Stupid or Genius? The Duality of Following a Dream

When I announced six months ago I was quitting my easy, fluffy, well-paying job nestled safe in the sweetly secure bourbon industry to start a freelance writing and graphic design business and to be a novelist, the reactions from family, friends, and co-workers ranged from envy to shock to genuine happiness for me.

“You are following the right path,” some would say, including my supportive wife, knowing my passion for creativity and affinity for writing.

As confident as I may have appeared, my balls were small, shriveled, and dainty as I cowere (1)

“I think you can do this … but how?” my mom said wanting to both offer her support and caution, her forehead wrinkled with worry as it was every time I told her about one of my big life changes.

“Oh, I could never work from home. I’d sleep all day and never get anything done,” was a strangely common reaction. I always thought but never said aloud, “Not if you wanted to continue to eat; not if you did this impossibly brave or undoubtedly stupid thing and announced it to the world and now they all are watching you to see if you will fly or fall; and not if you have dreamed of something your entire life (writing a book, in my case) and you now finally have the opportunity, nay, the balls, to do it.”

Yeah, balls. I said it. As confident as I may have appeared, my balls were small, shriveled, and dainty as I cowered in my bed for three months of sleepless nights due to this decision of dream-pursuing I made. But they were adequate enough to ride upon into either heaven or Hell.

Most were unbelievably supportive, though I did have one friend irreparably damage our friendship with her biting criticism of my decision to follow my dream.

I definitely do not have room in my life for anyone who is not going to prop me up during one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made. She was demoted down several tiers off my friendship mountain. I doubted myself enough without having someone else do it for me.

People much older than me loved my gumption – often saying they wished they had spent their lives doing something they loved – or looked on me as if I was a teenager going out to buy her first mustang with no references, no job, and no down payment.

“A freelancer?” they’d say, their voices raised in confusion. Most did not understand the amount of money that can be made from the Internet. Most didn’t think about the sheer amount of content forced through the pipes every hour of every day to feed hungry news channels, attorneys’ blogs, social media, product reviews – someone was writing all of this so that every morning when the world awakes, there’s a fresh batch of newly written words for eyes to feast upon.

I’m your word chef, and I now proudly serve you.

The doubt passing through their eyes as they repeated freelancer didn’t escape me. It’s a doubt I never met back when I would tell people I was a paralegal or a corporate journalist. Those jobs had merit. Those jobs were concrete. Those jobs were easily understood. Freelancer? I guess there isn’t any at-a-girl’s to offer or to understand, even if I’m a business-owner too.

Or is there? Now that I am 6 months in, I am happy, however cautious, to report the decision to quit my job and build a business around my natural creativity seems to have been the right one. Business is great. Part one of my dream is going well. I am far too critical of myself to ever claim any of my ideas are “genius” though I can concede that I have proven myself capable of the task.

“But Mary, what about writing that book?” Oh, you mean part two of my dream? Now that my business is financially stable, I am ready to begin. In fact, I began Saturday.

So, writing a book with little experience … stupid or genius?

Chasing Ghosts

 

IMG_2886“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.” – Eva Ibbotson, The Dragonfly Pool

Yesterday was my last day employed by the bourbon distillery where my father worked 17 years.

I made it 31 months.

It wasn’t that I didn’t inherit his stamina and work ethic. My co-workers were interesting, good people, with laid back, comedic and gossipy personalities one grows up around in a small town. Time tick tocks a little slower down in the valley where the distillery rises up above the tree lines.

Dad began working there when he was 19 until he was 36 years old. I was 12 when he got a better job making more money at a federal prison. He passed away at age 50 of lung cancer about 10 months after diagnosis. I was 25 years old, five days before turning 26.

Despite being an adult with a mortgage, paralegal career and a one-year-old daughter, the devastation of his loss brought my knee caps to the kitchen floor.

It happened after I called my brother to deliver the news. It had to be me to tell him. I knew it had to be me.

