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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.

Talent.

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.

Skills.

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/stupidDOPE stupidDOPE.com

    Go with your gut and what makes you happy!

  • Mo

    You must have meant ‘disclose’ in your opening statement. *reading on now*

  • BBB

    wow
    thanks for sharing
    i can relate

  • Cups

    I call these feelings quarter-life crisis. i read that book and it’s great. I kind of love how life doesn’t go according to plan too. 

  • Guest

    Wow!!!!, that was the most heartfelt post you have written. I liked it.

  • Just Anotha Brotha

    Bro, you’re turning 30. Let’s stop talking about it and start being about it. I’d go on a 6-12 month hiatus from blogging and get EVERYTHING together before coming back. 

  • DB Buddy

    Skills can be developed.  Buckle down and really focus on developing your craft.  Cut out the TV, the twitter, the distractions and find mentors, coaches, and even tutors.  If you’re passionate about it then it won’t be so bad.  Just remember that in any career path you choose you’ll have to take the time and energy to build proficiency if you want to excel at the highest levels.  And if you start on a new path you’ll be starting from scratch and face the same reality – there are no shortcuts.  Good luck and best wishes.

  • It’s not that simple!

    “It took me six years to learn my talent is nothing without my skills”
     
    It is so cliché to say… but this was so relatable!
     
    For years my mother constantly told me how the one thing I had that nobody could take from me was my talent. I really did believe that but what I have grown to understand is that while my mother meant/means well it’s just not that simple.
     
    I’m super grateful for my talent as I know it is an amazing gift. The happiest moments in my life are when I am creating. Yet… when I reflect back to when I was deciding on my major and even which college I would attend… my same super supportive mother was adamantly against an art school and or art major.
     
    So I chose a major that I thought would help me turn my talent into a skill. Needless to say thousands of dollars were wasted and I’ve done what every “educated” individual who is not down with the “starving artist” lifestyle and knows happy/talent doesn’t pay the bills all the time does …I got a desk job.
     
     I’ve had some miserable days these last four years, trying to gain “experience” and “skills” in the “real world”. I’ve felt super defeated trying to live this double life. I go to a job that I lack any passion for while I get underpaid or rejected for proposals and jobs that I have more than enough talent for.
     
    Unlike other professions where people spend years learning skills for which some then develop a talent for, it’s hard to bring structure to a talent/gift. I’ve grown so envious of the few people who get to do what they love/what they’ve been gifted with as a living. Then I’m disgusted by people who lack passion for life when it comes to their “life’s work”. They don’t think beyond just going to work to collect a check… le sigh… Now I find myself spending so much time trying to hold on to the other thing my mother said no one could take from me … my pride!
     
    SN: I know this isn’t my blog but this hit home. Thanks for the audacity and the space.
    – esoteric

  • Kristi

    ….and with that, I get back to writing…to keep the phone connected and the student loan shrinking….

  • http://twitter.com/beserious1 ashley.

    It’s funny that you post this, I was just having a conversation about this exact topic with my grandfather who works in the field that I plan to pursue. I just graduated from college and plan to be a journalist but have been reluctant to use connections that I have to help me boost myself. Whether that’s with helping to get skills that I need or just being a mentor to me as I try to land my first job. That being said, I know I have the talent to get where I want to be, however until I develop some of the special skills I need to have, I’ll be out of a job. Good luck to you as you deal with this, I’m sure you’ll come out on top. 

  • Niiyolanie

    Thanks for sharing! I’m 32 still working to match my talent with my skills!  Stay focused and it will happen for you as God intended. 

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  • http://twitter.com/shoyastarr Shoya

    I FEEL the exact same way! Only I want/wanted to work in the music industry.People keep saying to “pursue your dreams”….”go with your gut”.However, that doesn’t pay the bills and it gets harder as I get older. Its hard because I have the talent(I want to work in A&R), have experience, have wonderful ideas and can spot a hitmaker from miles away.However, getting numerous rejections because I don’t know the right “person” or have the right “connections” or worse they assume I’m “soft” because I’m a female is depressing. I was once homeless in NYC for an unpaid music internship and I still didn’t get a position because they were undergoing a hiring freeze/layoff even though they loveeedd my ambition and work. I’ve read about the publishing industry being hammered just as much as the music industry and I feel for you. I don’t have much advice, but as a fellow Howard Alumni, I hope that it works out. Maybe the blog will be as big as ConcreteLoop or PerezHilton? Maybe one of us will be able to follow our dreams through blood, sweat, and tears 🙁

    …but I pray one day maybe Jay Z will come by and grant me my wish 🙂

  • http://goodmorningdaniella.blogspot.com/ Daniella

    Wow, I am currently facing a similar issue regarding my writing.  I know I have the talent, but am not sure how my writing will “take care of me” and still allow me to feel like a responsible adult.  Hats off for believing in your talent but understanding the need for skills!  I wish you all the best and keep writing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8902991 Danielle Michelle Dawkins

