What is a real job?

This is a post about writing, but not directly.

About three years ago, I decided I’d had enough of travelling fifty weeks out of the year and wearing suits everyday and sitting in an office writing or reading boring business documents.  So, I quit my job and went backpacking for a few months.  I’d never managed to do it during college because I was usually working when I was in school and I didn’t have the funds to pay for a semester abroad.  And, after I graduated, the job I took to pay off those student loans only gave me two weeks of vacation per year (which I used religiously by the way).

So, I basically reached a point where I felt like I wasn’t living my life enough.  I was financially secure and could have continued doing what I was doing for the forseeable future, but, to use one of those cheesy, ridiculous phrases I hate so much, it wasn’t “feeding my soul.”

Now, here’s where we actually get back to the title of the post.  After three months of backpacking and not working, I realized I liked having money in the bank and needed work that would give me that.  And I’d had a shift in plans while I was travelling, which meant I needed a professional-type job.  So, I ended up working as a consultant for my old company.  No more suits, no more work travel, almost no office politics, same boring conversations and documents.  But an amazing improvement over what it had been.

And, due to the vagaries of life, I actually made more that first year than I had as a full-time employee.

So, here’s where it gets interesting.  I do the same work as before.  For the same company.  But, because I don’t wake up every morning and go into an office, my grandmother has decided I don’t actually have a job.  Granted, now that I’m not a full-time employee, I can go a few weeks without any work and I do most of my work from home while living overseas (that photo on the top of the blog is one I took during an afternoon walk).  But I do have a job.  It pays my bills (for now).

And yet, my grandmother has started suggesting new careers for me.  Even though she also knows that I use the free time between assignments to write and that my ultimate goal is to write full-time.  I’ll tell her I decided to cook something fancy for dinner and she’ll say, “Have you ever thought about being a chef?”  “No, Grandma, I just wanted to cook dinner.”  I’ll look something up on the Internet about her friend’s latest medical issue and she’ll say, “Have you ever thought about being a doctor?”  “Uh, no.  Do you realize how long those people are in school for?  I have a job.  And I’m working on my writing.”

It’s crazy to me.  And drives me a little insane sometimes.  And that’s the job that pays the bills.  Writing?  Forget it.  I don’t think anyone in my family takes it seriously even though I write almost every day.  I’m 200 pages into the second draft of my novel.  It will be ready for submission this year.  (It will.  I’m stubborn that way)  But I suspect that, even if I’m published, it will still never register with my family as a real job.  Unless I someday achieve the level of success of a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling (which I will not), it will never register as legitimate with them.

Now, fortunately, I have that massively overblown ego that lets me not really care what anyone else thinks, but it would be nice to have them acknowledge this whole writing thing as something more than a lark because I find myself with a little free time.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to What is a real job?

  1. Rebecca Stibrany says:

    Your job sounds perfect.

    • mhleewriter says:

      I’ve definitely been incredibly fortunate to have the work arrangement I’ve had the past couple of years. Drawbacks – when you’re semi anti-social like I am, working from home in a foreign country makes it challenging to meet new people. And I don’t think it’s sustainable for much longer. But I have loved it while it’s lasted. And it certainly beats the way things were before.

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