On Wanting To Be A Writer

When I was 6 years old I decided I wanted to be a writer. Before the age of 10 I had written several short fictions, one of which made my mother cry, and several of which sparked suspicions that I might be “special,” and not in the good way—in the psychologically damaged way. Among other things, I wrote a story about a female centaur-Pegasus type creature with very large breasts that were described in minute detail; a whole “book” about Jesse Owens which I illustrated, laminated and bound myself and some short crime fiction, including a story about a girl whose little brother disappeared behind a bush when they were playing in the yard, before she found him bloodily and mysteriously murdered. Hence the suspicions that I had somehow come unhinged at some point in my small years.

Before long I developed other ambitions. I wanted to be a feminist, Gwen Stefani, a racecar driver or a commercial airline pilot. When Friends became a TV show I decided I wanted to move to New York. I wanted to be a mommy and a deep-sea diver and I wanted to go on safari in Africa. I wanted to be a teacher or a vampire slayer, and I thought if I tried hard enough I would find the secret portal to the land of Xanth. My mother’s constant encouragement made everything seem wonderfully possible to my little girl’s imagination, as she’d say things like, “nothing is impossible,” and “you just have to put your mind to it,” on a near daily basis.

In high school, my dreams changed. I saw my parents doing everything they could to keep me in this prestigious school that they really couldn’t afford, and that my baby brothers wouldn’t have the same privilege of attending, and I imposed on myself a level of guilt (that my parents never, ever forced upon me, bless their cotton socks). With this guilt, I felt like perhaps I should be doing something more than being an “artist”; I felt that I should be changing the world, somehow.

From the age of 14 the school would shepherd us, nervous, confused and pubescent as we were, into careers seminars and coerce us into making pre-emptive decisions about university. When I revealed to the principal in a private meeting that I wanted to be a writer she looked at me blankly for several seconds before bowing her head to her notepad and scratching out something with her pen, “great, so you’re going to be a lawyer. You’ll need to take the following classes…”

And so I was going to be a lawyer. The next few years crashed together like lightning; I graduated from high school with top marks and found myself in the most prestigious Australian law school doing my degree simultaneously with a second degree in Media & Communications. It was someone else’s dream come true, and the tiny violin that played for me was but a distant melody, but one that for the next 6 or 7 years would sporadically blow in on the breeze of self-pity.

I was confused. I ran away to London. I studied part time for a stint. I focused all my energies on the cinema and journalism components of my Media & Communications degree. I failed Contracts Law. I excelled in human rights subjects and, unexpectedly, Corporations Law. I became a blogger and people started to pay me to write about fashion. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had and by the time it was all over, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. I took a job as a paralegal with a private practitioner and before I knew it I was advising counsel in court. I was drawing up paper work for meaningless litigations alongside taking interviews with broken families and reconciling their assets. I had never had so much purpose before; and yet I’d never felt so lost.

In terms of life decisions, mine was a lucky one. To be a lawyer, or to break out, travel and try to earn my crust writing. It’s not exactly disastrous, the consequences not necessarily devastating, but sometimes when your happiness is at stake even the most frivolous of first world problems can take on inflated importance. I was in a quandary—to continue with this career in law, the brilliant, blessed one that so few get the opportunity to partake in, the one that would bring me all the money and the stability and all the consistency I’d ever need; or should I cut loose, light out for the territory, giving up stability in exchange for a life of hand-to-mouth, of never knowing if I could afford the next meal, or next month’s rent, let alone a fancy pair of shoes or a luxurious holiday?

And there was that self-imposed guilt again—the one that told me I was squandering a very precious gift that I’d been given. Sometimes I think if we’re going to trend first world problems, it’s probably time to start incorporating first world guilt, the beast that pervades Western consciousness and makes people do things just because they have the privilege of doing them and therefore feel they should—not necessarily because they want to. I believe it’s a great source of dissatisfaction in a world where people have too much of things they don’t need and more pertinently, don’t want.

