An un-Cinderella Story

. 5 min read
  • I just wrote this for a blogger's site but figured I'd share here too, why not!

You know the story about the guy who was running so quickly but, when stopped and asked about where he was going, he turned around and said, “I don’t know”? That sums up my early days in a nutshell.

When I was in my early teens, I decided I wanted to work in magazines—the evolution of what brought me to that conclusion that is sort of funny—and basically from that point onward I did everything possible to get myself in the door. Fast forward to university when I balanced 3 days a week of interning with full time school. Connections were made, lessons were learned, blah blah. And yet, as it turned out, following graduation, I still couldn’t get a job in this field I so wanted to.

Or, couldn’t I?

Something happened. When I was in my last month of school I got an email through LinkedIn, asking me to interview for a position at a luxury company. It would be entry-level, but the salary would be high and I would be working for an incredible person. The job was administrative, but for some reason that tidbit of information rolled off my back. All I could think when I got that email, and thereafter proceeded to meet my future bosses were “I’m going to be working in luxury! I’m going to be able to afford my own rent! I’m going to be independent!”

When I started at the company and began to feel a little maligned with my position I remember telling myself I wouldn’t have made money in writing or editorial work anyway, and that this was what growing up looks like: letting go of that silliness! Claps for me for putting on my big girl shoes. Er… or not.

I won’t kick myself too hard, as I was just doing the best I could. We all are. And I have so much compassion for my 21 year old self now looking back. She was scared, but more than that, she didn’t believe she deserved to take time following school to slow down and ask herself what should come next. She had to get ahead. For whatever reason. (Most likely insecurity.)

So, yes, I took the job. And though I worked with great people, and had a beautiful home to return to…this wasn’t enough to save me from crumpling there. I had no creative outlet, and in retrospect, I think that’s what contributed to the biggest crack I developed in that period. Not that I knew what was going on with me at the time. I’d forgotten, somehow, that I loved to write. And in forgetting, I withered away. Literally. I was so stressed and out of my element that my digestive system became dysfunctional and I lost far too much weight, and in that became ill.

I’ll never forget this one night I came home from work. It was about 8PM and I was exhausted. I went to grab my mail and headed up the elevator. When I stepped into my bedroom I opened the only letter that wasn’t junk: a bill. It wasn’t that I couldn’t pay it. Or that it was even inordinately high…it was just that in sitting on my bed opening this envelope at 8 something at night I felt my life flash before my eyes. Was this really what my life would be from now on? Twelve hour days of uninspiring work, only to come home to bills for an apartment I'm never at to even enjoy? What was I working for? So, naturally, I burst into tears and collapsed onto my bed.

Maybe, if I’d been writing in the evenings, or doing anything but just work work work, things would have been different. But, as I said, I forgot all about creating. It seems completely insane to me now looking back that I could have forgotten what I’d loved to do since I was young…maybe it’s because I was so brain dead by the end of the day, I don’t know. Anyway, all I did know was that I had to make a change. Joylessness max reached.

So I quit, put my apartment up for rent, and went back to school. The next year and a half was spent in the most clichéd “finding yourself” way possible. Yoga, journaling, absorbing self-development podcasts like it was my job, connecting with creatives, etc. I even got into crystals and mantras and all that spiritual jazz for a while. I needed it. I was desperate to find out who I was again. And all I’ll say about all that is, it may not be your jam and it may sound woo-woo, but it works. When you feel like you need to discover who the hell you are, stillness and all that truly helps.

In short, I returned home after that time with a new perspective. I’d realized I’d stifled my dream to become a writer out of fear and needed to go after it if I wanted to be happy. What would my friends think? What would my parents? What about my siblings? Would they call me crazy? Would they say “you can’t make a dollar in that profession, Mackenzie” and shake their heads? All those questions sounded in my mind at first. Until I took the first step and realized, wow, my support system believes in me. Shocker, right? My support system supported me. They didn’t call me crazy. They just wanted me to be happy.

So, here’s the deal. This isn’t a Cinderella story. I’m currently in the process of figuring out how to make leeway as a writer and, yep, it’s just as hard as I thought it would be. But guess what? I have 10x the energy these days, even when I work much longer hours than I ever did back in my administration job. There’s an incredible flow of energy that comes to the creative pursuing their path, and with that, a beautiful amount of hope. I’ve only been at this for three months and in this amount of time I’ve managed to find a paper to publish my non-fiction writing regularly, create my own platform that shares other creatives’ journeys (out June!), find a writing group to guide me in the book publishing process, and start a work of fiction that’s nourished me so deeply I can’t even put it into words. Plus, I’ve met incredible people pursuing their own version of all this. And that is arguably the best part. Finding people who get me and get what I mean when I say “life is more than sitting behind a desk and being a good little worker bee.” We have a choice. We can choose the former, sure, and be comfortable. Or we can choose to get our hands dirty, be afraid and welcome a whole other way of living—one that comes with downs, of course, but who cares? What’s a challenge (or a hundred) when compared to a life of grey? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take climbing mountains any day if that means getting to live a life that is rich with colour and adventure.