In which Beth finally figures out what she wants to do with her life??

I had a sort of revelation at work last week. There have been several threads of thought regarding my professional like that have been spinning and weaving and untangling themselves for a while now. The main two are:

1. Yes, I’m going to try to become a published novelist, but what am I going to do for money? No one becomes a successful novelist overnight and I need a career that I find meaningful and satisfying and that will also pay my bills. I’m 29 now and I need to get that shit figured out.

2. I love my job. (I’m a peer tutor at the Writing Center of my college. I’m also now serving on the editorial board for Inkwell, the publication that the tutors at the Writing Center write and publish once a year.) But I’ve known from the beginning that it’s temporary—only students get to be tutors.

And yesterday it all kind of coalesced. It was a particularly inspiring day and I thought, “My job is just about perfect.” I work with a small, close-knit community. I genuinely like, as a person, every single coworker and boss I have (and I recognize how magically rare that is in a workplace). Having a successful tutoring session with a writer, where they walk out feeling more confident, inspired, and purposefulthat’s amazing. Doing the same thing now with Inkwell, where the writer is not a stranger but a friend and coworker, is even better. My work is so important to me. It’s deeply meaningful and soul-satisfying.

The one thing that I feel is missing? Kids. I love and miss working with kids. The years at the beginning of adolescence are intense in every way, and if I could somehow do what I do now, but with young folkshelping them find their voice and use it to make art and meaning in their own lifethat would be perfect.

So what would that look like, in terms of an actual career? I have two ideas.

1. Taking the basic structure and principle of the Writing Center where I work and applying it elsewhere. Whether it’s connected to the public libraries, a school, or an independent organizationcreating a place where young people can come to learn about writing (preferably for free, since class/ability/racial/cultural inclusivity is crucial).

2. Staying at the college where I am now, finding a way to stay employed after I graduate, and creating an after-school and/or summer program for young folks. I recently reread The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy, about two 12-year-old girls who write a prize-winning short story and then enroll in a summer writing program at Berkeley (all while dealing with their dysfunctional families). The first time I read it, I identified more with the protagonist, Joan/Newt. This time, I found myself thinking, “I want to be her” when reading about Verla Volante, the Berkeley student, snappy dresser, inspiring teacher of their creative writing class, and mysterious “good witch or bad witch?” So why can’t I be Verla Volante, and create such a program at Evergreen like they had at Berkeley?

Plus, in my wonderings about “Is an MFA program the right choice for me?” it turns out that Evergreen is planning to roll out its own MFA program sometime in the next few years. “Oh, great,” I thought, “then I’ll never want to leave.” Well, why should I have to, anyway?

One thought on “In which Beth finally figures out what she wants to do with her life??

  1. Well, Beth, it sounds to me as though your chosen path just might work out for you after all. And you're right about the novelist thing – you definitely need something else as a career (barring unforeseen influx of incredible good luck), and it looks like you're level-headed enough to know that. Bless you and yours!


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