When I was young, I wasn’t what you’d call particularly ambitious.
I was raised by a very traditional family. If my mom wanted more than to be a good wife and mother, she didn’t say so out loud. She considered work outside the home as something a woman did to help make ends meet. As did many of the women in my blue-collar home town. Women taught school, worked in clerical jobs or part time at the local grocery store. At school we were encouraged to do well and attend college so we could get better jobs. Become managers instead of secretaries. Have choices as to how we wanted to earn money.
Nowhere, though, did anyone talk to me about ambition. That is, the desire to achieve something more than a paycheck.
Therefore, it wasn’t until I hit 30, and was at home with my baby that the idea of wanting more entered my head. Back then, more meant selling a manuscript. Seeing my name on a book spine was enough for me – probably because seeing my name on a book spine seemed like such a far away dream I dared not think beyond.
Fast forward twenty-three years and twenty books and that baby – Lt. Tattoo – is moving out and getting married. Suddenly, my mind is embracing more again. Ambition, that strange, strong desire to achieve bigger goals, has me in its grips.
And yet I’m still floundering as to what to do. Being ambitious means taking control of your own destiny. It means working toward your goals with an almost ruthless focus. But old lessons – old personas – die hard. I have spent 53 years living the rules of my childhood: Take care of your family. Shoulder the emotional labor. Be there for others. Don’t make waves. Be likable.
Breaking free of these rules means being uncomfortable. Learning to live with feeling guilty because I said ‘No’. Staying strong in the face of the inevitable pushback from my family and friends. (Because let’s face it – no one likes change. Even the most supportive of family really mean they’ll be supportive so long as their life doesn’t get upended. )
I’ll say it right now – I hate feeling uncomfortable. The other week I told a friend that our write-in sessions weren’t as productive for me as I hoped, and so I was backing out. I felt guilty for days over letting her down. That’s because I want the whole world to happy. More important, I want the whole world to be happy with me. Always. (Another great lesson of my childhood – don’t let people see your flaws. Or your personality if it’s less than perfect.)
Ambition also means finding mentors and role models to help pull me along. I’m seeking to expand my tribe with positive, like-minded ambitious writers who are ready to take on new challenges. People who force me to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. How do I do this? I’m not sure. Network. Get over my fear of talking to writers more successful than I am. Stalk people online. If anyone’s got any suggestions, I’m totally up for listening.
Why am I babbling about all of this on my blog? I’m not exactly sure other than because this is the one place other than my journal where I can bare my soul. And who knows? Maybe there’s someone else out there in the same boat I’m in. Over fifty, wanting to build something bigger out of their career, and still bound by insecurities and fear of failure.
If there is – I’m here for you. We can sink or swim together.