Megan Mann
June 28, 2016 11:43 am
Getty / Ezra Bailey

When I was little, teachers would always ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Classmates would raise their hands and say that they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, a veterinarian or an astronaut, a teacher or a firefighter. When they got to me and asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Megan?” I would always have the exact same answer. “I want to write books when I grow up.” Instead of hearing that that was something I could achieve, I was always met with hesitation before the teacher said, “It’s good to have high aspirations like that.”

I never understood until much later why there was hesitation. If Billy could save people’s lives or cure cancer and Alyssa could teach third grade, why couldn’t I write books? Why was that such a lofty ambition, a total delusion? As I continued my primary and secondary education, I was often met with the same apprehensions when we were asked what our futures held.

It reached a sort of fever pitch when I was nearing the end of my high school education. You know those conversations, the ones where you meet with advisors and talk about college; where you’ll apply, what you’ll study. It became abundantly clear from the first of these conversations that I was choosing a path that many didn’t believe in and that I would gain very little support academically. “Why don’t you major in English, but become a teacher?”

It was infuriating. What was wrong with wanting to write books? Why couldn’t my career be as widely accepted as any of my other friends? But it was also reasonable for anyone to have reservations about my chosen career path. Writing is not easy in any way. No matter which variation of writer you look to become, whether it be novelist, journalist, poet, short story writer, copywriter, speech writer, etc., it’s difficult to initially gain employment. It’s also not an easy thing to major in.

Being an English major was no joke. When I was in college, it was incredibly difficult. I was in five to seven classes per semester for my last two years and it was a heavy course load, being in both writing and literature courses. There were enough classes to keep me up late at night between extensive reading lists, short stories, essays, and everything in between. There was a semester where I read 32 books for just one class!

I would be up staring at my laptop and wondering what the hell I was going to write for a short story that was meant to tell an a whole story in under 500 words, or how I was going to dissect yet another Shakespeare piece and question my choice. I would start to think that everyone was right, that I had made a horrible decision when it came to my future. I had already gone through so many courses. Turning back and starting over would put me so far behind everyone else and then what was I going to do?

And it was that question, in the deep throws of panic and sleep deprivation, stress and impending due dates, that always calmed me down. I would be surrounded by paper and pens, books and cords to various electronics, and realize that there was nothing else for me. Cooking seemed like fun, but after enough food documentaries, I realized that they had very little in the way of a social life. I liked making people laugh, but I could never be a comedienne. Teaching, although an admirable position for anyone who could hack it, was never for me, I hated confrontation so a lawyer was out, blood made me queasy when I watched Nip/Tuck or House and anything else just didn’t seem appealing enough to want to make a career out of it.

Realizing that writing, truly being able to take someone out of their everyday life, even if for a few minutes at a time, and give them something to enjoy or something to think about was all I ever really wanted to do refocused me. It made me work harder and reminded me that sure, this is going to be an incredibly difficult road, but why was I going to let others dictate the path I took in life?

And as I said, I’ve heard it plenty. It wasn’t just teachers and friends, but anyone I came into contact with. Even my parents, who understood very early on in my life that I was going to write no matter what and have supported me in my decision, still had reservations. Writing, although it’s glamorized in TV and film, is not easy. There is a lot of indecision, insecurity, stress, and a serious lack of job security. Finding a well-paying writing job is hard enough. Finding a writing job that’s going pay enough for you to live while also giving you the time to work on a novel, collection of poems or short stories, screenplay or what have you, is even more difficult.

It makes it easy for your friends, family, teachers, colleagues or significant others to wonder if you shouldn’t just give up. So you’ve put a lot of work in throughout college and slaved at unpaid gigs to build up your resume. It’s going to take you a long time to really even see any success. Are you sure you don’t want to consider something else?

Sure, of course it is. But who would I be if I gave up writing? Why take an integral part of my life out of the equation because I’ve had enough people to fill up a stadium tell me what a terrible decision it was? I’ve met writers who have told me how hard it is, how long it’s going to take, but it’s never deterred me. I’ve sent out queries for my novel, applied at multiple websites and businesses and been rejected enough to paper the walls. And still, I haven’t stopped.

My choice in life is a hard one, yes. It’s full of rejection and hard work and understanding that it certainly won’t happen overnight. In the tough moments, I scream that I should have chosen something easier, but doing what you love, what makes you happy, what gives your life true purpose is always going to be hard. You’re choosing to dedicate yourself to your profession for the rest of your life and if it’s easy, you’re not doing it right.

No matter the choice you make, someone is going to have something to say about it. And that’s okay. Hearing that I made a difficult choice makes me all that much more determined to prove what I’m capable of and to prove that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. To see my name on a byline is so rewarding and gives me such a sense of pride. I’m so thrilled to have stuck with my chosen career path and didn’t let anyone dissuade me. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Just like your dreams, goals and aspirations are.

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