Several years ago I was reunited with a dream. Just like the communication theory course I’d taken as a junior AND COMPLETELY ERASED FROM MY BRAIN (until a snippet of a movie we analyzed triggered the bizarrely buried memory), the moment of career clarity I experienced during a group project in college escaped me for nearly a decade.
Assigned to the broad topic of “books” during a mass communication class research project into various types of media, I was in my sweet spot. (Add to that our assignment to create a website, which back then was akin to ORBITING THE MOON, and I as in nerd heaven.) As I began researching publishing houses for my contribution to the group’s report, I realized that I just might have found The Perfect Job for Me.
Those of you who know me in real life (or have been reading here for a long time) know that I’ve been on a quest to discover The Perfect Job for Me for pretty much ever. Much to my past employers’ chagrin.
What I learned, during that mass comm class, was that a) most publishers are located in New York or Chicago, b) some publishing companies only worked on Christian books, and c) those Christian publishers were also located in Not-My-Hometown.
I’d always dreamed of moving far away and/or living in a big city. And this book-editin’ dream made so much sense. I loved books! I should work in books! But I’d also just gotten married to a farm boy who didn’t share that particular dream. So rather than make my career path a battle in those first years of marriage, I let that dream fade as others took its place.
AND THAT’S OKAY. I won’t tell you that I’ve never wondered what would’ve happened if Mark and I would’ve hit the road after my graduation, what our lives would look like if I’d become an editor for a major publishing house. Because I’ve wondered that plenty.
But I also can’t tell you that I’d trade the fundraising and event planning career path I started down after finishing school OR THE MILLIONS OF OTHER AMAZING THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE THEN, either. Because I wouldn’t.
Later, as my dream of charity event planning turned into a dream of non-profit communications, I forgot all about publishing and editing and books (other than for reading, because of course I never stopped doing that).
For a while. I forgot about it for a while.
But as it turns out, some dreams can’t be squashed forever. So while my career in non-profit work was coming to a close (though I wasn’t aware of its impending ending until my boss said Those Words I’ll Never Forget: “We’ve eliminated your position.”), I was remembering.
At first it was like a tickle in the back of my brain, but eventually – as many things do, because I THINK TOO MUCH – it became an overwhelming, all-encompassing desire. What began as, “You know . . . I think I might be good at . . . I remember writing a report once . . . is it possible I could do this . . .” turned into, “I WAS MEANT TO BE AN EDITOR. I AM GOING TO BE AN EDITOR. I MUST EDIT ALL THE THINGS.”
Research is one of my very favorite things in the world (I blame my parents, whose response to every random question I asked during my childhood was to point to our row of World Book encyclopedias and say, “Look it up.”), so I looked up everything I could find on editing and publishing and BOOKS.
I read about editing degrees and publishing internships. I memorized the website addresses and actual addresses of every Christian publishing house in the country. I starting lobbying for cities with more than one company, using every one of my public relations tools to convince Mark WE HAD TO MOVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
After I lost my job and had a baby and got a new, horrible job, this dream was crystal clear. OBVIOUSLY everything in my life, in my heart was pointing toward this undeniable truth. I was MADE to be an editor for a Christian publisher.
Strangely enough, our undeniable truths aren’t always universally accepted – or God ordained. Sometimes they are not Meant to Be. At least not in the way we imagine.
We sat around a small round table in the corner of a corner office. It was at a second interview for the job I ended up accepting six years ago that my manager’s manager asked me where I saw myself in five years.
Despite my complete lack of interest in this job, I knew I needed it – and jobs in my field were scarily scarce at that time. The interview had, up until that point, gone so well that I was confident the job was mine for the taking. After all, it was the only interview in the history of my MANY interviews that I’d been given the opportunity to brag about being high school valedictorian. (See, Mom? Someone WAS impressed! … Eleven years later … )
I needed this job. And things were going so well. I knew the right answer to the question. All I had to do was spit it out. “In five years I see myself as Director of Public Relations for this amazing company, BECAUSE HOW COULD I GO ANYWHERE ELSE?”
Instead the truth popped out of my mouth. “In five years I want to be an editor for a Christian publisher.”
And then, the most unexpected thing happened. That VP of something looked at me and said, “You know what? I absolutely believe you’re going to make that happen.” And two days later, he offered me the job [anyway].
When Mark and I found out that I was pregnant this spring, we immediately started discussing whether or not to sell our house. Financially, it’s going to be difficult if not downright impossible to escape the home we not-so-lovingly call The Money Pit. But we decided to give it a try anyway and see what God will do.
Every couple of weeks since then, we’ve had bouts of faithful – or foolish – optimism in which we believe this is really going to happen, so we look at homes for sale in a search for our next house. And while it’s fun to dream about the possibilities, about extra bedrooms and two-car garages (or three, if you’re Mark) and big backyards next to open fields and formal dining rooms and a master bath, a part of me is reluctant to jump in and house shop.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad to leave the house we’ve lived in for more than ten years. I’m not going to miss our muddy crawl space (THAT OFFERS NO PROTECTION COME TORNADO SEASON, AKA EVERY SPRING), our tiny bedrooms, our noisy neighbors or even the things that I’m loving about my house right now.
But when I think about moving into a nice, new(er), big(ger) house in a good school district across town, a little part of my heart crumbles. Because that little part of me still thought we’d move across the country someday. It’s held onto that dream of shiny buildings in big cities and cubicles full of manuscripts and red pens. Part of me, deep down – so far that I didn’t even realize it was still there, hasn’t let go of that dream just yet.
“But wait, Mary! I thought your [current] dream was to WRITE a book, not edit one!” you might think. Or, “Um, excuse me? But aren’t you ALREADY an editor? In your work with (in)courage and your freelance gigs?” If you’ve paid really close attention (and oh my word, if you have, I’m sorry.), you might even wonder about my every-once-in-a-while dream to go back to school and become a librarian.
Well, that’s just it. I am an editor. And I do feel called to write books. (And yes, if it ever becomes practical for me to go back to school for my degree in library science, look out, because I am going shopping for school supplies!)
All those years ago, when I dreamed of working with books, I wasn’t crazy. That dream didn’t actually die. It just changed. It twisted and turned and matured and branched out until I realized that my dream is to work with words, not just books. Words that matter, words that make a difference, words that might be placed in books or magazines or e-books or blogs or brochures or commercials or books. (It warrants a second mention, okay? I’m still a BIG FAN OF BOOKS.)
My dream didn’t die or even fade. It just became clearer and . . . different.
And the most amazing part of all of that (1400 words and counting, people. If you’re still with me, you have my undying gratitude and admiration.) is that I AM living part of that dream . . . but God has promised that it will keep growing. And changing. And leading me down paths I never, ever would have imagined as I chose a fuchsia background and green letters for that class project’s website.
Have your dreams ever changed? Tell us about it in the comments!