I turn 35 tomorrow. As a sort of pre-celebration, I’m spending today feeling deeply sorry for myself about my career and the state of my emotional health.
It’s nothing new that I long to write and publish novels for a living. It’s not unique or interesting, either, and I know that. Tons of people want that career. But for whatever reason the want has been eating at me lately. Just gnawing at my sense of inner peace with its serrated nasty little teeth:
Why are you still working a day job that you hate, Meg?
Why haven’t you written another book since you finished the last one, Meg?
If you want it that badly, shouldn’t you work harder, Meg?
Look, I get it, self. I’m not where I wanted to be at 35. I’ve never had a five year goal, or any type of career goal. There’s just been this one thing that I love more than most other things, this one thing I want to spend most of my time doing, this one thing that gives me so much joy and makes me feel so clearly like myself — and that’s writing. I just thought… by this time in life, maybe I’d have my shit together and sell a book. Maybe I’d have enough savings that I could quit my job and see if I can make it as an author. You know?
Never mind that these are objectively naive and stupid thoughts. The odds of being able to support myself writing books are extremely low, even if I work my ass off. And I need health insurance, for one. And I have a shopping addiction, for two.
It’s not a realistic dream.
And everyone has a dream that probably won’t be realized, right? Everyone is raging against capitalism in a state of ongoing misery. People are walking out of jobs that underpay, they’re unionizing, they’re disillusioned and overworked and treated like cogs in a shit machine. So why should my feeble dreams of freeing myself from that chokehold be any more meaningful than anyone else’s? And so I wonder, why even try? I’m lucky to have the job that I do. I’m lucky in so many ways. It would be stupid to give it up, and even stupider to think I could.
I just feel physically tormented and I don’t know how to make it stop. I feel sick inside, I feel like destroying something, I feel so trapped and stuck and so so desperate, desperate to have the time and the energy and the money to spend my days writing. And I feel like I’m not doing enough, like maybe I don’t want it enough, like I don’t deserve it enough.
Every time I begin to convince myself I can do it, that I can buck the system and do something new and make money on my own terms, doing what I love, I backpedal and realize it’s unrealistic. And then I beat myself up for not being able to make it happen anyway, while working 40 hours a week and maintaining a social life and a relationship and everything else.
I need to keep writing, I need to keep writing, I need to keep writing.
I’m just so tired. Bone deep exhausted.
And I feel so helpless and hopeless and stuck. I’m beating my head against a wall and I can’t find the way through. I don’t know how long I can do this until my skull cracks.