On The Road
Richard Gere and Diane Lane in "Nights in Rodanthe"
BlogHer and Warner Bros. asked a group of bloggers to share their own Second Chance stories in honour of the new film, "Nights in Rodanthe". The following piece is about one of my own personal experiences with second chances.
I spent the earlier two-thirds of the 1990s working in the first swell of specialty coffee shops, slogging through uninspiring instant soups, steam burns, and customers who mistakenly thought that ordering hoity toity specialty coffees meant they could make ridiculous demands of the staff. When I landed a full-time, higher paying job in a large, regionally-owned bookstore, I gave notice at the two coffee shops and muffin store in which I spent sixty hours a week making minimum wage and all but ran to hug my new workplace, which held out the promise of twenty less work hours a week and 100,000 books at my disposal.
My official title was Bookseller, and I revelled in my work. I was in charge of several sections of the store and the displays, so, for approximately three years, I felt like I was queen of my small domain. It was the first time in my life that I had felt a sense of both fulfillment and belonging in a workplace.
Of course, I am looking back at that job with a fond nostalgia that conveniently leaves out difficult co-workers, the neck-stabbingly good time that was re-alphabetizing two thousand books in an afternoon, and irrational shoppers screaming about how the line-up at the till had completely ruined their last hope of salvaging some happiness from the Christmas season. Despite the obvious drawbacks of retail sales work, though, I did love it.
And then, I visited an old friend out of town, the Palinode, over my summer holiday, and rather than do the usual rounds of Scrabble over pitchers of beer, we ended up traveling back and forth between each other's cities, falling in love, and wound up married ten months later. This presented us with a decision: which city would we choose to live in? I chose to move to his city and left my beloved Bookseller status behind. I had found the love of my life! My whole world was changing! I was ready to jump in with both feet!
I set about hunting for work immediately, but came up with very little. For some reason, every prospective employer in my new city wanted references from in town, and so, at the age of twenty-eight, I had to start with a clean slate. As a result, I ended up having to work as a telephone sales representative, a transcriber of interviews mostly conducted through a translator with a heavy Czech accent, and a salesperson who hocked cheap watches from a cart in the mall.
I was devastated that my move to a new city resulted in not only the loss of a job I loved but also in the acquisition of a depressing new world of minimum wage sales jobs from such sad places as a dingy cubicle farm with a back alley entrance and a cart with broken locks in a mall hallway. I felt pathetic and unsuccessful. I could sell just about anything to anyone, so it was not that I wasn't good at my jobs, but I had no passion for them. Each passing day at these kinds of jobs whittled away at my self-image until I very nearly lost sight of what it was that had made my work at the bookstore so enjoyable.
I am a lover of words. I could sell a thousand watches and yet never feel the rush that a good turn of phrase could send thrumming through my brain. I knew that I had to get back to words and fast, but I didn't know where to start. With my devastated self-image came the loss of my writing, and other than a few journal entries scrawled in a spiral-bound notebook, I had not written anything of note in three years. I was in a low place.
Enter my discovery of the world of weblogs. When I began writing a weblog in August of 2003 after the Palinode's own website inspired me, my words started to come back to me, and with them, my sense of self-worth also began to return. I left my most recent job as the manager of a small gift shop and started my search for a job I could put my heart into. I tried out another bookstore for almost a year, but it was a negative environment that sucked all the joy out of being around books. I tried another job that, although it was not technically a writing position, required I do a lot of writing for the organization, but after a couple of years, restructuring the same message over and over was losing its lustre. I still needed something more.
Over the last couple of years, I have slowly been pushing myself to find that something more. I have worked on a government writing contract, I've designed websites, I've been pulled on board MamaPop to write about pop culture and entertainment, I've submitted my writing for print publication, been selling my photography on Etsy, and I was selected to be a part of the Community Keynote at the BlogHer '08 conference in San Francisco. I am by no definition an overnight success (I think you need to make enough to eat at least once a day for that), nor am I done traveling my career hunt trajectory, but I am finally on a constructive path to work I can and do love. Being even halfway there feels immeasurably better than never beginning the search at all.
It has been a less than smooth road to this middle ground from the job I once loved. I have felt afraid, excited, frustrated, hopeful, sad, and blessed, but it is worth all of that to seek a career change, whether it is desired or not, that meets your expectations for your best passionate, motivated, and fulfilled self.
It's Never too Late For a Second Chance. See "
" on Sept. 26th.