Several years ago I was reunited with a dream. Just like the communication theory course I’d taken as a junior AND COMPLETELY ERASED FROM MY BRAIN (until a snippet of a movie we analyzed triggered the bizarrely buried memory), the moment of career clarity I experienced during a group project in college escaped me for nearly a decade.
Assigned to the broad topic of “books” during a mass communication class research project into various types of media, I was in my sweet spot. (Add to that our assignment to create a website, which back then was akin to ORBITING THE MOON, and I as in nerd heaven.) As I began researching publishing houses for my contribution to the group’s report, I realized that I just might have found The Perfect Job for Me.
Those of you who know me in real life (or have been reading here for a long time) know that I’ve been on a quest to discover The Perfect Job for Me for pretty much ever. Much to my past employers’ chagrin.
What I learned, during that mass comm class, was that a) most publishers are located in New York or Chicago, b) some publishing companies only worked on Christian books, and c) those Christian publishers were also located in Not-My-Hometown.
I’d always dreamed of moving far away and/or living in a big city. And this book-editin’ dream made so much sense. I loved books! I should work in books! But I’d also just gotten married to a farm boy who didn’t share that particular dream. So rather than make my career path a battle in those first years of marriage, I let that dream fade as others took its place.
AND THAT’S OKAY. I won’t tell you that I’ve never wondered what would’ve happened if Mark and I would’ve hit the road after my graduation, what our lives would look like if I’d become an editor for a major publishing house. Because I’ve wondered that plenty.
But I also can’t tell you that I’d trade the fundraising and event planning career path I started down after finishing school OR THE MILLIONS OF OTHER AMAZING THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE THEN, either. Because I wouldn’t.
Later, as my dream of charity event planning turned into a dream of non-profit communications, I forgot all about publishing and editing and books (other than for reading, because of course I never stopped doing that).
For a while. I forgot about it for a while.
But as it turns out, some dreams can’t be squashed forever. So while my career in non-profit work was coming to a close (though I wasn’t aware of its impending ending until my boss said Those Words I’ll Never Forget: “We’ve eliminated your position.”), I was remembering.
At first it was like a tickle in the back of my brain, but eventually – as many things do, because I THINK TOO MUCH – it became an overwhelming, all-encompassing desire. What began as, “You know . . . I think I might be good at . . . I remember writing a report once . . . is it possible I could do this . . .” turned into, “I WAS MEANT TO BE AN EDITOR. I AM GOING TO BE AN EDITOR. I MUST EDIT ALL THE THINGS.”
Research is one of my very favorite things in the world (I blame my parents, whose response to every random question I asked during my childhood was to point to our row of World Book encyclopedias and say, “Look it up.”), so I looked up everything I could find on editing and publishing and BOOKS.
I read about editing degrees and publishing internships. I memorized the website addresses and actual addresses of every Christian publishing house in the country. I starting lobbying for cities with more than one company, using every one of my public relations tools to convince Mark WE HAD TO MOVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
After I lost my job and had a baby and got a new, horrible job, this dream was crystal clear. OBVIOUSLY everything in my life, in my heart was pointing toward this undeniable truth. I was MADE to be an editor for a Christian publisher.
Strangely enough, our undeniable truths aren’t always universally accepted – or God ordained. Sometimes they are not Meant to Be. At least not in the way we imagine.
We sat around a small round table in the corner of a corner office. It was at a second interview for the job I ended up accepting six years ago that my manager’s manager asked me where I saw myself in five years.
Despite my complete lack of interest in this job, I knew I needed it – and jobs in my field were scarily scarce at that time. The interview had, up until that point, gone so well that I was confident the job was mine for the taking. After all, it was the only interview in the history of my MANY interviews that I’d been given the opportunity to brag about being high school valedictorian. (See, Mom? Someone WAS impressed! … Eleven years later … )
I needed this job. And things were going so well. I knew the right answer to the question. All I had to do was spit it out. “In five years I see myself as Director of Public Relations for this amazing company, BECAUSE HOW COULD I GO ANYWHERE ELSE?”
