Why Giving Up on my Dream was a Good Thing

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(At least for a little while).

Zaina Abujebarah

For as long as I can remember, I had my sights set on “becoming a writer.” Throughout my education I had dabbled in everything: creative writing, poetry, writing short stories but nothing ever really snagged my interest. In high school, I found my niche and wanted to pursue music journalism. I already had my goal publication in mind and the second I graduated, I sent in an application to be a contributing writer. I would come onto their team as a volunteer music writer, score an (unpaid) internship and would eventually become a part-time member of the office team. While I was working my way up, I found that I was taking on too much for too little. When I finally plateaued and the excitement of scoring my “dream job” settled, I had to ask myself some important questions. Was I sacrificing too much for my dream job? Was I being overworked? Was this company giving me what I’m worth?

The answer was: I was sacrificing too much time without enough compensation. While I had only been there for a year at this point, I realised that I had to choose between working and writing for my dream publication for very little, and being financially stable.

At the time, I was going through a lot. I had just moved out of my parent’s house and in with my partner and I was greiving over my parents’ expected (but dramatic) divorce. I knew that there wasn’t room for me to ask for a raise at my job, and it was clear to me that I couldn’t be a writer and financially stable enough to pay my bills. I was reaping the benefits of “experience” and building my portfolio, but I was struggling to support myself in the realm of time and money.

So, I decided that I had to give up on that dream job. This decision carved a big chunk out of my pride and honestly, my identity. My entire writing career had been based around this one publication and it was hard to accept that it just wasn’t the right fit for me. All of my goals were built around this place and I had convinced myself for so long that it was my only avenue towards success in my industry. Lifting that veil took a big emotional toll on me, but I had to move forward, give up and try something else for a while.

I took a two-month break from writing while I made the transition into the sales job I’m in now. While that may not seem like a long time, it was for me. Even though I have taken breaks from writing before to catch up with my college courses or to work through writer’s block—this break was emotional. It was sore. When I was in the thick of it, I thought that I would be done writing for a long time. I wouldn’t work at another publication. I wouldn’t pursue writing full-time and I wouldn’t put it at the forefront of my mind in terms of making money. It became something that I would do on the side, if I had the time or motivation to do it. I had hit my rock bottom. I was completely drained of any passion or interest in writing and I let myself sit in those feelings for way longer than I should have.

At the time, I had no idea how long I would be in that rut. It could be weeks, months or years before I climbed out of it. After giving it some thought and seeking out other opportunities, I started taking on small music-centered assignments at a different, weekly publication. Because I’ve only been producing 250 words a week, I’ve reignited my passion for my craft slowly (but surely) and it feels good!

Now, I’m back on track and I’m trying to figure out how I can write full-time. I have so many goals centered around writing that I can’t believe I ever stopped in the first place. Do I have any idea how I’m going to do it? No. Do I have ideas? Yes! But it took giving up on my “big dream” and allowing myself to create space between doing what I love and getting what I need, to understand that I can achieve both without having to sacrifice anything.

I certainly don’t have all of the answers yet, but stepping back from what I thought I wanted the most and taking a job that I don’t love in an industry that I know absolutely nothing about actually gave me the tools to rediscover my greatest passion. It took one big, brooding “give up” to make me realize that sometimes things just don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean that everything won’t. I learned that instead of seeing it as a complete failure, I needed to use this “give up” as a tool to find my worth again and ask for it.

When I did leave, I was drowing in so much guilt. I was leaving my “cool job” to work as a leasing agent, and that not-so-glamorous shift really affected me. I never wanted to talk about leaving the magazine because it made me feel like a failure. But if I hadn’t thrown the towel in, I wouldn’t have as many goals as I do now. I wouldn’t be trying to find a new purpose within my craft and I definitely wouldn’t be happy. I needed to learn to see that big “give up” as a means to a more rewarding end instead of massive failure.

Sometimes, as cheesy as it may sound, following those gut-instincts may feel like you’re throwing everything you worked so hard for away, but there is always a chance to build on top of what was there before. Now, I’m trying to find my way into freelance writing and I’m excited about my new adventure. Taking chances and giving yourself the room to get what you deserve will always pay off in the end.

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