You know what decision I made—you wouldn’t be reading this if I was still in Melbourne being a lawyer and putting a deposit down on a house. I worry that maybe I’ve made the wrong decision, that spending all my savings and living on such a pittance renders it unlikely/impossible that I’ll ever have savings again. I worry it was all a big mistake and I’ll end up broken, living in poverty forever, unable to support myself financially, let alone the family I so desperately want to have. I worry that I’m not going to “make it” as a writer, that having all my eggs in this particular basket is nothing more than insanity. This is life and WE ONLY GET ONE SHOT, OMG AM I DOING IT RIGHT?

The truth is, I’ve never been happier. The things I do on a daily basis give me a sense of elation, and even though I don’t have the dollars or the job security, there’s a feeling I get in my belly every morning when I wake up for work that’s more like jelly beans than the dark foreboding I had when I was on the law trajectory. The truth is that I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year, a month, or even a day from now, and it’s really fucking scary, but it’s a feeling that I possess as much as it possesses me; and that unknowing is the best comfort I’ve ever had. TC mark

image – rebeccaseung

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  • mgyxoxo

    i was lost until i read this. thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002009138764 Leu Rodriguez

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to read. 

  • guest

    thank you, thank you, thank you. it’s so comforting to know that someone else out there is in the dark, fumbling for a light switch, when they could have taken the easy way out and not followed their dreams.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffalogal Nicole Shoe

    LOVE THIS. miss writing. glad you had the courage to do it.

  • http://addybee.wordpress.com/ Adrienne Nicole Bernal

    I’ve been questioning myself for quite some time now. I also have the dream of becoming a writer but feel like I’m not quite good enough. In my country, not a lot have the privilege to get known or even published. I’ve always wanted to travel and seek out what I can get and what I have to offer. This post is enlightening and comforting. Thank you for posting this. x

    • Katgeorge

      I think the key is to actually do what makes you happy, and then the things you don’t have (i.e. money) just stop mattering all together.

      • http://addybee.wordpress.com/ Adrienne Nicole Bernal

        Thank you! Although, at the moment, I would need money to get to do what makes me happy. :(

  • Floydeepurple

    bravo you. quite inspiring. and god bless. :)

  • homsar315

    love this, thanks

  • Anonymous

    sometimes we can’t all afford to make such awesome decisions though. health care is kind of a big deal.

    • Katgeorge

      I know, it’s something that I’ve had to go without!

      • Anonymous

        yeah, i can’t imagine. especially having a disease, i am shit out of luck when i turn 26.

    • Katgeorge

      I know, it’s something that I’ve had to go without!

  • guest

    Wait, how old are you?

    • Katgeorge

      A lady never reveals her age!

      • anon

        Please?

  • Anonymous

    pourin one out for my Law 2 Lit crew

  • http://twitter.com/viankaa bianca justiniano

    you rock. thanks! :)

  • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

    BUT WAIT! Don’t you have a second job to pay the bills? Aren’t you some food service worker? So–and my question is for my own shake–couldn’t you do exactly the same thing you’re doing now (working a second job to pay the bills while writing when you can) even as a lawyer lady? I ask because I’m an engineer trying to do the same thing. 

    • Katgeorge

      I do take odd jobs around the place that have nothing to do with writing, but I’ve made the decision to only do that minimally. Working in a bar leaves me EXTREMELY exhausted and often all I want to do when I get home is chill the fuck out and not have to write (which essentially starts to feel like ‘homework’). Likewise, when I was working in law, I was working on average from 8am to 8pm–which almost completely voided my motivation/urge/desire to write. 

      I made the decision for myself that it wasn’t possible to hone my skills as a writer with my energies divided in such a way, and so, I’ve sacrificed $$$, and hopefully one day it will be worth it!

