I’m an optimistic, proactive, anything-is-possible type person. So when I started thinking about what to write for The Process collection, I was surprised and somewhat disturbed to realize most of my topic ideas sounded negative and depressing. Fifteen-ish months of unemployment hasn’t ultimately changed who I am, but it has definitely threatened to bring out the worst in me.
I graduated in May 2013 with a degree in Nutrition and went home to live with my family until January 2014, when I would be married to my amazing husband and moving to San Antonio. As soon as I got home, I applied to various nutrition-related jobs before widening my search to include anything else. By September I had one interview that went nowhere, and no other bites. Since I was about to move in less than 4 months, I shifted my career tactic (sounds like I knew what I was doing if I say it that way, right?) and found an unpaid internship with a nutrition start-up. I wrote about one blog post a week until December and helped the CEO develop a social media marketing plan. It was a fantastic experience that gave me a lot to add to my resume and portfolio, but then January came around and it was time to start more serious hunting for work in San Antonio.
Months passed. I had a few more interviews, but no offers, and the nutrition-related positions that didn’t require me to spend another three years in school were few and far between. By about April, all the suppressed emotion from the past year just exploded. I felt so guilty that my husband was the sole provider for us, even though he earned plenty for us to live on and loved his job. I hated that I never got a summer internship during college, since that would surely have beefed up my resume. But most of all, I hated that my optimistic, carpe diem self had somehow morphed into a frustrated, directionless, guilt-laden girl with dying motivation and misplaced self-worth. All because of a stupid missing job title.
It wasn’t like I couldn’t keep busy. Taking care of the housework and running errands for Joe while he was at work took up a decent chunk of each day, leaving me enough hours to keep job hunting then work on any projects I wanted to. I developed an idea for a podcast, continued research on a year-long writing project, attempted to write scripts for short films, and tried to appreciate any other free time I had. But then the launch for the podcast was delayed, the research became overwhelming, the short film scripts were never what I wanted them to be, and all my other writing projects seemed to be going nowhere, fast. I started hating myself for not working hard enough. If I just had more discipline, I could make it through any of those problems, right?
That may have been true, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I was going about it the wrong way. Guilt or loathing can be powerful motivators when we get stuck in a rut (not always healthy, but that debate could go on for a while), but when it comes to creative pursuits, there’s an incompatibility that makes progress basically impossible. Have you ever tried imagining the voices and personalities of precious characters in your new epic story, while ten other voices in your head constantly nagged you? “It’s been 8 months, hurry up!” “You’re such a leech. Stop making your family take care of you.” “You always give up too soon. When are you going to actually finish something you started?” “You’re a failure and it’s all your fault.”
Creativity, at its simplest definition, is exercising the freedom of your imagination. It’s definitely possible to plow through a story with sheer determination, but I know at least for me, that story wouldn’t be anything close to what I’d hoped it would be unless I could silence all those oppressive voices as I created it. It’s difficult, but being able to recognize them and identify their words as lies is a crucial first step. As a Christian, I know my worth isn’t measured in a salary, the job titles on my resume, or the number of stories I finish writing. I can work hard and do my best while also resting in the truth that God loves me no matter what, and He has prepared good works for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I don’t even have to know what those works are, exactly—I know He’s got it covered, because every time I try to micromanage my life, it becomes abundantly clear that I’m not in control. What a relief.
So I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months, but I feel much more like myself these days. There’s always so much to be thankful for, and I’m learning how to manage the ups and downs of starting a career without letting them get in the way of all the stories I want to tell through books, video games, short films, or blog posts. Most of those ongoing projects are moving along much better than they were before, too. What else can I say? Singing an overdramatic rendition of “Let it Go” never bothered me, anyway.