The other day I was going through a box of old papers and I found a few homework assignments from my magazine writing class in college. Among the articles I’d written was one I had crafted for our class magazine project “Quarterlife.” My chosen topic? “Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Alternatives to Being Just Another Office Jockey.”
How ironic that, at 20 years old, I was already desperate for an alternative to office life. So much so that I had interviewed a bunch of people who had gone in the “alternative” direction- a wedding photographer, a flight attendant, a media consultant who worked from home, an organic farmer. I must’ve known that there would come a time, a time before my novels started selling and my real career started, when I would have to seriously contemplate choosing that job I dreaded, the one with endless stacks of paperwork, fluorescent lighting and Hawaiian Shirt Friday.
Maybe it’s not such a coincidence that I found that article now, as I sit here, day after day, sifting through the meager list of available jobs on Craigslist and trying to brush up on my Excel skills. Maybe it’s time to go back to basics, to talk to that 20 year old me. I’ll put myself in a kindergarten class, cross my legs Indian-style and close my eyes until the question comes my way. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
That’s not really the problem though. I know the answer to that question. The trickier one is that second question. “If you already know what you want to do when you grow up, what do you do in the meantime?” How will you pay the bills? How will you pay your parents back? And the government for all that unemployment money you’ve been cashing? How will you fill your days in a way that doesn’t make you want to cry when you wake up in the morning? That makes the beginning of Joe Vs. The Volcano look like paradise.
What did you want to be? What do you want to do now? I’m open to suggestions.