Stepping off into the unknown

One of the greatest things in life, I think, is to find something you really love to do, and to be able to spend your life doing that. To be able to wake-up every day and feel like you are making a difference, and that you are doing what you were meant to do.

At least, I assume that must be great. It sounds great, and it seems to make sense.

I have, however, never found myself in that place. While I have tried my hand at a few different things, none of them have really stuck. Part of that, I think, had to do with my understanding of what were reasonable to consider as options, often filtered through a family narrative that favoured stability and predictability over the pursuit of of a beloved activity or true calling. So I found myself using filters like, "Will this get me a good job?" or "What are the future prospects for this as a career?"

Life conspired to reinforce this narrative, as I married and had children. But there were a couple bumps on the road. In 2001, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and this gave me some pause to consider the direction and purpose of my life. I recovered quickly, however, and just as quickly fell back into my old modes of thought.

It took the quick one-two-three punch of my relapse, the birth of my second child, and the separation from my wife, all of which happened between January 2009 and the end of 2010, to really realign my thinking. I was truly confronted by my mortality – will I ever be "cured" of cancer, if I can relapse, even after seven and a half years? And I was confronted with the question of identity, now that I was no longer raising a family, at least not as I had previously envisioned it.

I went back to work after my disability leave; what else was I to do? But my workplace was never a particularly supportive place, and it certainly didn't get any more supportive in my absence. So, in January of this year I left. I quit. Not to work anywhere else; indeed, I had no sense of where I would even want to work. Just to not work there. Within a few weeks it had become clear to me what I had to do. I had always talked about writing, about trying to find time to do it in the evenings, or otherwise working it into my existing schedule. I had concocted fantasies in my head about living on a small-scale farm and using the winters to write. But here I was, with all the time in the world (and some money I had saved up). Why not do what I've always really wanted to do?

So, that's what I'm doing. Not very effectively so far, mind you. Having the time to write doesn't get rid of all the other things that conspire to prevent me from writing: the procrastination, the self-doubt, the children. I'm still struggling with the excuses that are holding me back. But I am making progress, and I am looking forward to having a few short stories, and a few "creative non-fiction" pieces (a concept I am still wrapping my head around) to send off to various contests and publications before the end of the year.

I don't know how this is all going to work out; I may have to face a cold reality and find a "real" job when my savings run out. But it is exhilarating (and scary), and I am going to embrace it for the next little while and see where it leeds.

Wish me luck.