On What to Do Next

During a job interview in 2015, my future manager asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I gave a detailed answer that demonstrated my ambition and familiarity with the job’s hierarchy, but basically I said I wanted to be an editor in their department. Truthfully, I wanted to be an editor elsewhere. Perhaps for a magazine or website where I could mentor others and have more editorial freedom. I achieved that in 2019 (The Tishman Review) and then again in 2020 (Linden Avenue Literary Journal). And now in 2021, I am an editor again three times over (Raising Mothers, wigleaf, and Shenandoah). It’s like I hit the bell and then kept ringing it.

The first two editorships were short-lived. Before I got a chance to stretch my legs, the journals closed after modest tenures. I hope to grow and stretch into these new editor positions as the year progresses. Yet, at the back of my mind, I hear a question, once faint that now grows louder: “What do you want to do next?”

It reminds me of when I was a kid and adults would ask me, “What do you want to do/be when you grow up?” I had a pat answer. A teacher. A psychologist. A profession that was respectable enough to make them nod and leave me alone. But I wasn’t sure. I was afraid to say, “I don’t know.” I was afraid to hear everyone’s disapproval or chiding, however gentle, for not having an answer. At 10, 11, 12, 13,… I shouldn’t have been required to know what my be-all-end-all career was going to be. I was too young to have to slip my small feet into the big shoes of adulthood.

Sometimes I think about what I would have done if I had been allowed to dream. If I had wondered (and wandered) more freely for a little longer. If I had freed myself from the pressures of other people’s expectations.

Recently, I’ve been paying close attention to writers I interact with — whether mutually or those I watch from afar. I’ve found myself marveling at their innovation. Their influence. Their ability to do wonderful, life-changing things for others.

At first, I thought I should be doing the same. I should be creating workshops, spearheading organizations, and championing social projects. I should be making myself an authority in some area. But as I talked myself through my thoughts, I recognized that I was feeling a pressure to do those things. To fall in line with what everyone else was doing. Though I have the passion and potential to do so much more than I am currently, in reality, I don’t want to do any of those things right now.

What do I want? I don’t know. I don’t even have the energy to begin thinking about what that looks like for me in the future. But I think it’s best if I give myself space to dream. If I just let myself settle in to where I am now and learn all that I can be in this place, in this moment.

I want to reach the point where I am fully walking in my truth and purpose. Part of that is just sitting and waiting, letting myself enjoy where I am right now.

If you are feeling pressure to reach for the next thing, to keep achieving, earning, building, or whatever, I encourage you to just sit and appreciate where you are right now. Even if that means you are waiting or drifting. There is purpose in that too.



My February TBR:

Tar Baby (fiction)  by Toni Morrison

Gingerbread (fiction) by Helen Oyeyemi

To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (nonfiction/music criticism) by Felicia Angeja Viator

The Prophets (fiction) by Robert Jones, Jr.

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