Wrestling with Work Woes

Mi.Vida leaves for a five day trip late Tuesday.

This evening I had one of those realizations that I can’t, I just can’t be underwater before he leaves. I need to be standing on solid ground. Getting there is going to require a lot of work.

I know some of you hosted Healing Salons this weekend. I wanted to apologize for not participating. While I’m sure that the discussion generated in these “rooms” will be beneficial for some, it’s not right for me. I’m realizing as I move farther and farther away from the drama of last week that it has fundamentally changed me as a blogger and transformed my relationship with this community. And while I do think some important discussions should be had, I doubt anyone wants to participate in them, because they ask the truly difficult questions, questions I don’t think this community is ready to answer yet. And that’s okay. Perhaps they are unanswerable.

Last Monday, when all the shit was going down on Mel’s blog, I was at a local cafe writing my feature for the magazine I volunteer with (I took a personal day from work to get it done). I must admit, sitting there, researching and writing, I felt happier than I have in a long, long time. That feeling of bliss, after so many months of feeling so unhappy at my current job, has prompted me to look long and hard at what I want to do with my life.

On Friday I met with a woman who has authored and illustrated several children’s book. She was kind enough to meet with me to read my book and give me some pointers on how to look for a publisher. I’m also writing a piece about her for the magazine, where she will, coincidentally enough, give advice on how to get started as a writer and illustrator of children’s book.

I felt at home with this woman and I enjoyed our discussion immensely. She assured me that if I wanted it enough, I would probably eventually get published, but she also admitted that it took her a full five years to get published. I have to admit, that was disheartening to hear. Trucking back home in the cold wind, with my tired and cranky daughter in tow, I realized that my book probably wouldn’t be published anytime soon, if ever, and if I wanted to do this, really write and illustrate, I’d need to make a significant commitment to the endeavor. And I’m not sure this is what I want to do. I’m not sure how many more stories I have to tell. And I know we don’t have the resources to support a full fledged commitment to this path. I also know that writing and illustrating my first book required an incredible amount of time and energy on my part, and left our apartment, and my relationship, in disarray. I don’t know if I can continue to write and illustrate while working full time and being a mother. It just might be too much.

Needless to say, between Monday’s bliss, Friday’s reality check and the drudgery of the school days in between, I’m totally clueless what my next steps should be. I doubt I’d be able to get there even if I did decide on a final destination, which makes thinking about it feel self-indulgent and foolish. I just wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wish I had a definite calling, one I was sure was worth the sacrifice on my part and my family’s. In the meantime I’ll continue to write, here and at the magazine, I’ll continue to try to sell my book, but with little hope it will be published, and I will keep teaching to support my family.

For most of my life my job has been about making money – I have worked to support myself and now work to support my family. Trying my hand at writing for the magazine and writing and illustrating my book have shown me what it could be like if my job were about much more than making money – if it were about fulfilling a much deeper personal calling. I wish I could do work that fulfills both my personal and financial needs and I don’t know if I’m being negative or realistic when I assume that doing so will never be possible.

9 responses

  1. I don’t think you should give up. Dreams remain a fantasy until you make a plan. So yeah it may take years to publish, but if you give up now, then the word becomes “never”. There are lots of publshers out there who will say no to you. Look for “yes”. I certainly know what’s it’s like trying to juggle my needs vs. mothering/partner,etc. Enlist someone (your partner) or hire someone to give you a few hours or even a whole day (a holiday, sick day, a weekend) so you can move towards your goal).

    I’ve been an actress for years, and of course, for most of that time, I’ve done other work to actually pay my rent. But for those of us who continue to do creative work, at some point we realize that the pilot light won’t go out, no matter how hard we try. I’ve certainly realized that I can’t do what I want RIGHT NOW cause I’m a f/t mum who crams in work/Buddhist activities and caring for my mum, but the kids will grow up a bit and go to school, I hope to have my mind back to myself.

  2. Don’t give up! Keep trying even if it does take years. I think we all try to find a good balance of finding a job that fulfills personal and financial needs with varying degrees of success. I don’t have any great advice except to urge you to keep going. You never know what might happen and how things can change, but you need this outlet.

  3. Esperanza,

    I’ve been struck by what a fantastic writer you are — your background in linguistics serves you well — your ability to dissect arguments, argue them clearly and concisely — carry readers along with you on the way — perhaps the work you’re feeling connected to — the journalistic pieces – will lead you to full-time work that is fulfilling to you? I have faith that as you continue your volunteer work there, meet other people, connect with other writers and the business of publication — it’s not unlike a internship of a sorts — and I’m so impressed that you are doing it. A post of yours has stayed with me for quite a long time — remember the Jack of all trades post? I remember thinking how accomplished, how immensely talented — how driven you are — and wishing you could see it yourself.

    I felt that way about his post as well — I am a firm believer in following those places where we feel that bliss — if possible –and if we can’t leap off to follow it — at least keep our hands on the rope that’s leading us there…



  4. Man, these are hard questions. I wish I had the answers for you.

    I do believe that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I fully admit that what I do right now is not my life’s calling. I don’t yet know what that is. Right now I’ll settle for something that allows me a little more freedom to think about what I want to be when I grow up so that when it becomes clear to me, I’ll be able to move towards it.

    And I don’t believe it’s self-indulgent to work towards something you want.


  5. The work/life balance is tricky. We all want to do something we love, but it’s only the really lucky ones who get paid for it. Still, I think it’s important to inivest whatever time you can to doing what you love, if for no other reason than your own well-being. You are a talented writer and should pursue any outlet you can find for it, even if it’s not a paying gig. I wish you the best of luck in acheiving that balance, and your magazine work sounds like a way to do that.

  6. I think you should continue to pursue your dream of writing, even if you never get paid a dime for it. You are SO good at it and I really hope it pays off monatarily for you, but years from now, you will look back at your creations for what they are, not what money they made you.

    That being said, I know how burned out teachers can get, and I’m sorry work is so hard right now.

  7. I feel so similar. I’ve always just worked jobs to make money…I want so badly to live my dream, and make money while doing it. I hold onto the hope that it will happen someday. It just has to.

    And 5 years?! Really? Nope…I have faith we can make it way less! (and yes, I said “we.”)

  8. Can I just echo Wordgirl and say that I also think about your Jack of All Trades post and think, how does she do it?! You have more energy than almost anyone I know, but you’re not smug about it: instead you’re incredibly humble.

    Maybe your experience with your book won’t take 5 years. Maybe it will take 5 months. But, I think you would regret not trying. Says the woman with the unfinished novel 😉

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