    Jozen,
    I think you have the skill and talent, its just a rough time. Sure its BEEN a rough time, but writers just need some innovation. You may have to plan something independently or something like that. The reason I say this is because in the little that I know of you from Howard, I saw that you fought hard to work at Vibe and got in there. You worked hard from the Hilltop to whatever publication, you wanted Vibe and you got it. I think that when Vibe had to fold is what set you back because you had your dream job and then it was gone. (Which is what a lot of Americans are going through right now.) You started this blog (Innovation, which is a skill not talent) and have made some waves with it (featured in a small spot in Essence) And you clearly freelance like a Mofo because I see that there are always links for a piece here and there. (That’s stamina which is a skill not talent, in my eyes anyway.) You many need to re-evaluate the writing market and manipulate your love for writing so that it can fit into a career that will feed you and your future family cause quite frankly I can’t wait for the name of this blog to change to “Guess What I’m Married” (HA!)

    Now me…skill… that was something I knew from the jump…I didn’t have them. Even when I jumped on that ride through print journalism at Howard I knew, but I thought school would help build skill in me, and it did, but Journalism was my practical choice because a degree in fine arts or creative writing didn’t seem like it would pay the bills either. I actually blocked aspirations for creative writing out of my mind for a while. I thought, “I’ll move back to Delaware and work at a local paper”…not so much. Then life took an unexpected turn for the worst when I became sick and had two surgeries in 2007/2008. Once my health was back on track I had to re-evaluate my life. Working a part-time job and (still) living with my mom I decided to tried the road my she took when MBNA (big time bank in DE) was bought out by Bank of America and she was laid off with about 300 others; substitute teaching. Some how between September 2010 and January 2011, I fell in love with 5th and 6th graders as well as children with multiple/severe disabilities/autism and decided to go for my master’s in special education. Sure its the “those who can’t” route, but at least it is something ELSE that I LOVE, it’s not like I am doing it JUST to get a sure  job (special education teachers are much needed) and money but I enjoy working with kids. I hope to be that teacher that 13 years later you still think about. PLUS (and I know so many people say this and don’t do it) I plan to keep my creative writing dreams open. While re-evaluating my life I found a love for Haiku. I WILL send out queries, before the year ends for a novel/novella that I wrote.  (it was a New Year’s Resolution I will not forget about) and I pray that someone will want to publish it or else I will be self publishing because I tend to be independent anyway.

    I think in addition to the lost of a job, for a man pride is hurt. If I recall the job issue was a reason you didn’t want to do much dating (discussed in the beginning of this blog’s life) and that is understandable and makes so much sense, but don’t let “man pride” fog your judgment if you understand what I mean. I hope that you take the time to read this and that I can be as much of an inspiration to you in this era of “crushed dreams and hard realities” as you were when we were living that Howard “you can do anything” life. Trust and believe their are others right beside you in the fight to live out our dreams/love….

    From a fellow alum and fan

    PS: I wrote a article back in the day about Blooks (Blog/book) maybe “Until I get married” could be a future book….just a thought, you may have already thought…

  • Guest

    According to the blog post, it stated “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 best way to show your support for anyone particularly those you care about and matter in your life is to let them do what they want to do with their life. Afterall, you wouldn’t want anyone to tell you what to do with your life,  unless you’re given permission to do so-as long as you’re not harming others and yourself emotionally and physically.  I don’t know JozenC  personally, i just happen to come across his website one day and since then, most of his blog postings were well worth the read. I’m not in the position to give him any encouragement and or sympathize him but only to give my review about his his blog postings, not to offend him or anyone. I may not care for those who are not part of my life but i do care enough to just want to say, ‘as long as you do what’s right for you’.

  • http://www.theheartmalfunctions.com Carla Ashley

    It always seems like we writers have the hardest times finding a way to make a living from our talents. Personally, I use my writing talents as a side hustle until I learn the ins and outs of what it would take to successfully launch a writing career. I know writing content that you love is what you ultimately want to do, but I ask if you ever considered the possibility of writing in a corporate America setting that could allow you the opportunity to learn what sets the successful apart from the not so successful?

    It’s not so much going in another direction but learning to pair your talents with your skills. It’s hard finding the right direction to go but ultimately we all find our way if we decide to never give up and face life with a determination to succeed. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to your success.

  • Onedia White

    I can relate too but I do believe if you keep at anything long enough you are bound to be successful. You have IT. Monetarily or not, you are a success. You touch people. I know that won’t keep the lights or your phone on, but it’s bigger than that. Possibly bigger than you. Your bills will get paid but your spirit will get fed, which is even better in my book. Good luck and thanks for the introspection!

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