What should I do with my life, part 2

When I first got back to America I wrote about a book called What Should I do with My Life by Po Bronson. I never made it through the first half, as I found it got redundant and slow. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t benefit from it.

The key point, which I should have know without having to read about it, is that often the answer to the big question is right in front of our faces, but we don’t see it. Or rather, we refuse to allow ourselves to see it. We come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it — it’s not practical, we’re too old, we don’t have the experience, the capital, the time, the whatever. I was going through this angst because I had to face the painful fact that I wasn’t happy anymore being a PR executive. I enjoy the creative side of the business — the writing and the media relations part. I hate the account part, the billing and the counting of hours and preparing monthly reports jammed full of BS to justify our jacked-up invoices….

What the book said to me was, Look at what you do that you love and that you’re good at. That was pretty simple: I love to write, and it’s been the mainstay of all the work I’ve done from the day I got out of college. Why didn’t it hit me earlier? Why did I feel I “had” to work for a company as an account manager, doing work that’s topheavy in administration and spreadsheets — the things that give me nightmares?

After reading several chapters, it just seemed so obvious, like “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Only for years it was never obvious, because I just took it as a truth that I had to be a corporate man.

So I did something radical. I called four of my old friends from the local PR business, all of whom worked for me when I was with a dot-com back in the late 90s and who are now managing their own businesses. I met with them all and told them I was thinking of becoming a freelance writer, and asked if they had suggestions. Not only did they give me suggestions, but they all gave me work to do.

And the sky cleared even more. In just two weeks — about three days of work, spread out over 14 days — I wrote three press releases, edited a white paper, wrote a short article and a corporate brochure. And I earned a few thousand dollars. It was not an impossibility. It was not a pipedream. I can really do this. If I really go at it, creating a web site and marketing myself and networking, it could actually become a fulltime career. Is it possible? Can our career really be the thing we love?

“Follow your bliss,” Joseph Campbell tells Bill Moyers in the great PBS series, The Power of Myth. I thought it was too late for that, that I had boxed myself into a corner where it was PR Exec or nothing. I can’t really describe the sense of hope I felt upon realizing there are other possibilities, after “knowing” that there weren’t.

I was lucky the past few weeks. The work just came to me. It probably won’t be like that every week. But it was certainly a revelation, and it raised my hopes higher than they’d been in a long time. I can’t say that this is my true bliss, writing about storage networks and semiconductors. But it’s writing, and a lot of it (the brochure especically) was true creative writing. It’s a huge step in the right direction.

So even though I can’t say I adored Po Bronson’s book, I can say it made a differrence for me. So it was well worth the money I paid, and then some. I’ve been told by my friends that more writing projects are on the way. Strange how, just as Bronson says, once you look for these opportunities, the ones lurking right in front of your face (often invisibly), your life can take on a new meaning, and the answer to the question What should I do with my life? just sort of comes to you.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

I enjoy reading your blog a lot, and you obviously write very well. I wish you good luck in your pursuit, and I hope that you will be able to find happiness through writing.

June 11, 2004 @ 5:24 pm | Comment

I appreciate the comment. I have to say, I haven’t felt so relaxed in months. The thought of getting out of the rat race and working my own hours at something I actually like to do is thrilling. I have some other dreams I’d like to see come true, like owning a restaurant someday, but one thing at a time.

June 11, 2004 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

Good on ya. Follow your dreams, and the best of luck.

June 11, 2004 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

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