Instead the truth popped out of my mouth. “In five years I want to be an editor for a Christian publisher.”
And then, the most unexpected thing happened. That VP of something looked at me and said, “You know what? I absolutely believe you’re going to make that happen.” And two days later, he offered me the job [anyway].
When Mark and I found out that I was pregnant this spring, we immediately started discussing whether or not to sell our house. Financially, it’s going to be difficult if not downright impossible to escape the home we not-so-lovingly call The Money Pit. But we decided to give it a try anyway and see what God will do.
Every couple of weeks since then, we’ve had bouts of faithful – or foolish – optimism in which we believe this is really going to happen, so we look at homes for sale in a search for our next house. And while it’s fun to dream about the possibilities, about extra bedrooms and two-car garages (or three, if you’re Mark) and big backyards next to open fields and formal dining rooms and a master bath, a part of me is reluctant to jump in and house shop.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad to leave the house we’ve lived in for more than ten years. I’m not going to miss our muddy crawl space (THAT OFFERS NO PROTECTION COME TORNADO SEASON, AKA EVERY SPRING), our tiny bedrooms, our noisy neighbors or even the things that I’m loving about my house right now.
But when I think about moving into a nice, new(er), big(ger) house in a good school district across town, a little part of my heart crumbles. Because that little part of me still thought we’d move across the country someday. It’s held onto that dream of shiny buildings in big cities and cubicles full of manuscripts and red pens. Part of me, deep down – so far that I didn’t even realize it was still there, hasn’t let go of that dream just yet.
“But wait, Mary! I thought your [current] dream was to WRITE a book, not edit one!” you might think. Or, “Um, excuse me? But aren’t you ALREADY an editor? In your work with (in)courage and your freelance gigs?” If you’ve paid really close attention (and oh my word, if you have, I’m sorry.), you might even wonder about my every-once-in-a-while dream to go back to school and become a librarian.
Well, that’s just it. I am an editor. And I do feel called to write books. (And yes, if it ever becomes practical for me to go back to school for my degree in library science, look out, because I am going shopping for school supplies!)
All those years ago, when I dreamed of working with books, I wasn’t crazy. That dream didn’t actually die. It just changed. It twisted and turned and matured and branched out until I realized that my dream is to work with words, not just books. Words that matter, words that make a difference, words that might be placed in books or magazines or e-books or blogs or brochures or commercials or books. (It warrants a second mention, okay? I’m still a BIG FAN OF BOOKS.)
My dream didn’t die or even fade. It just became clearer and . . . different.
And the most amazing part of all of that (1400 words and counting, people. If you’re still with me, you have my undying gratitude and admiration.) is that I AM living part of that dream . . . but God has promised that it will keep growing. And changing. And leading me down paths I never, ever would have imagined as I chose a fuchsia background and green letters for that class project’s website.
Have your dreams ever changed? Tell us about it in the comments!
We connected on FB a while back, and actually over email first – when I contacted you about editing my book proposal. Which – someday – I think I still want you to do. But you know – adoption happened for us – so now I’m a mom of two. Struggling to make dinner most days – let alone write a book. Not that that dream has changed – just maybe pushed back a bit? We’ll see.
Anyway… I’m in KC too and my husband and I are preparing to put our house on the market. Moving from inner city KCMO to the ‘burbs, we hope. Another unexpectedly massive dream change.
Your post today (which I did read in its entirety so I’m hopeful that I’ll have your – what was it? Undying admiration? Forever. ;) ) reminded me of my own life so just thought I’d share a little here.
I hope you go to school for library science eventually. :)
Hi Dana! Yes, you’ve had lots of big changes lately, haven’t you?! I love it when God takes our plans and turns them on their sides in the most incredible ways. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what He does in, for and through your family!
I love this! As a wordy girl too, I’m always trying to put my dreams into words. To define it. But I believe God sees the truth of my dreams. The truth that can’t be put into words. And then He shapes and molds and changes and directs (as long as I’m letting Him) and allows me, little by little to see His version of my dream, which is always SO much better than I ever understood while I was trying to put that dream into words.
