When I got home from Alt Summit I immediately walked into the bedroom and cried. Like the ugly cry where you just stand there, (me with my hands on my hips, purse thrown on the table, coat hanging off a chair) and let the tears run down your face. Why? Because from the very first panel my brain had exploded and I was left to fend for myself for the next 3 days without it. Truth.
Why? Because up to this point I had been gearing up to begin applying for teaching jobs all over the country. I had wanted to do this in grad school, I had thought this to be a wonderful existence. Teaching writing, surrounded by colleagues and students who had similar passions, talking writing and thesis paragraphs, grading papers, having a career and a steady pay check. I had given myself a deadline, I had requested transcripts. The ball was rolling. The only issues: The time consuming CRAP that is applying for such demanding and highly sought after jobs, and knowing that I would mostly likely be shipping off to small, truck stop USA for at least 2 years. Ugh. And then I went to Alt.
The first panel also happened to be where Meg spoke. The discussion was building your community, and she was the first presenter, amazing power point and all. And as I watched and listened and heard people asking questions that could have come out of my mouth, I realized I couldn’t do it all. I can’t be successful here at betterinrealife, successful teaching, successful editing, successful writing short stories and novels, all at the same time. If I tried to do all of that I would a) go mad b) fail at everything c) get divorced or d) all of the above. Sitting in that panel I slowly (no – quickly!) realized I could not and should not attempt to do it all, and that I need to *gasp* choose. Suddenly I was painfully aware that it’s not that as a struggling writer I am so limited by job choices that I can only do what’s handed to me and therefore must wait patiently as a temp, it’s that I have the opportunity right now, right this very moment, to do everything I want, that I am standing at the beginning of many, many paths, going off in many, many directions and until I pick one I’m going nowhere.
And right now I’m writing, and editing, and on the verge of freelance, so why force it? Why ignore the journey the universe is pushing me to begin? Why make it harder on myself? It doesn’t mean that being a writer, like really being a writer (where, you know, I write for a living? vs teach for a leaving?) will be any less difficult, or time consuming, be any less frustrating, or frightening. But it is what I love. It is what I do. It is what I’m good at.
Alt had some rude awakenings, some in your face wake up calls, some disappointments. The kind where the more you know, the more you see, the more you experience can scrape as you learn the ropes, can sting as you realize the world isn’t as you imagined… completely. Realizing the business of writing, the business of blogging, that it can be calculated, thoughtful and, in some ways, competitive was overwhelming at times. But through all of those growing pains I see that I can now carve out my own path as it presents itself, as scary as it may be, I can take my first steps forward.