When I was working on my MFA at Emerson College, I looked at every person with a writing career the way some women in their 30s look at babies: Oh, look at that one! And, I want my own! I was in my 20s at the time, but I wasn’t dreaming about little feet or strollers or slow-spinning mobiles. I was pregnant with dreams of a Real Career. I was also plagued with fear and doubt: What if it doesn’t work out? What if I never have one?
One afternoon, Emerson hosted some of its grads on a panel in which they discussed their jobs and career path since earning their degrees. To me, they might as well have been celebrities or spirits — they had “crossed over” to the other side. How did they do it? I wondered. Will I know what to do when the time comes? But mainly, I wondered what it would look like, this career of mine. Would it be well-behaved and predictable or wild and unruly? Where would I go with it? Where would it take me?
It took me places that I never predicted, but before we jump in here, let’s get this straight: You don’t get the career you want overnight. Even if it’s a second or third career (and you will have a few different ones over your lifetime, even if there’s a throughline), it won’t leap forth from your womb fully formed. Careers gestate for months and years. You do give birth to it, but rather than one physically strenuous hours-long stretch, it happens in stages and phases.