The conference room was cold. Maybe, it seemed colder because I was waiting to be interviewed by two editors. I had applied for the role of a reporter/sub-editor at a popular newspaper. My brain was almost ready to shut down, for I had already written a long test that checked my understanding of ‘affect’, and ‘effect’.
The wait was excruciatingly long. The room was close to the printing press, and filled with the intoxicating smell of the fuel that’s used to run the machines. I was sleep-deprived, nervous, and above all… desperate.
“Why are you choosing to leave behind six years of your corporate career?” asked the editor. In retrospect, I think my answer was the most cliched. “Because, I love writing.” The editor smiled, but not convinced. “Why do you love writing?” I didn’t know how to field that question; I wasn’t prepared. Clearing my throat, and drumming my fingers on the table, I took a brave stab, “I like the person I become when I write.” She smiled again, but not convinced yet.
“Are you aware that you will be a beginner here? You will be treated like a trainee.” Was that a warning? I swallowed my ego, along with six years of my corporate experience, and told her that I was ready.
10 days after what I deemed a fiasco of an interview, I sat behind my desk at the newspaper office, and wrote my first story.
When I saw my byline on the newspaper for the first time, I decided not to complain about switching careers, and going back to square one. I was proud of myself; I was pleased with myself for making a bold decision. I never knew that I could be that courageous.
Three years after I joined journalism, I had to make another choice. Should I swim against the current, and survive in an industry that was sabotaging my principles, and sanity, only because I love writing? Or should I quit journalism, and go back to a corporate job to save myself from anxiety and depression? Because the job was crushing my soul. It was challenging my ideals. I was beginning to loathe writing. And, I was tired. I was so tired that I didn’t want to fight anymore, write anymore, and revel in the fame and power that the job offered. I threw caution to the wind, and I resigned.
The corporate company, where I worked for six years, was considerate to me again. I joined them. I was thankful, for I was not unemployed.
But, I started attaching labels to myself.
Idealistic. Coward. Pessimistic. Failure.
When everybody else could create a niche for themselves, why did I fail? I was mad at myself for being over-sensitive, and egoistic. I was livid because I believed I was not a writer anymore.
However, I didn’t stop writing. I continued to flirt with words here. In time, I realised that I didn’t have to work for a media house to call myself a writer. I made peace with my past, and shrugged off the labels that weighed me down.
Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.
— Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Last week, when my friend checked on me, she asked if I missed my writing job. Without paying a second thought, I said, “Not at all. Not a wee bit.”
Her question brought an epiphany — finally, it occurred to me that I had known little about myself. It dawned on me that I was more valiant, when I made the painful choice of going back to the corporate job. The labels were the swear words that my ego had employed to taunt me.
After all, I was my own prisoner. And now, I breathe a whiff of freedom.
The resignation was not a full stop. It was a semicolon.
I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed