I have always envied people who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. To have that kind of clarity is something I’ve only dreamed of. Me, I’m all over the map — gardening, sewing, writing, belly dance, aviation, landscaping, preparedness, interior decoration and organization, arthurian mythology, education… I’ve dabbled in all of them and more. That’s what makes this whole figuring out what I want to do with my life so hard.
Thinking it might help, I am retaking the Liberated Life Project’s Fall in Love with Your Work e-course. I figured that having gained clarity about my overall mission, it might help me narrow the field of options. So far, though, I’ve had no luck. When it comes to picking a direction (or even two or three), I’m still stuck, so I decided to do a little thinking on the keyboard — type it all out and see it that helps, sort of a pro/con list. Keep in mind, I’m unlikely to settle on just one, but it might help me narrow the field a little, and come up with a priority list and timeline for the things I decide to pursue. So here are the options in no particular order:
I am a writer. It’s who I am. I write poems, novels, essays, most of which languish in drawers and computer files. Sometimes I wonder why I write, and then I remember: because writing is like breathing. I just have to. I have something to say. Lots, apparently.
For years I thought that made writing the perfect career. And it was for a while. I can write the heck out of online banner ads, web pages, product descriptions… you name it. And over the years I have honed my editing skills to razor-sharpness. Which would be great if what I wrote for all those other companies actually mattered. Or if I was able to wield that precise editing sword to sharpen my own work. So far though, no dice.
Cons: no money, pattern of inability to finish, hate editing, hard work, frustrating, hard to get published, hard to market, hard to build an audience, takes forever, brings up tough emotional issues, sometimes I lose my words
Pros: lots to say, tons of ideas, in general, I’m a good writer, great vehicle for getting messages out there, low cost to entry, I’m going to be writing no matter what
I love making quilts — blankets, art pieces, objects. Quilts can comfort. Quilts can heal. Quilts can convey a message. The act of making a quilt is itself a form of therapy. When I find myself unable to write, making a quilt is how I work my way back to words.
Quilts are also my favorite form of service for a cause that hits close to home: helping to heal the devastation of war. I made my first Valor Quilt earlier this year and hope to make many more. What better way to raise money for that effort than by selling other sewn goods? What better way to raise awareness and inspire others to take up the cause, than by spreading the word through my work and my example?
Cons: highly time-intensive, high materials cost, seldom lucrative, can rarely charge what you put in
Pros: labor of love, believe in the power of comfort, the cause is deeply important to me, creating art changes the world for the better, can be used as a platform for important issues, i will make quilts no matter what
You know how a lot of self-help gurus these days tell you to go toward the thing that scares you? The thing that you secretly think about but are terrified of even considering. This is one of those thing for me. I have done some teaching, some mentoring, some coaching and you know what? I love it. But I’ve also seen a lot of coaches, teachers, mentors who seem to fit that old cliche “if you can’t do, teach.” I don’t want to be one of those. I don’t want to pretend I have the answers when I can’t even finish my own book. I am terrified of failing and letting people down.
Then again, I know what it’s like not to fail. To really make a difference for someone. To watch them change their lives for the better and know I helped them do that. And I know what it takes to write a book and change a life. I’ve done both. More than once. So there you go.
Cons: fear, lack of credibility/credentials, hate selling myself (and bad at it), fear it’s a shadow career
Pros: experienced writer/editor, mentor, and goals trainer, hugely satisfying/rewarding, could be lucrative, I’ve already done a lot of the work (or at least pieces of it), a lot of what I said in that cons list is crap
Here’s how I always start: My grandfather was a veteran. He never talked about the war. Maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have been devoured from the inside. Maybe if he had he would have been around longer.
War destroys lives, destroys families, destroys souls. The war machine chews people up and spits them out, shoving them back into a world where many no longer fit. No longer know how to function. They are burdened with the memories of what they saw and what they did often with little support in working through it. And so they grow silent, like my grandfather. This is not acceptable.
There are already several veterans writing projects throughout the country, one of which I have a connection to. This is the big one. The one that matters the most, matters so much that I can’t even breathe when I think about it. Yes, that’s probably a sign.
Cons: fear, lack of credentials/credibility, lack of experience with veterans, fear, too emotional around this topic, too introverted, not a veteran, fear, waited too long to get in touch with contact, overwhelming, no money, did I mention fear?
Pros: it matters, a lot, maybe more than anything else
I always throw this one in here. Partly because I’m a bit of a closet survivalist (make that a total closet survivalist. Partly because zombies are all the rage. Partly because I know I can take something scary and make it easy and fun (and maybe even help save a few lives in the process).
Cons: a little silly, would divert time, attention, and energy from more important projects
Pros: fun, easy, could make good money, important stuff for people to know, folders full of ideas, really enjoy it
So there they all are. Reading back through what I just wrote, it’s pretty clear which one tips the scales. But a girl’s gotta eat and pay the rent, so I’m thinking what I always think: maybe a mix of a few of these things is the answer. Because yes, I can always write and edit my way to a paycheck, but I’m tired of spending all my energy on others’ dreams while my own dreams languish. Especially when those others are corporations and institutions. Anyone can help them. Only I can make my own dreams come true.