I wish I could tell you.
I’m not being coy. I literally wish I had an answer to that question. I have options. I hold two masters degrees and a bachelors. I have work experience, skills, and passion. I have flexibility. I also don’t know what is going to happen next. I don’t have a plan.
Oh, I know what I want to do. I’ve known since I was 13. I want to write novels. But no one hires you to write your own novel. In fiction, you write the whole manuscript. All 100,000+ words of it. Then you query an agent. It can take weeks to hear back and a lot of the time it’s a no. So you query again until you find the right agent for you. Sometimes you go through an editorial process to get the novel ready before an agent pitches you to editors at publishing houses. Then there is more waiting and there are no guarantees. And that’s just to get a publishing contract. From there the editorial process starts anew and you work and work with people who love your story to get it just right. You market yourself and your book and you pray people buy it when it comes out a year+ later. You’ve gotten an advance, but it’s never going to cover several years worth of work. Your book needs to sell a lot of copies before you start receiving royalties.
So it’s back to the next book… If the whole process sounds depressing, you probably shouldn’t aim to write novels. If it sounds exhilarating, get in line. But no matter what it sounds like it doesn’t sound like quick cash in the bank or health insurance.
So when I say I don’t have a plan I mean in the short run. In the long run, I’ve just finished the first leg to what I hope is a very long, very fulfilling life experiment. Still, my student loans are going to go into repayment long before someone pays for my first novel and before that I’ll starve to death so I better come up with a plan.
So I’m applying for jobs and figuring it out.
When I was in college there were two degrees I dreamed of getting and six years later I can say I have them. My mom was in school for most of my childhood. Her mother had to go back to college when my mom was growing up. It was important to me to get all the education I could imagine wanting before starting a family.
But still, I wonder and worry if I should have made different choices. I see friends with babies and houses and career ladders and wonder if I misspent my 20′s going to school. Was it impractical? Am I late? And then there are things I didn’t plan on: relationships that fell apart, family health problems, and jobs that didn’t pan out.
When you factor in the precariousness of life suddenly a plan looks a little foolish.
So I guess my plan was to give myself choices. No one wishes I could answer ‘What’s next?’ more than me. It seriously keeps me up at night. Sometimes I worry I made the wrong choices even when those choices make me really happy and I am proud of them.
It’s a strange experience to hold two opposing feelings – pride and doubt – at the same time about the same topic, but I think that is part of being an adult. We make choices and rarely do we hold a singular feeling about that choice. We make plans, but have to acknowledge that some of those plans will be futile. We try to become the people we imagine but settle for something between who we are now and that future dream. I don’t find this sad at all. I actually find it really beautiful. I find it hopeful that life is that textured.
So what’s next? I don’t know and very slowly I’m learning to appreciate that fact.