I am attending my first-ever writing workshop this weekend. And while I am learning a TON of valuable information, lurking in the back of my mind are the questions: “Why on earth is this my first one? Why haven’t I been doing these for 20 years?”
We can’t change the past. But we all have those certain “sliding door” moments, and we wonder, If I’d taken a different path, what would my life look like now? So I took a little stroll into my past and came up with the career-oriented moments I tend to wonder about most.
Meteorology. This was my first serious career exploration. In high school, I was looking at universities that offered both Meteorology and Creative Writing majors, in case I changed my mind. I wanted to be either a storm chaser or an on-camera meteorologist, and had I not gotten burned out on math with pre-calc and statistics, I could very well be working at the Weather Channel right now. Instead, weather pops up a lot in my writing.
Washington, DC. When I spent a high school semester in Washington, DC, as a Congressional Page, I fell in love with it. What would have happened if I’d attended college or grad school there? Would I be living in or near my favorite city? The idea is almost too painful to think about, and DC is one of the few places that could lure me away from my current job.
Montpelier. I interviewed for a position at Montpelier, the home of James Madison, back in 2009, but I was not hired. Working at a prominent historic house museum was my dream job, but to be fair, I think I went a little overboard by sending every person I met with on the full-day interview a thank-you card…the very next day. Live and learn. Ironically, ten years later, I ended up in Virginia after all.
Master of Library Sciences. I never would have dreamed of becoming a librarian because the librarians I knew as a child were not nice. I was always a little scared of them, so library work never tempted me. But landing a job as a library professional in my 30s and spending six years surrounded by books was a HUGE step in making a go of my writing career.
Skipping College. I mentioned in the opening that I should have been attending writing workshops and conferences for the past 20 years, and sometimes I wonder if I should have done that instead of college. I studied history to get a good base of knowledge and learn how to do research. But maybe it would have been more valuable to get specific writing training, as well as to travel, instead of spending four years sitting in classrooms.
Greenfield Village. Another position I interviewed for was to be a summer historic interpreter at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. We had to do a mock tour of the Rosa Parks bus for the interview, and I totally blew it by letting the writer in me interfere and be too creative. I barely got those people on the bus before my time was up! But this likely would have put me on the path to professional museum work much sooner, which may or may not have affected my writing career.
A comforting thought in all this musing is something I read in both The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: We are not only the sum of everything that has happened to us, but everything that could have happened to us, too. Each door we didn’t travel through spawned a different reality, with infinite possibilities, and all of those are wrapped up in our beings.
This keeps me from regretting any of the choices I made or didn’t make, and makes me content with where I’ve ended up. Career-wise, my next dream is to be able work a day-job part time, or to write full time, and all I can do is make the best choices I know now to get there someday.
I’d love to hear about your “sliding door” moments in the comments!