growing up, my desire to be a writer – a novelist, in all honesty – was usually met by outside forces with total awe. They were always – thankfully – quite complimentary of my writing ability, but also quick to offer a pee-your-pants scary anecdote or two.
“Oh, I have a friend who wrote this manuscript…it’s incredible, really, I mean wonderful. You should read it. I’m sure she has a copy in her car, still. She’s been working in HR but you know, someday…”
“God, I’d love to write. Just like, to sit at home and write? I can’t imagine anything cooler. To bad I have bills! Ha Ha.”
So, with bills in mind – I graduated college and took a job that introduced me to some of my favorite things: my San Diego best friends, the true meaning of happy hour, digital marketing, social media management and four dollar margaritas. Turns out, I could combine my love of writing and my passion for social media into an actual career. I could also end my days with happy hour quesadillas now, I’m an adult. Jackpot! I was on a quick, small, creative team that allowed me to write my ass off, and I loved every minute of it. The work was fast, a bit unstable and absolutely fascinating to me. I was writing! Sure, I was writing about the fat content of an avocado or B2B whitepapers, ghost writing technical blogs and spending hours doing keyword research but I WAS WRITING. Oh, and I was learning from some of the brightest minds around which filled me with such pride. AND they were paying me to do it! Ha! Those big, bright minds were filling my mind with oh so much knowledge. Then, things changed. The creative was cheaper to outsource and I was asked to take on more analytical duties. Writing took up less and less of my time until it felt like I was doing nothing but numbers. It was like the universe was telling me yet again, that writing was a luxury – not a way to pay the bills. So I left. Packed up, moved to Orange County, and took a job in higher education. And told myself I’d write on the side. Plot twist: I didn’t. Not much.
You’d think since I was born to two incredibly brave individuals (who happen to be beautiful writers themselves, and also the most supportive people you could ever find) I would be out there writing with absolute certainty. Somehow though, despite all of the encouragement to find a way to pay the bills doing what I loved, I chased stability of doing what I could do, and doing what I loved on the side. At first. Then slowly, over time, making time to write felt like another thing on my to do list that I just couldn’t seem to get to.
I found myself wondering if I somehow missed my mark – if I’ve somehow missed my teeny tiny window of time where it’s socially acceptable to say “I’m leaving something stable to chase something my soul needs.” That sentence right there probably reveals me to be my true self which is, admittedly, a super soul Sunday loving, quiet time needing, book hoarding 55 year old, basically. I’m 26 now, not quite the age where it seems like I should be floating all willy nilly, career wise. All kidding aside, I’ve had friends who fearlessly chase their dreams like a dog in heat – slowing down just enough to toss a few winded voicemails my way, filling in me on their lives with run-on sentences and giddy-with-opportunity giggles. I silently – admittedly – questioned them. They’d leave jobs to chase a start up, to work for themselves, to join a friend in a unique business opportunity. And I sat back, and watched, and worked my 9-5 like I was supposed to. Supposed to. I wondered, often aloud and to their faces, how they were able to keep that pace up, how they were able to cope with so much unknown. Didn’t they feel like they had to succeed doing something traditional, and achieve that success like RIGHT NOW? Didn’t that success look exactly one way? Didn’t they feel the need to follow the path that society tells us is appropriate? Go to school, get a degree, get a job, build a career, meet a soulmate, marry the soulmate, buy a house, get a dog, build the career more, wait until the career is at a point where you can take time to have babies, make some babies, raise babies, blog about the babies, bake for babies, have a great marriage, work from home? THAT IS WHAT WE’RE SUPPOSED TO DO, DAMMIT. I was so sure that there was one path to take that I often wondered how others had caught a glimpse of a different route. A dark, scary, totally unknown route. I barely like to go into an un-lit bathroom (much to Keevin’s agitation – he always groans in his sleep whenever I flip the flood lights on to go pee for the trillionth time at 2 am) in my own home, let alone free fall into the universe’s possibilities. But, I watched those same leap of faith friends find success. And grow that success. And learn. Learn at an incredibly fast rate because they were out there, in the trenches, doing it. Whatever it was that their souls needed them to be doing.
