The Thing I Do

My most astute readers might have picked up on some feelings of restlessness, particularly as related to my 9-5, coming from my corner over here. Over the past couple weeks, prompted by almost nothing but a creeping sensation of immobilization and an overwhelming fatigue, I've started to wonder about something:

Does The Thing I'm Good At have to be The Thing I "Do"?
I love to write. I love to blog here. I love my freelance writing and editing work. I love picking up side projects to write and develop. But I only get to do all those things after I sit at work and write for 8 hours, and don't know if I want to write 12 hours a day, every day.

I especially don't want to write 12 hours a day if eight of those hours are like living in a bad song on repeat. And if I had to chip away at those 12 hours of writing in some way, I'd just cut out the first eight. At least, my current first eight.

I so enjoy my side projects and blogging and freelance work because it's always something different. Even the novel I've been editing for a client for years — seriously, we've been working at it for YEARS! This thing is going to be incredible — is something different each time, because each chapter is different from the last.

When I come here to my blog, I can write about anything from New Jersey to running to weird things about me to my life to my family. I can skip a day if the inspiration isn't striking and I know any output would be of the sub-par variety.

I don't have that luxury from 9-5. And I know 9-5 isn't supposed to be about luxury, and I know the grass is green where you water it, and I know no one is entitled to a "dream job," whatever the hell we pretend that actually means. But 9-5 shouldn't be about moves that are directly opposed to a person's moral code of conduct, right?

I'm trying to determine exactly what kind of change of pace I need. Am I outgrowing my current place as a full-time writer? Or am I outgrowing being a full-time writer? Is the problem my career or my job? Do I just need a nice, long vacation or do I need a greater change? As I wanderlust for new places to see and discover in my personal time, am I wanderlusting for a new kind of normal too?

Just because writing is one thing I'm good at doesn't mean it's the only thing I'm good at. Just because it's something I enjoy doesn't mean it's the only thing I enjoy. And just because I decided to do it for a living three years ago doesn't mean it's the only career I'd ever like to have. I've had dreams about running a cafe in my grandmother's honor. Owning a traveling yoga center. Writing YA fiction from a Costa Rican hideaway. Working with troubled teens on a personal level. Life coaching. Wellness counseling. So many ideal careers, so unrealistic to think I can have any of them.

Because here's the rub: Technically, writing is probably the only thing I'm "qualified" to do.

{I'm going to reserve my feelings about job qualifications and hiring managers and the job market for millennials here because I don't feel like having a rage attack all over my blog. That's not fair to you guys. Suffice it to say, having worked toward an education degree — then backing out after every working teacher I knew got royally screwed by their district during my senior year/student teaching semester — and having spent the last three years writing on K-12 and higher education and post-graduate career-planning, I have some strong feelings about how schools and colleges "prepare" students for life after graduation. Maybe I'll get into it another day.}

{If you're dying to know, just give me half a drink and say the words and "choosing a major" to me and sit back while it all comes out. Also, in case it wasn't clear, I'm aggressively pro-teacher, but I don't have faith in the current system.}

So anyway. Where was I?

Right. Trying to explain how I'm feeling about my career at the moment without launching into a diatribe about my feelings on how we structure our working lives and our priorities here in America.


So anyway, I do adore writing. It's where I feel at home, it's where I feel confident, it's where I feel powerful and understood and in control and safe. But I feel none of those things at my office desk.

And there are so many other things that fill me with joy. Animals. Running. Children {other people's, exclusively}. Tattoos. Art culture. Nature. Yoga. Cooking. Youth advocacy. Reading. Wellness. Wouldn't it be just the sweetest thing if I didn't have to pick just one thing as a way to use my skills, passion, and interest toward a sustainable career?

But that's not how we've set things up here. If you aren't using your degree, you've failed somehow. Oh, but you have to make a decision on that degree when you're 18 or so. Before you can be trusted to order a beer at the bar, you're trusted with the decision to "declare a major," a practice that, in theory, will decide the next 40 or 50 years of your life. Makes perfect sense.

