Story Time With Lady Firesong; All Roads Lead To Rome
I fell in love with stories before I could read.
Some part of me has always known that I wanted to be a writer. In fact, even when I was wondering about a career and overthinking my college choices I never questioned that I would one day write a book. Several, in fact, because that’s what writers do. And I was a writer, even if I had never finished a manuscript. Through all the turns in my life, this fact was unshakable, however it wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I began to think of it as my career.
Even knowing from such a young age where my passion lay, I still questioned everything about my job path. I mean, A Career™ is a lifelong commitment. It’s something that identifies you and shapes you; your means of supporting yourself and engaging with society. No wonder I couldn't commit! That’s an insane amount of pressure. I was looking for something perfect, and coincidentally I made a lot of weird choices to get myself to where I am now.
Bear with me a bit while I chronicle my journey – There is a point to all this, I promise.
My first job was working as a file clerk at a chiropractor’s office. I was fresh out of high school and had no idea how to enter the workforce, but I was sure I should try. Just barely thinking about it, I joked with the doctor while I was there for an appointment. “Do you need any help here?” I laughed. He laughed. “Actually, yes,” he told me. And I had a job. It was so simple and fast that I didn’t have time to overthink it. I spent the next 7 months filing charts, answering phones, and booking appointments.
The local community college had a good business management program, and I was starting to learn that I liked business. So I enrolled. I left my file clerk job and went back to school. The classes were interesting and engaging– I did really well, but I wasn’t satisfied. There was a part of me still itching in the back of my brain. I took a few writing classes as electives.
Those writing classes were the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It was there that I met a teacher who gave me my first glimpse of the business of writing. I was a long way off from realizing what it would mean for me, but I was starting to see that there was more to the writing profession that novelists. Maybe I could teach? I thought while watching my favorite professor guide the class through storytelling basics.
I took three classes from her. It was a group workshop-type class where we peer edited each other’s work. I really enjoyed it. The professor told me I had good instincts. I bloomed under her praise, so I watched how she did it, and I learned. Seeing my progress, she pointed me to the Resource Lab in the English department, and I started to take on occasional work editing students’ essays.
Throughout all this, I still maintained that I couldn’t rest my whole career on writing, and editing was nearly impossible to break into, so I continued my business classes hoping that I would be able to find a job in a corporate office that would allow me some freedom to still write.
As I focused on accounting and management in school, I also began to take on freelance clients outside of the college. For the next few years I worked with a variety of clients, editing, polishing, even ghostwriting a couple of times. It was wonderful– it was the prefect blend of creativity and control which suited me perfectly. But it wasn’t stable. Unless you are very very lucky and well-connected you can’t make a living doing freelance work part-time. I certainly couldn’t.
I went away to a university on the other side of the country. I was looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to experience more of the world. I’ve never regretted that decision. The business program was highly competitive, and even though I was accepted to the university, the School of Business rejected me. I had no idea what to do; my plan had hit a wall. After a lot of soul-searching I fell back to where I always did, and I entered the English Department.
Two years of literature, writing, reading, and editing courses occasionally felt like a waste of time. Part of me was still convinced that there wasn’t a career here and I was wasting my money. But it was fun. One professor who I had the joy of taking a creative workshop with was also the chair of one of the largest writing conferences in the North East. Under his leadership I was able to meet some amazingly intelligent and dedicated writing professionals. It was eye-opening, but I still wasn’t sure I had what it took. At this point I had been claiming to be a writer for twenty years, but I had never published more that a couple poems and one terrible article in a local newspaper. It still seemed insurmountable.
I moved back home and focused on my freelance work full time. I almost made that work, but after two years it wasn’t quite supporting me, so I did the thing I knew best how to do; I went back to school. This time, I was more clear about what I wanted and the kinds of jobs that would give me the life I wanted. At the suggestion of a dear friend who was well on his way to law school, I began the paralegal program at the community college.
It was different than anything I had learned before, and also the same. It was challenging and exciting, and… not for me as it turns out. After one year my financial aid ran out. Apparently the government doesn’t want you to just keep flitting around between degrees without actually graduating. I spent my last two terms getting the requirements for my general education degree, so that I would have something to show for my 7+ years of education. When I left school for the last time I had an Associate of General Sciences degree, and a lot of random knowledge.
I took a job in the billing department of an internet marking firm which specialized in Google Adwords. It was a brave new world for me. For the first time, I was able to really experience working for someone else, and I learned more than I could have imagined. In my time there I worked in billing, accounting, and some customer service. It was fantastic, but it was so very very wrong for me. This was not a permanent career.
When I left that job, I felt as if all else had been stripped away, and there was exactly one option left to me. I took a deep breath, accepted the inevitable, and started my business. Firesong Arts was a dream that had been incubating in the back of my mind for nearly a decade, and it was time.
Ok, still with me? I’m about to explain why I just wasted your time with my long backstory.
There are no mistakes
Throughout all of it, every college course, every conference, every late-night chat with an aspiring author in a bar somewhere, every bit of business, accounting, and marketing training I went through led me to my dream.
I never expected to be where I am. While I was changing directions mid-degree and bouncing around trying to satisfy some archaic notion of a stable career that I had built in my mind, I would never have seen it leading here. I felt like I was wasting time more often than I care to admit, but I can honestly say that everything I went out of my way to study, whether on a whim or by design, has helped me grow my business. Even the paralegal classes.
Never take anything for granted. Anything. You are a combination of your experiences and your dreams. Even if something feels like it couldn’t possibly be helpful in the future, there’s no way to be sure of that. Learn all you can, grab at every opportunity that presents itself, and don’t give up on your dream. And I’m going now, before I start to sound even more like a fortune cookie.