Perspective. It can be changed by something as subtle as the way the light falls on something you see every day, which can suddenly transform it from the banal to a thing of beauty; or the more epiphanic moments that completely alter your point of view. For years I have looked at my life from one perspective. Even when I was telling myself that I was seeing the whole picture and therefore allowing myself a different frame of reference, in truth, I was not.
My life has always been defined by a need to achieve. To achieve solely in one particular environment. Corporate. And yet for years my life has defied that path. I have had a series of what I perceived as non-starter roles in corporate, which I always saw as a means-to-an end to reaching that role that was more interesting, more lucrative, more fitting. As a result, as interesting, as lucrative and as fitting as those roles were for where I was at that point in my life and career, they were never quite enough.
Then life, being what it is, completely upended all dreams of corporate servitude I had had and introduced me to the fluid and far more challenging role of a stay-at-home mom – cum -freelance writer. I started writing in earnest – working on a book I hope to one day see finished; writing short stories as I slowly built my writing portfolio, and starting a blog. All of my projects required research –which I am very good at, and was something I had always done in my previous life in corporate. They made use of my editing skills – again skills honed from a past life. They forced me to be creative with my time as I extended the use of my skills between my role as a SAHM and that of a writer – those critical project and time management skills required in any corporate role. And in my quotidian role as a mom, my organizational and administration skills were put to the test, daily.
And yet, because I was not in a corporate environment; not being paid regularly for the work I did; and without a job title that could be neatly emblazoned onto a business card to perfectly define who I was – all of what I did was not enough. Despite the fact that I loved doing it and derived real pleasure from it, even the very mundane, it somehow did not measure up to that corporate job which I seemed to always be preparing to return to. Someday. So I kept abreast with the topical issues of my former industry, even though they no longer held as much interest for me – but it was a way of keeping one foot in for when I did return. I even briefly flirted with the idea of doing an MBA, not ever entertaining the fact that an MA in Creative Writing would be money better well spent. I kept and fully maintained past networks from my former life, and in the process completely failed to build new ones.
Over the years, whether out of the half-hearted embrace of my role or because I did not network sufficiently with other writers and publishers; or whether I did not form a community of my own in my new industry, my confidence as a writer was eroded to the point where I stopped writing. I had convinced myself that in order to become a writer, I would need to be formally employed as one first. So the job search for roles requiring a writer and editor began. I had not realized just how ubiquitous the role of a writer can be. From technical writing, to copywriting, to writing for PR. It is a deep and endless well of opportunities. It was this realization and that short-lived excitement which made me aware that for as long as I was not a creative writer I would never starve. Short-lived because creative writing is what I really want to do. I want to craft stories, interspersed with writing content for paying clients of course, but my passion is in creative writing.
This awareness came at a time when I was fully immersed in the job search and now fully aware that, with time and patience, I could well find myself working as a writer, in a corporate environment. This would effectively tick off that box. That box which for years has epitomized what ‘working’ should be for me. But it would, in the process, force me to abandon what I truly love doing. I kept telling myself that I could ‘work’ and still write in my spare time. It did not escape me that I would be relegating my passion and my real work to nothing more than a hobby – all in the pursuit of that idealized job in a corporate environment.
Then last night we had friends over at our house for drinks. An eclectic mix of friends new and old, all from different backgrounds. I fleeted around playing the perfect hostess, and enjoying every minute of it as I talked about everything with all of them, and not a single time did the issue of what any of us did for a living ever come up. It did not have to. And even if it had, it would not have mattered – maybe as a back story to whatever the discussion was at that moment – but merely as secondary information. This was my a-ha moment. In this very random setting, amongst friends, my perspective changed.
It was in the simple re-telling of a story about a music concert I had performed in as a beginner adult player amongst eight year olds. I had been having lessons with a private tutor for about six months when, on his insistence, I signed up to perform in their annual concert. It was a two-minute recital which I played almost flawlessly. To be sure it was not how Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in D minor should be played, it was more Ode to Joy.
But, I got a resounding applause for it. Not necessarily for my performance, but for being the only adult, who had been brave enough, to get onto the stage to perform a minor piece of music with elementary school students who had been playing the piano for years.
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I said to my husband was: I am not the job.
As he lay there trying to decipher what riddle I was throwing at him, I got out my laptop and started writing this essay. It was that story from the night before that reminded me that what I have been for the past eight years has shaped who I am. Even without that corporate job. Especially without that corporate job. Because with that job, I would not have had time for those piano lessons which led to that performance. I may have sat in a chair amongst the audience applauding my son, and still wishing I had learnt to play the piano, but nevertheless very secure in the knowledge that I had that job. But I do not have that job. And for the first time I am cognizant that this, what I have right now, is enough.
It is enough that I am a freelance writer and editor. It is fine that my portfolio of paid work is sparse, because I spend more time crafting stories that may or may not get published, rather than taking on paying jobs. It is enough that I am defined by the experiences I have had rather than the job I have. It works perfectly well for me that everything I do, and truly love doing, is centred around my true passions – reading and writing. It is alright that I do not have that job because that is no longer who I am. Being a writer, published or not, is enough for me.