One thing you realize as you get older is how very often it is that life doesn't go the way you expect it to.
As I discussed last week, when I hit my "new norm" for life as a chronically ill person, I became quite unhappy. This unhappiness continued, at a significant and disruptive level, for a number of weeks. As I was working through things on my own, I realized that a lot of the problem was that I wasn't just unhappy with my present; I was also unhappy with the future I was facing.
When I decided to apply for online graduate school, to get my Master's in Library and Information Science, my thought was that jobs as a librarian would be easier to find than jobs as an editor, which had been my original plan for a day job. I also thought that librarianship would be a more stable field overall. I thought it would be disabled-friendly. (I also liked the thought of working with teens, since YA is really my passion.)
Though I was already very sick, I hadn't yet come to the point of comprehension. I didn't yet understand that my level of illness meant I was very disabled now. I didn't yet understand that I now had multiple incurable conditions. I didn't know that my level of disability might not be something I could fix. That point of comprehension hit pretty quickly, however. And once I was well enough to continue my Master's degree again, I started thinking that it might not be worth it.
It was a fleeting thought at first. I worried about the high cost of the classes and the amount of energy I had to expend on them. I worried that, because of my level of disability, I would never be able to do the job I was spending all this time and money on. And, to be honest, though I'd discovered that I have a decent handful of skills that are library-friendly, I wasn't enjoying my classes very much. (Though, since they were beginning-level classes, I figured that didn't mean a whole lot.) But since my health was improving, I held to the possibility that I could still get well enough for librarianship. My mom also encouraged me by pointing out that education in and of itself is valuable, even if it doesn't end up applying to a job.
But then, this last summer, my rate of improvement slowed significantly, and the class I was taking kind of kicked my butt. I hated it. I hated the subject, I hated the work, and I hated the fact I was spending all of my time on this class, not getting any writing or editing done on my books. Plus the workload was setting off flares of my chronic illnesses and making my improvement plateau all the clearer. Yes, I did end up with an A. (That's how I do, boi.) But I was very unhappy. I wasn't coping well. So after my class ended, as noted above, I decided to get some help and see if I could work through all the sadness and bitterness I was feeling.
I also spent some time working through things on my own by writing in my journal. I wrote about how I hated feeling like a burden on my family. I wrote about how disconnected I felt from all the abled people around me (and most of the disabled people too, since most of them didn't have the kind of disabilities I have or, if they did, weren't disabled to the level I am). Finally, in mid-August, I wrote about how dreary and empty the future ahead of me looked. How, even when I did get through all of these classes, it did not look like I would be able to do the work required to be a librarian. How all my writing was being pushed to the side, setting back my dream of becoming an author.
And I remembered two things. One, that if the future ahead of you looks bleak and makes you unhappy, that often means you need to turn towards a new future. Two, that when you have chronic illnesses, you have to prioritize things, so that you can know which things to drop when you get too sick to do them all.
Ever since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 11th grade, I've been prioritizing things and sacrificing the rest. And one of my breakthrough moments in the depression that hit me post-diagnosis came when I realized that the two things I could never, ever let go of, no matter how sick I got, were my dream of love/marriage/family and my dream of becoming a career novelist. Those two things are my passion. They're what matter to most. They're what make me me. So while becoming a published, successful author is an improbable goal that requires me to face a lot of rejection, I will never stop fighting for it. It's my passion. It's the thing I would sacrifice everything else to do.
Thinking about that now, I realized that I'd gotten off-track. My priority of being a novelist had been pushed to the wayside by graduate school, and I knew I couldn't live with that. I have to put writing first.
But writing isn't practical as a day job, and that was why I'd decided to go into librarianship in the first place. Giving up on the idea of supporting myself isn't something I want to do. I want to be productive, to make a difference in society, and to make money to help reduce the burden that my illnesses have placed on my family. I may not be able to make enough to be independent (and again, I am so lucky my parents can support me), but I want to do something.
So I asked myself, is there a day job I could try to work towards that wouldn't be so difficult? One that might allow me to write as well? And I immediately realized that editing, the original plan I'd had for my day job, could be the answer.
After the classes I'd taken on librarianship, I'd learned that being a librarian was not easier than being an editor. On average, the two positions pay about the same. Editing jobs might actually be easier to find than ones as a librarian. Additionally, I'd learned that librarians spend a significant amount of time on their feet, helping patrons, shelving books, and running programs. To perform the responsibilities necessary to be a librarian, even if I was well enough to leave the house for part-time hours, I would need an electric scooter or wheelchair (which is an additional expense). Meanwhile, editing is a sedentary job that can often be done at home. While being a librarian requires a MLIS, I only need my Bachelor's in English, which I've already earned, to become an editor. To top it all off, I have experience in editing, and I know that I enjoy it. In opposition to that, my classes in librarianship so far were making me a little uncertain about whether I'd enjoy the job.
There were drawbacks, of course. I'd already spend thousands of dollars on the five classes I'd taken, and a lot of time and energy too. But that education, like my mom said, is still worth something, and it was better to stop now than to pay thousands more for the next twenty classes in the program. There was also always the possibility of a sudden improvement in my health, but that was unpredictable, and editing would be easier on me either way. Of course nobody wants to be a quitter, but sometimes that's necessary.
As soon as I began considering this new plan of action, my mood improved significantly. I felt really good about this decision. I talked to my best friend and to my mom about it, and my mom said (and I agreed) that I should take the Fall semester class we'd already paid for, and that I shouldn't officially make a decision until I had a sense of whether these next classes would be as negative for me as the beginning core ones.
So I've been going through the next class, which is about reference services. I don't hate it as much as the class I took during the summer, but I don't like it either. Nothing about it makes me feel like I should stay in the graduate program. Registration for Spring semester has passed, and I've made my decision.
Come January, I'm going to open up a freelance editing business online. If any of you at any point need editing work done on some text, please check out the website for my business, which I will post here when I start working! I'm also looking now at part-time remote job positions in the editing or similar sectors, as these jobs will accommodate the fact that I am currently unable to leave the house for more than six hours a week on a regular basis.
I'm doubtful that I'll be able to make enough money to support myself, and since I require help with a lot of basic chores, I'm reliant on my family regardless. But hopefully, I'll be able to make some to help with the expenses of my existence. I'll also continue, of course, with my writing and editing and sending queries, as I aspire towards my ultimate goal of a writing career. Because this plan might leave me a little too isolated (although church/social media have been working for me so far), I might volunteer as a tutor at the local high school. That's a contingency plan, though, since it won't help with my expenses and I won't be able to manage many hours anyway.
I'm feeling pretty positive about this, and I'm glad I've found this path for myself. As I said at the start of this post, the future often goes differently than you expect, and we have to make adjustments as we go. I don't know for sure how this is going to turn out, but I'm hopeful.
Thanks for reading. Keep your eyes out for news regarding my editing services, and I'll post next week about some helpful internet tools.
Images via learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org, medium.com, and ncc-ccn.gc.ca.
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