So I had a spirited conversation with a friend and work colleague of mine, Dean, on Friday. I told him I was leaving the ADA with the intention of turning the best of my creativity toward writing and following my lifelong passion.
I’ve been 13 years in the diabetes nonprofit world. I originally took a temp job at JDRF to pay the bills while I wrote, because I didn’t just want “a day job” while I worked on my novels. I wanted my 40-hours-per-week to mean something. I wanted to help. My decade-and-a-half in the nonprofit world has been everything I hoped and more. It has expanded my horizons and fed me to make life better for those who live with the constant siege of diabetes.
I had an unexpected talent for the work, so I got promoted. And as my responsibilities grew, as I went from Administrative Assistant to Event Coordinator to Manager to Associate Director to Director, I saw the window to follow my other passion shrinking. My concentration on writing started to come in fits and gasps. I began to wake up in the middle of the night wondering who I was: A nonprofit leader? Or a writer?
These days, I have a sterling career in nonprofit. This is a job people go to college specifically for, and I have been afforded amazing opportunities to learn and grow. It is one of the worthiest callings in the job market. Fighting to make sure those who need assistance get assistance. How could I let it go?
It’s been an emotional wrestling match. My uncertainty has been epic. I’ve been struggling for a year and a half. And in the last six months, with this tying up my mind, I wrote nothing of note. In the last two months, I started losing sleep, waking up in the middle of the night with a clench in my belly, with an honest-to-heart-attack constriction in my chest.
Not so good.
I looked desperately for the solution. I am the main financial support for my family. I can’t just up and quit with no income. If only a $1M advance would come through for Wishing World, then all my problems would be solved, right?
But as I talked with Dean, I realized that the point isn’t the money. $1M won’t give me more commitment to my calling.
The point is living my life. MY life. Not the life I think I should have. Not the life I’m talented enough to achieve. My life. Putting my all into that unique bit of myself that I have to give to the people around me.
There are going to be rocky roads no matter which way I turn. But if I’m standing in the center of myself, pointing my light toward what excites me, problems are just challenges I can’t wait to face. Walls are engaging projects on the horizon. Setbacks only point out how hard I’m fighting for what I love.
My friend Bridget, who made a similar jump some years back with nothing but a few dollars and a dream told me this: She said that the sacrifices she and her husband made to make their business thrive were –and still are– badges of honor. “We can’t afford two nice cars. Yet.” she said. “So I drive our kids in our one nice car and my husband drives the beater. It’s what we can afford on our budget. It’s old, with cigarette burns in the seat from the previous owner, and every time I look at them, instead of getting depressed about how I’d love a better car, it reminds me of our dream, our passion to succeed. It drives me forward.”
Me, I think of my kids. What if I deprive them of the life they deserve by stepping back from the higher yearly wage? What if they don’t get to go to the college they deserve because I couldn’t make any money off my writing?
But as Dean and I talked, I realized that money is not the best of what I can give my children. More than money, I can fill them with the certainty that they should follow their dreams. I want them to at least try. So I’m going to show them how.
I can’t see the end of all paths. Hell, most of the time I can’t see further than two feet in front of me. But I feel the opportunities to let my writing move to the next step all around me. What will I show my children if I walk away from those opportunities because I am afraid?
I’m ready. This is the adventure, and if you are interested in following it with me, I will chronicle it here. I will take my shot and write down what happens, success or failure.