Reinvention is something my sisters have been much better at than I have. Of course, I've never tried. I've known since I was a small child that I wanted to write, and I never really developed any other part of my brain.
I wrote my first book in fourth grade, a memoir--a class assignment for Miss Larson. I found that I loved writing out the story of my life, drawing the pictures, stapling it all together in book format, presenting it to someone to read. When I got a little older, I wrote novels and short stories, the latter of which I mailed off with great hope to magazines. Harper's wrote back, a kind no. Outside of school magazines, my first short story wasn't published until I was in my 30s. But by then I had forged a career in journalism, where I could get published every day, if I wanted to.
So when I look around me and see people reinventing themselves as candy makers and horticulturists and massage therapists and entrepreneurs, I am a little envious, and I am greatly in awe. If the bankruptcy of my paper leads to more dire things--job loss, I mean--what would I do? People say that this is the time when I can seize hold of my life and reinvent myself. Do the things I've always wanted to do! But what if what I'm doing now is what I always wanted to do?
My older sister Holly worked for many years at a university, where they kept trying to promote her and she kept refusing (it wasn't the job of her heart). She quit last year to become an entrepreneur. It is she who sells the Three Dog Blog calendars, mugs and notecards you see in my sidebar. She is now self-employed and extremely happy, spending her days thinking of clever designs for notecards, tote bags, calendars, umbrellas, t-shirts, bumper stickers. (The Toby notecards are the coolest.)
My little sister spent years in the corporate world, rising to a vice president position of a small company. But it didn't feed her soul; she wanted to do something more giving in nature. A few years ago she went back to school and became a massage therapist.
The chicken lady, who supplies me with beautiful green and brown eggs, used to work in the online division of my newsroom. Now she raises chickens, went to Chicago to study candy-making, and hopes to become a pastry chef.
Our Duluth friends have often said they'd love to leave their jobs and open a resort; she'd tend the homey lodging, and he'd be a fishing and hunting guide. They'd be great at it. They might do it yet.
My former boss, who went off to a very important journalism job in Washington, D.C., and was downsized last year, is now studying horticulture; she wants to be a landscape architect. Imagine! How did she even think of this?
I know that reinvention is possible; I see it all around me from intelligent and creative people who are busily stroking out into the waters of a completely new existence. But my goodness I just can't see it for myself. What would I do if I didn't write?
I could dog-walk. I'd make no money. I could work as a clerk in a store, I think, though I'm not sure, because I never have. Could I wait tables? You see how I think? I think obvious. Traditional. I don't have glorious and imaginative secret dreams of horticulture and massage and eggs.
Some of my other friends are in the same boat I'm in; they are already doing what they love, and they can't think of anything else that appeals to them. One friend took a class at the U on changing careers in mid-life, hoping to discover a new bliss, but a semester later she was no closer to figuring it out. She, like I, remains at the paper, slogging it out as everything slowly shuts down around us.
But some of you, I know, have done this--perhaps many of you. How did you do it? How did you figure it out? How did you know what you wanted to do?
And others of you harbor secret desires to run away and join the circus, or at least to do something entirely different than what you are doing now. What is it? What job would you have if you could have any job? How do you know?
That's me up there on that high wire. Help me get across.
He who would valiant be
5 hours ago