Whirlwind Work Week

In the midst of perhaps the busiest work week of my life, I got worried that my little blog was growing stale without a new post. What a sweet surprise to return to it today and see your overwhelmingly supportive comments – and most of them from readers I’ve never met! (I get a little thrill from finding new friends on here.) A little time away is good for blogging, apparently. Thanks for your supportive words and for sharing your thoughts. It’s great to know I have so many kindred spirits out there.

This week was an exercise in proving myself capable. Most days my work is the same series of tasks:  write and post a press release or two, monitor social media stats, direct inquiries, write content for our publication or website, email intermittently. On Wednesday my organization held an inaugural event that featured a former U.S. president as the keynote speaker. Exciting, right?

In the days leading up to it I was terrified. Working for Communications means that I’m responsible for helping with public relations and marketing efforts. It’s a big responsibility when you’re trying to attract more than 1,300 attendees. Among my responsibilities were proofreading print ads and brochures and programs, preparing press releases and story pitches, coordinating interviews with business leaders, dignitaries, faculty, staff and students, preparing questions for the interviews, conducting the interviews, collecting quotes from the keynote address and moderated question and answer sessions, promoting the event through social media, and doing any other task my boss requested of me.

I was worried that things wouldn’t get done. I was worried that I’d forget to communicate with people on changes made or that I’d miss glaring errors in our press pieces or that I’d say the wrong thing to our media contacts or that I wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting well enough to quote people accurately.

Well, there were things I didn’t finish. And of course there were changes made even in the midst of the event. There were a few missed interviews and yes, I really couldn’t read half of my handwritten notes past the third page.

But. We made it. It’s over. I’ve caught up on sleep and more importantly, we accomplished all of our primary goals though this opportunity and even discovered some surprising results along the way.

Driving home on Thursday I felt a sudden urge to weep. I can’t imagine what it’s like to hold a position where you handle these things on a regular basis, but for my first time participating in a project of such magnitude I feel like I’ve come out on the other side of this with a deep sense of gratitude and relief and surreality.

Did I really just do that?

And also this thought,

Let’s do it again!

As exhausted as I’ve been this week – physically, mentally, emotionally – I feel totally exhilarated. I’ve always been attracted to journalism, but this experience gave me a glimpse of what it would be like to dive into it and commit to it fully.

I love asking questions and hearing people communicate value. I love listening to leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative people talk about what makes them tick, the principles that inspire them in their roles, the concepts that move them to lead. It’s a powerful thing to hear leaders speak candidly about their mistakes and failures and lessons they learned through them, as well as the moments that affirmed their potential. In a room of more than 1,300 people, I felt the energy rise as the audience caught a glimpse of the surprising challenges and rewards of leadership.

In a strange and unexpected way, this experience was an affirmation of what I discussed in my last blog post. This side of it, how could I settle for anything less than what I am passionate about?

Every person has been given a passion for something. It could be writing and journalism, it could be culinary arts, it could be design, architecture, gender studies, teaching, music, theater, ministry. Whatever it is, we’re called to pursue to it. When we’re in the moment, it doesn’t matter how exhausted we are. The exhilaration of doing what we love and doing it well will tell us what we need to know:

This is what you’re meant to do.

The Dream Job : Going the Distance

It’s never good when you get a text from your best friend that says,
“I don’t know if I feel like going out tonight. I’m all weepy and crabby today.”
Knowing her, I realize I have two choices:
1. Take her word for it, because when she says she’s in a bad mood she means it. No use arguing with her; things will only get worse.
2. Test the waters. Feel her out. Maybe what’s bothering her is worth confronting, debunking, even comforting.
I bit the bullet and chose option two.
“What’s wrong, love?” 
“Oh, probably the weather and I started freaking out about school earlier.” 
She has decided to quit her full time job working as a customer service representative for a hearing aid manufacturer [what joy] to go to culinary school. The risks are real – she’s taking on school loans, she’s going to try and juggle school work and a part time job to support herself,  not to mention that she’s quitting a full time job when more than 8 percent of the country can’t even find a part time job. She has every reason to be terrified.
And yet. I’ve seen her in a slump, exhausted of repeating the same conversation with customers more than 100 times each day. Personally, I’d rather see her bustling around a bakery, whipping up delectable pastries we can devour, even if we gain 100 extra pounds in the process. Hey, since we’re talking sacrifices, right?
But it’s a toss up, a whole lot of “I don’t want to do this part” no matter which path she takes. She doesn’t want to work the job she has forever, but she doesn’t want to take on debt, risk her financial well-being and her stamina to make it through school.
“What if I fail?” she asked in the car on our way to see my husband play on Friday. Thankfully, she had changed her mind and decided not to wallow in worry over something that’s months away.
“I’m sorry, what? You? Fail school?” I asked.
“Yeah! What if I get so frazzled trying to support myself and get through classes that I flunk out?”
A silly question, in my opinion. She, of all people I know, is least likely to fail.
But as I’ve spent the last several months fiddling with blog ideas and freelance work, I’ve asked mself the same question about nearly everything.
Grad school: what if I flunk out? So I decide to wait until life “settles down” a little bit. [I have no idea what that means, either.]
Freelancing: I’m not a business person – what if I can’t handle the responsibility?
Blogging: what if they don’t like what I wrote? What if no one cares about this but me?
I’ve come to the realization that with any dream job or career path we chose, we have to keep in mind the journey and not just the destination. We have to be willing to ask, how will I get there? And we have to be willing to go the distance.
Freelancing and blogging require a lot of capabilities that I wish I didn’t have to think about. I’ve had to work on a business plan for my freelance work. Did anyone else know that this requires math?! Even with a calculator and guidance from other freelancers I know, my brain hurts. It’s excruciatingly painful to admit that my teachers were right [although I have yet to use algebra, mwahaha.]
I’ve also had to learn HTML coding. Don’t get me wrong, I only know a handful of code thingys [is “code phrases” the proper term?] but still, who knew that ugly series of letters and symbols actually did things, and that if you can’t figure it out things might disappear?!
And apparently “not being a morning person” is not conducive to productivity. If I could change my biological make up, I would, but for now I’m just trying to find some sort realistic incentive that will convince me that God created 6 a.m. for anything other than sleep.
I can’t tell my best friend not to look at the big scary numbers or not to think about how she’s going to be able to support herself on a part-time job while she’s getting her degree. I can’t be a successful freelancer and blogger without coming up with a business plan and crunching my own numbers. I can’t even tell her where she’ll be at the end of it; she’ll have a degree, but will that mean she’ll find a job right away?
And will I want to be a freelancer forever?
I mean, aren’t I a little young to be thinking about being my own boss?
And think about all the taxes and invoices I’ll have to keep track of if I’m going to do this!
And is this blog going to be a part of my writing career for the next 30, 40, 50 or more years?
There’s so much responsibility involved, and how will we know for sure that the destination is worth the journey it takes to get there?
We don’t have the answers. I don’t think we’re meant to. But if we’re too scared to even ask the question, to pursue the “what if I try this?” then we are choosing to live in the void, the unknown of what could have been.
So here are a few inspirations from around the web to keep you motivated :
I’m officially a Midnight Hustler, are you?
Part of pursuing our dreams requires being selfish.
Writing as an expression of life. I need to read Natalie’s book (and Melissa’s blog!) more often.
The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. A great article and a book I need to get my hands on.