Now a days, the idea of a ‘side hustle’ is quite common. A year ago, I said yes to an incredible client who had been asking me for months to take over content creation for a new site, and another for social media management. I worried if I’d remember how to do this – I felt rusty, a little behind the eight ball from my peers who had stayed in digital marketing, and abnormally excited. I rambled to Keevin, to my family, to anyone who would listen..would writing professionally just come back to me like that? Would I put pen to paper (or more realistically, freshly polished fingers to five year old mac book keyboard that is slightly sticky) and suddenly be able to turn on whatever it had been that made me successful before, successful again? Turns out, yes. I stayed up well into the early morning working on social strategies and copy drafts until I was satisfied – no, over the moon – with my work, and best of all – the two clients who had trusted me with their projects were, too. I felt a flicker of an idea, a calling, a pull in a direction that totally and utterly scared the crap out of me. Sure, these people had liked my writing but what if the others didn’t? What if I tried, what if I said out loud again that I wanted to write for a living, and totally utterly failed? How heart shattering would that be, to fail at the thing you love so much? Writing had always been part of my identity – as much so anything else. If I tried and failed, would I even know who I was? So, I shut it down like cops at a high school party. I went so far in the opposite direction that I threw myself even more into work that I knew, I knew, wasn’t right for me. I told myself that I had other things that brought me immeasurable joy – my family, my husband, my dogs, my friends, our home, work didn’t need to be such a defining factor for me. I would write someday, but that day didn’t need to be today.
More giddy, winded voicemails from another free-falling friend. I told myself, selfishly, that the jump I’d feel in my stomach when I’d hear from friends who were off chasing their side hustles was in fact superiority. I felt a bit better than those winded voicemails. I know, cringe. Sure I was beyond excited for my girlfriends but I worried! Or, I thought what I felt was ‘worry’. Didn’t they feel that same pang of worry I felt? I worried, and I was stable. I had a corporate job, a 9-5, a plan, a routine. That somehow made me feel successful. I had a paycheck coming in every month, an overloaded inbox, a never ending to-do list, business cards, moderate IBS from the stress of it all, and a succulent on my desk. I was killing it. And then time flew by. Still have the desk. Still have the succulent, admittedly it died so I replaced it (times five) and still have the 9-5. I also, on occasion, still struggle with a stomach that I simply refer to as ‘picky’. Still not really writing. I was doing the right thing, right? I’d left the fast paced, unsteady start up world and joined true corporate. Sure I’d wanted to be a writer but who can make a living at writing now a days anyways? Sure, my family and husband encouraged me relentlessly to write more, to do more of what I loved but didn’t they get the plan memo? Sure, I wasn’t writing as much, and I was having to turn down potential social media side hustle clients because my 9-5 was becoming more of a 7-6, with a two and a half hour commute and really, where was the time for anything ‘extra’? I had a job. A demanding job. A comfortable, stable, right job. I had amazing benefits, coworkers that I adore, and a boss I know better than the back of my hand. I could navigate this office with my eyes closed, we get a wonderful PTO package, the work I do seems important to those around me and yet…
I’m old enough to recognize and openly admit that what I’d passed off as a smug feeling of superiority was actually a feeling of total and complete jealousy. I know. Ain’t that some shit? It’s true, though. I’ve read enough Brene Brown books to own up to it. Those breathless voicemails, those unknowns and open ended “I don’t know whats next but I know this…” had all added up to some serious self-realization on my end. I’m not jealous of their struggle, I’m not jealous of their worry, I’m not jealous of all of that unknown. I’m jealous – envious, green with it, even – that they trusted themselves enough to handle all that and still be okay. Successful, even. The fact that they thought, that they knew they could handle the up, the down, the unknown, the jump, and stick the landing because they were confident enough, strong enough, ready enough blew me away. I’d always considered myself a fairly self-assured person and yet here I was, clinging with a death grip to a job that I knew wasn’t right, staying because I’d told myself it was right, and who the hell could leave stable to write? Well guess what. Me. On Friday, I told my beloved boss that I need to go, I need to move on, I need to take this leap of faith, stick that landing, and write. I’m leaving something stable to chase something my soul needs. It’s right. I’ve never been so sure that something is so right.