Sad but true: I’ve written more in the last six weeks than I have in the last six years. Well okay, maybe not technically true — I did spend a good chunk of that time writing for a living, in the corporate world.
What I’m trying to say is the last six weeks have been about writing what I wanted to write, as opposed to what I was required to write, and that this spurt of creativity has come after a very long dry spell of writing nothing at all. Seriously. I quit my job a year and a half ago and until I signed up on Medium a little over six weeks ago, I’d written nothing but resumes and cover letters since.
But — gasp! — I’m a writer! How can that be true? Simple. That corporate job sucked all the creative juice right out of me. I was in front of a computer, writing, all day, every day, so the last thing I wanted to do when I was at home was more of the same. And I thought I was okay with that.
See, I was good at my job, I enjoyed it, and it paid pretty well. I was living the dream, writing for a more than adequate pay cheque. What more could I want? (A lot, as it turned out. But that’s a story for another day.)
Then when I quit my job — for a variety of very good reasons — writing felt too much like ‘work’ and I needed a break. So I spent my time and energy searching for a new job in the same field, in both the private and public sectors. But in spite of almost ten years’ experience working for a Fortune 500 company, no offers resulted from my many interviews. Maybe I’m crap at interviews. Or maybe being a woman of a certain age in an industry that skews ‘male’ and ‘young’ played a part. Who knows?
Anyway, fast forward to about two months ago, sometime in early April. I don’t remember how or where but I somehow stumbled upon something written by Shaunta Grimes. I don’t even remember what it was but I ended up falling down the rabbit hole that is Medium and the next thing I knew, I was writing regularly. Within a couple of weeks, I had a Medium account of my own and I’d published my first story.
In the months leading up to this, other stuff was going on as well. I have worked my entire adult life and I’m fiercely independent, accustomed to having my own income and paying my own way in the world. So even though I’m lucky enough to have a hugely supportive spouse and my lack of employment doesn’t mean anyone will ever go hungry around here, I was starting to realize that I need to feel like I’m making some kind of financial contribution, even if it’s a tiny one.
I also realized that not working was making me both bored and boring. I am such a complete and utter introvert that it’s far too easy for me to grow comfortable with hermit mode. Being prone to depression makes it even easier, not to mention a bit dangerous. I need the routine of work to blast me out of my pajamas and into real clothes. I need the structure of a schedule to propel me out the door to engage with the world on a regular basis, rather than just occasionally when I’m forced out by an appointment or a social obligation.
So a few months ago, for the sake of my mental health and my self-esteem, I started looking for all kinds of crappy little jobs — part time, minimum wage, everything from selling newspapers and cigarettes at the corner shop to stocking shelves at the pharmacy up the street. Then about a week and a half ago, I found one.
Shit. Just as I’m getting into a groove with writing, someone offers me a job.
And it is indeed a shitty job. Say hello to the newest cashier at your local supermarket. I haven’t worked in retail for almost twenty years, so I’m getting used to being on my feet for hours again, reacquainting myself with rude and demanding customers, and learning the pecking order at a strange, new workplace. And I love it.
Oh, it’s no dream job and the pay is terrible. But it’s only a few hours here and there, hours that are far from intellectually taxing or emotionally stressful. When I’m done, I can come home and forget about it.
And therein lies the beauty of the shitty day job. I may not be saving the planet or making a huge salary but I am out there making some small contribution, interacting with all sorts of people, experiencing the world first hand — and thinking about what I’m going to write about when I get home. Because while this job might leave a lot to be desired, it also leaves me with enough energy to still be excited about sitting down in front of a blank page when I get home.
And, most importantly, it leaves me with enough juice to dive in and get to work filling that page.
Ultimately, my job doesn’t define me. The size of my pay cheque doesn’t define me. But my writing, the stuff I’m posting here on Medium, that’s who I am.
So for now, this shitty day job will do just fine.