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Measuring Up

May 29, 2012

Quitting grad school, has left me feeling out of sorts. It doesn’t always register that I am no longer a student and that I am essentially unemployed. When it does I inevitably feel a sense of panic rising in my chest. I am by society’s standards unemployed.  Writing that conjures up a freight train of emotions that threaten to overwhelm me.There is a mantle that is thrust upon my shoulders, because as part of my decision to quit grad school, I am pursuing writing full-time. This has been a dream of mine for a quite a while, and I am fortunate enough to have the ability to try to make it a reality. I don’t want to take it for granted, I know that having the chance to pursue this dream job is not something everyone gets to do. I don’t think it will be a walk in the park, I don’t expect to be an overnight sensation (that would cool, though.) Prior to quitting school, I never minded the question, “what do you do for a living?” Even when I was working a full-time job (one that I didn’t particularly enjoy,) I was still able to answer with confidence. Now when the question is posed (and it seems to be happening rather frequently all of a sudden) I find myself dreading it. I have made the conscious decision to become a full-time writer, but whenever I try to say this, I can’t help but hesitate. When pressed for details, I find myself saying something to the effect of, “well I haven’t been published (as if this negates any and all effort on my part.) This results in either the pity glance (one of those, “oh you are so lost and confused..poor thing”) or an eye roll as they mark me off as unemployed and wasting time.

When talking about my decision with close friends and family I feel like I am trying to justify my choices to them, (not that they are (all) judging me, in fact some of them are the biggest supporters I have.) I am not actually “working,” I don’t have a “real job.” I struggle to think of ways I can explain, that I quit grad school to pursue my dream job of writing fiction in a way that doesn’t seem like I am just goofing off. I don’t know how to tell my parents, or other family members, that I gave up a career in academia to take up writing. (One unsure thing for another even more unsure thing.) I feel like saying I plan on being a writer is similar to a kid saying they want to be a superhero. Everyone else smiles at and says, “aww how cute” while they wait for the kid (or me) to grow up and get a job. I sometimes think I need to feel guilty for not finding “real” work, (There is no pressure from my husband on this, but rather an internal feeling.) When I want to shout about my fascination with my chance to learn about and create, I find myself listening to the inner critic, the one that says I am wasting my time, and that I am making a fool of myself. I feel the need to downplay the fact that I am trying to become a published author, as if I am saying I know it isn’t a real job, but rather a small flight of fancy. I don’t see it that way, I see it as the ability to pursue  a dream job. How often are we told throughout our lives, “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” (To be fair that isn’t completely accurate, it should be more, it will make working suck a bit less, because let’s face it, unless you are independently wealthy you are going to have to still work, though that doesn’t have as nice of a ring to it.) I still feel as though I can’t celebrate the fact that I am getting to go after my dream. I feel as though by societies standards I am sorely out-of-place.  I don’t have a steady paycheck, and I am not putting my degree to use. I have forsaken the ivory tower and the corporate world, in favor of a dream. I don’t measure up.

From → Post-Grad School

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