A Free Woman (and Other Costs of Following a Dream)

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
- Lao Tzu

I quit my job.

Turned in my resignation notice.

The die is cast.

I’m walking boldly into my destiny as a self-published author. I’m on the right path. I’m on the right road. Nothing can stop me now.

At least that’s how I’m going to spin in.

When it comes to major decisions, I always try to gauge if I’m making the right choice by how my heart feels. I weigh advice from friends, but ultimately, whether I embrace a certain outcome or not rests with my heart. Follow your bliss, as they say.

The morning I woke up with the idea to shoot a video trailer for my book Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, I had so much joy and excitement, I was dancing around my bedroom. It was as if a divine finger tapped me on the shoulder, saying, “This is the way. Walk ye in it.” Even though I knew without a doubt that I had to quit my day job to pursue the dream of self-publishing a collection of short stories, I was still fearful. Once that resignation notice was out of my hands, there would be no do-overs. No, “Oops. What was I thinking, walking away from a great job at a top-rated talk show, in the midst of a recession, to pursue the zany idea of self-publishing a book — and black womanist speculative fiction, at that — with no agent, no manager, no bites from book stores?” The longer the letter lay in the top drawer of my desk at work, the heavier the hammer of fear pressing against my chest.

The bulk of my fear was financial. I don’t have a lot of money saved, no “sponsors,” and I felt a mini panic watching my savings account shrink as I shelled out money for cover artwork and design, printing, a video shoot and other expenses associated with producing and promoting a book.

Another fear was my age. It’s one thing to live as if you have nothing to lose when you’re in your early twenties. Irrational decisions are supposed to be the domain of the youthful. If you have to subsist on top ramen, or couch surf or even sleep in your car as you’re trying to make your mark on the world, society is more supportive of your dreams. But as a “mature lady,” I’m supposed to know better. I’m supposed to be established, steadily climbing the professional ranks, not flirting with financial ruin.

But now I’m starting over.

Yay, me.

I have to encourage myself. Not that other folks haven’t been supportive, and I appreciate the friends and family (the few who know what I’m embarking on) who keep me motivated and believe I’ll be successful. But if I don’t believe it for myself, if I don’t get that “heart confirmation,” this publishing process is all for naught.

Ever since I unpacked my cubicle years ago and settled into a 5-by-5 foot work space, I always posted motivational notes on my bulletin board. As the years wore on, this visual encouragement remained in the backdrop of my day, something my eye happened to fall on while I was on the phone or glancing up from my computer. But lately, the notes to “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!” and to simply “Believe” have taken on a heightened meaning. It’s as if my future self purposely planted these reminders to help me combat this time of intense self doubt and fear.

I don’t know how this is all going to turn out. Beckyville may be well-received, and it may not. I may recoup my expenses, or I may … but I don’t want to speculate on what will happen if I don’t. I’m in it to win it. I feel such an optimism and hope I haven’t felt, like, in … ever. I feel totally supported and loved and successful.

So back to the resignation notice. Even though my hand shook as I handed the envelope to my boss, I felt confident that I was making the right choice. And she surprised me by saying that she fully supports me and knew it was only a matter of time before I went off to pursue my dreams. The hard part is over. Now I’m packing, finalizing projects and taking every step possible to transition peacefully from the workplace where I’ve spent the past eight years of my life to the next phase of my writing career.

Scary? Yes. Thrilling? Absolutely! This is how it feels to be free.

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