Saturday, September 6, 2014

Blogging the Jump

So I had a spirited conversation with a friend and work colleague of mine, Dean, on Friday. I told him I was leaving the ADA with the intention of turning the best of my creativity toward writing and following my lifelong passion.

I’ve been 13 years in the diabetes nonprofit world. I originally took a temp job at JDRF to pay the bills while I wrote, because I didn’t just want “a day job” while I worked on my novels. I wanted my 40-hours-per-week to mean something. I wanted to help. My decade-and-a-half in the nonprofit world has been everything I hoped and more. It has expanded my horizons and fed me to make life better for those who live with the constant siege of diabetes.

I had an unexpected talent for the work, so I got promoted. And as my responsibilities grew, as I went from Administrative Assistant to Event Coordinator to Manager to Associate Director to Director, I saw the window to follow my other passion shrinking. My concentration on writing started to come in fits and gasps. I began to wake up in the middle of the night wondering who I was: A nonprofit leader? Or a writer?

These days, I have a sterling career in nonprofit. This is a job people go to college specifically for, and I have been afforded amazing opportunities to learn and grow. It is one of the worthiest callings in the job market. Fighting to make sure those who need assistance get assistance. How could I let it go?

It’s been an emotional wrestling match. My uncertainty has been epic. I’ve been struggling for a year and a half. And in the last six months, with this tying up my mind, I wrote nothing of note. In the last two months, I started losing sleep, waking up in the middle of the night with a clench in my belly, with an honest-to-heart-attack constriction in my chest.

Not so good.

I looked desperately for the solution. I am the main financial support for my family. I can’t just up and quit with no income. If only a $1M advance would come through for Wishing World, then all my problems would be solved, right?

But as I talked with Dean, I realized that the point isn’t the money. $1M won’t give me more commitment to my calling.

The point is living my life. MY life. Not the life I think I should have. Not the life I’m talented enough to achieve. My life. Putting my all into that unique bit of myself that I have to give to the people around me.

There are going to be rocky roads no matter which way I turn. But if I’m standing in the center of myself, pointing my light toward what excites me, problems are just challenges I can’t wait to face. Walls are engaging projects on the horizon. Setbacks only point out how hard I’m fighting for what I love.

My friend Bridget, who made a similar jump some years back with nothing but a few dollars and a dream told me this: She said that the sacrifices she and her husband made to make their business thrive were –and still are– badges of honor. “We can’t afford two nice cars. Yet.” she said. “So I drive our kids in our one nice car and my husband drives the beater. It’s what we can afford on our budget. It’s old, with cigarette burns in the seat from the previous owner, and every time I look at them, instead of getting depressed about how I’d love a better car, it reminds me of our dream, our passion to succeed. It drives me forward.”

Me, I think of my kids. What if I deprive them of the life they deserve by stepping back from the higher yearly wage? What if they don’t get to go to the college they deserve because I couldn’t make any money off my writing?

But as Dean and I talked, I realized that money is not the best of what I can give my children. More than money, I can fill them with the certainty that they should follow their dreams.  I want them to at least try.  So I’m going to show them how.

I can’t see the end of all paths. Hell, most of the time I can’t see further than two feet in front of me. But I feel the opportunities to let my writing move to the next step all around me. What will I show my children if I walk away from those opportunities because I am afraid?

I’m ready. This is the adventure, and if you are interested in following it with me, I will chronicle it here. I will take my shot and write down what happens, success or failure.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Appreciating Alive

So I'm taking a job with less pay so I can free up my time and energy to focus more on writing. I’ve been in job transition lately, stuffed into the narrow cone of my frightened thoughts about the future. Will I have enough money? Can I pay for food, the house, the car? Will my children grow up living in cardboard boxes?

Two nights ago, I watched Gravity. After an hour and half of heart-pounding adrenaline and one impossible situation after another, with the main character finally reaching Earth and reveling in the simple fact that she is alive. Breathing air. Feeling water on her skin, sunlight on her face. She was overcome by the gloriousness of simply being alive.

The movie made my fears fall away. I sat back and realized that I already have the best of what there is to have on Earth, once I strip away the veils of torture I had laid over myself. I can give this gift to myself every waking moment, if I’m vigilant, by appreciating little things. These days I’m so barraged by the overwhelming stimulus of our society (facebook, Twitter, radio commercials, online articles about which celebrity had a fashion disaster or released naked photos online, the desperation of this political party or that, a billboard telling me I need the new, cool shoes), that it’s sometimes hard to know what to appreciate. What should I like? What is the right thing? But turning my face into the sun and feeling the joy of living right here, right now; it’s a gift. I get to appreciate it, or I can allow fear to make paradise a horror.

I know there are bad things happening in the world, but there are great things, too. I would love to say “just because I focus on the bad things doesn’t make them any larger or more important than the great things”, except the truth is: it does. I have firsthand experience that it does. My attention creates my world. So I’m determined to create a better world. For myself. As an example for my children to follow. Choosing happiness just because I want to be happy, because I can, if I'm vigilant, because there are so many things to be happy about. I am filled with appreciation and gratitude for the advanced gift I already get.

I’m alive, and while that admission may seem like the base level of what we get, the least that we can expect, the floor-level platform upon which to pile the really good stuff (fine meals at a restaurant, vacations to exotic locations, a sexy romantic night, a trip to Disneyland) I am happy to say in this moment of realization: It’s the very most of what we get. It’s the joy at the center of it all.