To remain or not to remain – that was my question. The most difficult decision I had to make when deciding to pursue writing full-time was to leave my successful career behind.
That saying “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”? Don’t take it lightly.
When I was a little girl *music of Que Sera Sera plays in the background* … I wanted to be a hieroglyph translator, then I wanted to be Mother Teresa (at least as charitable as her), then I wanted to be a diplomat like my father, then I wanted to make a pot load of money and give a dozen kids a good home and future. A historian, an archeologist, a teacher, even an actress. But all through these shifting dreams, I wanted to be a novelist. Not just any novelist but one that wrote best-selling books and is one day interviewed by Oprah. I became a marketing professional instead and did none of that.
The Best Alternative.
A course on publishing? What the hell is creative writing anyway? You want to use that brain God gave you to write novels? These were the questions I faced when I told my parents I wanted to return to NY, NY for further studies to become a writer. And, no, they weren’t anticipated. I had been brought up to believe I could be anything I dreamed of. My parents praised my accomplishments to anyone who’d listen and fueled my intellect with encouragements to read and learn widely. AND they always seemed to be impressed with the little stories I wrote. Silly me, I failed to understand that by “anything”, they meant somewhere in the ballpark of a brain surgeon or at least a diplomat like I once said. So what happens when your world literally shrinks to the size of that proverbial oyster? The disillusioned you becomes a sheep. Business Administration was the popular subject of the day. My parents still weren’t impressed but at least it was a safe choice.
Falling in love anew.
The hospitality industry was just one of the options after I graduated at the top of my class. I’m a natural nerd; I enjoyed studying BBA and majoring in Marketing, so sue me. When a friend asked me in for an interview with the BoD of the hotel he was working in for a position that liaisoned with its shareholders, I responded for the heck of it. And ended up becoming a skills-to-soul hotelier. A year in, the General Manager noticed my communication capabilities and handed me the project to reposition the hotel’s brand identity. I never looked back. Writing became copywriting, story-building something I did to campaign for the organization.
As the years went by, success rolled in. I moved from working for a single-property brand to setting up the marketing communications department and leading the launch of a hotel under the banner of an international chain. Only a 08-year career and celebrities and media dropped in with a single call. Nothing can beat the high of wielding that kind of influence, right? Wrong. It was actually success that made me realize what was missing – that I missed writing stories. The two half-done novels saved on my personal laptop beckoned. The craving to become a novelist began blossoming once more. That I wanted to become a novelist was never in doubt. I always assumed I would return to it when I was secure enough financially. But suddenly I began to wonder what was “secure enough”. When it came to The Dream, financial security never mattered before so when did I start thinking like that? Turned out I still didn’t, not really. I was trapped in by the seduction of success. No sooner did I realize this, I had to get out. But I stayed put.
A hunger wide as a chasm.
You want to give up a career at its peak to join a sea of struggling writers? Do you realize that you are among a handful of women to break the glass ceiling in this industry and now you want to turn your back on us? And my personal favorite: You had us fooled; we pegged you as smart. But this time, the castigation did not simply come from other quarters. The questions chased my waking hours and often also my sleep [away]. As a compromise, I tried writing at night or on weekends but after 10-12 hours a day and 06 days a week, my brain shut down. Yet the itch to fill those chapters just kept spreading. The worst time of the day was during the commute back each night from work, when I almost vibrated in the seat of the office car with scenes and dialogues blending into each other. Months passed by but this time the desire would not be tamped.
The last leg.
Relief only came when I handed in the resignation letter though enticement didn’t end. The organization would not hear of me leaving and even after the resignation was accepted, no one believed I would go through with it until the last day. Tears spilled, choked voices delivered farewell speeches and I ended up cutting cakes at three different gatherings. It was another 10-hour day where I kept repeating parting instructions to my team on what to do if this or that happened. Nostalgia intruded even as I was escorted by a bevy of well-wishers to the car that evening carrying my personal paraphernalia that had filled the office over time. But as the car pulled away, I smiled – now was the time to live.
Hello, my name is Zaireen Lupa and I’m a writing addict.