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Sometimes we are able to close the door on our emotions long enough to accomplish a difficult obligation. That’s what I did. I did it for months before dad let go of life. I knew I’d have the rest of mine to leave the door wide open, but not in front of him, or my brother or my mother. Not while hope and strength were needed as a priority to push us all through the treatments, hospital stays and filing for Social Security based on terminal diagnosis.

All until that moment when I hung up the phone with my brother; strength evaporated and took hope with it.

I knew part of me was going to be different from this point forward. I was not wrong.

My brother and I would join thousands of people who had lost parents, some young, and many who were much older than us. There’s an understanding expression in the eyes when we see each other, because it’s not possible for another human being to understand what it feels like to lose a parent until it happens. Not even if I were to craft a hundred metaphors to describe the feeling.

I wager the experience differs as well for those of us who were close to our parent, like I was with my father. (No, I’m certainly not saying it is harder or worse for me, but different.) We were so much alike, and we were best friends.

About two years after grieving dad’s death, I received a Facebook message from a friend working at the distillery letting me know her position would be open soon. She asked if I would be interested.

Here was a chance to meet many of dad’s former co-workers who I’m sure could tell me stories I hadn’t heard. I was tired of my commute to my current job and was feeling guilty about spending so much time away from my family, so I took the job.

I was right. Within a month, I had gathered many hilarious stories about my dad’s antics and humbling tales about his kindness. A few folks wandered to my desk just to meet “Otis Ball’s daughter” and tell me what a great person he was. I soaked it all up like a little shriveled plant thirsty for water. These were his memories brought to life through people who knew him well, and I had gained unfettered access.

My connection with my deceased father is so strong, I feel it even in death. Perhaps the pain comes from my inability to create new memories using our connection. Surely others left behind in the light of the living feel as I do. I was lucky. I had found a way to discover old memories which were new to me.

The job was easy, simple office work. I knew I was overqualified. Hearing about dad’s life from co-workers fed my soul, but the work didn’t. I was a writer. My passion lives inside words scrawled on a page. I liked challenge. I liked to help people.

Somewhere on my journey chasing my father’s ghost, I had forgotten my passion. So after several months soaking in the atmosphere where my father had spent half his adult life, I slowly began to write again, and realized I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore. Dad wouldn’t want me stuck in place on his behalf, a place I didn’t belong. A place where my talents were not utilized.

So I left.

I am pursuing a fulltime career as a freelance writer. When I switched majors my sophomore year in college from Physical Therapy to a double major in English and Communication, my father said, “How are you ever going to make any money doing that?”

me and dad collegeHe was laying on the concrete floor of the carport at home, fiddling under my car. The forest green Honda Accord was making a crazy scratching noise. He had the tire pulled off minutes after my arrival.

“I will,” I said, though I really wasn’t sure myself how I was going to turn words into cash. I was seated on my tire watching his greasy elbow move this way and that.

He turned his head and faced up at me to make eye contact. “Show me,” he said, then turned his attention back to the mechanics of the car he helped me buy.

Well, dad. I’m showing you now.

 

 

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I’m doing it.

I’m beginning to live a dream where I write all day everyday and make a living to do it as a freelance writer.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

-Henry David Thoreau, (Walden)

My favorite things to write about revolve around relationships, a subject I am passionate about and so felt it the most suitable topic of my blog. I write about all relationships – friends, family, lovers and interactions with strangers – the good and the bad.  I love to think about human nature and to describe it in a way in which other folks may relate. I explore the dark side of human nature, as well as the love. I have a skill for describing emotion and for dunking my readers into the sea of a situation so deep, they know how it may feel to be a parent, to be in love or to be stabbed in the back without ever having experienced these things. Other readers like to read a description of an emotion they’ve felt that they could never describe before. To relate.

Aside from writing true tales of emotional experience for readers to experience or relate, I’ll also provide useful information and tips regarding love, sex, marriage and kids.

Enjoy.

If one is so inclined to need a bit of writing for your own blog or business, a resume, content for email, articles, or whatever kind of content you require, please feel free to contact me at mary@anglincoulter.com.