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Is doing what everyone thought you would do enough reason to stay w/this?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by BYH, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Sorry for the long thread title. But it's been something I've been thinking about for more than a week now. Thanks to the Facebooks and the Interwebs, I've been reconnecting with a ton of old friends and acquaintances the last few months. And almost without fail, one of the first questions they ask me is "Are you still writing?"

    Now, if it was just an ex-girlfriend or a really good friend with whom I hadn't talked to in a long time asking that, it'd be one thing. The ex-GF and the really good friend knew my hopes and my dreams. But these questions are coming largely from people with whom I only had a tangential connection...we were friendly b/c our HS class was really small, at least by my town's standards, but we didn't run in the same circles.

    I wasn't a great athlete. I certainly wasn't a great student. I sure as hell wasn't known for being one part of a "power couple" in HS. I was friendly with the popular kids, but was not usually invited to their parties. I wasn't angelic and I wasn't a troublemaker.

    Yet, nearly 20 years ago, I made some sort of connection with classmates via my passion for writing. In the years after we graduated, all that other stuff--being a stud athlete, being popular, being part of the class couple, etc--grew less valuable and relevant until it was no longer worth the paper the yearbook was printed on. (True story: Our class couple broke up when he found out she was fucking his best friend. She and the ex-best friend got married, though!)

    But being The Guy Most Likely To Be A Writer (that superlative didn't actually exist)...that had value beyond the halls of HS, and it continues to have value today. It's nice, as someone whose self-esteem was pretty low in HS, to know people thought more of me than I believed, and to be able to do what my classmates and friends thought I was born to do is incredibly gratifying and invigorating.

    Yet...is it enough to keep going? I've been out of work for a while, and I don't have any real job leads right now. I'm 35, pushing 36. My wife and I are talking about starting a family at some point in the next couple years. I can't keep doing what I'm doing (or not doing), and I can't live paycheck to paycheck like I did when I was employed. At some point, I have to find something relatively secure on which our family can rely. Even if I find a gig in this rotten fucking industry, what are the odds I'll find something sustainable?

    But the thought of doing something else sends me sprialing into depression. I've tried other things, and I've been fucking miserable. My wife often worries about me identifying myself with my career and measuring myself by my success, or, lately, the lack thereof. But when so many other people think of me, 18 years after graduation, as a writer, how can I not, as well?

    Sorry for rambling, but this has really been gnawing at me and I had to vent. Thanks for reading.
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    You can always write, on your own time. Nothing can ever stop you from being a writer.

    But only a job*, not anyone else's perceptions of you, pays the bills.

    * OK, maybe a trust fund, too. You get my point. ;)
  3. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Rather than try to explain my job to people who knew me in high school or even middle school, I just tell them that I do "yearbook as a career" and, coming from me, they get it.

    I hear ya on the identity stuff, though. I'm totally guilty. It was great to have the Job Everyone Thought Was Cool™ even though the hours were horrible and the pay was worse. It made me feel important and successful that everyone else envied my job. I'm slowly breaking away as I get older and change my definition of success.

    But since we're referencing high school, let me use that as an analogy. If you are the hot cheerleader, is it worth going out with the star quarterback even if he's abusive? Let's say nobody knows he's abusive. All the girls in school are jealous because they swoon over him, and and there are guys waiting in line to hook up if he falls out of favor. But the quarterback has convinced you that you're nothing without him, that you should feel lucky he's willing to beat up on you. So do you stay with him, keeping the "class couple" status and the status quo because, after all, head cheerleaders and star quarterbacks are supposed to be together? Or do you recognize a bad situation for what it is, and start dating that nice guy from geometry class, the one who may not be a BMOC but always lets you choose the movie?

    I don't mean to make light of domestic violence, which I take very seriously, but I do believe this industry and certain workplaces in particular are quite abusive, mentally and emotionally if not physically. If you have goals and envision a life that this business cannot provide, you owe it to yourself to seek out the stable-yet-less-exciting path. (And those goals should not include impressing someone with your job title in ten minutes of Facebook chatter.)
  4. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I've seen his tits.
  5. Chef

    Chef Active Member

    If you can conceive a child after 8 seconds, this will be Boise State-Oklahoma type shocker.

    We kid because we care.
  6. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    BYH, I have the same thing going on. This is what everyone has had me pegged for since, like, 14. I've wandered far off the path, where working in the office is the only thing I do nowadays. Still, whenever anyone asks, I tell them I'm writing -- it's a lot easier to explain my job duties than to say "I am a Web monkey."

    It's a crisis of confidence for me, since like you, the only thing I think I do well is this. At least that's the vibe I'm getting from you. Writing, and for me editing, is our existence. Every time I have tried to walk away from the business, it has sucked me back in, which probably doesn't say much for my mental toughness.
  7. HC

    HC Well-Known Member

    Doing what everyone thought you would do is not the reason to stay with. It's not even the reason for doing it in the first place. You do it because it's who you are. It's not just your job - it's a vital part of your makeup as a human being.
  8. TrooperBari

    TrooperBari Active Member

    Like Cadet and wicked, I'm much in the same boat as you. I don't envision having a family, but that will only put off the decision for so long.

    I'll preface this by saying I am a raging individualist, but who cares what your classmates think? They don't know your circumstances, they don't know what you've gone through to pursue this dream of yours, and I highly doubt any of them have ever enjoyed the JRC Experience (TM).

    Your first responsibility is to yourself and your family. If you find a gig in the business that will support a family and let you continue on this path, all the better. If not, at least give yourself the chance to have a happy home life and scratch your writing itch with the occasional bit of freelancing or stringing.

    You may think of yourself as a writer, beej, but you deserve so much more.
  9. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    Agreed. But everyone else saying they see you do it may be an indicator of that. Folks can be perceptive.
  10. Magic In The Night

    Magic In The Night Active Member

    This is a great thread. I can relate on so many levels. Many times when I have run into old classmates from high school or college, they all nod approvingly and say, "You are the one who is actually doing what you dreamed of, what you said you were going to do all those many years ago." Of course, at what price? I have not had a lot of things they had with the home, family, etc. It's only in the last 10 months that I've found my true love and am moving toward marriage. And I feel happier than ever. Although I'm still hanging tough in the newspaper biz, it's not clear how long that will last. I'm doing my looking around for a more normal steady job that will allow me to have weekends and holidays off and not just pray this is the year I get Christmas Day off. I'll be able to plan vacations like a normal person and not have to work around furloughs and everyone else's requests. And I think when I run into those old friends after a few years of this, I'll smile and say, "Yes, I'm still writing. I'm working on my first novel!"
  11. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    One of my favorite pieces of advice I've ever gotten came from a man who was the titular advisor to the student government at my community college. I'd just finished my term or was about to finish my term as president of the student government.

    He told me that my presidency wasn't who I was, it was what I did. That holds true for ANY job.
  12. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Are we twins?

    I wish I could offer you some kind of magical answer. I do know that you're a writer. You may have to find a job outside of the industry, but that doesn't mean you have to stop writing. Someone will buy your words. You just have to fight to find that buyer.
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