The Writing is on the Wall

Look up the word ‘lackadaisical’ in the dictionary. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Let me help you out in case the dictionary, or Google, isn’t handy. A person who is lackadaisical is someone who “lacks Old fashioned typewriterenthusiasm and determination”. Synonyms? Apathetic. Listless. Passionless. Recently, I came to the conclusion that I have always been lackadaisical. Always taking the easy road, always looking for the path of least resistance. I buy shoes with no laces. I buy clothes that don’t need ironing. That’s who I am.

So if I buy shoes with no laces on purpose, it can hardly be surprising that I would base other decisions on those lackadaisical tendencies. I floated through elementary and high school, always acing all my very aceable courses. No calculus or trig for this girl. No, I went with ‘Law and Society’ and ‘Marketing Basics’. The 94% average from these brain stretching courses got me a one way ticket to the University of Toronto, where I predictably chose to pursue a general arts degree. I loved those four years: reading and writing all the live long day. But even there, doing something that was thoroughly enjoyable, I chose a path I knew I could succeed on. It was all too easy.

When I entered the world of entry-level work, the crash of reality was hard and painful. Did I pursue extra studies or courses to improve and grow in these roles, to gain confidence and knowledge? Never. I always demurred, saying that I didn’t feel the job was my calling so why invest in it? When I was an insurance adjuster, I didn’t want to take the insurance institute courses – I didn’t see a life in dealing with the misery of others – but I challenged myself to fill my claims form with four syllable vocabulary that would dumbfound my manager. When I moved on to business analysis, I refused to learn any coding, always maintaining that it was best if I remained focused on the business and not on the technology. This, of course, was complete bunk but it was totally in keeping with my modus operandi. To make the work bearable, I wrote ‘how to use this program’ guides as fictional narratives, with characters and compelling stories to liven up the tedium of the actual text. I should have seen the writing on the wall. Literally.

My ‘easy road’ attitude took a turn for the rockier when my now ex-husband and I decided to forsake the corporate rat race and buy a business; a newspaper, of all things. Notice I said ‘buy’ not ‘start’. Even with this entrepreneurial step, buying our way in was an easier road to the end ideal of self-employment so we took it. We weren’t much bothered with HOW we were going to get to our goal. It wasn’t about passionately wanting to own a newspaper; it was about finding a business we could afford and handle so that we could have the life we wanted. We didn’t have the first foggiest clue what we were doing but we were able to hide that for quite a while because he could sell an ad and I could turn a phrase. One of the few pleasures that I had in the decade we ran the paper was the opportunity to write and to have each piece readily accepted by the editor (me) and barely touched by the copy editor (me again) and placed in a fabulous spot by the layout designer (you guessed it: me). I can see now that by not earning our way to the business, by not building it up ourselves, we took it for granted and ultimately, failed. For the first time in my life, I didn’t take a route that I knew would lead to success and I failed at it. But I learned something too: the failure didn’t kill me.

It did however help to kill my marriage. My ex left shortly after we sold the business and myself and my favourite wee person – my daughter – moved in with my mother. I was 41 at the time. Was this my moment of truth? No, it was more like rock bottom, financially and emotionally, except for the lessons that I took away from the experience. Lessons like: avoid joint debt in much the same way that you should avoid cholera. With vigor and fierce determination. Trust me on this.

My moment of truth came when I published my first paid article. You know that little feeling of excitement you get when you meet someone new and you get that flutter in your stomach? That was me and, like the happy store owner who tapes their first twenty dollar bill earned to the wall, I took a picture of the cheque.

What I finally realized is that I’ve been working towards this point my whole life. Even if in reality I spend the rest of my life flowering up ‘how to’ guides to make a living instead of writing the ‘great novel’, I won’t ever take the easy way out with writing, I won’t ever be lackadaisical about it. It’s been a long lesson to learn but I know now that I won’t seek the path of least resistance because in that effort of finding the right word and putting together the right imagery, I know that I am finally in the right place.

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2 thoughts on “The Writing is on the Wall

  1. Reading this feels like reading a page out of my diary. If I kept one that is. Funny how we writers are a lonely bunch, and yet in so many ways we are never alone.

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