The first time I really called myself a writer was my sophomore year of college.
I was working my first writing job. It was an opportunity that I was given because of an incredible woman who believed in me, even though she hardly knew me. Because of that job, I was writing everyday. I'd started my own blog a few months earlier and writing felt like a dream. It was easy; I was fearless. I would sit down at my computer with my coffee (just as I'm doing now) and I'd write whatever I wanted to, whatever I felt like.
The first time I called myself a writer was in the passenger seat of my friend's car. She was just my co-worker at first; we'd run into each other in a coffee shop and were cubicle neighbors in the office. Quickly, though, she became my favorite person to be around. She was my first writer-friend, so it only makes sense that I include her in this story.
We were on our way somewhere outside of our little suburban college town. We were probably listening to John Mark McMillan or Bon Iver or Penny and Sparrow. We were talking about our dreams, a topic our conversations often lingered on, because we were young and full of passions and dreams beyond our own comprehension. It was on that drive to that place I can't remember that we both realized that, as we were getting paid to write, we were not just wanna-be-writers, we were the real deal. We had the (small) paychecks to prove it. Someone believed in our words enough to pay us for them, which felt too good to be true. We spent the rest of the ride proclaiming that over ourselves: We are writers, we are writers, we are writers.
That was three years ago. Now, I have a bachelors degree in writing and I am working on my masters to accompany it. I have had a handful of writing jobs, written dozens of blogs, thrown around a number of book ideas, and have even started one of them. I can analyze writing (and just about anything else), I can diagram sentences, and I can produce words about most things and thoughts. The skills I possess as writer are sharp. My resume is full. But, for the life of me, I can't find that same excitement about writing that I had in Liz's car all those years ago.
I am not sure of many things about myself, or my future, but I am confident that I am called to be a writer. It is something that I am sure of to my bones, even when I haven't written for weeks or hate whatever words have fallen out of my head. Writing is the only thing I've ever done that truly makes me feel alive and like I have purpose, but that doesn't mean that I feel like that every time I sit down at my computer or, even that I've felt like that at all in the last six months. I used to be able to produce blogs weekly, but now even that feels like a dream.
When I first embraced it, my calling felt good. It felt easy. I am not called to be a nurse or a teacher or Sonic cashier (which was the DREAM when I was five), I am called to be a writer. I am called to do the thing that makes me feel the most like myself, the thing that's been my dream for as long as I can remember. But right now, at 22, as I am working on a masters in writing and all signs point towards writing being my future, it doesn't feel as good as it used to. It doesn't feel easy anymore.
I'm in a season of learning what it looks like to grow up, and for my calling to grow up with me. Writing doesn't, and shouldn't, feel the same now as it did when I was 19. I am no longer a sophomore writing for her school's blog for work and producing personal blogs like a vending machine. I am a first year graduate student who had put a lot of time, and money, and effort into pursuing my dream. It doesn't feel easy anymore because there is a lot more at stake now. It doesn't feel easy because it's no longer a dream, it's real life.
Since moving to Birmingham two months ago and starting grad school, I've been asked about my plans a lot. The more I'm asked about my plans and my purpose, and the more I've told people that, no, I don't want to be a teacher, the more I've questioned the path I've put myself on. With every question has come more doubt, fear, and anxiety about pursuing a career that is so uncertain. I realized last week that I've even stopped telling people that I'm a writer and started diverting my real plans to make them sound more concrete than they are. It's made me question everything.
A lie I often believe is that I've run out of stories to tell or that I haven't worked hard enough to earn the right to really be a writer. I'm not getting paid to write anymore, nor do I ever publish anything for people to read, so can I call myself a writer? I'm learning how to silence those lies. I'm re-learning what it looks like to call myself a writer no matter the logistics and to embrace the calling on my life. I'm realizing that it's okay to question the season I'm in and what I anticipate the future to look like. These things are normal. It's going to be okay.
The reality is that I don't know what I'll do after grad school, or where writing will take me, but I do know that I will be writing. I am going to do my best to live a good story and to tell others about it. I even want to help others to tell their stories too. Though I am not 19 anymore, and the future I used to dream of is now my reality, I still have a lot of dreams. They don't feel the same way they did back then, but they're still there. I am not sure of much, I don't know what dreams will be reality or what it'll look like to be a writer in two or five years, and that's okay. I am sure that I am a writer, and today, that is enough.