  • Sophia

    This article is extremely relevant to me right now, as it is to almost anyone who’s ever experienced conflicting feelings of security and wanderlust. Thoughtful and illuminating. Thank you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/muffins.go.rawr Gina Wei

    “…first world guilt, the beast that pervades Western consciousness and makes people do things just because they have the privilege of doing them and therefore feel they should—not necessarily because they want to.”

    Story of a first-generation American’s life. My parents worked their asses off to get to the U.S., and they didn’t go through all those tribulations for their child to willingly choose the life of a struggling artist. The whole point of coming to America was to alleviate my struggles, so why would I so graciously waste their efforts? Major guilt trips.

  • http://profiles.google.com/muffins.go.rawr Gina Wei

    “…first world guilt, the beast that pervades Western consciousness and makes people do things just because they have the privilege of doing them and therefore feel they should—not necessarily because they want to.”

    Story of a first-generation American’s life. My parents worked their asses off to get to the U.S., and they didn’t go through all those tribulations for their child to willingly choose the life of a struggling artist. The whole point of coming to America was to alleviate my struggles, so why would I so graciously waste their efforts? Major guilt trips.

  • vejrubia

    I wish I knew what steps to take so that I could get to where you are now.

    Thank you, though.

    • Katgeorge

      You need to suspend all disbelief, and take a really fucking HUGE leap of faith. You can scream as much as you want when you jump–I think it makes it easier to fall if you’re making noise on the way down!

      • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

        “You need to suspend all disbelief, and take a really fucking HUGE leap of faith.”

        I’ll give you this much: people who make such ridiculous (irresponsible) “motivational” statements are usually selling something. You’re just being a (poorly-paid) Fantasist.

      • Meesh

        Huh? You love to call her out for being 12 but your heckling is the most immature.

      • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

        I know I should be praising solipsistic drivel that you feel inexplicably protective of, but I just can’t bring myself to do it, Meesh! Oh well… that plus global warming = total bummer! (sad face)

  • Anonymous

    Is being a writer the original purposeless life or is it the most purposeful life? 

    • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

      OR IS IT THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE

      sup christian nonfic

  • Anonymous

    this is so wonderful. and very encouraging. i’m sure you’ll get published real soon and again and again. this was brilliantly written and like the others i needed to read it. thank you :)

  • TO

    I usually dislike what I’ve seen of your writing here, but this is very good…makes me wish you’d focus more on yourself/weightier topics, and less of the cosmo-eque material. In any event, I now have some respect for you as a writer.

  • Simplicity
  • Elle

    Kat, you scare me…because I want what you have but it seems so far off…I’m also an Arts/Law graduate from Sydney, but I haven’t been working since I graduated.My parents were migrants to Australia….so the whole move-to-NY-and-write thing would confuse them. And I don’t have a successful blog,much less a successful law career.

    I’ve also been writing since I was young…enough to get me noticed by teachers/parents etc.But…I don’t know.In so so so many ways,you remind me of me. Your personality, your interests, even the fact that you’re Greek (I’m Turkish)…the only difference is, you seem so happy. I just feel lost. Oh, and I’m 26. And i feel that it’s too late for me…

    • Thegirlwhofellasleep

      Elle, you scare me. 26 and too late?! That’s just society telling you to think it’s too late. SOCIETY! Fuck em all and do what you want!

      But, um… maybe get a job.

      And no one’s happy pfft.

    • Katgeorge

      Girl I’m the same age as you and I took off a year ago, and things aren’t going perfect, but they’re going! Have some faith, think about how much things can change from year to year. Good luck xx

  • http://www.facebook.com/nattusmith Natt Smith

    You seem real for once.  Thank you.  

  • http://www.TechComet.com abhiroopb

    Girl after my own heart. I have spent the last 5 years going through law school, taking the bar exams and finally working/training at a law firm. I dislike it and in two days it’s all over :D

  • Guest

    ANU?

  • yawn

    if your writing on thought catalog is anything to go by you probably should have done law.

    • Woman Friend

      Fucking ditto.

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