Well, I’ve been debating if I should write this post or not, but I feel like I have to get it out of my head. It’s been gnawing away at my brain for a while now. And I think the only way I can get rid of it is to put it out there. So here goes…
A while back, when I was questioning the direction of my career and what I wanted to achieve in life (before I committed to writing) I reached out to a pretty famous career counselor. I’m not going to name them or post a link to their site because I don’t want to drive traffic to it, but if you do a little googling I’m sure you can find it. Anyway, I’m going to paraphrase the email I sent: I had some niceties, introduction, explained my background, how I haven’t looked for a job in a while and felt a little rusty, how I felt stuck, but wanted to achieve more, all that good stuff then asked two questions… basically, how do you approach an open-ended writing sample and how do you handle a request for a salary history especially when they ask for one in the interview?
Looking back, those questions are kind of crappy, okay really crappy, but at the time I didn’t know where else to turn. Google gave me conflicting advice on both subjects, so that didn’t help. And I had seen other career counselors before, but they all gave me the same generic fortune cookie advice. Like “go to a quiet place and envision your goals” or “try some career tests, they’ll help guide you” or “don’t worry, you have your whole life to figure it out”… you get the idea. Helpful, right? Besides, back then I was a big fan of the blog. Although, I still like it, I’m just not as big a fan.
So what did they say? Oh you know… (I’m going to paraphrase again by using their actual words)… you don’t have the drive to achieve. You’re not aiming for anything specific. By your age (at that time I was in my early/mid twenties), high achievers have already failed at something. You should stay home with kids (note we don’t have any kids unless you count our furkids see pictures here). You’ll be a lot happier focusing on family than career. Although, there was one piece of saving grace which was the closing line that said: if you want to have a great career find something meaningful to you.
Now I’ll admit my initial reaction was anger. My line of thinking went something like this… They didn’t answer my questions. Somehow they felt they knew me from those three measly paragraphs I emailed. How dare they tell me to be a stay-at-home mom. What are we back in the fifties? Did they just call me a failure? They don’t even know me. How can they say these things?
Then my anger started to melt into reasoning: I did to aim for something specific. I was a professional ballroom dancer for a while until I had a career ending knee injury. That counts right? What about all the later in life high achievers? Like doctors who take eight years just to get their degree. That would put them on average around twenty-six. That’s not even counting residency and possible fellowship. Or what about authors? I know of many who didn’t achieve notable status until late twenties, thirties, forties or even later on. Like J.K Rowling, James Rollins (although he was a vet first, but that takes as much time as a doctor), James Patterson, Stephen King (who was twenty-six when his first book Carrie was published)… and if you’re curious here’s what other successful people where doing at age twenty-five. I don’t think some of them would have been considered high achievers at that time.
I’d like to say then I saw the light, but I didn’t. I stewed for a few more weeks until I forced myself to yet again read the email. And you know what? Anger consumed me like a dark hungry wolf. No, kidding. This time everything clicked. I saw the one thing that has perhaps provided me the most inspiration for embarking on my writing career. That last line, “if you want to have a great career find something meaningful to you”. Generic? Yeah, but you know what? No one has said that to me before. It was like the oil on the gears that put everything in motion. And it took me only two seconds to know what was meaningful to me… books, reading and writing.
Although, I can’t completely give the credit to them for inspiring me to write novels. They’re only the ones that helped me realize what kind of career I wanted. Not that I believed I’d ever be able to achieve it. After talking to them I shelved the idea for a while giving in to practicality instead. But that’s where my husband comes in. He’s the other 99% of credit because he’s the one who put the idea in my head (I’ll never forget the night when he said, “Why don’t you just try writing a novel” after getting exasperated with my million and one reasons why I couldn’t do it, but that’s another post), motivates me every day, encourages me and so much more.
Yet, it was finding that kernel of inspiration in the sea of negativity that helped me realize I should stop chasing intangibles like job title, status, money and instead look at what gives me meaning. And every time someone reads my writing, even if it’s just one person, I can’t tell you how meaningful that is to me. So thank you dear readers!