Ohhhh, I love that – not only does God understand our groanings during grief and sorrow, but also our unspoken desires and dreams!
I am trying to keep my head above water…so dreaming is off the table until I can get in a shower more than once every three days. Loved your post. Hugs from a few hours south on 71… ; )
Showers are good. :) And there will be time for dreaming…if parenting (or just being a grown-up?) has taught me anything, it’s that life is made up of seasons. And no season lasts forever (thankfully!). :)
Oh, this one hit me hard. Like, so hard I just had to get up and get a Kleenex. Life definitely has a way of putting dreams on the back burner, and mine were/are very similar to yours. I’m a fellow booklover, and would love to have a children’s bookstore, be a librarian, or write a book. My ever-practical husband sees no future or financial stability in those things, and maybe he’s right. I’ve been a stay at home mom now for almost 12 years, so I’m in the process of figuring out my next steps. Thankful for a God who knows what the future holds and who will walk the path with me.
Kristi, it sounds like you are on the cusp of an exciting new phase – what a blessing to be able to figure out what God has for you now! Have you read anything by Holley Gerth? She has great books full of encouragement but also practical guidance on figuring out and following your dreams. Praying your next steps become clear and rewarding (in every sense of the word)!
I loved this post!! Especially given that our dreams very much have been similar. The only difference was that I thought my entire life I’d be a writer. Until college when being an English major meant overkill on the literature aspect and I was so. very. bored. And failing. After a meeting with my advisor, he helped steer me in the direction of Oral Communication instead, where there’d be more writing and less learning/reading literature. It was exciting. :) At the time I thought I’d go into something along the lines of public relations. I had NO idea that just a year out of college, I’d wind up working for a Christian publisher as an admin assistant. Slowly as my job developed and I began proofreading here and there and then editing, I found how God had changed my dream so much over the years. He’d developed what started in me as a desire to read & write so much when I was younger, brought me to a Christian publisher, and continually dropped my jaw in amazement at how he’d taken my dream, transformed it, and brought me into the publishing world. Never could I have imagined that I’d work for the same publisher that my mom had bought me book from years prior as a gift to encourage me. God is AWESOME the way he pulls things together!!!
I’m glad your dream developed and the way the Lord has brought it all together for you in different ways than you’d imagined. God is so good!!!
[But p.s. if you ever find that you do indeed still want an editorial job for a Christian publisher… you have an IN! Send me an email!! ;)]
In rereading this I realized I left out a big part of what I’d wanted to say — that I found it so ironic later on when I became an editor that I hadn’t stuck with the English major because I really would do better at my job now I think! BUT my new major was absolutely meant for me, I just find it so interesting the way God brought all the paths together. It honestly makes me laugh now. :)
Rochelle, I love the way our dreams are so similar…but kinda different, too. God is so creative, isn’t He? (Also, I read your email as soon as I got it…and have been waiting to reply until I got a chance to talk to Mark. Which is easier said than done, stupid night shift, grr! But THANK YOU and I’ll be in touch SOON!!)
Looking back, it’s simply amazing where life leads (or where God leads). And a little bit frightening to imagine where it might go next, considering.
Yes, it can definitely be scary. But thankfully, we can always trust the One in charge…
I’m so glad I read this, Mary, because that seems to be exactly what God has been doing in my life these past three years. I have so wanted to write a book (who doesn’t?!). You know about that. But God clearly called me back to the classroom–clearly!–so much so that I know and feel deep in my heart that this is the ministry He has for me right now. Now I spend so much time reading papers that I just don’t have the time or the energy to think about writing that book. It’s frustrating, yes, but also good to recognize that I am squarely where He wants me now.
I love that you know so clearly – even when it doesn’t make sense in every way – that you are IN God’s will right now. That confidence is such a blessing when it happens! I’m feeling that for the first time in a long time…and it’s taking some getting used to! (Also…just so you know…WHENEVER you write that book, I will buy it. No question.) :)