How Do You Measure A Year?

VillageQ Basecamp Chicago 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.

I spoke at Blogher and TypeA and Bloggy Boot Camp and SalonLGBTQ.

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.