light tunnel

Quitting the Day Job


You know the light that we all look ahead to—the one at the end of the tunnel? I’m wondering what happens when you actually reach it.

Does magical warmth descend upon you and all your worries seem so much smaller that you immediately breathe easier? Does something occur that makes every itch seem unworthy of the smallest scratch, or is there something that you learn that makes all the woes of yesteryear float away cumulus style upon a blue horizon? Could it be that life hurts just a little less?

I have been pondering this a lot lately as I gravitate towards a new way of life. Within the coming months I will be a new person. Changes abound all around me and I watch everything unfold in something like disbelief, or amazement… maybe awe. I will become a mom this summer. Having spent Mother’s Day knowing that was a learning experience. It made me see all the women in my life differently. They seem taller somehow. Stronger and more beautiful.In addition to my pending parenthood, I have seen my debt slowly recede and I can fill my lungs a bit easier. On top of that I’ve gone from having three jobs to about one and a quarter—more on that in a second. So life is all around… well, good.

As a writer I’ve always observed, people-watched and saved the details of each of life’s journeys for savoring over and over again. Napkins and coasters and thousands of pages surround me still. Years of looking and learning documented every step of the way. It’s funny now, I see those differently too. Of course I gaze upon my scrawlings with utmost respect and deep affection. That part will never change. My writing is who I am. Yet now… something else is happening. Like a scratching at the back door of memory—an idea expands as if it’s growing and taking root in fresh soil. Newness. A breath of mountain air fills city soaked lungs. A skeptic heart opens and watches the world with devotion and respect.

This year is perhaps the best of my life. I’ve been able to stop running myself into the ground. I’ve been able to work on my writing consistently and I’ve earned the respect of some people who previously scraped their boots on my stoop. That said I feel like the transition happening now is like growing wings. Of course the wings need time to develop fully and they certainly can’t fly just yet. But they exist. I’ve waited for this for what seems like a lifetime. And now I have another one living within me.

Totally and utterly in awe.

Writers have thick skin. We must grow extra layers in order to have padding from the criticism that comes with the identity.

“Oh you’re working on a book? Don’t quit your day job!” rang daily through the halls of the publishing house for which I once worked. Bitter notions like this one circled all us lowly editorial minions as we scraped together rent with three roommates a piece and dreamed about finishing our Masters degrees and moving forward.

“You’ve got volumes of poetry in print? Doesn’t everyone?” laughed a higher up I’d worked for in Higher Education. Not quite knowing how to respond, I agreed shakily and wondered why the snarky dismissal had to be so acidic as opposed to the jovial rapport we seemed to have on the surface. But why wonder—just keep working and keep saving those paychecks. That little voice always tells you there is a light up ahead. It always helps you to press on. Thank stars for that voice.

So when is the right time to ease up on all else and focus on your writing? Who can say when the light will appear and lead you from the darkness of discouraged halfway-there-ness when the tunnel often seems suffocating all around as we walk its winding labyrinth? Well, I think in many ways we just have to feel it. There is of course, throwing caution to the wind, praying, meditating and wishing on all the sparkly things we see. Certainly there are the connections we make as we slave away in cubicles thinking about how we will one day rise above the push-pinned grey walls and have a room of our own.  Undoubtedly we come to a point where Ramen noodles are intolerable and we want to jump from our sixth story walk-ups as we contemplate climbing those steps once again. But then there is the light that is said to be waiting. So we press further on.

And one day, we find our second passion and we decide to delve on in. Be it yoga, motherhood or anything else that makes life brighter. When we do, we start to see that there won’t always be a cubicle or a committee that will review you yearly. There will not always be dark, dank tunnels. There will be something that gives you a spark, something that helps you gaze further ahead. And one fine day when you least expect it, you will reach the light at the end of that tunnel. When you do, you will immediately quit the day job, revel in your publications no matter how big or small and you will bask like a komodo dragon on an enormous bluff in the searing desert sun.

You have earned it.

I realize that this how it feels to be recognized. This year I’ve gotten recognition and not only have I wondered at times if I was being punked, pinched my own exhausted cheeks to ensure I was awake, but I have learned to say thank you. And when you can do that, the light is right around the corner. All you have to do is reach for it.

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