The Old Me

“Those feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear,” according to the Alcoholics Anonymous book, after working the steps, specifically the ninth step, the amends step. I’ve done all the steps, although I still have some amends to make, and most of the promises, including this one, have come true for me, but not today, and for that I am sad. Today I feel like the old me, and I want to disappear.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I cried (in private) after a negative review from one of my acquaintances whose website content I wrote. Granted, I didn’t get clear direction from her on how she wanted the content written. But I spent several hours on it last week, pro bono, to help build my portfolio, and I had fun with it. Because my latest career change idea is to become a copywriter.

To become a copywriter, I just need a few writing samples which will allow me to apply to entry-level copywriter positions. The salary would be decent. No training or student loans would be required, because I have a master’s in creative writing, which isn’t the same kind of writing, but it is writing, and I have marketing experience. This idea has given me hope that maybe a job exists in which I’m not only competent but I can earn a decent living.

Copywriters, designers, creative positions—everyone—will face rejection at some time. Yet I feel disheartened. Maybe I’m not good at this. Maybe this is not what I’m meant to do. She said that the writing wasn’t the voice she wanted, and that she wanted it to be more “homey” and “easy.” I wrote it from the heart, using simple words, so I don’t know how to make it easier or “homier” than it is. We can discuss it so that I can get a better idea of what she wants, which we’ll do, but right now I feel useless, foolish, hurt, ashamed. What makes you think you can find a job writing, making good money? Why do you think you’re smart enough to do well at this? That’s what my negative head—the old me—tells me. The old me says, What the fuck CAN I do? Am I good at ANYTHING?

My bachelor’s degree overqualified me for my first office job that I got from a temp agency as a law firm receptionist, but I didn’t know what else to do, so I worked there for four and a half years, getting promoted into a coordinator/administrative/proofreader role in which I performed some marketing tasks. From there I discovered that copywriters made good money, and I got a job at a marketing agency writing healthcare newsletters for an insurance company whose goal was to encourage patients to take better care of themselves so they wouldn’t go to the doctor and cost the insurance company more money. The cause disturbed me, but I liked the idea of encouraging better health, so I went for it. And I got fired after a month because the client didn’t like my writing.

It was a huge blow. I’d made good grades in school, I’d been loved at my previous job, and I was a hard worker. So how could I get fired for being incompetent, for doing the only thing in which I, in my opinion, excelled? When they said they wanted the writing to be more this or more that, I didn’t know how to make those revisions. The account manager didn’t like me and wanted me to help him with his job, which I didn’t want to do, not having been hired to work with clients, nor having any desire to do so. I remember the day they fired me. I was locked out of my computer, so I went to the IT guy, who said he’d be in to take a look in a few, and then the account manager and my manager, a former college professor who liked me and seemed to feel sorry to have to fire me, took me into an office and sat me down and told me that they’d talked with the CEO and decided that it wasn’t working out. They gave me some paper to sign, which I didn’t read, but they explained what it was, and I couldn’t listen, because all I could think was that I’d failed and I had a massive hangover I just wanted to go home and sleep off. My hands were shaking when I signed the paper and I wanted to throw up.

When I got home my then-boyfriend, now-ex-husband refused to let me sleep off my hangover and made me go into his office, a warehouse he’d converted into an office space for his start-up marketing agency. He trained me how to manage online ads, which involves minimal writing and more organization and math, and that’s what I did for a year or two. During that time he and I got married and divorced, and I continued to work in marketing, because that was the experience I had, but I hated it. I wrote some copy for a marketing agency at a temp position, writing product descriptions for Motorola, and I wrote some other website content, but mostly I managed online ads. I didn’t keep the writing that I’d done, and I’d be surprised if it still existed since most companies change their website content every few years, and I didn’t make lasting contacts, except for a couple of friends who I’ve re-connected with recently, and who I hope will help me find copywriting work.

In the meantime I feel paralyzed with fear, doubt, and insecurity. The old me wants to give up on the job search and continue working in a grocery store for the rest of my life, move to a trailer in Florida, or somewhere else where I can lower my expenses and somehow afford to pay off my mounting credit card debt and student loan debt. The old me says fuck this whole town and start your life over somewhere else, where no one knows you used to make $75,000 a year working at a marketing agency, and no one has any expectations that you’ll go back to that place. As if anyone really cares or has expectations. The only people who care are my family and me, and unfortunately none of us can un-know that I’d once done well and now I can’t afford to pay my bills.

What I hope will become the new me is the kind of woman who has resolve and perseverance. She tells me to just keep trying. Everyone fails. Not only does everyone fail, but we fail more often than we succeed, because it takes many attempts before achieving success. When it comes to writing or design, my experience has shown me that often those who don’t know how to do it think they can, that it’s easy, like how I think can create a beautiful work of abstract art because it’s just scribbles on a canvas, but when I try to do that it becomes what looks like scribbles on a canvas. Because in reality it takes practice, skill, and talent.

My real fear is that I don’t have the passion to pursue this career path, and if I don’t have the passion to pursue this one, then what do I have passion for? Writing is my life, but that particular career path involves copywriting, and I don’t know if I have the ability or interest in writing someone else’s story. And if I don’t have that, then what the fuck can I do?

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