“Day off from my paycheck job means a day ON for my soul job” I caption my Instagram photo on this perfect first of November Tuesday, the one day this week I get to sleep in. Halloween has been over for approximately 8 hours and 23 minutes when I wake up with a Christmas song stuck in my head, and I defend my favorite poet and have a one-decibel-away-from-being-an-argument conversation with Mama before leaving the house to hit up my favorite hometown coffee shop for a couple of hours to write before meeting a friend for lunch, and then picking up a couple of hours at my own coffee shop job–on my day off.
By the time I’ve mixed my $2 small Sumatra with the appropriate amounts of half-n-half and honey, re-connected to the wifi, and found a secluded upstairs table with good window lighting, I still have to take, edit, and post my Instagram photo before I can really get to doing what I’ve posted that I’m doing. By now I’ve used up 30 minutes of my total hour and a half, and I have sufficiently reminded myself of my failings in regards to, as they call it, the writing life.
During my undergrad years as a literature and creative writing major, I was often met with harrowing stories and warnings about the dreaded post-grad life. For someone like me, who loves school more than most people deem sane, the idea of working full-time and only learning from Wikipedia and documentaries on the weekends sounds particularly gruesome. Time and time again, former English majors, or naysayers, or even well-intended supporters, would tell me, “It’s so hard to continue writing once you have a full-time job and short stories aren’t your homework.” Stricken with fear, I would write my short stories for homework, poetry on the side, blog posts while I traveled, and stuff my summers and semester breaks with reading, desperate to develop a habit of writing so solid that something as time-consuming as a full-time job and life-altering as graduating from college couldn’t shake it.
So, I threw myself into my Senior Capstone project, threw my cap into the air, packed up, and went home. And I didn’t get a job. And I didn’t get a job. I crafted beautiful cover letters, gave every ounce of WOO I possess in every interview, researched, and got genuinely excited for every application…and I didn’t get a job. Along with this unemployment came panic attacks and tidal wave levels of shame, and it made me a monster to live with. My 96% extroverted self was starving, but the ratio between college debt and the money I was raking in was so staggering that I couldn’t bring myself to go out with friends much of the time. I was doing nothing, and yet I needed a break more than any other time in my life. I withdrew from church, shuddered every time I met a new person, in constant fear that someone would ask the ever-dreaded, “What do you do?”
Finally, I decided to apply to Caribou. This was a step-down in pay from what I had been making as a summer nanny all through college and even the latter part of high school, and about a hundred steps down in pride from what I had expected to be doing after graduation. Even though everyone told me that finding a post-grad job was difficult and took a long time, and I knew several (more than several) perfectly capable, smart, hardworking graduates who were working minimum wage, customer service jobs, for some reason–I’ve always had this problem–I thought I would be special, and it was a hard blow to learn that I am, well, pretty much just like everyone else. Trying to be satisfied and genuine and impressive all at once.
But, the thing that I was afraid of losing more than anything–my writing life–is the very thing that God has chosen to bless in ways I never could have expected. No, I haven’t landed a book deal or gained hundreds of followers on my blog, but I have written, consistently, and I have enjoyed it.
The other day, a friend asked me what my biggest goal for my writing was, and I truthfully told her that my ultimate goal is to never stop writing, to never get to a point in my life where I say, “I used to write, but I don’t really do that anymore.” I want to write all my years, and I want to write every day. The stories that come out of me have to come from somewhere, and, for now at least, Caribou is that somewhere. Because my life is that somewhere. And even though it’s not glamorous and I have to get up far too early for my liking, and I still cringe when I have to tell people what I “do,” the life I’m living is producing the stories I’m writing. And I can love this life, a life that isn’t what I expected, because it’s a life that’s feeding my art, which is more than enough for me.
words and photo by Abby Sorensen