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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.

Onward,

DWM

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.

One thought on “On What to Do Next

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