I’ve been where you are.
Getting up every morning to go somewhere you can’t wait to leave again at the end of the day. Counting down the hours until quitting time and the days until the weekend, when you are free. But even those precious hours are tainted by thoughts of eventually returning to work, when the cycle repeats itself and you are again marking the time until you can stay home instead of showing up to trade your labor for however many dollars an hour.
Like a child, you’ve cleaved to your dreams with a stubborn, illogical grip. Maybe your parents instilled in you the uniquely American belief that you could do anything, if only you put your mind to it. And what a mind you had, full of plans and ideas about the kind of world you would inhabit once you became an adult. Maybe you went to college, and maybe you didn’t. But you jumped across the stepping stones of your childhood, careful not to fall, always keeping your eye on the horizon and what you wholeheartedly believed waited there.
Now you have kids and living expenses, ends you make meet like clockwork as your dreams smolder on the back burner. When you complain, someone appears to remind you how fortunate you are to even have a job when so many people don’t. Hell, you tell yourself this sometimes, berating yourself for the directionless longing that keeps bubbling to the surface no matter what you do. Why are you so unhappy? You love your kids, your significant other, your pets, but deep inside, where that child you once were continues to live, you know that you were built for better things, that the American dream is a promise that will come to fruition if only you give it time…and you will, as soon as the kids are off to college and you’ve put enough away in your rainy day fund to justify taking a leap into the unknown. In the meantime, you keep your head down and work.
In the quiet times after dinner when the kids are in bed and you are alone with your thoughts, you remember the dreams you’ve guarded like shining embers in a high wind, waiting for them to grow into a blinding inferno. You consider your life up until now, the nonstop hustle to bring home a paycheck that never seems to cover all of the bills, the time spent away from your children that you can never get back, the parade of days spent at a soul destroying job that offers the stability you just can’t walk away from. The responsibilities you have don’t allow much room to breathe, let alone alter your life in any way, so your dreams diminish a little more as the years pass, those embers cooling as you watch, sad and helpless.
Will there ever be time, you wonder, to do the things you’ve dreamed of since childhood? Or is this really all there is?
You don’t ask this ungratefully (or aloud), because there are parts of your life that you cherish deeply. But beyond the claustrophobic limits of your small existence, you can just glimpse an entire universe of opportunity that might be yours if only you were willing to venture out in it. That would mean taking chances, and you aren’t sure how prepared you are to do that. You have a sure thing now, and exchanging it for an unsure thing seems crazy. And yet…
I am you.
I’ve known that I was made to write from the time I was in middle school. But I had a child young and married. So I dove into adulthood headfirst, and the responsibilities piled on. I struggled for years, working jobs I hated and jobs I didn’t hate but also didn’t love, all the while dreaming of words building sentences building paragraphs building books. In all those years, I did find room to write, but it didn’t pay the bills and money trumps all things when you have a household to keep and a child to raise.
And then, as if by magic, my child became an adult and the world shifted beneath my feet. I was still a young(ish) woman who could have that long sought after freedom if I wanted it. But not taking chances when you had a sure thing was so deeply ingrained in me that it took getting let go from a job to actually venture into that unknown universe of opportunity. I’m still exploring, but I’m also paying my bills with the seemingly limitless power of my imagination. Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared shitless every day that the bottom will drop right out from under me, leaving me no choice but to hurriedly spruce up my resume in order to secure another job that feels like it’s taking much more than it’s giving. But I’ve also never been more content with my work than I am right now. That’s more than something. That’s everything.
I won’t tell you to take a leap that I couldn’t muster until my child was safely out of the nest and I found myself at a crossroads–go right to find another unsatisfying job that would pay my bills or go left to find who the hell knows what. But I will encourage you to watch for the opportunity to do what you’ve always dreamed of doing, because the things that have doggedly beckoned you since childhood will lose their power one day and that silence must be awful.