Three and a half years ago, I was pretty miserable. I hated my boss, his insane expectations, and his refusal to be clear in his directions. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, worried about this project or that, and apply for random jobs on the internet. I felt trapped. I didn’t think my skills would lend to another industry, and I was scared to try something new.
I wanted to do more with my writing but wasn’t sure what. I was afraid my whole life would pass without my achieving the sort of success I always wanted.
I was lonely. That February and March, I’d dated someone who while seemed promising at first, left me a bundle of nerves. By June I was less nervous and worried, but still lonely sometimes.
I listened a lot to that song “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” (for some reason I really like the Scrubs version) with a mixture of sadness and hope. Life wasn’t awful. I had my health and a roof over my head, my friends and my family. I lived in an awesome city. But I kept thinking, This can’t be my real life. In my real life, I should be doing something different.
Three and half years ago, at the suggestion of a colleague, I gave myself the deadline of September 1, 2008 to be someplace new, or doing something new. Where or what, I wasn’t sure. But the deadline was there, and like the song says, I had a plan.
1) I needed job skills. In the months following – after some wavering: another writing degree? journalism school? – I decided library school was for me. By November I was in.
2) I needed a new job. I just kept applying and applying and applying. Luckily my company is so huge, there were plenty to choose from, though I only heard back from maybe 10%. This took longer and I didn’t get a new job till May of the following year. But hey, I was ahead of my September 1st deadline!
3) By that August I was ready to date again. By the end of September I had met Museum Boy. That was just lucky. There’s nothing you can about something like that except keep trying, like with jobs, even if “keep trying” means dating a few losers and going on many bad dates, including one with a 50-year old who needed bifocals to read the menu.
As for the rest – moving to SF, quitting my job, being able to write full-time, and now working for an awesome company – those were just out of my hands. I wish I could say I’d have quit my job and moved someplace new on my own. But if I hadn’t met MB, I’d have probably stayed at my company for a really long time. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to put all my energy into my writing, and I don’t know if I’d be as far along in my writing career as I am now.
The other day I realized, with a start, my real life has really begun. Regardless of where I live and my relationship, the life I was supposed to be living – writing full-time, getting published, earning a bit of dough at it, being steeped in the writing community – is the life I have now, and I didn’t even realize until a year later.
I wonder if setting that deadline triggered everything. My co-worker swore by it. I don’t know if it just forces you to make a long-term plan, you get busy achieving the short-term goals of your plan so that you’re not thinking about how miserable you are, and then suddenly, there you are, maybe a year later, maybe two or three, but suddenly you’re there.
In your real life.