“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” Audre Lorde
Drew and I were driving up to San Francisco when I received a blog comment from a reader that hit me like a punch in the stomach.
I admit, I have a very soft spot that needs to toughen up. Criticism eats me alive.
It put a damper on my day because the reader, Anthony, totally misunderstood my message. And that’s my fault, as a writer. Now I worry that others might misunderstand as well.
After my nine year old put in his two cents (keep reading for that), I was compelled to write this follow-up post to clear things up.
Anthony mentioned how he appreciates my blog but was critical of my BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE post. He wrote:
“…as an artist who is working on becoming one of these self existing entities, your post came across as privileged, out of touch, and even a little condescending.
Obviously many other people are really excited about your story and what it means for them. Unfortunately, the parts of this post that spoke to me were “six figure income” and “Drew had been a professional artist his entire life…”
He was referring to my personal story on how I went from working a corporate job I didn’t like; to creating a job doing what I love in the art world.
I went out on a limb when I wrote that post. It was difficult because I bared a lot of personal information.
And what was most disappointing was that someone would see me as privileged! It means I’m not doing my job as a writer. I’ve not made myself clear. So here goes:
Far from privileged, my first job was at 14, cleaning houses. I had to pay my way for everything, including my cap and gown rental so that I could graduate from high school.
It took years for me to stop thinking that Happiness is a Four Leaf Clover…
I dreamed of living at the beach in California and eventually made my way there, across the country, a few years after high school. After 15 years working a good-paying job that I did not care for I finally created an existence that is off-the-charts joyful.
Now I work with my husband and do what I love: travel, write, manage Drew’s art career and spend as much time as possible with my son.
Everything I have I created for myself.
If I can do it, without a good upbringing, money or college degree, anyone else can, too.
My message was one of hope, not bragging. And I’m so sorry if it came across otherwise.
On the other end of the spectrum, I received a slew of mail from people telling me that my post gave them hope and some said it inspired them to do what they’ve been putting off for many years.
Anthony questioned why I felt the need to mention that I earned over six figures in my old job and that it was probably easy for me to quit because I most likely had money saved up. Wrong – it’s just the opposite.
The more money you make, the harder it is to leave a job you don’t like.
The money is an anchor, the benefits are chains.
I felt the need to mention money because I wanted to inspire others who were in similar situations.
I wanted them to know that it’s possible to make that big of a leap; to go from making a lot of money to making nothing, and then build it back up again.
When I opened the email containing Anthony’s comment, we were driving North on the 5 freeway. I said out loud in the car, to Drew, defending myself:
“I wrote those details about the money and our lives because I want people to know that we are just normal people, with normal problems. That we had to make things happen for ourselves because no-one else was going to.”
“I want people to know that it wasn’t easy, but it was great. And it’s still not easy. Every day I question what I’m doing, and if it’s the right thing. But I’m doing what I love now…”
Emphatically, I added, “I just want people to know that they can do it, too.”
From the back seat my nine year old son, Dylan, piped into the conversation.
“Mom, then why didn’t you just write THAT?”
Sometimes kids are so brilliant. Why don’t we just say what we want to say, without writing more than we need to?
So, here’s my message, short and simple:
I want everyone to know that they can design a lifestyle that they love, no matter what obstacles there are.
Here’s the most important part (please take note of this):
There’s nothing extraordinary about me or Drew. We had no help from anyone. We had very little money in the bank when I jumped out of the corporate world and into the art world. Neither one of us finished college. We are not Stephen Hawking smart. There is absolutely nothing for us to fall back on. (And that’s the really scary part, if you let it scare you.) But we did it anyway, because we decided to live life on our own terms.
I’m telling you this (again) because I want you to know that if you want to, you can create your own possibilities, too. You can create the life that you dream of. No matter what that is.
The first thing to do is to decide what a great life FOR YOU looks like. (It’s different for everyone.)
You don’t have to follow my path, but please, follow yours.
That’s all I have to say about that.
PS: The start of a New Year is the perfect time to spend a few hours thinking about what you want from your life. Not goal setting, but life-setting. Dream up the dream for yourself. And then see what happens.
Need a kick-start to help you design the lifestyle of your dreams? Get my LIVING THE DREAM 32 page e-book at the Store. Or, get it free just by signing up for my awesome newsletters!
“Anybody who writes doesn’t like to be misunderstood.” Norman MacCaig