By Maria Molina
“I think something happens in your late 20’s, early 30’s, where all of a sudden we’re expected to quantum leap […] no one expects a gradual path anymore; it has to be all of a sudden you live in this kind of place, and you’re in this kind of a relationship, and your face looks like this […] I just don’t think that’s realistic, especially now, and the more we can sort of break that myth and talk about how difficult it is to transition into that, or lack of transition of that, the better.” – Catherine Reitman, Creator of Workin’ Moms
While watching an interview with the creator of the television show Workin’ Moms’ Catherin Reitman on BUILD Series, I connected right away with her words when she mentioned the rapid turn-around we often expect from ourselves when it comes to establishing the life we envision for ourselves. We imagine taking a quantum leap when it comes to achieving our dreams, as if there can only be one fixed outcome and one arbitrary date of when everything must be accomplished. It’s silly to think like that, because you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to learn but that’s how narrow-minded I used to be. When I was in college I set a goal to write and complete a novel by the time I graduated in 2011, maybe not necessarily have it published right away, but I was determined to have a book done by the time I was a senior at the ripe age of twenty-one. So, little by little over the course of my education, I wrote chapter after chapter until something like a book materialized by the date I had etched in my mind as the finish line. Feeling somewhat proud of myself, without reviewing or editing my first draft, I submitted my work to about twenty literary agents and waited anxiously for any response; however, the replies that trickled in weren’t the raving reviews I expected. Not a single agent was receptive of my manuscript except for one who in an email requested the first chapter, but she also declined to accept my project. Shocked and devastated, I dramatically decided that I would stop writing because clearly, I was no good; instead of understanding that I needed to put more work into my draft, I thought that writing must not be the path meant for me, and I had better find a job, because who has a college degree and doesn’t have a job? (Unfortunately, people make you feel like you’re a loser if you don’t find traditional employment). I realize now the mistake I made then: By setting a goal I limited myself to a deadline.
I’ve fallen into the “deadline trap” so many times it’s honestly embarrassing, and I’m so glad that as I enter my third decade of life I don’t worry about dates, timelines, or even goals because it only hinders your evolution; when something doesn’t happen by the time you thought it was you can fall into a rut of despair, blocking other blessings from entering your life. After I got my job, I didn’t write or read books, two of my favorite hobbies, and without realizing it, I started sleepwalking through life, waking up every day only to go through the motions. I wouldn’t say I was depressed during this time, but more like I was hunkered down in a funk, ignoring the self I wanted to be to protect myself from failure, oblivious to how unhappy I was about letting go of my passion. About four years after that daunting period where I received one rejection slip after another, I gave myself another deadline, telling myself, OK, if by the time I’m thirty I don’t have anything published then I’m going to quit and forget this dream of being a writer because I’m not good enough. I compared myself to other authors, obsessively researching their ages at the time of their debut novels, thinking that my journey had to align with theirs. Looking through the lens of perspective, the mistake I made in my early and mid-twenties (besides being very young and immature) was that I stopped writing altogether after one small misstep, naively thinking that writing and publishing a book was as easy as memorizing facts for a test. I quit before I ever put any work into it, subconsciously believing my father when he said I would find success with the first book I wrote, which led to my obstinacy in writing a novel, driving out any other ideas or opportunities of what I could do creatively until I was ready to slay that giant, plunging further into delusion.
Growing up, I held on to the unrealistic belief that by the time I hit some magic age my life would look like the perfect vision I dreamed about: my face would be smooth and blemish free, I’d have a couple of books published, I would live in a huge house with walk-in closets full of designer clothes, in short, I wouldn’t have a struggle in the world, and everything would just voilà, appear! These ideas were bolstered by my upbringing where I was warned repeatedly that time doesn’t pass in vain, and that some people die with their talents untapped; this way of thinking is a result of insecurity and I wasn’t aware enough back then to ask myself what would happen if I didn’t achieve those things by thirty? Would I just stop existing because it would take me longer to accomplish my aspirations? Would I stop doing the thing that made me happy? Because I didn’t ask myself those questions I made another mistake of holding onto absurd expectations, unnecessarily making myself sadder, failing to learn that anything worth having in life takes years to obtain, and, most importantly, occurs gradually. And it’s not enough for one to understand this “gradual path”—there are going to be those in your way who know nothing about the gradual path, who tap their watches in your face, reminding you of the task at hand. It’s best to ignore them; they normally have nothing going on for themselves, anyway. As I’ve aged and matured like a snake sheds his skin I’ve had to shed most of the lessons I was taught about time, about putting pressure on yourself to finish something by some imaginary due date, ignorant to the fact that it’s not the finished product we should focus on but the arduous, exhilarating journey of creating—just know that it’s supposed to take you a while to fulfill whatever dream you have whether it’s that work of art you want to make or that dream house you want to purchase. The trick is to never stop working towards it and don’t think you’re too old, incapable, or undeserving to succeed.
Time is infinity and what I’ve learned is that what is meant for you will be for you. A good friend of mine introduced me to a deck of affirmation cards, a healing process in which you, while holding the cards, think of something that has been heavy on your mind and you draw a card that will then offer an answer and a reading. As I held the cards face down, spreading them between my hands, I thought of my melancholia, of the professional career I wanted but was fearful was out of reach, and I eagerly selected a card. The card I chose was powerful and spoke directly to me, but it’s a message I want you to hear as well in case you’re struggling as I once did. The card was the Diamond Tiger of the Black Moon, Second Chances Bring Success:
Your soul is on the diamond path of spiritual growth. You may feel pressured by life at times, but at a higher level, those challenges are helping you realize your true strength of character. You have the personal will, strength and physical power that you need for success, no matter what has happened in the past. You are developing the spirit, passion and vitality to fight like a tigress defending her cubs. Believe in yourself. There is great dignity and strength in your heart.
“Growth” has been my favorite word this year and I love that it’s in this card’s description, because the power of evolution is something that I have been experiencing since I turned twenty-five, I would say, with the singular assistance of my partner who taught me that I can change the way I think. It was the most important lesson I’ve learned because in my childhood living in a low socioeconomic status we weren’t exposed to many resources; I also wasn’t given the opportunity to develop my own thoughts and lost my voice along the way, but I’m happy that I’m now able to discover myself and the world around me with an open and curious mind and I’m not afraid anymore to explore ideas outside of my perspective. This evolution has helped me tremendously in becoming the writer I always wanted to be and I’m excited to continue to flourish and experience life. I know what I want to do and that is to write, but I no longer have a picture in my mind of what that is supposed to look like—whether it’s a 500-page novel, short stories, or this blog—I’m just happy writing and learning and growing. The only fixed thought in my mind is that the journey to success won’t happen in a quantum leap and that’s the way it must be. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Maria is a Latina writer from Shillington, Pennsylvania. Her blog MyMiseducation (www.mymiseducation.org) focuses on conversations surrounding representation, racism, self-love and finding yourself. She also shares her short stories, her thoughts on books, movies, music, television and more. Her goal is to help her readers leave negativity behind and become enlightened by confronting uncomfortable truths. Follow her on Instagram (@mymiseducationblog) so you never miss a conversation.