Today marks the one-year anniversary of something I’d rather not remember. On June 7, 2018, I was laid off from my job as an editor with a regional magazine group.
After spending close to a year climbing out of a pit triggered by writing career setbacks, this plunged me right back in.
Rational thoughts aside, the lay-off felt personal. Wasn’t I good enough? Hard-working enough? Young enough? My fiction output slowed to a trickle, then stopped altogether. I was angry at myself for ruining my husband’s long-awaited summer vacation, for jeopardizing my younger son’s college plans and generally bringing a dark cloud of turmoil over our entire household. The tape in my head that droned what a failure I was ran on non-stop repeat.
Like I said, it’s something I’d rather not remember.
I’m happy to say that one year later, life is light-years better than it looked that day. In the fall, I found a job in a new field, that’s a great fit. My son went off to college, as planned. My husband cheered me on in my new position, and continues to do so, as I inch back into writing. Therapy helped me identify what triggers the Failure Tape. Faith and prayer help me shut it off, or at least turn the volume down.
So while I’d rather not remember how bad I felt that day, and for many days afterward, I need to.
Why? Because life is full of struggle. As fiction writers, we know that a story without struggle isn’t a story at all. Some struggles are huge, some are small, but they’re there just the same. And when the next one comes along, remembering a really, REALLY bad day serves as a reminder that things can, and do, get better.
Maybe not perfect. Maybe not walk-off Grand Slam victorious, but better. And remembering our worst days helps us appreciate the better ones that much more.
There’s a lyric in an old song by Wynonna Judd about how a dead end street is a place to turn around. It forces us to look at our map, get our bearings, say a prayer and start over again. The journey is a long one, travelled step by step, day by day. But for today at least, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.