When I moved to Seattle, I expected to have trouble finding a job. I thought I’d start with a part-time job for a while or work as a temp. I expected to have time to explore the city, get acclimated, find my people, and, above all, focus on writing. That isn’t what happened. Now, I can’t really complain that I found a full-time job so quickly in a field I really like (It took me less than a week, and I was more surprised than anyone), but it did complicate things.
As you might expect, it ate my time. For the first few months, I figured that was normal. I figured that as I learned my job better, I’d get more efficient, so I wouldn’t be as mentally exhausted at the end of each day, and I was right. I figured that I would get better at time management, and I’d be able to work this job and do everything else I wanted, and I was wrong. For a long time, there were lots of changes going on, and I thought, just give it a little more time.
But I’ve given it time. I’m very adaptable, and I learn quickly. If I haven’t made this work in 11 months, I’m not going to. And I’ve reached a point where I no longer consider the full-time job worth the cost not just to my time, but to my career. To my writing. To myself, and my well-being, and my dreams.
As I stated before, I like the work I do, and I especially like the people I work with. I certainly appreciate having income. And I have gotten better at time management, but I’ve also cut everywhere in my life where cuts can be made. When the cuts started to include dance classes, meeting people outside of work ever, or even leaving my apartment at all on weekends because I felt too overwhelmed to produce, too behind on all of the things I needed and wanted to do (writing, editing, submitting, reading, reviewing, blogging, oh, and did I mention WRITING)… well, the problem has clearly come to a head. Mole-ing for the weekend in my apartment once in a while is one thing; feeling compelled to do so every weekend, because even a twenty minute walk to a coffee shop would be too wasteful, is something quite different.
I’m in a unique position right now. I’ve finished school and have no more educational obligations. I don’t have debts to pay, and I have money still saved from my time in Japan (I’m frugal, but while my current salary allows me to not dip into that savings, it doesn’t increase them). I don’t have any significant others or children dependent on me; I don’t even share rent. I have the freedom to do whatever I want and have that not directly affect the life of anyone other than myself.
The only obligation I have is to myself, and yet I’m not doing what I want with my life. So I’m going to goddamn-well start.
I actually intended to quit my job entirely and just take a couple of months to do whatever I chose (writing, obviously, but also, I don’t know, hiking one of those many mountains or lakes or forests that attracted me to the Pacific Northwest in the first place that I still haven’t visited). Instead, after broaching this at work, management is inventing a part-time position for me. That transition will happen at the end of January, if all goes according to plan (*knocks on wood*). I’ll stay involved in translation, but focused on the parts I enjoy more. I’ll still get to see and support my friends there, and I won’t be cut off from people (that was one of the bigger holes in my plan). And most to the point, I’ll be working only half the time. I’m taking back at least 20 hours every week. That’s huge.
I’m not sure if this will be the best or final solution. This all happened rather suddenly and everyone involved at work is still kind of feeling the way through. They might decide they really need someone full-time, or that they really need someone in a management position (what I do now) more than a coordinator/assistant; I may decide I can’t work even that many hours, because if I’m going to scale back from a full-time job — something that, financially, I won’t be able to sustain long-term — I need to make the most of the time I am, essentially, buying.
My writing community is the most supportive community I’ve ever known. Yet I have to say that I’ve been absolutely astounded that every one of the few non-writing friends/family/coworkers whom I broached this idea with has completely approved. I expected the plan of “I’m quitting my day job to do art and no one is paying me for it” to meet with a lot of raised eyebrows, outright scorn, and railing at impracticality, but that hasn’t happened even once. I expected the few people who knew about this in advance to try to talk me out of it and was instead met with a resounding, “This makes perfect sense for you. Do it. DO IT.” Admittedly, I’d have done it even if no one thought it was a good idea — it certainly wouldn’t be the first time — so I’m finding the experience of such unanimous approval of something so risky more than a little disorienting in the best way.
I should probably feel terrified that I’m going to ruin everything, but I don’t. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful. I thought I needed to find a day job that would allow me to write, but that’s backwards: writing is my career. My day job has to support the writing, not allow for it. The one thing I need more than anything else right now to help me become a professional writer is time to devote to my art, to my craft. To allow me to balance my life in a way that actually works. So I will give myself that time, and I will use it.
This is the first big step I’m taking this year towards my goals and my happiness. I know it may all go horribly wrong, and certainly things that I haven’t anticipated or can’t control will not go as I hope. I know that time does not solve all problems on its own, and that there are more steps I need to take. I’m still really excited.