As a middle-aged single, gay wannabe writer, there are so many opportunities for self-doubt. (Why is it that my parents feel they need to nurture that?)
Life would be far easier if I stayed on the ground. After all, being “grounded” is deemed an admirable quality. Unfortunately, I’ve got this urge to walk the tightrope. I’m a wee bit afraid of height so I’ll set it three feet above ground, but still there’s a huge risk of an ankle sprain. I’d be quite the wuss on crutches.
I have a solid job, one that I feel more satisfied doing than I ever have. I go about the days calmer, with a clearer understanding of what I can impact and what is too burdened by personalities and other issues. And yet I’m walking away from the job and the career in nine months. (Yes, I’m counting.) Perhaps seeing the finish line is what makes the work easier. Maybe it strengthens me. It excites me to think I’ll leave on a high note. If only all life changes could begin that way.
When I move, take a peon job (“Welcome to the Gap!”; “Have you tried our newest McFlurry?”) and put all my energy into writing, it will feel in some ways as if I’ve sunk below ground, but really I’ll be flapping, hopefully soaring, above. The pension fund will sit stagnant, enough to buy kibble for the dog in what has the potential to be a frugal Meals-on-Wheels-seniors’-bus-pass-thrift-shop-scrounging future retirement. I turn forty-seven this week. That leaves me with plenty of years to keep hoping my lottery numbers will come up if my writing dreams prove as silly as my childhood aspiration to work as an elf at the North Pole.
A nagging message in my head (presented in my mother’s cautionary voice) says, “Why would you quit your job? Why not write on the side?” Ah, yes, so practical. A sage suggestion for the grounded folks. I’m not wired that way. I require risk and discomfort to push me into action. When there is nothing to fall back on, I waste no time fretting and doubting. I write.
To my parents’ dismay, I’ve done this all before. I went through law school, passed the California Bar, clerked for judges and then worked as an attorney in a boutique firm with an office view of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier, only to decide as I hit thirty that I needed to start over. To do so, I had to leave California so there would be no way I could fall back on my license to practice law. I moved to Vancouver where I had but one acquaintance and no job prospects. I took a Christmas retail job on Robson where my manager was twenty-three and my coworkers lived for Saturday nights at The Roxy. I didn’t get as psyched about selling leather jackets as my colleagues and rarely made my daily sales target. Management chose to end my seasonal employment after Boxing Day.
I could have taken going from successful lawyer to unemployed sales clerk as a humiliating game-over fumble, but I needed that awkward time to stop speculating about my future and to DO SOMETHING! I’m pleased that I found a path to follow for seventeen years. To continue to amble along and extend the trek to thirty-two years is not an option. It’s safe, but it would foster feelings of regret. It should come as no surprise that my favorite poem has always been Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.
I can feel the excitement, but the pressure mounts as well. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing. I have a manuscript that will be ready to submit by the end of October and a screenplay that will be fully polished by the end of November. Maybe there will be bites, maybe there won’t. It is the beginning of a new phase in life. The journey on the tightrope is frighteningly narrow, with nerve-fraying wobbles. I don’t care how I look—I’ll wear a helmet and my old kneepads from volleyball—but I can’t wait to remove the safety net and give it a go. If, along the way, I have to mop up on Aisle 6 or cohabitate a moldy basement suite with a rat I’ll name Ben, so be it. I’ll twist a retro expression and say, “Write on!”