Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. – J.K. Rowling
Go to college, get a good job, make money. That was the formula my entire life. That was the goal. I did exactly that and I was miserable.
I’ve done quite a few jobs in the years since I’ve become an “adult” and one thing remained the same: I was unhappy. I struggled with the repetition of the daily grind, with the games that must be played to get ahead in any field, and with the rules of a corporate environment. I tried hard to make changes to usher in a younger frame of mind, but was met with at best a mild amusement and at worst an active interference from people who don’t like change.
But that’s the way it is.
And it’s true, there are very few environments that will greet change, even if the outcome is definitively positive. As time went by I realized the box I was trying to force myself to fit into was getting smaller and more restrictive. I was suffocating. I was losing parts of myself. Worse, I was actively sacrificing parts of myself. And all in the name of this formula that’s supposed to work.
Finally, the universe intervened. My last job was as a technical writer with a medical device manufacturer. My contract lasted a year and at the end of that year there was no room for me. I even tried to apply for a different position within the company. Going through the interview process was painful as I could feel myself bending past the breaking point trying to convince these managers (and myself) that I belonged there. The problem, at least in my opinion, was that I think differently, I come to different conclusions, and I arrive there via different means. Sure, to some that sounds great. That didn’t fit within the confines of this particular corporate mind-set.
Lucky for me I arrived at my own conclusion (with a great deal of help from the universe). I had spent several days a week for the prior I-don’t-know-how-many months (3 at least) in tears over how unhappy I was. It was questionable whether I’d have a job at the end of my contract and the fear of not having a salary was overwhelming. The idea of having a safety net was comforting and was the driving force behind my attempt to get hired. But somewhere deep down I knew I’d end up feeling exactly as I had at any of the other jobs I’d had – uncomfortable and repressed.
On the day I was to learn whether or not I’d be hired, the manager of the department in which I was looking to work called me into her office to deliver the news. She began the conversation talking about the feedback she’d received from the interviewers (6 in all!). I put a hand up and stopped her.
“Before you say anything, I have something to say. Give this job to someone who is going to enjoy doing it, someone who is going to succeed at it. I believe that I could do this job, but I won’t enjoy it,” I said (or something to that effect). As soon as the words were out of my mouth I felt a rush of relief, the proverbial weight lifted off my shoulder.
“I’m so happy you said that. I hate giving bad news and I was afraid of a confrontation,” she said, essentially delivering the news. I was not going to be hired there whether I wanted to be or not (universal intervention at it’s best).
We chatted for a few minutes about what I’d be doing, and for the first time in all my working years I said what I’d always wanted to say.
“I’m going to write.”
Those words nearly brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed with uncertainty, insecurity, and, surprisingly, joy. Then I reminded the manager of words she’d said to me during the interview process while we were discussing another manager with whom I thought I’d have trouble. “Never let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t get what you want.” As I thought about those words I realized what the unspoken part of that sentence is: even if that person is you.
Since May of 2017 I’ve been doing just that. I left that company with a hearty handshake and have committed to my dream of being an author with full force. As I have said many times on this journey – the road to your dreams is not paved in money. And yet, I have never been happier. I have never felt more fulfilled. I have never doubted my ability to make this work. Which is why the J.K. Rowling quote, which I came across only a few months ago, is so appropriate. This world, the world of writers, artists, and creators – the world of dreamers – is exactly where I belong.