Monday Motivation: What Do You Want to Do?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Desire (Mnemosyne - Ana Maria Tavares)
Image by Tannematica via Creative Commons

In the wildly popular erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, author E.L. James uses the phrases “my inner goddess” and “my subconscious” about a gajillion times to describe the first person narrator’s sexual, adventurous side and pragmatic, mature side, respectively. Lately, I feel like my inner goddess has been popping so many anti-depressants that she’s gone numb and my subconscious has become an ornery alcoholic – and, no, not because I wasted five days of my life reading Fifty Shades of Grey. In simpler terms, something inside me is just not right.

I suppose I am in the midst of what some would call a quarter-life crisis, but considering I’m 31 I’m a bit late to the pity party. (I’ve always been a late adopter. I still don’t have an iPhone.)

Recently, I came across the following quote:
Your life is the manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. (Ruiz)
After reading this my inner goddess actually perked up a bit. Then my subconscious threw an empty vodka bottle at her head and yelled, “But you don’t even know what kind of life you want!” I realized the drunk bitch was right.

When I was 15 the vision was clear. After college I was going to head to New York, work my way to the top at my favorite magazine, then after serving as editor-in-chief for a few years, take the leap and start a magazine of my own. Now, 16 years later, I teach English in Birmingham, Alabama. Clearly, things did not go as planned.

Nevertheless, I love my job, most days. However, still I feel unfulfilled and I can’t figure out why.

“What do you want to do?” – that’s the question I need to answer. It’s probably a question you need to answer too. Even super successful folks like my girl crush Erika Napoletano of RedHead Writing are asking themselves this question these days.

In her blog post on the subject Napoletano admitted that her answer to the question “What do you want to do?” was a resounding “I. Don’t. Know.” But then she began to search for her answer by making note of what she did know.

So what do you know you love to do? I know I love writing more than anything, but I also love teaching and I love connecting with people, especially with other creative women, online and IRL (in real life).  

Well, if I take a look around I’m doing all these things. I’m freelancing and blogging. I teach a great group of teens at one of the best public schools in the region. And I’m connecting with other creative women through See Jane Write, a networking group for Birmingham-area women writers that I founded last year. So what’s my damage?! (Word to Heathers.)

I think I just want more. I want to see my byline in more places. I want my blog to reach more readers. I want my students to leave my classroom feeling more inspired. I want See Jane Write to offer more programs to more women. (And I want an iPhone.) 

Chances are you’re battling similar feelings (though you probably already have an iPhone). You want to do more with your writing, but you’re wondering if you can or if you should. Well, here’s your answer: YES!

What you’re doing now with your blog or your fiction or your journalism or your poetry is just the beginning. You are only scratching the surface. It is time to do more!

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s great but how the hell am I supposed to do that.” Well, if I knew that my inner goddess wouldn’t be on Zoloft and my subconscious wouldn’t be taking shots of Tequila right now. But I’m determined to figure this out, and figure it out soon. And I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride. Who’s in?


  1. At 34, I know exactly what you mean. I'm unsatisfied and don't know why. Now that I'm the grownup and I get to do what I want, I'm not sure what I want. In school, I pictured myself a fiction writer, solo: me vs. world. But now I write about my kid and sometimes, my husband, although I never expected to be back home in B'ham with either one. Now that I'm on this path (which is probably better than the one my younger self picked out) what am I doing? Where is it leading? I'm getting an iPhone this month, although I am not sure that will help.

  2. Yes, I pictured myself single and living in New York and while I wouldn't trade my marriage for the world I am at a place of asking myself "What's next?" I am sure the iPhone holds the answers, though. ;)

  3. "Who's in?"

    *Raises hand high*

    I still want to do all the things that are totally unrealistic for an almost 32-year-old living in Louisville: Star in a widely released feature film by a major or indie studio, write a screenplay that is produced by a same studio and widely released, perform in theater that's not community theater; write a bestselling memoir (about me--someone no one knows and would have no reason to read), get married, have children ...

    There's so much delusion in that list, but yes, they are all things I *want* to do.

    My problem with these wants/dreams/wishes/delusions are twofold: 1) The likelihood of any of them happening diminishes the older I get, in part because my willingness to do what it would take to do those things diminishes as well. I don't want to live in L.A. ever again. I'm not big on NYC or Chicago. My life as an underpaid person in Louisville is bad enough; a city with a high cost of living would probably make me suicidal. I'm so against living in some places now that I don't think I would even attend grad school there. 2) My wants/dreams/wishes/delusions are selfish. Ending racism and sexism are part of my vision statement, and I have written out what the world would look like if all my social justice fights were won, but being an activist--or a poor one anyway--isn't my thing. I want the material I write to be taught in schools, used in programs for women's and girls's empowerment, etc., and to be seen or read by millions and change society that way. But I want some nice things for myself, too, maybe even *first.* I don't have a goal like yours with See Jane Write, and I think that's a problem.

    It's also very difficult to pick what's next when my goals are large and not concrete.

    *Rethinks high raised hand.*

    1. I completely understand where you're coming from on so much of this. I think as we get older we have to adjust our dreams but they don't have to die completely. For example, I will most likely never live in New York and start a national print magazine. I will never be the black Carrie Bradshaw as I once hoped. But what I think we should do is get to the core or motivation of our dreams. So why do you want these certain things? What do you hope or think you (and others) will gain from these things? Then after you've answered that, figure out a way that you can get these benefits in other ways -- ways that may not be exactly what you dreamed of as a kid but ways that can be just as fulfilling, if not more, and ways that are actually realistic considering what you are and are not willing to do.

      From there you (and I'm talking to myself here, too) do need to figure out what's next. I actually just had a two hour lunch with a fellow female writer and we came to the conclusion I need to pick one writing project to focus most of my energy on and we're going to get together weekly to work on our projects.

      And as for activism, I believe that can take many forms. I'm not occupying Wall Street or getting deeply involved in politics so I can help change policy. That's just not my calling. But See Jane Write is. That's my activism. So find something that's right for you.

      I hope this ridiculously long reply is somewhat helpful.

    2. This reply isn't THAT long! You had me prepared to read a dissertation.

      It is helpful. I believe it's important to continually analyze one's underlying motivation for dreams and goals, even when you know what's next, and to plan once you know you're on the right track.

      Thanks for the advice!

  4. Jai you just read my mind with that post! Let me know if you figure out the answers and I'll just copy off your paper.

    1. I've actually had some major breakthroughs, epiphanies, etc. in the past few days. I'll be ready to let you see my homework in no time!

  5. WOOOOHOOOO! GREAT post and I'm right there with you! Whew, what a refreshing read, to read something so honest on the Internet. THANK YOU FOR THIS. I want more too. I can't wait to meet you in person on the 29th!!

    1. I am so excited to meet you. I even plan to blog it. LOL. So get ready to smile for my camera.