Step by Step, Word by Word

I have sought counsel from eight separate people regarding a fairly difficult situation in my life. Despite their words of “I’m sorry,” there are is always the saddening “I wish I could help,” which is exactly the opposite of what I wish I could hear.

When my parents were both diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I felt a similar sort of melancholy and loneliness. Despite friends and teachers and neighbors rallying around my brothers and I, all they could really say was “I wish I could help.” It wasn’t that their hugs and prayers weren’t welcome, it was that I was so desperate for a solution, for something better, and the people I relied on couldn’t provide me that.

I turned to writing, delving into fictional worlds in my head where I could control what happened. I didn’t have to wait around for doctors or on blipping heart monitors to tell me what was going on, I could simply write and choose what happened. Most of what I wrote didn’t deal with cancer. Most of what I wrote had nothing to do with my personal life at all, but it felt good to finally have a say in what came next. It didn’t fix anything with my parents’ health (which eventually got better, by the way, and they have both been cancer-free for several years), but it did help in a way that hugs never could. It let me shut off the depression that was my world for a few moments and transfer into a new one. It helped me get through to the other side of the time I affectionately call the Dark Years.

For my job now, I write all day long. I write tweets and news releases and snippets for an upcoming magazine. I spend my day typing away on a computer, stringing words together to tell a story (sometimes even if that means it’s only 140 characters).

So when I get home and open up my laptop, my fingers hesitate more than they did several years ago. My eyes and my hands are tired, and my brain could use a break from being creative. I want to shut off—and I do. Cue the binge-watching world of Netflix. It’s great for my work life, I come in renewed in the morning and ready to work. But as far as the conflict that’s occurring in my life that I’m continually wrestling with in my head, I’ve never really stepped away. In TV land, I can’t control what happens. I watch as tensions flare, and am seemingly more restless when I come out the other side.

I desperately need the reprieve of sinking my teeth—or fingers, rather—into a world commandeered by me. I want to be the maestro so that I can actually fix a problem instead of just living in one. And, as they have been known to do lately, my words are failing me.

When writing/life fails you, I think the best thing you can do is to take it as it comes. I can’t control everything, but I can control how much effort I put into solving things. I can sit down daily and try to write, even if I only ever muster a sentence or two. I can brainstorm of a peaceful solution to turmoil in my life, and actively pursue those options. I can try to remind myself that I won’t be on the struggle bus forever. Sometimes even that’s hard to remember, but then I just think of the words of John Lennon, who once said:

Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 

And so trying to march on and attempting to write I shall, one word at a time.

Lauren is a social media professional, writer, and editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

Never Quit (Except Maybe When You Should)

Once upon a time, I went to Ireland… and I hated it.

Except for the views. How could you hate views like this? (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)

Except for the views. How could you hate views like this? (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)

There were many things wrong with it: it was thousands of miles away from home, I was missing everything (including seeing my brother graduate high school and celebrating my 21st birthday with my friends), and they drove on the wrong side of the street and I had this job that totally wasn’t for me. That’s what I told my mom, anyway, that Monday afternoon about five days after I had arrived, trudging up the stairs to get to the LUAS (an above-ground subway).

“I don’t like it and I want to quit and I want to come home and, like, this isn’t what I signed up for and I miss you and can I come home now?” She listened patiently, then told me I could come home, but only if I stayed for just a little bit longer, just to make sure that I really did hate it after all.

Fast forward approximately three months later, and I felt disappointed as the plane landed back on US soil. I was home. And the magical summer abroad, where I learned and loved many things, was over, including my job as intern-extraordinaire at New Island Books. I had listened to my mom’s advice, and I had stayed, and I had had one of the best summers of my life (and one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, too).

I returned to Michigan State for my senior year, ready to start a 15-credit hour semester with three jobs. For one of them, I worked at a newspaper. And for many reasons, most nights I went home sobbing, hating every minute of my four-hour shifts.

Momma and I (circa 1993-94?)

Momma and I (circa 1993-94?)

“I don’t like it and I want to quit and can’t I just come home?” She repeated what she had said a few months prior: I could quit, but only if I stayed just a little bit longer.

I did. And I still quit three months later. It was for more reasons than “I didn’t like it,” but the fact of the matter was I was so unequivocally miserable in life (at the time) and with that job that I needed to go.

My mom taught me to never be a quitter. You finish what you start, and that is that.

But I think there’s a fine line between choosing happiness over staying just to prove a point to yourself or someone else. There comes a time when you know something isn’t working and you have to be honest with yourself. Sometimes, my mom isn’t right.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is not always a best answer to the situation. Could I have left Ireland and been happy? I think so. Could I have suffered through that newspaper job and been okay? Probably.

Hindsight can give you the answers you wished you had had, but there is something to be said for your instincts. Trust your heart. Follow happiness, wherever it takes you. But maybe consider sticking with something, even if you aren’t 100% happy at first, because you never know where life will take you. Sometimes my mom is right, and sticking with something will give you one of the best experiences of your life.

Lauren is a social media professional/corporate writer/overall awesome editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.