Thursday, February 12, 2015

2-12-2015 Entry: Wrestling with Failure


What do I want to do with my life? That is a question I have been asking myself for as long as I can remember. My mother would probably roll her eyes in exasperation if she knew I was still asking myself this question because she witnessed all the vacillating I experienced during high school, college, and even post-college. In one way this question is truly easy for me to answer because I know what my dream job is, but I’ve somehow managed to give up hope on that dream job. What some of you may not know is that I am a writer, and I don’t just mean of blogs. I actually write fiction stories, including two published novels, but since publishing my second book, I’ve lost all my steam and am now just a train stuck on a track with no power to move forward.

I wish I could say my writing efforts had led to the success that I envisioned, but that would be a gross misrepresentation. I have made less than a thousand dollars from my writing efforts over the last couple years and the income continues to dwindle. I know many are probably thinking, who cares about the money, if you love to write, then write! But I just can’t bring myself to do it anymore. So many hours of my life were poured into the writing, editing and publishing of those two novels that to get almost nothing in return for the effort is just too disheartening. I didn’t expect to become a millionaire over night or to even be able to quit my job right away, but making $40 a month off of my work is just disgraceful. It makes me feel like such a failure.

 I used to be so excited about it, I used to enjoy telling people about it and pouring my free time into it, but lately I can’t even open up my laptop to work on either of the two novels I have going right now because it feels pointless to do so. If I write another book will I start to make $45 a month instead of $40? Is it really worth the hundreds of hours it would take to finish what I’ve started? I’d love to think that this time around things will be different and I will have greater success than I had before, but that just feels like a self-delusion. I used to think that if one continued on despite failure all around them that they would eventually find great success, but the more times I fail the more that line of thought just sounds like madness.

So, I come back to my original question: what do I want to do with my life? Setting all the transgender stuff aside, I have been feeling quite lost about my future lately. I am so unbelievably fed up with being a paralegal that it’s become a monumental chore just to get out of bed in the morning. Every single day my alarm goes off I ask myself if I can get away with calling in sick. I, being the “responsible adult” that I am, never actually do that but what does it say about my current profession that I detest the idea of having to do it every single morning? Aren’t we supposed to find some kind of work that gets us up in the morning? Some kind of work that keeps us up late at night and captures our hearts and minds combined? For a very long time writing was that for me. I loved to write. I loved brainstorming my books and stories. I’d spend hours and hours after bedtime toiling away on my stories, but the continued lack of financial viability of it eventually stole my enthusiasm away. I know if I won the lottery and could quit my paralegal job all I would do is write. I’d write, write, write, and write some more, not caring if I was selling 10 books or 10,000 books. If money was no object I would just write. I’d blog, I’d work on my novels, I work on my poetry, and I’d continue to answer emails for my gender therapist friend, and I would feel so fulfilled; that I know for certain… but money is an object.

The $3000+ in bills a month won’t just disappear, so what am I supposed to do about those? I know, I can work and write at the same time, but how does one find the motivation to write after one has spent all day working at a job that’s just mentally draining? Don’t get me wrong, my employer is very good. My job is very good, but it’s not the right one for me. It’s kind of like being in a semi-committed relationship with someone you just sort of like. Sure, you can have fun, you can have great experiences and learn a lot about yourself, but at the end of the day, your heart just doesn’t sing like it’s supposed to. Maybe the sex (aka money) is even pretty good and allows you to feel somewhat satisfied in that way, but you never have a say in how it’s accomplished; you essentially just have to go for the ride and hope it’s not terrible (and sometimes, it can be).

So, if my job drains me of any motivation or creativity, and my writing isn’t going to be paying my bills anytime soon, then what should I do? I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school to get my master’s degree, or maybe even a Ph.D. in psychological/marriage and family counseling, but do I really want to do that? Do I really want to spend several more years of my life studying, writing papers, and taking tests in order to become a psychologist/therapist? I certainly find a great deal of enjoyment out of corresponding with people questioning their gender identities and really enjoy when my correspondence with them actually helps them feel better or come to a better understanding of who they are, but would I be quitting as a writer by going back to school?

Maybe that is a stretch but this is the dilemma I am currently wrestling with. If I admit that my writing may never actually become a full time job, and I make arrangements to find a career more suited to my personality and desires than being a paralegal, does that mean I’ve given up on my life-long dream to be a writer? I’ve believed for a long time that the only true way to be a failure is to give up or to quit, so would this mean I was a *true* failure?

Part of my concern here is that between working full time and going to graduate school part time I have to anticipate that my desire to write will be even less present than it currently is; I mean, a person can only handle so much “working” before they need time to unwind and relax, right? And if graduate school takes years (between 2 and 5 years depending on what I choose to study) will I ever be able to pick my writing back up again? I can already feel rust accumulating on the creative writing gears inside of me from a lack of movement after just a few months of not writing, so what will a few years be like?

Obviously these are all rhetorical questions but I’m feeling relief in having asked them here. I want to believe that I can do all three at the same time. I want to believe that I can finish off this career in law as I work towards a bright future in psychotherapy at the same time that I dabble some more in fiction writing, but I’m not sure I can do all of that at once. Luckily I don’t have children and based on my conversations with my wife, she doesn’t want them for at least a few more years, so now truly is the best time to try to accomplish all of this, but do I have the capacity to accomplish all of it?

I think I might just have to be crazy enough to try. I refuse to believe that I can’t still become something of a writer. Maybe I won’t be J.K Rowling or Stephanie Meyer and make hundreds of millions of dollars, but I can be a transwoman extraordinaire who’s also a part-time author, a gender therapist, and a doctor of psychology, right?! Perhaps going to graduate school doesn't have to mean that I'm giving up on my writing career. Perhaps I should just release any expectation I had that being a writer was something meant for me. I don't mean that in a bad way, but for so long I've been clinging to this idea that I would never find happiness unless I became a full-time author, so maybe by letting go of that idea I will find a way to love writing again. I think that's what I'm going to try to do.

Well, thank you for bearing with me on that written journey of self-exploration. I know it probably wasn’t all that great or interesting for you, but I certainly feel a lot better about my future than I did 30 minutes ago.

-Emma

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