Thoughts On Turning 30: Switching Careers
My mom isn’t going to be pleased with what I am about to disclose, but I figure somebody has to have the audacity to be honest about their life, so here it goes:
On the day of my 30th Birthday, barring some sort of miracle, one of the first things I’m going to do when I wake up is file for unemployment for the second time since I graduated from college. I won’t go into the details of how this situation came to be, because they’re really not important nor are they caused by an isolated incident so much as a myriad of factors. Also, I am not writing this to get any sympathy from anybody, but I will thank everyone in advance who is sure to email me or comment with a note of encouragement. The truth is I’m not going to switch careers anytime soon, but there a lot of days where I think about doing so, here’s why.
Sine graduating in 2004, I’ve actually been fortunate enough to spend more time at a steady gig than freelancing. I’ve had jobs as an editor at a couple magazines and websites, and all along I usually found some way to do some writing on the side. Becoming a writer full time was never more a part of my career plan than say climbing the ranks of a masthead at a publication of note, but due to circumstances that were sometimes beyond my control and sometimes not, this is where I have ended up:
Jozen Cummings, Writer.
I would say that it has a nice ring to it, but honestly, there are some days when I hate the way it sounds, when I feel like it’s a lie.
People often mistake their talents for skills. Someone once asked if I wanted to be famous, I told them only if it’s for my talent. But these days I realize it’s going to take more than talent to be a famous writer if that’s what I want to be. It’s also going to take the skills.
I know I have the talent to write, but to be a writer takes skills, a lot of which have absolutely nothing to do with putting words and sentences together, a lot of which I sometimes wonder if I possess. Make no mistake about it, I am not writing this because I’m questioning whether or not I’m good at writing. I know I have the talent, but do I have the skills? One is what you’re born with, the other is what you learn.
As I turn 30-years-old, this is the question I ask myself most these days. My talent allows me the ability to write a piece that will help me pay my phone bill, but do I have the skills to use my talent to the point where I could possibly support a family?
Thus far, I can honestly say I don’t and it’s frustrating, maddening, and sometimes makes wonder if I made the right decision.
It also makes me think about my Pop.
My Pop worked construction, but instead of joining a union, he went for his independent contractor’s license and decided to go at it alone. And why shouldn’t he have gone that route? He had the talent, the gift. I spent a lot of time with him on construction sites and the things I saw him do with those power tools, with a tape measure, still make me shake my head in amazement. Whole plots of land were filled with enclosed spaces that had fully functional plumbing and electricity, and it was all done off the strength of his bare hands. If you would have told me it was magic, I would have believed you.
The last time I talked to my Pop, I found out he doesn’t do construction anymore. He has a desk job. We didn’t delve into details as to how he got there, but we didn’t need to.
I remember the time a man called him to do a job, and was willing to pay him nearly twice his regular rate. He slammed the phone down in excitement, ran over to me, gave me three of the hardest hi-fives I ever felt and said, “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO GOO WORK SON!”
Then there was the time he was bidding on a job at the local university. That was a week-long process if I recall, and it was one of the few times I was hip to all the behind-the-scenes work it takes to secure a gig. I even knew the day he was going to be told whether or not he would be chosen. Too afraid to ask him, I asked my mom instead if he got the job, she said he didn’t, apparently his bid was one of the highest so they went with another group.
My Pop had it in spades, so he made a high bid because he knew was worth every penny, but this wasn’t about hammering nails and drilling screws, bidding on a job was about business.
I love my Pop with all my heart, but the one thing he was missing was the skills to sustain a career doing what he loved. He had no business partner, every now and then my Mom would help him out whenever he needed to handle paperwork, but that was it.
I’m not too sure, but I can guess, all the years of inconsistency, the ups of getting work and the downs of not getting work, took its toll on him. As a result, he didn’t give up, he just went into another direction, developed a skill and chose something a little bit more consistent.
There are a lot of days I feel exactly like my Pop’s did during his days as a construction worker. The sweet joy of an editor telling me they like my pitch and want me to write 1,000 words on it never gets old. But what does get old is the numerous unanswered pitches I send out, the frustrating wait I have to endure to receive a check for work I’ve done, having to sometimes say yes to work I don’t want to do all because it will keep the lights on, my lack of savings and insufficient funds alerts being sent to my email.
It took me six years to learn my talent is nothing without my skills, which is why these days I spend a lot of time trying to better myself in areas like time management and money management in order to continue to make a living as a writer. I saw with my own eyes what happens when you have the goods but you don’t make good on them. I don’t want that to happen to me because I don’t want to have to do anything else but what I love to do.