I miss the good old days when I was given a title. The title came neatly packaged with a full description mapping out 50 to 60 hours of my week. A one page present of convenience.
When living in the corporate world explaining what I did for a living was never worrisome. When someone asked, "What do you do?" I didn't have to think. The answer was written for me. I was a coordinator or a specialist or senior account executive. It was even typed out on a 2 1/2 x 3 inch card in case I forgot. When uttered, these titles were often accepted without explanation. It was an easy exchange.
Titles, particularly job titles, are a funny thing. They can hold immense weight in the description of a person. It can determine salary and how close you park to the office. It can determine the amount of time you spend married to it or the amount of time you are allotted away from it. A title can make your folks proud and, even better, can ensure self-fulfillment. Yet, titles are hollow without the many foundations around them. They are the surface level of a greater depth. The title may capture your attention, but it is not the whole story or the only story.
Leaving a corporate job title was hard for me. The difficulty didn't hit me right away, but surfaced one day when a friend of a friend asked the aforementioned cordial question. It caught me off guard. What exactly did I do now? Yes, I had started part-time at Free People, but I didn't necessarily consider it "what I did." It is more of a pit stop along the way. This question, once very easy to answer, suddenly became complex. I quickly saved face and confessed I was going through a transitional period. This satisfied the person. What I really wanted to say was, "Well, I just left a successful career path in sports for which I was the bread winner in my family to pursue writing, and maybe styling, but I have yet to earn a penny for either of them. I am going to start a blog, though." The fearless kid in me wants to travel back in time and redo that moment. I would confidently say those exact words, land a nice back pat on the person and walk away to poor a whiskey. I would then turn toward him, smile, and give a nice cheers with my glass.
Truth is I have been calling myself a writer to myself for a long time. a secret title of sorts. I was a writer when I wrote in diaries that graduated to journals. I was a writer when I preferred editing papers all day over studying for thirty minutes. I was a writer when Wavy Alabaster was launched 19 months ago. Every hand written card, every note, every wedding favor (my husband and I wrote letters to each of our 230 wedding guests as favors and hand cramping took on a whole new meaning) further confirmed my internal characterization.
But, when can does the mindset crossover to the career? When does it become my working title?
I am conditioned to earn a title. I must apply for it or achieve it in some way, shape or form. Defining the parameters for this threshold proved difficult. No one was there to approve my goals, path or progress. One of the early lessons learned during this journey is triumph does not always manifest according to plan. Adaptability is your best friend. You can plan out the requirements and the steps all you want; but at the end of the day, success or that title you have been working toward may reveal itself in other ways. An open mind and a chameleon heart are required.
Struggling to define my terms as a self-titled writer, I turned to Meryl of Mrs. Franzos. She does the title justice in my opinion. Within a single email exchange, she reminded me where the title originates, where it's earned. It was lines like, "One day I started writing longhand in a moleskin notebook and kept doing it everyday." AND "It was at that moment that I realized and knew that I was a writer because I'd been doing it everyday for a long time." AND "...that was really the start of me, admitting to anyone and everyone that I was seriously writing...that I was in fact, (gulp) 'a writer' in the very moment when I had to ask for help, when something had to change in my life to make more room for writing."
In true Meryl fashion, she made me think. I can call myself a writer all I want. The true essence of "the title" lies in the act. It resides in the candlelit kitchen where I am writing this post. Calling myself a writer out loud may still be a work in progress. The title bares a weight I am unsure I can properly carry. But, a title is empty without the foundation behind it.
For now I am going to cool it on the title and just write. Because as Meryl said, "...whether I called myself a writer or not, didn't matter so long as I got to do it." She couldn't be more right.