“I’m a writer”.
There is no phrase I can utter aloud that both fills my heart with as much joy and shakes my soul to the core to the same time. Writing has always been ‘the big one’, the dream that never faded, that stands quietly waiting behind my more ‘realistic’ goals. Most importantly, it’s always been the thing that makes me come alive.
I’m currently taking a publishing course, I’ve written over half of a book. I’ve let go of the ghostwriting someone elses ideas to step up with my own voice, I’ve published a few things online, I have a blog with a fairly decent following, and I got an award for a poem I wrote last year. Yet still when people I know ask me what I’m up to, I tell them about travel, I tell them about the English classes I teach online, I tell them about how I might maybe one of these days finish my therapist internship, or how I’m applying for teaching positions abroad, because uttering the phrase, “I’m a writer”…makes me feel a lot like one of those nightmares where I accidentally show up to school with no pants on.
Those words “I am a writer” feel true, but make me feel naked, vulnerable, and quite honestly… batshit.
Naked because saying this requires me to remove all the layers of ‘should’ I’ve spent my entire adulthood hiding behind, and say, “Hey, this thing that I’ve wanted since I was a kid, that every social construct and ounce of rationality tells me should be a hobby- I plan on doing it for a living. Everything else I tell you about my career plans is either fear, socially acceptable bullshit, a distraction, or a means to pay the bills while I figure this making a living with my words thing out.”
Vulnerable in the recognition that some people are going to look at me like I’m crazy, tell me about how many books get published and fail, and how many aspiring writers never make it, and ask me what my back up plan is, which essentially feels like stripping down to my essential self and someone saying, “Duuuude weirdo, you’re in your 30s. Put your clothes back on, preferably a pair of dress slacks and some sensible flats, and start worrying about a 501K. If you need a goal, train for a 5k like everyone else your age. Write a book? What a delightful but absurd fantasy.”
And then batshit when even with the awareness of all this I confess, “I’ve decided not to have a back up plan anymore.” Why? Because my back up plan always makes more rational sense, and then it sneaks up into the front seat, and I end up realizing I haven’t written a damn thing for weeks. Sure, I’ll find ways to pay the bills, and hopefully continue teaching in a way that feels authentic, but as far as future plans go… career goals… Writing. Is. It.
I recently started realizing how off track I’d gotten when I sat with my little brother and talked about his plans for the future. He just finished his first year of college, and I saw the same look I had in my eye when I was his age. It’s that quiet confusion that comes when you realize for the first time that you don’t want to settle for typical, yet it butts up against everything you’ve been socialized to believe about what your career and life path ‘should’ look like. I think he’s already aware that he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than what he’s passionate about. The urge to have him jump in my car and go on a road trip was strong, but I realized he’s on his own unique journey which quite likely doesn’t have anything to do with crisscrossing the globe and refrained.
So instead, I immediately started yammering on about how big rewards require big risks (there is nothing that turns me into an obnoxious bumper-sticker-speaking motivational speaker like realizing my youngest sibling is asking all the same questions I struggled with), and it was healthy to question whether the things that were supposed to make him happy really would and to carve his own path. Yet as I drove away, I realized how I needed to practice what I was preaching. I have this big scary dream of my own, yet still feel afraid to take those risks and step outside of the cultural norms- for fear I might appear crazy, or even face for a time being something considered even worse than crazy in Western culture… unsuccessful.
Screw playing small, screw playing it safe. In this moment I’m recommitting more energy to being a naked, vulnerable, and batshit crazy writer, even if that means I end up living in a foreign country so I can afford to work part time and have more time to do what I love, and failing 80 times before I finally succeed. In fact, I know myself well enough to say I’ll probably find five reasons I shouldn’t be putting it all on writing, I’ll probably announce ten more career paths I’ve decided on besides this one while my friends laugh because its only a matter of time before I change my mind. But I’m going big, especially now that I’ve realized it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about announcing my big dreams, and showing up to prove that no goal is too big, no ambition too ‘batshit’.
….and hey, if I’m going to be crazy, I think go-big-chase-the-fuck-out-my-dreams is my favorite kind of crazy.
To my baby brother… Dream ginormous kiddo, I freakin’ love ya.