Conquering Fear, Realising Potential

It dawned on me recently that I’ll soon be turning twenty-six. Getting older has never fazed me (I know – easy for a twenty-five-year-old to say!) and I’m certainly not going to start wasting energy reflecting on what could’ve, should’ve or might’ve been; for the most part, I’m happy, and I realise that the life I have is proportionate to the effort I’ve put into it.

For those who aren’t aware, I’m a publishing student about to embark on his fourth consecutive year of full-time study. By societal standards, I’m what’s known as a ‘dropkick’; I’m sure there are plenty out there who’d think I’m getting too old for the student lifestyle. (Certainly Tony Abbott wouldn’t approve my recent unemployment streak.) It’s a weird feeling: the period of grace twenty-somethings are afforded to flounder and find their feet is, for me, coming to an end. It’s time to lay down some roots – or at least start thinking about it.

I’m no Peter Pan or commitment-phobe, but don’t yet feel ready to think in terms of the rest of my life. (Just to be clear, this is in reference to my work life and living arrangements; I’m completely down with monogamy.) Perhaps my lingering fondness for bohemian culture is preventing me from evolving into a full-fledged adult. I like the thought of living an uncluttered, materially light existence and have romanticised living in a state of impermanence. I like having choice – or at least the illusion of it.

I have student loans, a rental lease, and am in a long-term relationship; but other than those things, I’m in no rush to fill my life with the trappings of adulthood. I’m not stupid; I understand staying put is a necessity for career advancement and for forging meaningful relationships with people. And so I’ll compromise. At the end of the day, these things are more important to me than any fleeting wanderlust. Since I’m perfectly happy with my romantic, social and creative lives, the box marked My Professional Life gets the room-for-improvement tick.

Bar some possible freelance work, it’s unlikely that I’ll meet any of my professional goals while still engaged in full-time study. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and I’m not an especially good multi-tasker. But this doesn’t mean I can’t use this year to prepare and lay down some foundations. At this stage, the broad plan for 2015 is to secure employment within the publishing industry. (I’m tipping I could fulfil the role of hapless mailroom clerk at Penguin.) Excepting the last three years, I’ve always had full-time employment (industrial laundry supervisor was the most prestigious of my various blue-collared callings), but this extended sabbatical has me worried. I don’t pine to study forevermore, but have developed a fondness for academia. I tend to fall apart during my directionless semester breaks, so am worried about how I’ll go leaving the supportive lecturers and structured environment behind.

True to my ne’er-do-well leanings, I never had any career aspirations until quite recently. I’ve come to believe my talents are employable. However, prior to this realisation, I was content doing manual labour. It never fulfilled me, but it filled my days well enough. Hard work seemed character-defining and, y’know, having money was nice, too.

Now that I know what I want to do with my life, though, I’m terrified something beyond my control will prevent it from working out. I’m no self-saboteur, but feel, deep down, that such a turn would be penance for wasting my early twenties. I’m confident in my abilities – I feel I have the skill set and application to work as a professional editor – but publishing’s a tough industry to break into, particularly in Australia. One perfectly plausible reality is that I’ll finish studying only to end up flipping patties at McDonald’s, waiting in vain for some elusive opportunity. No disrespect to hospitality workers, but I really don’t think I can go back to that. It’s not about the salary or a fear of hard work; I just don’t think, in light of all this recent self-discovery, that I can devote my time to anything I’m less than passion about.

Many view work as a means to an end, but I want to feel challenged, valued; I want to feel that I’m playing my part in bettering society. This line of thinking smacks of naiveté, but failing to act on it could leave me with the wrong life.

The cement isn’t dry yet, and I’m especially fortunate that I’ve no serious responsibilities forcing my hand. Although the sun is beginning to set on my twenties, there’s still time to act on these adolescent notions; I can still chase my dreams, or what have you. It took awhile to find it, but editing, I believe, is my genuine calling. It would kill me not to act on it.

* * *

A little postscript: I’ve come to realise I work best when a deadline has lit a fire under my arse. I’m no longer studying indefinitely, and this realisation is causing me to reassess my attitude. I’ve written this post out of need to organise my thoughts, (and also because I’ve developed an irrational – almost pathological – need to embarrass myself with excessively earnest posts). It’s a little late for resolutions, but I’m determined to make the most of my final year of study.

Writing this, I feel like I’m entering the final act of a Rocky film (not Rocky V, though. Ugh!). And so I pledge the following: to make every possible contact and seize every opportunity; to secure and make the most of another internship; to blog more and work on my professional image; to cast fear aside and write something longer than a short story; to submit more work.

I’m twenty-six soon and it’s time I started making some discernible progress. I’ll keep you posted on the particulars, but would love it if you, dear reader, would share some of your goals for 2014. Post them in the comments section so that we may hold each other accountable. Like an enraged Rocky wailing on Ivan Drago, let’s give complacency the middle finger and wring every fucking ounce of potential from this year.


I’m getting tingles just thinking about it.

