The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want. -Ben Stein
I have spent the last three years toying with this idea: decide what you want. No, probably my whole life. I come from a family of teachers, and I was adamant against becoming a teacher. My plan was to go a different path, try the corporate world and be someone different. While I learned a lot, and made some great friends, it was not what I wanted out of life. People find it funny when I say, “Retail was destroying my soul.” If you don’t catch yourself, retail can easily eat away at your heart, happiness, and sincerity. Customers berate you day in and day out, leaving the retail employee angry and bitter by the end of the day. Before you know it, years have gone by and you wonder, “Why am I miserable?” Well, probably because you spent the last three years dealing with people who think you are no better than the ant on the ground. I take that back, many think the ant on the ground is better than you. Truthfully, it is going to take me the next few years to complete damage control on my mind and heart. While I know retail works great for some, it is not who I am. Being a cog in the corporate machine is not what I want out of life.
Then the real question appears: what DO you want out of life?
In May, I had surgery on my foot. That forced me to go out on short term disability, and moreover, it forced me to sit. Those who know me, or the “Hughes side” of my family at that, know it is possible for us to just sit. When we sit, we think; when we think, our minds start whirling with ideas. Ideas upon ideas upon ideas… It finally gave me time to actually reflect on everything. I had time to spend with my family and really think about what has been happening the past three years.
Three years ago, I was at the end of my English degree program – only a few months away from my Bachelors. As with anyone nearing the end of their degree program, they have high hopes and dreams of what they will become. We are told “your degree will take you anywhere!” Somewhere along the way, you think this degree is your golden ticket to the Willy Wonka Factory of Jobs. I just hand over my golden ticket and the door is opened to anywhere you want to go. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am certainly not knocking my degree, but I was becoming rudely aware that (a) the job market sucks, and (b) many companies just don’t care about your educational background. What they want is someone who will just do the job. They want someone who will not question them and follow their every whim. My grand scheme of going to a retail corporation and proving myself to be worthy of moving up the corporate ladder to a company writing job was squashed. To top it off, now my resume looks like all I did was just retail. While any of us can tell you it is so much more than ringing out a product, your resume says “just retail.” When I spent time trying to finding myself, and what I really wanted to do, the inability of mixing corporate retail with my dreams became all too real. That leads the emotions back to the beginning of this post: bitterness and misery.
Once this awareness hits, knowing I cannot mix the two, I realize I am carrying this heavy decision on my shoulders. Again: what do you want out of life? So, I told myself. I didn’t hold anything back. I didn’t let myself forget those dreams. I didn’t let negativity stand in my way. I searched deep down and asked, Marlana, what do you want? I screamed inside my head, “I want to write! I want to edit. I want to read. … I want to write.” Dating back to elementary school, I had this recurring dream of becoming a writer. I continued to bury those dreams, telling myself it will never work. As I’ve grown, I realized it isn’t just about writing. It is the whole field of writing that I love. The reading, the writing, the editing, it all fulfills me. A little bit of that weight was lifted off my shoulders now that I answered my own deeply personal question. However, the big decision came: what now?
I realized what I want, now I had to figure out how to pursue it. I know I need help, which is why I have decided to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Oh, and I resigned. I cut the umbilical cord of a retail job, put in to be a sub instructional aide in some of the local school districts, and have started grad school hunting. This mini journey of mine has lead me here, to this site. I need a space to get back in the flow of writing. I am certain the beginning of this site won’t be pretty. Once I finished my degree in January 2012, my writing turned mostly to corporate emails. Even though I’ve lost my way from time to time, I always end back here: writing. It never fails. If only I listened to myself, but I also know I would have never met some of the people I’ve met, and gained the life experiences I have. Sometimes it takes stepping away to truly appreciate what you have. It took stepping away for me to recognize my recurring dream. It took soul searching to “decide what you want”. Now I’ve decided; now it is time to get motivated, work hard, and go for it.
More than ten years ago, a mentor and friend of mine wrote a note to me inside my graduation gift: the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I think the gift itself was the message written inside that I’ve cherished for 11 years, the end of which says: “Keep your eyes on the future and pursue your dreams.” To wrap up this post, I walked to my bookshelf and pulled this book down intending to use the last two sentences in the story. It is funny how things work out when you decide what you want, what your dreams are, that suddenly the signs are everywhere to pursue those dreams. Things that have been there in your life day in and day out, in a book I’ve read to my children easily 600 times (not exaggerating!), and when you take a moment to stop and reflect, you’ll see the writing on the wall (or book), and the love and support just pouring out from everyone around you. The universe just gave me a huge shove in the right direction. If there was even the slightest sliver of doubt in the decisions I have made, it is certainly annihilated now. My first time sitting down to work toward my new/old goals and dreams, my “new job,” and then inspiration hits me at every angle. I feel confident. I feel fantastic.
In the words of Dr. Seuss…
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!