Fulfillment

From the time I was in kindergarten, people have told me I was exceptionally bright and that my gift was in using words, specifically with reading and writing. I am not saying this to brag; in fact, I think it has been one of the biggest curses of my life.

To be clear, the curse was not in having those gifts, but the over-attention to them. Since I was in elementary school I felt like my life was planned for me, and I was supposed to do something involving words. (The obvious lesson here for myself and all parents and teachers: give your kids the room to discover their own gifts and goals.)

That led to dabbling careers in writing, substantive editing and librarianship. I have not found any of them particularly enjoyable or fulfilling.

There was once a time when I loved to write. In high school and for a couple of years after, I did not go anywhere without a notebook. I wrote everywhere: while waiting for appointments, on breaks from work, while watching TV. I even kept a notebook in my car because sometimes I had to pull off the side of the road to write! How many times I have wished and prayed for that to return.

My compulsion to write disappeared almost immediately upon getting married. While staying home with the kids I started my first blog, which I loved because I felt no pressure. I thought my friends were the only ones reading – though it eventually grew to a few hundred people reading daily and I got scary anonymous emails – and I didn’t censor my thoughts and said whatever I wanted. Writing a blog stopped being fun once I felt like it mattered.

Then I started freelance writing, and my love of writing died again. It’s still dead.

I’m making more money now from freelance writing than I’ve ever made at any other job (which is still not much, mind you) and I’ve achieved my dream of being published in a book and in national publications, but I hate every minute of it. I am finally realizing that the reason I lack motivation is not that I’m lazy but because I don’t really want to be doing this at all. I have spent most of the past 8 years working multiple jobs and attending school and getting excellent grades, while raising three kids. I enjoy being busy; I thrive on it.

I believe I am capable of writing beautiful words that could touch someone’s soul, but the harder I work to make a living from writing, the less connected I am to the spirit that I would allow me to write that way.

I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to be something other than what I am, what I perceive other people want from me. The only thing I truly enjoyed was studying sociology, but you can’t make a career from that. I tried desperately to be happy staying home with my kids because I do believe that a parent at home is the best thing for children, but it was an absolutely terrible fit for me.

I honestly believe I can achieve anything I want to, and so far I have. I just don’t want to achieve more in the writing field badly enough. It has been “just a job” since I started eight years ago, and not one I particularly enjoy. I believe that I should be a creative type person, working in an artistic or intellectual field, and that anything else is beneath me – but it turns out that’s not really me.

But I have periodically wanted to work in the medical field since my first child was born, and I’ve always talked myself out of it for numerous reasons. I am equal parts deeply intrigued and terrified by the medical field, but I don’t think it’s intellectual enough. I am analytical, curious, fascinated by the human body, and as the mom of three boys, I’m not easily grossed out. I want to be busy at work. I want to feel like I am helping people. And I want to feel like my work is physical and intense.

I am finally going to pursue the medical field, but this worries me too. What if rejecting what I’ve always been told I should be still doesn’t make me feel fulfilled? And even if it does fulfill me, what does it mean to give up on all those books I should have written? I feel like I am not living up to my potential. Not everyone supports me going into the medical field, either, and it’s clear that I am letting them down, which makes this even harder.

It is exhilarating and liberating to walk away from everything I was told about myself, but it’s also terrifying. What is my identity now?

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One response to “Fulfillment

  1. Larry A

    Like you I have been told since childhood that I have a gift with words. I have yearned to become a professional writer all my adult life, but was held back by doubt in myself and in what I perceived to be the quality of my writing. Also I have struggled with the most debilitating bouts of writer’s block for the last several years, and I still don’t even know why. I think it has been a part of me that is self destructive, self limiting, that kept me thinking I couldn’t realise my dream of being a writer. Perhaps it is the nature of being a creative minded personality that lends to being a tortured soul. Recently I have been able to overcome all of this through publishing some of my writing online and getting favorable feedback that encouraged me to continue on my chosen path. The greatest motivation then came from attending a writers workshop in which I was told by a successful author whom I admire, that I am a good writer with good ideas, talent, and am publishable. (provided I sharpen my writing skills just a bit, mind you, to refine my craft)
    This was a huge boost for me and made me realise that I can and should follow through with my path as a writer. Like you, I have struggled with deciding what I wanted my profession to be many times. I felt that I was obligated to find something that would make steady money and a decent living for myself and my family. Somehow I ended up being the one thing that as a teenager I vowed I would never become: a salesman. The rub of it is that apparantly I am very good at it, and have been successful. My gift with words is not limited to paper, it seems. It is however, not what I want to do for living, but it has been damn hard to walk away from since it has provided our household with an income for so long.
    I also yearn to have a profession that can make a difference in peoples lives. I’d like to think that my writing can be facilitated to do just that, by informing, educating people, showing them new ideas and new ways to view the world. I encourage you to pursue whatever your mind and heart desire for your career. Don’t let anyone disuade you from your chosen path. Not even yourself. Good luck to you in whatever path you take.

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