11 thoughts on “Conquering Fear, Realising Potential

  1. Well. I’m super impressed (and, if I may say so, proud) that you have blogged about this. As you know, I’m turning twenty-*violent cough* in a few months, and have been pondering similar issues for some time. It’s daunting to pontificate about all of it at once, but if you set small goals for yourself, I have no doubt you will get there.

    I’ve always thought that you could be a stupidly successful writer if you could push yourself to do the wanky networking things required to get anyone’s attention these days. I have no doubt you’d be a capable and influential editor, too. But please don’t give up on your prose; your style and your ideas are great.

    As for my goals? I’d like to actually stick to a self-imposed schedule; to look for more internship opportunities; to find and incorporate a part-time job into my writing life; to actually submit stuff to publications; and to finish something that doesn’t make me roll my eyes when I read it six months later.

    Who knows? It could all happen by the end of the year. Even the last one.


    • Thanks, Vera. I agree that small goals are the way to go.

      And double thanks. I’ll never give up on writing (I’ll have it all!). Fortunately networking and epublishing are the focuses of one of my new classes.

      Good list of goals. The best thing about them, as you’ve rightly identified, is that none of them are pipe dreams. I look forward to seeing where we both end up come year’s end.

  2. Hahaha I am dying that we wrote a post about the same thing on the same day! And I had to chuckle in a few places too, ha! Ps I didn’t realise you were the same age as me (or was! I turned 26 last month!)

    I love studying. I’ve realised that while others keep mocking me for wanting to go back and do more (hey I plan to attempt masters next year…I’m crazy, I know.) I’ve achieved more than what others can say they have. And others keep telling me that. They’re impressed that I’m following my dreams.

    Ha! Dreams. I keep reading everywhere that your desires and dreams need to be great but the journey to them has to be equally as great otherwise it’s a waste of time, which is why I’m doing more of the things I love (enrolling into courses that scare the hell out of me but will be worth it in the end, taking care of my life, my way etc).

    You are a fantastic writer. I’m going to totally hold you accountable for making sure you write more than short stories (because the world needs more of your writing!)

    I feel bad that I’ve never seen Rocky (don’t judge me, never had the time!) but I totally get the rush that comes with declaring what you’re going to be doing, now. Not tomorrow but now!

    As for me, as you probably already know, I’m going to be finishing my fiction novel. As of last night I think I decided I wanted to write a non-fiction book, which is really, honestly, freaking weird coming from me, a lover of fiction, and I’m going to be a writing coach. I’m going to do more internships and volunteer at writing festivals as well as attend one in Bali, (oh money please don’t fail me). So there. I’ve said more than I’ve declared out loud on my own blog. Let’s do this. 2014 is our year!

    Also I’ll have to keep you posted about Saturday. I’ve got a couple of things I need to do, so I’m not sure if I could make it, but I will damn try and I’ll poke you on twitter about it tomorrow-ish if I can get everything done before sat!

    • Don’t worry — you aren’t missing much with the Rocky franchise.

      Fortunately one of my classes (Creative Project II) looks primed to hold me accountable. I plan to use the class to complete my NaNo project.

      Sounds like your 2014 will be jam-packed. Looking forward to seeing you pursue all these projects!

      I’ll cross my fingers re: Saturday! Peace.

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  4. I’d give you a standing ovation for this post, but since we’re a pond apart a comment will have to do 😉
    Let me just say how refreshing it is to read that other 20+/-‘s are asking themselves the same tough questions about life. I completely understand your desire to pursue your dreams, but I have no doubt that its not an easy road. Whether It be doubtful friends and family, or just the less than stellar economic returns, the path towards your passion isn’t paved with gold but I think that’s all the more reason to continue because nothing worth doing is easy. I’m in a similar situation where a nice job and future security are my reality, but I still want to write and strive everyday to try and reconcile the two. Sometimes I feel like I’m not taking advantage of my rebellious 20’s, i’m not travelling or taking career risks, I’m just stuck in a steady work/sleep cycle. But my hope is that by saving up, I will have the energy (and money!) to pursue my passion for story writing in whatever medium I eventually decide on. Just taking it one day at a time and reading your posts helps a lot 🙂

    • Hey Julie! Thanks! Really glad it resonated. You’ll get there! Maybe this is all just the atypical song and dance of the wayward twenty-something? Maybe we’re just going through something every generation goes through?

      On a lighter note, it’s great to hear from you! I thought about you the other day, but realised I had no way of contacting you! I was wondering if you planned on doing Camp NaNo again? I’m hoping to!

      Hope you had a great Christmas and New Years 🙂

      • Oh I’m definitely doing Camp Nano this year. I’m so glad you are too! Do you have Skype? I’m usually on there and it’d be great to catch up from time to time, I love checking in on you. Reading about your adventures in the literary/publishing world is inspiring, keep up the great work 🙂

      • Thanks for the well-wishes, Julie! No, don’t really use Skype. (I’m hardly ever online at a computer; mostly I use my phone to check my email, etc.) Best way to stay in touch with me is through WordPress or Twitter. (Or email if you want to get reeeaaally old school.)

        What’s your NaNo project about this year? Have you noticed the cabins are considerably bigger? I can no longer here my words echo when I say something!

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