I believe in taking a risk, even when the timing is bad.
Like everyone else, I have close friends who are newly unemployed. The rest are worried they might be next. My mid-sixties mother, who currently works part-time, would have liked to retire altogether this year, but her life savings were decimated along with the rest of the stock market. While quitting my stable job with benefits would be hard to justify at any time, quitting now, during this deepening recession, is almost unfathomable. And yet I have.
Last August my manuscript sold to a major publishing house. It’s my first book. I slept with the contract under my pillow for a week, like I was afraid it would disappear if I let it out of my sight. It came with a small advance, just enough to live frugally on for a few months, but nowhere near grand-gesture letter of resignation to your boss the next day huge.
So I asked my editor for a year to finish and tried to strike a balance. I worked 9-5 and wrote at night and on the weekends, like I’d been doing for years. I knew my writing was suffering because I couldn’t be fully “in it.” Still I hung on for a few more weeks, and a few more after that. Then I made a decision. This was my big opportunity, the one I had worked so hard for, and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way – not even the security of a steady paycheck and healthcare or the uncertainty of my future employment options.
I had moments of doubt. Like when my publisher, like so many others, reorganized and the division I signed with ceased to exist. I sat on my hands for a few anxious days before giving in and frantically writing my editor. I expressed my deep concern for her and for the company and then, as politely as I could, I freaked out. I carefully reeled in the first draft’s copious exclamation and question marks, and hoped it read like it was from an only slightly nervous person, as opposed to one who had gone over the edge.
I’ve also felt just plain selfish. Who am I to give up what I have now for mere faith in myself?
I tell myself quitting is OK because my husband and I don’t yet have kids and, honestly, we kind-of already live like we’re in a recession. We wear layers in the winter instead of cranking up the heat. Our apartment furnishings are all hand-me-downs and craigslist finds. Also, we’ve never really gotten comfortable with monthly bills so we don’t have cable, or our own internet. When we moved into our building, we simply found a strong wireless connection then knocked on a few doors to locate the source. We give the guy ten bucks a month towards his bill. He gives us his password. Presto!
But deep down I know I don’t need these justifications. Yes, it’s a really bad time for dreams right now. But I believe in taking this risk because, even though it has come at this most inopportune economic moment, it has still come. And I refuse to give up wanting to be a writer – it would mean giving up on myself.
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