I'm not saying I picked the wrong major. My English degree has served me well, and I don't really believe in the concept of a "useless degree." But can I go back now and get another one in art? Or in sports medicine? Or in food science? Or social work? Or a certification to teach yoga?

No, I can't. Because I'd go bankrupt and have to relocate to a refrigerator box on the side of Route 46 before I even got through a semester.

So where do I go from here?

That's an excellent question. All I know is that I need something to give. And that if I have to spend too much longer going numb in the butt because my job demands that I sit at a desk all day, I might lose the one shred of sanity I miraculously have left.

Writer, out.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. And you just inspired me for my next post about writing. Long story short... I pissed someone off about my "writing". And I lost a long time friend because of it. Which makes me wonder if I SHOULD continue to write.... but how many authors and books have some kind of story in there that pertains to their life? Everyone uses little snippets from their lives....

    Keep writing no matter what the case Alyssa. Even if you do have a job, even if no one is reading or commenting. JUST DO IT!

  2. I so love this. I dont know if Ive ever said it but I have an English Literature and History double major degree that I completed at age 20. Prob was the only thing it really 'qualified' me to do was teach and I didnt want to do that (nothing against it my both parents are/were lecturers) so I headed back to school and became a lawyer. I totally get it!

    PS... thank God yo said that lady's book is taking years - check your inbox ;)

  3. Very well written...hehe no pun intended on that one!! I struggle because what I do for work is not the career that I see myself with...and at 27 I'm not even sure what that is...In the 5 years I've been out of college I've had 3 jobs in 3 very different i'm with you on everything you said!

  4. i love your honesty and you are really truly a brilliant writer. i have no advice, boo me. but i don't do what i am 'qualified' to do, and i'm pretty easy going about what 'i do', never been a big career dreamer. i realise my comment makes no sense. i hope you find your happy place, and i'll always read whatever you write - be it blog, magazine, or book, or instructions on how to get to your cafe / yoga studio :)

  5. You are, hands down, the most eloquent person I know when it comes to putting things into words. And you know me well enough to know that I'm not just saying that. Please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor from sheer awe at how succinct you are in getting your point across.

    I think this is the biggest problem with our generation. We were fed (and complied) with the "you have to get a degree or you'll never get a job" bull and then about a year into college, everything changed. At the very least, you can say that your degree is doing something for you. Try explaining a philosophy degree. Not that I have to, because honestly it's the best decision I ever made and everyone can kiss my @$$ when I'm a professor but still. I 10000% get where you're coming from. We have frequent talks about the hypocrisy of putting spirited, freethinking "wanderlusting" people behind desks for 8 straight hours (usually during their most NON productive hours) and expect them to thrive.

    I say we buy a van and travel across the country for awhile, then come back and figure it out. I mean, do we really need to stress about this and be adults yet ? I'm avoiding it as long as possible...what about you ?

  6. First of all, well written! I love how you took my almost daily thoughts and made them into a blog post. It's hard to be sure, because you didn't go into any kind of in-depth detail, but I have a very strong feeling that our opinions on the education system and career paths, etc. are very, very, very similar. As in the same. I could write and talk about it for hours because I too went into college my freshman year with the intention of getting a teaching degree. My Junior year I was talked out of that by some of my former teachers who I highly respect and who are actually very good friends of mine and my parents. So yea, I have a few strong opinions on the subject in general. Also, I'm 24 and still don't know what I want to do the "rest of my life" and I sure as hell didn't know at 18.

  7. I'm stuck on your side note about being pro-teacher but no faith in the current system. I agree completely! Also, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I know very few people who actually look forward to going to work but ideally I'd love to be one of them someday- whatever "work" happens to be!

  8. Oh this post spoke right to me. I am at odds with what I should be actually doing. it's so hard.

  9. do you think you would be able to translate your writing into another job. something like grant writing for an organization, non-profit, etc?!

  10. I hear you on this, girl. The struggle is REAL. I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation like this with myself.


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