Last week, one of the coworkers I'm closest to left our workplace to pursue her dream job. We had a toast in the Big Boss' office, and everyone talked about how great it was that she was going on to do what she loved, and how great it was that we could be her springboard. I was happy for her - I still am - but also a little envious. If I were to tell them all what my dream is, I'd definitely get some looks.
It came out, though, as it always does. We were talking to one of our departing bosses, who asked me what my next step was. I stammered out my usual half-truths and backup plans, when my now-ex-coworker said, "She's going to be a writer."
I froze. But he just replied, "Hm. I feel like I should have known that," and changed the subject.
I've always been safely ensconced within arts communities until now, but DC is a different animal. Everyone is working to move up: to be a politician, or a diplomat, or to obtain some other shiny, important position in this complicated machine. Of course, since I work in the international field, there's a whole other set of acceptable dreams: study abroad adviser, interpreter, or a director for a cultural center. I could do those things, and I would enjoy them. I was drawn here, after all, through my love for my second language and second home in Tokyo.
I like my job, and I like my bosses, but being an assistant here has an unspoken expiration date. And when it comes to the next step, there's only one thing I really, really want - so much that it's hard to think of anything else.
When people at work find out that I write, they inevitably say something about how stressful or time-consuming it must be. And it can be, to an extent. But there are different kinds of stress. There's 'waiting on an elusive contact,' and there's 'diving into a difficult action scene.' There's 'dealing with an angry caller,' and there's 'writing a query to a top agent.' The former examples are stressful, full stop. But with the latter examples, I get that rush of adrenaline. It keeps me going.
A few weeks ago, I met with the agent who I'd be working with on my MS, and I was pretty sure I was going to die before I reached the office door. But it was the feeling I used to get when I did theater, and the feeling I used to get when I participated in Japanese speech contests. I'm nervous to the point where I start to think my heart will break my ribs, but it's one of the best feelings there is. I wouldn't get that feeling if I wasn't doing something I loved.
So when my coworkers talk about the next step in their careers, I smile. I know I'm chasing my dreams, too - even if they don't.
Not yet, anyway.