By Cairo Amani
Another thing I learned in 2013: I’m a writer.
That is to say that not only is writing my passion, it is the only way I want to live. I discovered this at possibly the worst time and I realize, thinking back, that it made me the worst person. Like most college graduates, I was overworked and underpaid at my job. But unlike most, perhaps, that wasn’t the thing that was making me so unhappy.
I was doing marketing for a real estate company. My boss thought he was doing me a favor by letting me write blog posts for our site. But I am not the type of writer who is happy writing just anything (I don’t know any who are). So there I was, spending eight hours a day, writing for someone else, bored out of my mind (there are only so many things you can say about shared office space), and I was miserable. In addition to all the other things happening at that point, dreading coming into work every day was the last thing I needed.
So I quit.
And at that point, I still didn’t know why. I thought I wanted a different job in a different field. I’m good at marketing but I don’t love it. And I knew I wasn’t going to get a book deal any time soon—even though I didn’t know why. I was wide-eyed in complete darkness. I thought I would write a book and I didn’t. I thought I would start my own business and I didn’t. Then I reluctantly began putting in applications again. What was initially going to be a three-month break turned into six months.
Finding a job is hard.
It is harder, perhaps, when you have a degree that no one wants. (Dear Younger Me, Poetry–really?)
2013 tried to break me. As a matter of fact, I hit a point where I was actually broken. I was crying every night, not eating, not sleeping, not even writing. I wondered if I had done the right thing by quitting. I thought I had but when my rent statement arrived each month and I didn’t have money to pay it—I couldn’t help but have second thoughts about my decision. By August, I was a complete wreck. Not cute.
So I made a change.
One thing I’ve learned is that all growth comes from within. This is a sad realization, especially as someone who likes to help other people. But now I know that you can’t help anyone until they’re ready. At the end of the summer last year, I got sick of being sick. I was unhappy with being unhappy. So I stopped to think critically about what was wrong with me. That’s something I rarely do. Maybe I’ve never done it. It is now something I won’t ever fail to do again.
I knew I was miserable because I really wanted a book deal—and you can’t get one of those if you don’t write a book. But I also knew that I wouldn’t have a nice apartment to write in if I didn’t have a job. So I looked for one, now with the understanding that I would only be working to support my passion. That was step one and I took it on September 3rd. I had a job by September 16th.
Step two was the one that really changed my life: The decision to write every day. I wrote every morning before work and every evening when I got home and on weekends, I made sure I wrote before I went out. I submitted short stories to contests and articles to magazines. And in between, I sat at someone else’s desk on someone else’s computer doing someone else’s work. In six months, I’d written a 112,000-word fantasy novel full of queer people of color. I got word that I’d have a short story published in fall of 2014 and had signed contracts to be a staff writer for two publications (ELIXHER included!). Then I began to work on my next project.
I’m back to not sleeping, but it’s a much better feeling!
Admittedly, I do like my job. It’s a fun start up company, doing something admirable. I’m well paid and there’s a snack table in the office. But every day something reminds me that I don’t like day jobs—they get in the way of my work. Instead of making me miserable, now I let it fuel me to go home at 5:30pm and crank out chapters, to sleep and wake up and do it again. Sometimes I feel like an oddball when I tell people there isn’t anything I want to do but write. No, really. I have no other love, nothing else makes me as happy, nothing keeps me interested for 24 hours straight. I want no other career. It’s the only thing I hunger for and I’m starving.
I can pay my rent now (thank Gawd), but I’m still a starving artist. Not all starving artists go hungry because their art doesn’t make them money. Some of us hunger for time, for peace and quiet, for opportunity to create. I’ve learned that being passionate is like being a good parent to a child—you need to do whatever is necessary for it to thrive. 2013 taught me that I’ll work five jobs if I need to—whatever it takes to eat.
Cairo loves moleskin notebooks, considers Scrivener a godsend, and enjoys reading, dancing, and board games that involve doing silly things for points. You can find out more about her here: about.me/cairoamani.