Writer’s Gonna Write

I had an epiphany of sorts tonight. My head is on fire and my heart is light for the first time in a while and I have a very clear sense of self and purpose where, just earlier this week, things were incredibly cloudy for me.

I’ve been struggling with my new position at work. I’d stepped into the department with the intention of following a real career path, and I was initially incredibly excited about this prospect, and was content and even energized by committing 120% of my time and energy to this job. I had the certainty that I would be a superstar in the role, that the difficult things would come easier with time, and that I’d find the closest thing I could find in Corporate America to fulfillment and happiness.

Which, of course, was probably my first mistake, as that’s a very tall order to fill.

Instead of taking to the role like a duck to water, it’s felt more like pulling hen’s teeth to get me to fully understand and execute all the processes. I love all of the people in the department, and I love the idea that I’m part of a department that teaches important and useful skills to people in the company. That being said, the workload is easily twice what I had anticipated, and the majority of the work is the sort of boring, data-entry type of work that I’ve grown accustomed to at this company. Now, there’s something to be said for “getting in a groove” and knocking out a lot of data entry items while listening to podcasts or contemplating the mysteries of the universe, but that kind of work can also be really grueling — especially when there seems no end in sight to it. I don’t know how the individuals who previously held this position managed to get all of this work done in their 40 hour work week, but the simple fact that I can’t manage to complete it has really taken its fists to my already bruised self-esteem.

On top of that, the responsibilities of this new job tend to highlight some of my profound personal weaknesses. In some respects, I’m kind of like a mini party planner. It’s my job to send invitations, communications, coordinate hotel rooms, meals, book restaurant reservations, make sure everyone gets their flight information, arrange for taxis to pick people up, set up rooms for training, etc. Moreover, I need to be able to *know* what’s supposed to be done, to take initiative on these items without direct supervision, so that the classes run smoothly and seamlessly. Needless to say, I’m a bit of an epic fail at this. I am, after all, the person who didn’t even want to plan her own wedding, who begged her father-in-law to take over the logistics at the eleventh hour, and who didn’t get her thank you notes sent out until A YEAR AND A HALF after her wedding was over. I honestly do not know what my problem in this arena is, but this job has helped me realize that I have some serious deficiencies here.

So, considering that I struggle with pretty much all of my new job responsibilities, I’ve been in a slow downward spiral for months, now. Generally, being the Queen of Denial that I am and wanting so badly for this to work for me, I’ve tried to not even notice it. But every once in a while, something would trigger my insecurities — be it work-related or parenting-related or food-related — and I would just collapse in an overwhelmed heap, uncertain about how to move forward, and absolutely full of self-loathing. Because, obviously, I’m not any good at anything.

My husband can tell you I’ve been just *awesome* to live with these past couple of months.

Today started out like many other days. Struggling to finish things that were overdue, apologizing for delays in responses and acting on things, crying in my office because that’s something I do a lot lately, and feeling like an absolute loser for crying in my office because, who does that? But, a couple of things happened that turned my world around.

First of all, I had lunch with a friend of mine I haven’t seen in months. She’s been teaching this semester, and at first, she was really excited about it, but now, the amount of work and the energy drain she’s dealing with are more than she wants to deal with. She tells me that she’d rather be writing, and I realize that’s exactly how I feel, too.

Then, later in the evening, I go to a charity dinner for Friends of Literacy. I didn’t really know much about the organization, so one of the first things that happens is that I recognize an opportunity I can use to really help people. This organization needs people to volunteer to help teach people to read and to study for their GED. This is a volunteer opportunity with my name all over it. After that, many local writers are given various awards, and I get to listen to them speak — about reading, and writing, about living in Appalachia, about the fact that stories will live forever, all peppered with the beautiful literary references, allusions, and metaphors that comfort my heart, make me laugh, and speak to my soul. In a very real sense, I felt like I was coming home again. This was underscored by my running into the director of my thesis committee, who not only remembered who I was, but also said that he still referred students to my thesis introduction. I haven’t seen this man in six years, and I didn’t even have him in a class, but he still remembered me. He suggested that I come to more events like this — readings and meetings. I told him I would.

On the drive back home, I had a moment of absolute clarity. I’ve been so distracted by my “day job” that I’ve forgotten the “real work” that I want to be doing. Even if I’m rusty and out of practice, I’m still a writer. That is my trade and my craft. A wordsmith skilled in turning a phrase, weaving a metaphor, stringing paragraphs together, connecting disparate elements. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done, ever since I scrawled out my third-grade stories, poems, songs, and screenplays across my first small notebook in large, messy, purple letters. It’s an intricate part of who I am. Moreover, everything that has been happening to me — the crises, the breakdowns — these have all been leading up to a breakthrough. I’ve been planning for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been working my way slowly to a better writing life. There are things and motion which may make this an easier proposition for me in years to come. Most importantly, writing is work that makes me happy. I enjoy talking about it, doing it, thinking about it, planning for it, even complaining about it. I feel most comfortable in that element, most completely at ease when I have the keyboard beneath my fingers and the cursor moving across the screen.

Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not about to run out and quit the corporate life to follow my dreams of art and writing. As tempting as that may be at times, I have responsibilities — food to keep on the table, roof to keep over our heads. But, I definitely need to devote a small chunk of each day to pursuing these dreams, to practicing this trade. And I need to make sure I still have enough energy to devote to it when I get home from work.

Eventually, I may be able to master the ins and outs of my day job. It’s possible that the stumbling blocks that are causing me so much pain and torment right now are just temporary, and that I will learn how to effectively navigate them with time. But, what I do understand now, is that I already have a career path that I am passionate about, and that career path is writing. And it deserves just as much time and energy, especially because it is a job I really do love to do.

So, here I am, on the even of NaNoWriMo, with renewed faith in myself, in my abilities, and in the road ahead. My brain is full of words, and my heart is full of hope, and this writer’s gonna write.

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