I thought I had it all figured out, but I was dead wrong.
This past January, I left my comfortable 9-5 (well, more like 8:30-5:30+), nonprofit job as a grant writer in order to pursue my passions. Somewhat luckily, I was accepted into a fellowship that would allow me to learn more about filming, my second passion to writing of course. To make ends meet though and ensure that I was at least somewhat financially stable, I picked up a very flexible, very part-time job at a restaurant in downtown Philly.
I also stumbled into grant writing as a consultant for another nonprofit, as well as for a few individuals. I thought I was living the dream, dabbling in a little bit of everything in order to eventually find my way. I was even taking percussion lessons, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I received several comments about it seeming like I was having a “quarter-life crisis.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. This is because for once, I’ve taken a look within and made some tough choices, as well as having many days and nights of challenging self-reflection. So I was able to become more real, accept the good and the bad, and most importantly, genuinely attract positivity into my life. Yet, having the freedom to just try things out again was starting to make me feel like I was back in college. At the same time, I began learning that it’s just as important to dabble in things that fulfill us, rather than what we feel like we should be doing.
Through working at the restaurant, I would be taking a break from the intensity of the “social work” world, by not thinking about anything more than stocking glasses, folding napkins, pouring drinks, and answering phone calls. It was a nice break, to say the least. As this was happening, I knew that I was ignoring myself though, my true passions. I kept complaining and saying that I had no time for my own projects, but the truth was I was getting in my own way, partly because of the decisions I was making. And so much to my surprise, all of my feelings of empowerment surrounding my recent choices suddenly came to a halt when I found out in April that the restaurant I had casually worked at for four months was closing–-effective immediately. Mind you, I received the news in a hasty text at 3:00 in the morning on a Sunday, not the most professional way to be told something like this. In my heart of hearts, I had known I probably wouldn’t have been working there much longer anyway, as my weekends were blurring into weekdays, finding less and less time to myself and for quality time with friends and family. But still, it’s like a decision was made for me before I was even ready, before I had even decided for myself.
Yet once my time opened up, I panicked and ran away from myself. How scary it was to think about finally having the time to write, to work on my own projects. No longer would I have to fight with someone about getting the full pay I deserved, or being told I didn’t do something the right way (such is the restaurant life, I suppose). For once, I would have the time to do what I have always said I wanted to do.
So why the fear? I think it’s easy to run away from ourselves and keep ourselves occupied with thoughts and even activities that don’t matter as much to us. The hard work comes when we actually have to look within and be the individuals we were always meant to be. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a writer, but in a way I’ve always stopped myself short.
What if I get negative feedback? What if my voice doesn’t come out in an authentic way? What if I’m misunderstood? What if I represent an idea inaccurately? What if I fail?
I’m sure others have had similar fears, especially as it relates to those things that drive us the most. And so in a way, I’m glad that everything has transpired in this way, as I have continued to learn lessons that I know I’ll always carry with me.
Not even two days after I had learned that the restaurant was closing, I actually received the best email I could have received in that moment. A job I had applied to several months earlier let me know that they had been able to find the funds that they originally did not have, and would like to hire me. I was happy because this was from an organization that I’ve respected for years now, and kept a connection with because I felt strongly about its mission. And so I learned once again that with change, a positive surprise, and perhaps even more, usually comes.
The thing about change though is that we must not forget the lesson that was originally tied to the change in the first place. Thus, even though I now have this new responsibility to theoretically take up my Mondays and Wednesdays once more, I should not leave my other passions behind, only to resurface when another change comes rather than by choice. My writing has been waiting for a long time, and is even willing to appear on other days, days that do not belong to anyone but me.