Sometimes the universe gives us a nudge. This summer, it’s been hurrying me along with a finger in the back, steering me in a certain direction.
These summer days have been long, heavy, and wickedly humid. The sun is too hot outside; indoors, I move about in a perpetual twilight, with the shades drawn to keep out the heat. The weather isn’t the only thing that’s intense. There is an electricity in the air that transcends summer thunderstorms. It’s so much lighter and livelier than the oppressive heat. Have you felt it? It’s an energy. It’s like magic.
Something magical has happened to me this summer. I’ve revisited old ways of exploring my intuition and connection to the world. I’ve tapped into a well of creativity I didn’t know was still there. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded creative people who see there are different ways of doing things and different definitions of success. There are signs and serendipity everywhere — in forgotten songs I randomly hear; old friends who once again drift into my sphere; shooting stars; the peace I feel while writing.
A few weeks ago, I wrote here about my need to take a deep dive into life — to leave safety and complacency on the dock, and jump in and see what the water holds for me.
I have taken the leap.
I am going to make my living by writing, as I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.
I feel naive and even a bit silly writing this. Who am I to think I can succeed at anything on my own, let alone this sort of endeavour?
Well…who am I to think I can’t?
I was raised to believe things happen a certain way when it comes to careers and money: you go to school. You do well. And then you get a job…and you STAY at the job, because a job is safety. A job is identity. A job is status, and your future.
I started down that road. There were many wonderful opportunities, and I was ‘successful’. But somewhere along the road, a nagging little doubt crept into my thoughts: “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? Is this it? Is this who I am?” Still, I stayed. That’s what we do, isn’t it? It felt too late to change paths. It would be too risky. I had a pension, security. I had responsibilities. I was climbing the ladder. A person can’t just jump off and start again.
Then, I was pushed off the ladder. It felt like the end of the world, but as is so often the case, it was a gift. It’s been three years since my very good job with the government ended abruptly, and I took my first wobbly steps as a consultant. First, I worked under the umbrella of a wise and established mentor. Then, I left to take a contract with a non-profit.
It was always meant to be something temporary: once Puck’s issues got sorted, I would go back to a straight 9-5 office job. I would figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would find security. I was looking only at what I’d given up — all those traditional notions about status, bonuses and job titles.
I realized last year, though, that I couldn’t get back on that ladder. Puck’s issues weren’t going to magically go away. We would always need more flexibility than a traditional office job offers. The magic, such as it is, would have to come from me. I would have to make it for myself.
I spent a while feeling very sorry for myself about this. I compared my path to those of friends’. I looked at social media posts with envy, comparing my own situation to their seemingly interesting and secure jobs. I saw only what I didn’t have.
This summer, I flipped that thought: I started looking at what I do have. I have freedom, and I have honesty. The flexibility that is a necessity is also a gift. Through all the struggle we’ve been through, I’ve had to have a hard look at what is important to me, how I define myself, and how I define success. And for me, success means being creative. It means being content. It means telling the stories inside me, and helping others tell theirs.
I’ve spent the summer revisiting a novel I began many years ago. Rewriting and discussing it with a trusted writing coach has brought me joy I haven’t known in any ‘professional’ work setting. It’s given me the courage to take the leap.
So how am I taking this leap? Well, I’ll be helping people tell their stories. All kinds of stories, in all kinds of contexts. That might include:
- editing personal or professional writing;
- researching and writing documents;
- preparing grant proposals;
- creating content for blog posts or websites;
- creating newsletters and communications materials;
- writing articles;
- writing your cover letter or polishing your CV;
- presenting to groups small or large about mental health, digital health, and the history of social work in Canada.
Thanks to Danielle Crowell, I have a beautiful website that highlights work I’ve done (https://www.michellehebertboyd.com). Please share it with anyone you think might be interested, and keep me in mind for your writing and editing projects. I have researched and written documents for government departments and national agencies. I have helped small non-profits create policies and communications materials. I have helped individuals edit work submissions, blog posts, and manuscripts. I can’t wait to see what other stories I can help bring into the world.
I am not brave, by the way. This is as much a leap of necessity and faith as it is an act of courage. I have to trust that the work will come, and have to accept that I may not be as financially secure as I was brought up to believe I must be. Ultimately, though, I have to believe that work isn’t just about making a living and getting to retirement; work is about creating a life.
This seems like a radical idea. I hope you’ll join me in it. Let’s create together.