Follow Your Passion, Even If It Means Taking Some Detours
I’ve had just about every job imaginable. Park ranger. Waitress. Music teacher. Archaeologist. Corporate communication specialist. Prospective yoga instructor. Customer service representative. The list goes on. And on. Most of the jobs I didn’t want. Others I genuinely wanted (at the time). And you know what? I hated all of them.
Each job allowed me to develop new skills, meet interesting people, and in some instances, make the world a better place. But, no matter what I did or where I was, I watched the clock. Counting the minutes, the seconds, until I could go home. Every time I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I was wrong. A few advanced degrees, and a lot of student debt, later, things still didn’t feel right. Until I picked up a book in the free bin at my library.
The book was Chocolat by Joanne Harris, and it was the first time I had ever read anything like it. It was imaginative, enchanting, and full of magic, but it was for adults. Weren’t fantastical books only for kids?
Having never been a big reader most of my life, this story marked my obsession with books. Bestsellers to classics, I devoured all of them with enthusiasm. And the more I read, the more I fell in love with books where anything could happen. Books bursting with magic. Then I thought, Why am I not writing one of these stories?
When I was a kid, I loved to write. Creative writing was my favorite subject in school. I still have dozens of my old writing journals. There was a story about a $20 ice-cream sundae, several about my dog, and my very first horror story about a haunted house. Although these stories weren’t the greatest, I wondered why I stopped doing something I liked so much.
I decided to start writing my first fiction book while completing my MA in environmental studies and working part-time as a grant writer. I wrote on the weekends or late in the evenings, and I always looked forward to that writing time. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
After a lot of rejection and some harsh feedback, I took a break from writing, moved across the country, and got my first corporate job. I had a corner office. An expense account. Paid time off. This was a career most people dreamed about, but I was miserable. I felt chained to my desk, under-appreciated, and overworked. My husband reminded me how much I had loved writing and suggested I start again in my free time. A little older, a little wiser, I decided I would give writing fiction another shot.
On my daily hour commute each way to the office, I came up with story ideas, frantically writing them on Post-It Notes at traffic lights or when I was stopped in gridlock. Suddenly, the arduous commute wasn’t so bad. Neither was my road rage.
It took me a full year to finish my book, and I LOVED every second of it. Every time I sat down to write, it seemed like three hours magically vanished. I was no longer a clock watcher. My story was all I thought about. It was all I wanted to do. I didn’t care about what other people said or thought. I had a story I wanted to share with the world, and that was all that mattered. And that’s when I realized who I was. A writer. The answer had been right in front of me the whole time.
Today, I write stories about extraordinary people, things, and places. They go to fantastical realms that are built with memories. To mythical theaters where the darkest of magic is performed nightly. They interact with strange people, many of whom are based on real people I’ve known. When the characters in my books look inside themselves, they don’t always see the answer right in front of them, and they’re stronger for it. They make mistakes, they are stubborn, they hit detours.
I think back to writing silly stories when I was a girl. How it made me so happy. Free. Complete. Although it took a few decades, I finally followed my inner child and published my first book.
I quit my corporate job. I gave up a steady paycheck and the expense account. And I gave up wearing high heels. None of it was for me, nor would it ever be. Now I work at a tiny desk with a puppy snoring on my feet. Sometimes I wear yoga pants. Almost always slippers (like right now). Although I took A LOT of detours to get here, so what? These experiences allowed me to discover my greatest passion, and for that I couldn’t be more appreciative.