Did you hear the one about “building a wall”?
No, not that wall. I mean the idea that one’s very own success comes with a lot of self-constructed boundaries. Yeah, I’ve never been very good at that. Setting my own boundaries.
I could go down the laundry list of all the things that have been “wrong” with me or how “injured” I’ve been, but I feel in many ways that I’m ready to let go of all that baggage that I’ve been carrying around. Maybe, in fact, I’ve already let it go.
Because yesterday I quit a job.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I haven’t quit a job since 2011 (and that was a very toxic and abusive workplace). I don’t just “quit,” and I’m not one to shirk responsibilities.
The job I left was as a staff writer for a really amazing publishing group, but – in the words of Freelance Whales – “I’ve been feeling well rested, and healthy…” meaning a number of passions are falling aside, at least for now.
One of my big passions has been beer; not just in the “I love to drink beer,” although I do, but also in the fact that for the past six years or so “beer” has been my main income source. Writing about beer, wine and spirits has kept me afloat (in more ways than one), but I’m feeling less of a calling there. I am being pulled in new directions with new opportunities and, whenever a writing assignment is coming up, I feel that I’m being pulled away from these opportunities.
So I decided to build a wall.
It’s not the first I’ve constructed these past 18 months.
As I noted after the 2016 election, I started to retrench after all the hate that was being flung from both sides really impacted my psyche. I know the world can be an ugly place, but we Americans don’t know just how good we have it (aside from the, you know, six million of us who live on less than $4/day… but I digress). And I have been using that time away from the nay-sayers and rage-filled rhetoric trying to boost my own gratitude and awareness of just how good I have it.
At the start of 2017, I set out some very concrete goals. They didn’t necessarily have the steps fully formulated to get there (while well-intentioned, I got busy living – thank you Andy Dufresne – and didn’t follow through with planning my route to these goals). However, simply having goals in my sights kept me from veering too far off course. As major changes swept through my life (again!) last year, I weathered them knowing my compass was pointing true north even if my ship was mired in fog.
By the end of 2017, it was amazing the progress I had made. For the record, I had goals set out based on 1-year, 3-year, 10-year and lifetime quests. This was where I was a mere 12 months after honing in on what I really wanted:
- Lose weight – I didn’t get to the full 60 pounds I needed to lose, but I’m 25 pounds lighter now than I was at the end of December 2016 and my diet is completely changed in the hopes of getting rid of the remaining 35 pounds this year (I’m pushing myself for a friend, whose very life may depend on losing weight, so I’m sharing my good health with another human!).
- Establish stronger friendships – When you’re a single mom and work from home, making friends can be tough. I have definitely felt my circle grow, as I have also let go of some relationships that were extraordinarily important to me. You cannot make another person commit to you or love you or be a better human if they are hellbent and determined to go their own way. Stronger relationships also stem from ties that go beyond “drinking buddies”; something that I’ve seen as I retract my presence in the beer world. When I need support from friends, it is never the drinking pals who show up. I still love having these social butterflies in my life, but I see now that – border patrol alert – I should keep boundaries there so that I’m not hurt when I care more than they do.
- Write a screenplay – While I didn’t write a screenplay, I am writing one and will be doing my first WIP (that’s work-in-progress) reading this Sunday! I’m nervous and excited. This is as part of my scriptwriters’ group, one of two writing groups I joined last year (I’m also working on a novel with that second group, but it’s in the very early stages)… did I mention quitting a job? Well, this is the key “demand” that is pulling me away from my paid writing**.
- Find an office – DONE!!! And I love it. My new apartment is amazing (in part, yes, because my previous apartment was so hideous… but there’s nothing like living in hell to understand just how amazing purgatory truly is). Just call me Mindy St. Claire (minus the cocaine and wind chimes).
- Make more money – also progress happening on this front. I made more money last year than I had since leaving the aforementioned toxic job. I’m still plowing ahead on this front, slow and steady an’at.
- Improve my branding… this didn’t happen at all. No effort whatsoever. Interestingly, when I look back at the one-year goal plan, this was the only bullet point with no “mind map” (i.e. a sub-menu of tasks that I could do to complete or at least tackle that goal). Which makes me conclude that it wasn’t really an authentic goal… more like a “wish.”
** One of the problems I’ve always had is a running sense of dread and fear regarding income. Sure, this is something that plagues all financially insecure people, which includes most freelance and under-employed creatives. Simply put, I have always valued paid work as more worthy of my efforts than unpaid work. When I write a pitched piece, there’s inevitably a favorable outcome: I get a paycheck upon completion. But when I write a novel, maybe no one wants to read it (despite being praised by those in the publishing world). Yet this is really not me in the truest sense. After paying my rent, I spend most of my disposable income on food because I buy really good food: local, organic, fresh (you know, the stuff that goes bad if you don’t use/cook/freeze it in 48 hours). Every time I think about buying cheaper processed goods – well, first I get nauseous because these nutrition-free foods make me literally sick – I know that what I am putting into my body, giving my kids – hell, giving my cats – will mean that when most of the population has Type 2 diabetes or heart disease or cancer… we won’t. See? It’s an investment in my own future. And that same philosophy towards healthy behaviors (add to good food yoga and meditation) is something I am gradually putting towards my creative practice.
My screenplay is one-third written. It is not going as fast as I would like. Just as that number on the scale doesn’t go down as fast as I would like. But every day is a day to make progress. To break through the obstacles that others may have cast before me. But I won’t be dragged from my path since I am going to be building walls that protect me. These are boundaries not from Chimeric-like imagined enemies but from those distractions and “counterfeit coins” that will pull me from the path that leads to a great, happy, healthy and creatively meaningful future.