It is becoming very apparent to me that I am an eternal optimist- mostly. It becomes clear when I’m driving through a town my best friend will later describe as “sketchy and dangerous” and all I noticed were the cute houses with different colored mailboxes. I notice it, also, as I listen to other people complain about the rude clients they’ve dealt with at work all day while personally choosing to remain silent about the injured pets I cared for and the euthanasias I assisted my doctors with that day. (It is a constant choice for me to leave work at work, and I do believe I am healthier for it.) Looking back, I can even see the small glimmer of optimism I held onto during the worst of the worst days of my depression. Even when my days were endlessly long, lonely, and dark, I somehow held out hope that one day they wouldn’t be.
The one place I find it hard to maintain an idealistic attitude? My future. My dreams.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but as the end of high school loomed nearer and fear of the real world set it, I changed my major from creative writing to the more sensible journalism. Even then, I didn’t really think I had the chops to make it in that field, so I left my four-year-college for a technical school where I studied veterinary technology.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my job and I’m thankful to have my degree. I genuinely get to feel like I make a difference to people every day. But this isn’t what I always dreamed I’d be doing. And, the longer I’m in this field, the more I realize it isn’t really the passion-inspiring career I want for the rest of my life.
Lost and wandering (isn’t that how we all spend our twenties?), I visited a psychic in a lone building in a desolate parking lot in California. She told me she saw me in a career focused on helping people, something like therapy or counseling. Cut to me enrolling in community college for a degree in psychology. This is the closest fit I’ve found to what I actually want to be doing, which is helping people through my writing. I mean, I love therapy. I love going to my own therapist. I enjoy listening to my friends’ problems and assuring them that they are good, beautiful people, and they have everything it takes to succeed inside of them. I could easily excel at counseling others.
But… if I’m being honest, it still feels like the safer choice. The choice with job security and a 401k and a somewhat direct course of action. Does that mean it won’t be fulfilling? No. But will it be the most fulfilling? I don’t know.
Most of my life, I’ve carried around so much insecurity in my heart you could sink a boat with it. I believed I wasn’t funny enough, wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t kind enough, wasn’t good enough at anything. Some of that comes from childhood (none of us makes it out completely unscathed), and some of that comes from friendships and romances I’ve been hurt by as an adult. It has taken literally 5 years in therapy for me to be able to admit that I’m a good person. Even writing that is hard. Neurons in my brain are firing-off, shouting, “No! That is narcissistic! Try harder! Be better! You aren’t good enough to call yourself good!” The difference is that, now, I can acknowledge those self-doubts and say back, “No. Fuck you. I am smart and I am kind and I am good enough, damn it.”
A really important part of that for me is allowing myself to believe that I’m good enough to follow my own dreams. I’m deserving of a life that fulfills me. I am worthy of happiness. (For those of you that this realization comes easily to: consider yourself luuuucky.)
Admitting that I want to be a writer is scary. Admitting that I want to create something in the hopes that others will be receptive to it is scary. Letting go of the typical life plan is scary. But the scariest thing I can imagine is looking back on my life twenty years from now (as I go through the motions at a job I only mostly like) and wishing I had been brave enough to at least try to go after my dreams.
A couple of years ago, at a particularly low point of my depression, I went with a friend to get a tattoo (great time to make permanent life decisions, right?) I chose the word brave because that’s what I wanted to be. And I was; brave enough to keep fighting. Brave enough to put in the work to get myself healthier. And now, brave enough to admit I have a dream and to chase it as hard as I can.