Change for a Year

Take a year. Change your life.

I’m a Writer

That’s it. It’s done. I’m a writer now. Sure, I’ve written on and off for years. I’ve even made money doing so, but I’ve never been a writer. I was always just been someone who writes. Now I am a writer. I don’t have a choice.

It’s amazing what stepping down from $40,000 a year can do for motivation. I still have another job, but all that work amounts to a whole $18,500 a year. Try living on that and paying off student loans and car loans and rent and all the other things necessary to simply live life. I guess a better way to say it is that I now have to write; therefore, I am a writer. There’s no deciding I don’t feel like it and not writing for a month. I have to write, or I can’t eat.

And I love it. Comfort is overrated. It’s the wet blanket that suppresses the fire of your dreams.

For as long as I can remember I’d always wanted to be a writer. Back when I was young that meant telling stories. In high school it meant penning the next Great American Novel. One day teachers would pass out stacks of my worn and doodle-ridden paperbacks to students, making them write essays about themes and symbolism and character arcs. In college that meant seeing my name in Rolling Stone. I would uncover corruption and represent the little man through the powers of investigative journalism. Now, it’s churning out company blogs and writing website copy and submitting pitches to ghostwrite ebooks — anything and everything where I can get paid to write and enjoy what I’m doing.

But for the longest time I didn’t. Be practical I told myself in high school, and I declared as an engineering major. I came back to journalism in college, yet when it came time for the real world, I talked myself out of it. You can write in your free time I told myself, turning down a pretty solid chance to land my first post-college job as a newspaper reporter. And all the time I didn’t write. And all the time I wasn’t happy.

I have friends now who make great money. They travel and buy whatever they want and will probably have a cushy retirement. I used to wonder if I made a mistake in not pursuing a degree in the sciences. I would’ve been a bang-up engineer or software designer if I put my mind to it, but it wasn’t my dream. So I will live simply, and cheaply, for now. And hopefully happily.

The other day I read a great article in Wisconsin’s greatest treasure, the satirical paper The Onion. The headline read, “Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life.”

It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.

Is there any other way to live?

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

Comfort is overrated. Make a change. Do what you love or at least try to, because what’s the alternative?

12 Comments

  1. Great analogy made Re “comfort is a wet blanket that suppresses the fire of your dreams.”
    Do the thing you love, weekends and weekdays? Yessir. There’s no other way to live–life is short….
    Glad I read this today. Thanks for sharing your story. You’re doing good for yourself and for others.
    Cheers.

  2. Very insightful, thank you so much! It’s funny how I was having this conversation with my hubby just yesterday in the car. It went something like “We’re giving away 50% of our day to something we really don’t care about…and the other 50 we spend TRYING not to think of it (sometimes in vain…) and trying to squeeze in as many things that we do care about as possible …this isn’t a life, I don’t get it,….” Frustration and anguish was kicking in, and then, we just left it at that and tried to enjoy whatever we had left of our day, because in the end, that’s all we have.
    But then, I read this post and well…life works in mysterious ways…it just brought me that much closer to the “truth”. Thanks Jeff! 🙂

  3. Though I am not a writer, this post really resonated with me. I, like yourself, have a science degree, but one semi-career change already within science and I am not sure science is my thing. My partner actually read that Onion article to me and while it was funny, I am sure that most people can truly relate. Sometimes I forget that I am not the only one on a journey and that is what brings us all together, our imperfect humanity. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Ah! I just may be the college version of you! Hearing about your repeated return to Journalism and timeless passion for the art, I feel so reaffirmed in the worries and woes I’ have had here at school, pursuing a Journalism degreee. I wrote a blog post a while back touching base on what you’re saying here. Read if you’d like- http://madisoncorbin.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/whyicouldneverstudysciences/

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. So you’ve actually made 2 huge changes this year. That’s enough now. Same something for 2014!

  6. It takes a lot of courage to make the decision to leave a comfortable job for your passion, as you have. It is difficult when most of society seems to think that we all need a “normal” job like the next guy. This is something I’ve certainly struggled with, but I’m still fighting to get to the point you’re at now. Cheers to you for making the change!

  7. I wish you well in your exciting ventures and look forward to reading about your experiences.

  8. I understand that conflict. In college, I loved liberal arts but thought I should get a science degree. I ended up doing both (biology and philosophy), but I always felt a little unsure of my path because I was afraid to just dive in and give 100 percent to what I really wanted. I’m glad I did it that way because it opened up more job possibilities, but I think I distracted myself with too many different paths. I admire your courage and know you will succeed if you keep following your dreams as passionately as you seem to be.

  9. Yes, I am also a write on wordpress!

  10. I loved this post! I love your courage, and your commitment, and willingness to sacrifice comfort for a dream. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. I love this post. Really encourage me to pursue my dream. That article is a wake-up call. Thanks for sharing.

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