“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
– Joseph Campbell
I love this quote because it reminds me of three things. That I get to choose who I am. That I must accept who I am. And that who I am now is not who I used to be.
Why I chose this author quote
I’ve had several roles throughout my career but I didn’t enjoy working for someone else. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to work for myself, as an author. This is a difficult choice to make because achieving success in the book world is really hard. There are all kinds of barriers.
For traditionally published authors, there are the years it takes to secure an agent and publisher. Plus the wait for their book to actually be published. Those are years of not being paid for their hard work, and needing another way to pay the bills. All while trying to write the next book. And there is no guarantee the same publisher will want to publish their next book. They may have to go through the whole process again.
For independently-published authors, there is the prejudice in the media and high street book stores. This means that just being visible to readers is a soul-destroying daily challenge. Then there’s the cost of promoting a book that hasn’t earned any money yet. And having to learn the skills to do all the promotion themselves. Also while having to find a way to pay the bills, and the time to write the next book.
It’s difficult either way. And it isn’t a career choice you can step into when you leave school. No-one pays you to write a book. If you’re lucky, someone pays you sometime after the book is finished.
But the choice is either to be who I am, or to be financially secure (as much as that is ever a thing), being who someone else wants me to be.
What this author quote means to me
A key word in this quote is privilege. Opportunities are not evenly distributed. Neither are obstacles. Prejudice exists in a bewildering number of forms. We all exist in a reality framed by our individual constraints. If you choose a path that ignores those constraints, you will probably not be successful. This is where the part about accepting who you are comes in.
When I was at school, I had an interests in physics. My school, unfortunately, did not teach physics. They taught combined science, which was not recognised as an accepted route to a physics A-level. I could not continue my learning in that subject to get a role in that industry.
Instead, my first job was as an admin assistant, in the travel industry. Which wasn’t what I wanted to be at all. But I did find a new passion there. Eventually, I combined that love of travel with my talent for writing, to create my travel mystery series.
Fortunately our constraints are ever-changing. Sometimes we find a constraint, that previously dogged our progress, doesn’t exist anymore. This is where the part about not being who we used to be comes in.
Now, it’s possible to access scientific papers on the internet. Serious scientists present documentaries on TV. I can follow space-related accounts on social media. I have the opportunity to research how the laws of physics affect life in space, to my heart’s content. I could shake my head and say that moment passed a long time ago. Or I could write a mystery set on a spacecraft.
We all have choices. They may not always be the choices we want. They may not arrive at convenient times. But they shape our lives, as much as the things we have no control over. This is something to be celebrated.
We get to choose a path that requires our unique skills and talents. A path that starts wherever we are, and with a lot of hard work and determination, may lead to places we didn’t know existed before. A path that is walked by others we can befriend and come to rely on. A path with the kind of obstacles we can inelegantly clamber over. A path on which we can stop and look back, and see that we are not who we used to be. That we have different opportunities, obstacles, and choices than we did before. A path on which we can carry the things that matter to us, and leave behind the things that weigh us down.
That’s what this author quote means to me. What does it mean to you?
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