I just had a very interesting experience, and I thought those in the writing and reading communities would find it interesting, too.
After I got my kidlet off to school, I headed off to Starbucks with my pink Mac and my story buzzing around inside my head. I arrived, happy to find my favorite squishy chair by the window unoccupied, and my favorite baristas who know me and how to make my Hot Venti non-fat, 7-pump Chai with whip.
Which meant, within minutes, I was happily settled with my iPOD playing the soundtrack from Pirates of the Carribean and the Mummy movies in my ears, my Mac on my lap and my Chai at my elbow. So far so good.
All is well with the world. (aka, writer bliss)
About thirty minutes later, a man came by to ask if the chair next to me was taken. I pulled out one earphone and assured him it was open. He sat, and as people sometimes do, he asked what I was working on so diligently. The usual conversation ensued. It was a novel. Yes, I’m published. No, I’m not self-published. Yes, you can buy my book in a “real” bookstore as well as in eBook (which he considered not a real book.) Yes, my mother, my child and my entire family knows that I write romance and no, they are not ashamed, and in fact are quite proud of me.
So, far, the conversation wasn’t anything I haven’t heard and participated in a thousand times. In fact, I’ve mastered the polite smile I paste on while answering people who so obviously disprove of what I do. After all, it’s their problem, not mine, and me wasting my time ranting will not change their opinion, only cement it.
Then he turned thoughtful, and I almost thought I was safe to pop my earphone back in and delve back into my story, when he asked, “Have you ever thought about getting a real job? You could always go back to school and earn a degree.”
I was so stunned, I forgot about the cool, polite smile, and instead a huge laugh bubbled up until it echoed around Starbucks.
Was this guy for real? He had just judged me purely on my job. Yes, I’m wearing jeans and a nice shirt with strappy sandals and not a business suit, but this is exactly what I would’ve worn to the office in corporate America anyway.
He looked like a mid-40′s professional. Blackberry clipped to his belt, tasteful leather briefcase sitting at his feet, dress slacks, button down shirt and nicely combed hair with just a hint of expensive cologne to complete the package. He also had dark circles under his eyes and confusion was plain on his clean-shaven face.
After I got my amusement back under control, I took out the other headphone, closed my Mac and turned all my attention on him. And by this time, my favorite barristas and a few close-by customers were paying close attention, too.
And this is what I told him. “I didn’t mean to laugh, I’m sorry. And I do truly appreciate you wanting to help me. However, I already have a college degree along with fifteen years of real work experience, the last eight of which were in corporate America technologies where I was making good money, and moving up the chain. But I was also working a gazillion hours a week, tired all the time, stressed beyond what was healthy and wishing I could chuck it all to stay home and write.”
He couldn’t have looked more shocked if I would’ve slapped him. “Don’t you miss the steady paychecks and the security of having a real job?”
Now, I found I could bring the polite smile back. “Do you love your job?”
“Well, it pays the bills and I don’t hate it.”
“Have you ever written a book? Or done something you really love as a job?”
“Let me assure you, writing IS a real job. And it’s much harder than it looks. But I enjoy writing more than I’ve ever enjoyed any other job except being a mom, and it’s nearly as hard as that. And as for security, it’s only an illusion no matter what job you’re doing–especially in today’s climate of layoffs and recession. So, you might as well spend your days doing something you love.”
He pursed his lips and studied me for a minute and finally nodded. “You’ve given me something to think about at the very least.”
Then they called out that his drink was ready and he was gone.
I really wonder if he will think about it. But one of the nearby customers who attends the local college came up and talked to me as soon as he left. Apparently, what I had said had resonated with her. She had been majoring in what her parents wanted her to–international business, when she really wanted to go into graphic design. She told me what I had said helped her finally make up her mind to tell her parents and change her major. And she gave a very relieved laugh when I told her my degree is in Instrumental Music Education. I also told her that when I landed the business jobs, they didn’t care what type of degree I had, only that I had gotten it because it showed I could stick with something…LOL!
I really hope that helped her, and it makes me feel like I was there at that particular time for a reason–even though I know everything happens for a reason.
Things that make you go hmmm.
Has anyone else ever had something like this happen?