Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Writing Career Confession: From The Me of the Past

Do you ever feel like you'll never find your calling in life? Like you'll never find the work that sets your heart aflame with passion? You're trying to be a successful writer, antique reseller, blogger, it feels like it will never happen.... Well, I just received some career inspiration from "the me of the past". I'm sure it will help you, too.

Seven years ago when I first started college my professor had us write letters to our future selves. I naturally forgot all about it until the letter came in the mail this week. When I wrote this letter I'd just turned 18, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

Here's what 18-year-old me had to say to 24-year-old me:  

Dear whomever it may concern (which would be you which is also me),

This letter is addressed to the me of the future from the me of the past, if that is at all logical. I am your past self which still has within herself hope and ambition. Perhaps by the time you read this all of that will have been sucked straight out of your with a vacuum cleaner of despair. But instead I wish you happiness. I wish you complete euphoria with all your decisions and career choices.
The purpose of this letter, me, is to measure up- see what you've done with your sloth-like bulbous self the years while this state of myself have been eradicated from your consciousness as you've grown and matured. 

As of November 2, 2004 (election day, I might add) I am still uncertain about my choice of careers. My passion remains in writing, my ultimate talent. Journalism is a consideration. Another choice would be graphic design- too easy, too much competition, and not enough money. Advertising manager/designer would be fun! Anything that involves design with some writing or writing with some design is perfect. Perhaps a magazine editor, a magazine designer, or a writer for a magazine, hell- I could publish a magazine all my own. So am I conflicted? Oh yes sir, I am, I am!!! 

So what have you decided? Did you do what you had to do and are you successful and happy!? If not, well, I hate you. Go and get happy. Because if you aren't happy, nor am I.  

After reading the memories of that first year of college rushed back. I didn't know what I'd major in, so I took the recommended "Career Planning" elective. I was 17 when the class started, the youngest kid in there. Did I become what I wanted to? Did I fulfill those teenage dreams?

I'm shocked that the answer is yes- overwhelmingly so! I am an advertising manager and designer. My job incorporates both writing and design (like the letter said!), the perfect mix to keep me satisfied. I even get my "magazine editing" kicks by updating this blog, which incorporates a little of everything I love and keeps me creatively fulfilled.

Here's a confession about my success as a writer/designer/marketer... I dropped out of college. Most people assume I majored in advertising, graphic design, and even lofty aspirations like computer science, but after 2 years bumbling along in community college I quit cold turkey and went right to work.

I didn't stop applying for writing jobs until I found one, and when they saw how quickly and efficiently I write and make websites I was hired right away. I was 21 years old. (And it's funny, every recruiter who looked at my resume while I was job hunting said, "This looks like a marketing resume. You should work in advertising...")

Sometimes I want to go back to college, but I feel grateful that things ended up like this. I feel like I paid my dues and learned my skills from experience, by coding and writing websites since I was 11-years-old. I didn't need school to get where I am today. Now I'm free of student loans, and to be honest, I'm in a better position than a few of the friends I shared graphic design classes with.

The lesson here is the same as my Risk post. If you want creative work, take risks, put yourself out there, work hard for it. Take Risks and keep striving for success, and you'll get it!

Or in other words, if you wanna write: WRITE. If you want to draw: DRAW. I know a lot of you want to be antique resellers: SELL IT. Live your passion and don't look back.

Now, who wants to fulfill my 18-year-old prophesy and hire me to work on your magazine? :)

Are you living your childhood dreams now?
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  1. Thanks for this post! I found it really inspiring. I've always wanted to be a writer, but put it off because I don't feel qualified or I'm not sure how to get into it. But reading this has made me think about it and now I have the urge to gain some experience!

  2. Well that seals it. I will now go pursue my dream vocation of lion tamer at the circus. Thanks, Van! (Anyone know where I can find a lion cheap?)

  3. Emily: Get out there and do it! You can e-mail me if you have any particular questions :)

    Brian: Hey, you never know. But I bet as a kid you wanted to collect amazing toys and posters...dreams do come true!

  4. what i can't get over is that the letter found you 7 years later! how cool is that?
    i kind of am living my dreams. when i was in highschool i wanted to become a social worker and change the world. but when i started volunteering, i realized that i'd go to school for 6 years and burn out in 6 months. i just can't separate myself from the people i serve. so i fell back on my other two passions: writing and music. i got an english lit degree (that took me 15 years to complete because i worked and got married and had children at the same time) which qualifies me to do nothing other than read books. (that would be my dream job: who pays you big bucks to read books?) but having completed a degree does look good on a resume and so it has helped me land writing work. i also worked for and have volunteered as a youth pastor in two different churches. my writing work has been with Mennonite organizations and i have loved it. if someone had told me25 years ago that i'd be paid to write, i would have laughed out loud. and yet here i am doing it. i'm still working on the great Canadian novel and it may end up being my retirement project but at least i'm working on it. and now i'm blogging - which is so satisyfing: write, publish, get read! yay! i also sing in a great blues band, in choirs, with my talented son from time to time. so my music fix is also satisfied. overall, i think i'm a lucky girl.

  5. angelika: Very lucky indeed! I'm glad you're in a happy place and creatively satisfied.

  6. I think it's cool your current situation reflects a lot of things said in the letter to yourself that many years ago. Also, I personally feel a college degree is highly, highly HIGHLY overrated but this is just because I'm a little bitter at burning out trying to get a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering 15 years ago (I ended up quitting too!). Yeah, can you believe it... from EE to selling vintage items online LOL.

    I think a non-traditional route in career choice is sometimes the best, but definitely depends on the person.

  7. A La Modern: Your story reminds me of a friend who struggled to become an architect and now teaches ballroom dancing! I have so many other pals with bachelors and masters degrees and no jobs or unrelated jobs...

    I honestly think if I'd have finished school I'd be unemployed or severely hating my job right now.

  8. I wrote my response here:

  9. Okay so I quit Mechanical Engineering when I met my spouse. married at 21, had 4 kids, Lived all four and now at 33, have a 12,9,6 and 4 yr old kids. I am now living in Silicon Valley, where everyone walks around with a Phd. I really want to go back and get a degree and I started last fall..

    But I didnt know what I want to be when I grow up. So I started selling on Ebay and am happy doing that. I still dont know whether I would be ever finish my degree(I kinda feel like I have to because I would NOT let my children quit school) but yet why should I.

    I want your job!!

  10. Have you been spying on me?? These past weeks at college have been so horrible and driving me nuts, giving me a lot of stress!
    This was a mood lifter!!

  11. @sraikh By the time your kids are in college, they'll be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to finish a degree. I hope you change your mind by then, because it would be hypocritical and pointless to fight with your children about where they want to go in life. You should embrace their life choices, not fight about them.

  12. I forgot to add that I didn't consciously go about trying to make my 18-year-old dreams come true, it was surprising for me because it all happened organically. I've simply retained a lot of the same interests!

    Fenn: Thank you for your thoughts!

    Miss Lou: Glad it helped!

    Sraikh: Thank you so much for your confession :)

    Laura: Thank you!

  13. Great story, Vanessa!

    I'm also a college-dropout-writer. Except I dropped out in 1990 and went to work as a secretary, got married, had kids. Started writing so I could stay home with the kids. This also meant I got a crash course in THRIFT. :)

    I did finish college a couple years ago, and I'm still freelancing, but as you said recently it "doesn't light me up inside." Hunting for thrifted goodies I can re-sell and share, that does light me up. :)

    Thanks for your terrific blog - it's really inspirational and I read it often.


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