Lists. Choices. Decisions. Oh My!

I  am making a list and making it more than once. Maybe more times than that. In fact I think I’ll split the one list into two or three lists because the decision facing me is bigger than one list can handle.  I’m making these lists to help me answer the question: which way do I go?

“Asking the right question is half the answer.” Aristotle said. So perhaps this isn’t the only way to pose the question. And if one believes the adage, “there is more than one way to skin a cat,” there may be more than one right answer.

Therefore, I’m making multiple lists to help me answer this question: Given the choices presented to me, the opportunities unexplored but in my sight, the options that are still partially formed dreams, and my talents, desires and needs – how do I do “what’s next?”

Bottom line: I’ve been working on my reinvention from a corporate advertising executive to a writer/essayist/storyteller/multi-media person of words for several years. After my one and only layoff I took a year off from looking for jobs because it was pre-recession and the seemed right to take a break, to assess where I had been and make some adjustments for where I was going. Assuming I would live into my 100s I had another half-life to live and I wanted to live it purposefully. Even with that faulty assumption, I wanted to live more in-line with personal objectives.

Post-recession I half-heartedly looked for corporate jobs and non-profit opportunities. Nothing I found made my heart pitter-patter. More often my gut clenched when I read the job description and envisioned the lifestyle that accompanied it.  So I took a part-time job teaching graduate school, a couple consulting jobs and I went back to school. I love school. It has always been a good default for me when I’m not sure what to do.

After receiving a certificate in creative non-fiction I decided to focus on being a writer. One writes to be a writer. But to be a writer that is read and shared takes a lot more than just writing.

I had moonlighted as a writer while working a full-time job in the last century. That makes it sound so long ago, and while that’s true, it feels like just yesterday when the sight of my column in the Sunday paper or the sound of my voice on the public radio station made me fall in love with my creativity each and every time. Not fall in love with me, but with an essence of me that loved being out in the open – fully voiced, fully exercised, and eager for more. I felt alive like I hadn’t felt doing research on salad dressing or writing creative briefs for air freshener.

So I made a deal with an angel and stopped looking for corporate jobs, resolved myself to working for less than waitress wages while teaching at a premiere college because it gave me prestige, validation, a business card and something to talk about at cocktail parties. Nothing shuts down a conversation more than when you tell someone you’re a writer and the only recent evidence you have of this self-claimed title is a blog or an unpublished essay, or file of essays.

Then I set about my reinvention, which lasted well over a year and a half. Probably half of the time was spent learning how to navigate the day-to-day-ness of my totally self-structured, non-corporate life and handling some unexpected speed bumps –who knew that the little country of Liechtenstein would play a large role in my reinvention. I also needed to bring Husband on my journey. This isn’t so easy when Husband is a lawyer – a litigator. Nebulous, finding-your-self and selling your-self journeys don’t fit so easy into an evidence box.

I’m not making excuses for not feeling reinvented yet or ready to be released on my own recognizance as a newly reinvented woman cum writer/media person. I did the assignments – I’m a good Catholic girl, after all – and I attended all the calls, except for the time I was in Liechtenstein. I bought almost all the books, read parts of almost all of them, and all of a couple. The material came fast and furiously – vision boards and cascading goals, the prefrontal cortex and the gratitude journal, false beliefs and negative self talk, the ego and the heart. Who’s talking to whom, who’s taking the lead?

I walked the path each month during the call and fell off the path between calls. Got turned around and retraced parts of the path. Sometimes I just decided to run and catch up with my accountability gang because I just didn’t want to be alone. So even though I don’t feel ready to receive my reinvention certificate today, because 1) I don’t believe I’ve learned all the material, 2) I definitely don’t know how to apply all the material and 3) I believe that I will always be reinventing myself – I must leave this formal reinvention stage of my life.

I leave wistfully and a bit anxiously because I find myself in a state similar to when started: facing opportunities in a new world – a world of writing and media  – and a choice to go back to an old world – corporate marketing. The new world is much more defined than when I started and that is good. There has been movement, successes and a great big wild ride into writing a book that needs to be ridden some more.  The corporate marketing job, which found me since I wasn’t looking for a job as promised in my deal with the angel, is interestingly different than the one I left. It lacks many of the loathing characteristics that made it easy to turn my back on corporate life.

However, I have steeped myself in the creative expression of my life and exploration of the world. I know I do not want and therefore will not forsake my dream and passion of expressing myself through writing, of connecting with other women through words, of feeling alive by seeing my words in print or hearing my words spoken. I won’t do this because 1) I believe my talent lies in connection through communication and I can make a difference that way and 2) I won’t disappoint myself by walking away.  Goodness, I have a book proposal waiting for an agent. Life’s Too Short –And So Am I will be written!

All this means that I need analyze to what the corporate opportunity can bring to my table to make the feast better, not just fatter.  So it’s time to go back to my lists, which I will check more than once in collaboration with my best collaborators, much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me, this way is a very nice way.
Dorothy: Who said that?
[Toto barks at scarecrow]
Dorothy: Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.
Scarecrow: [points other way] It’s pleasant down that way, too.
Dorothy: That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
Scarecrow: [points both ways] Of course, some people do go both ways.

Wizard of Oz, 1939

There’s nothing that wearing a pair of red shoes can’t solve.

2 Comments

  1. I love the way you describe the tension between “finding yourself and selling yourself.” I feel like that’s part of the writer’s conflict as well. Someone at a session at BlogHer said that publishing was the marriage of art and commerce — which is a pretty rocky union in my experience! But it’s one that I keep wrestling with — especially after attending so many sessions on marketing, promotion, branding, etc. Still, the writer’s path unfurls before you, even if, like the scarecrow says, it seems to go “both ways.”

    Here’s to a better feast!

    • Julie (Author)

      You eloquently sum up the issue facing all of us trying to find a way with our words. I guess it doesn’t really matter which path we take as long as we are committed. Bring on the feast!

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