Have you ever given up on a dream because you felt it was impossible to achieve?
I did once, and quite frankly, I was never more miserable.
When I almost gave up
When I first graduated college, I dreamed of landing a position as a professional writer. I searched high and low in every classified’s section and online job portal I could find to uncover that gem of a job where I’d spend my days typing out words people would want to read.
I envisioned opportunities would come rolling into my life when I graduated college. Yeah, well, opportunities for writing professionals weren’t exactly taking up columns, let alone even a sentence of space, in any of the searches I conducted.
My naive self took this to mean my dreams were over. I decided to give up on the dream. I would never be a writer. The opportunities didn’t exist for inexperienced people like myself.
I took my crushed vision, and ventured out on a more realistic romp through the classifieds. Two months after my search began, I landed a job as a Senior Operations Associate in a financial company. I walked into that tall building, with its mirrored windows and perfectly manicured bushes and lawns with a knot in my throat each day, and walked out with frustrated tears rolling down my cheeks each evening.
I lasted eighteen months in that torture chamber, and I honestly think it shaved off a good ten years of my life.
Never give up
Why was I so miserable? I wanted to be a creative writer, not to be a monetary wizard. Where others found gratification, I found a straight path to dissatisfaction. I hated dealing with other people’s money and the tantrums that often accompanied those dealings.
Why did I put up with it?
It paid the bills. Good ole money kept me shackled to a career that likely gave me my first strand of gray hair.
I needed the green bills, and this company gave them to me. I had a new, shiny, red car in the driveway and a charming apartment in the city of Providence. I succumbed to the comfort of having a steady paycheck, which resulted in many sleepless nights spent wallowing in useless self-pity and drowning in relentless tears. The need for money was my obstacle. It forced me on a path that I didn’t want to take and made me give up on my dream.
Dammit I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to walk off that graduation stage and walk into the large doors of a publishing house where I could work my way up the ladder of literary heaven. I had no idea what kind of writer I wanted to be. I just wanted to make a living writing something purposeful and engaging. For all I knew, I would’ve been thrilled writing the copy on the backside of a cereal box. It wouldn’t have mattered. I just wanted to write. I didn’t want to give up!
When I measured my dream against my reality the two were remotely off. The problem was that there were few positions available as a writer that did not require solid experience—something I did not have. There seemed to be no answer–no way to “break in.”
I thought I was doomed to a life of crunching numbers instead of expressing myself through the written word.
Then, one day, a light bulb turned on in my brain telling me not to give up.
When I got the message not to give up
While on a long hike, I vented to a dear friend. She then turned to me and asked, “But, isn’t a writer supposed to write?”
I tripped over her question, knowing with every morsel of my being that her words echoed truth. But fueled by my laborious trek up the mountain and a biting need to defend myself, I answered quite hastily, “I don’t have time to waste on foolish dreams. How am I supposed to carve out time to write when I have to concentrate on cleaning, grocery shopping, and oh yeah, working?”
Her patient reply was, “How can you foolishly waste time on work that kills your soul?”
I pressed on up to the ridge of that mountain. The fog hung thick and dense, choking off the last bit of reason in my heart. With each step up that unforgiving rocky mountainside, I allowed self-doubt to trample on my friend’s beautiful argument. Finally, breathless and irritated, I barked out, “I have no experience as a writer.” My words echoed through the trees, slamming back against me with a force too powerful to brush away.
My friend held silent until we ascended to the top of that mountain. Then she said, “You have no experience? Well, go get some then. Surely someone needs a writer just as surely as a soup kitchen needs servers and children need mentors. Write to help others, and pathways will open to you.”
I took a good wide view of the tree-dotted landscape below, breathing fully for the first time in ages. I felt the unmistakable nudge I had needed since I first dreamed of becoming a writer. Yes. I would go get some experience dammit! I would volunteer to gain my experience.
And so began my writing journey.
I left that soul-sucking job and worked as a hairstylist in a beautiful day spa, a position that brought me not only joy but endless ideas for characters and stories. Through those years, I volunteered writing articles for a local animal advocates group to help educate the public on issues pertaining to domesticated animals. Simultaneously, I began volunteering my time to write articles for hair salon trade magazines to help educate stylists around the globe on ways to market and build their businesses. Eventually, I discovered the writer inside, one who eventually discovered a passion for writing novels that depicted real life struggles and brought a sense of empowerment to love and friendship.
Stepping away from something that sucks the life out of you to discover what breaths that life back in is both scary and exhilarating.
I’ve learned that to stand for something requires action.
If you want to be a writer, you must write. If you want to be a painter, you must paint. If you want to be an actor, you must act. You can’t just talk about it. You must do it. Never give up. Often times that path opens up by our willingness to forge a new one where one didn’t exist before.
Did you give up on a dream because you felt it was impossible to achieve? What is one action you can take today to create an opportunity to make it happen? Please share so we can brainstorm. Don’t you dare give up!