One year ago today, I walked away from my career as a social worker, walked away from money and stability. In my mind, I was taking a risk though I can look back now and recognize that staying would have been a different kind of risk.
I told myself that I was taking a year to finish my book and figure out what was next but I realize now that I was playing games with myself. On some level, I believed that my leap of faith would be rewarded, buying into that whole door closing, window opening thing. Faith has never been my strong suit so I somehow convinced myself that leaving my career wasn't an act of faith at all.
I was doing what made sense.
I was opening myself up to the next good thing.
I imagined that my book would be finished and I'd have an agent and would be close to being published. On some level, I believed that I would find a way to make a living doing something that I love.
I expected magic.
When I reflect on those secret beliefs, the quiet ones pushed to the back of my mind so that I could manage my expectations, I want to pat myself on the head, smile and say, "Oh, Vikki..."
I remain a confounding mix of arrogant and insecure, naive and cynical.
In the past few weeks, I have wrestled with feelings of failure because I didn't finish my book, because I don't have an agent, because I am no closer to being published than I was a year ago and I've also had to grapple with the thoughts about windows and magic and success that I didn't even know I had.
My initial conclusion? I have wasted a year of my life.
There is often a split between what I know to be true intellectually and what feels true emotionally. For me, the only way to reconcile the two is to state the intellectual truths. I started by listening to trusted friends, repeating their words of encouragement as if they were my own. Then, I started acknowledging my own thoughts on the past year - the good ones, those that my fearful self didn't want to see. Then, I started saying things out loud, claiming my accomplishments. And now the questions are changing. I am no longer asking, "What more could I have done?" and "What could I have done differently?" but "How do you measure a year?" and "How do you define success?" These seem like much more productive questions.
So, this is how I should measure the year...
I finished the Foreword program at The Loft.
I received a Beyond the Pure Fellowship for writers through Intermedia Arts.
I co-directed Listen To Your Mother and read my work on a stage in Minneapolis for the first time.
I helped launch VillageQ, formed an LLC and continue to be an integral part of the site's evolution.
There were people who paid me for my words.
And...I have nearly finished my book - only two more essays to finish drafting.
Those are things that can be quantified and I know there are many more that can't be - friendships and connections, things I've learned. Really, the only thing missing was money. Granted - that's a big thing but it can't be the only way I measure the worth of the past year or anything at all for that matter.
A year ago, I left my job to open myself up to the next good thing. I'm learning that the next good thing doesn't always look the way you imagined.