Recently, I finished a class on soft skills, put on by New World of Work and taught by the fantastic Natasha Palumbo. We covered ten skills that can help in the workplace, skills they don’t teach you when you’re majoring in English or pretty much anything else in school. One of the things we covered in the last class was resilience.
Historically, I’ve had a hard time with resilience. I think most people with depression do. One small failure can keep us from trying again or trying something new because it’s a glaring example of our perceived incompetence. That, paired with a poor view of my own self-worth, has been what’s kept me from finishing a novel and having a successful career doing what I truly love.
When we covered resilience in class, I was more determined than ever to press on. Yes, my resilience has a slower turn around than some people, but by gods I am determined to make a living as a writer. It’s been almost twenty years since I decided that’s what I wanted to be when I grow up, and even though it hasn’t happened the way I envisioned it, I haven’t given up on that dream.
My lesson in resilience came full circle yesterday when I went to visit my dad. My mom’s birthday was yesterday, but she had to work. Since I was planning on visiting her on Father’s Day, I thought I’d go up and spend her birthday with my dad.
My dad always loves to show me what he’s working on. He’s a renaissance man, usually working on multiple projects at once. He’s typically working on several garden projects, a bicycle or two, a funny story for a friend, a method to clean mercury and other impurities out of the river, perfecting solar power, a process for getting the finest particles of gold out of river sand, and his jewelry, not to mention all the odd jobs he does around town to make a living.
Yesterday, he showed me a few pieces of jewelry he was working on. The shapes were not unfamiliar to me. He was working on duplicating a whale tail pendant he made about twenty-five years ago and that I’d gotten so used to seeing around his neck when I was a child. He had perfected a method of polishing jade that made jade experts skeptical the material was actually jade until they looked at it under a microscope.
He always knew he had something special, something marketable, but in the twenty-five years since he made the first one, a lot has happened. Life happened. Business partners went their own ways, friends died, family estranged him, relationships formed and ended, tools and equipment were lost or sold or stolen, living quarters changed, and he danced with death on numerous occasions.
Now, at the age of sixty, his dream of selling his work for hundreds of millions of dollars to Chinese billionaires is still alive and well. No one can say he doesn’t dream big. After more than twenty-five years, he still hasn’t given up, nor do I think he ever will.
If he does make it happen, great! He’ll be set for life, and I’ll be an heiress! Cool, right? What if it doesn’t happen, though? What then? I think he’ll still die happy, knowing he spent his life working on projects that brought him joy. He doesn’t really do it to make the money, although that would be a fantastic side effect. He does it because it’s what excites him and makes him want to get up in the morning.
That’s how I want to approach my writing. When people turn up their nose at me because I don’t have a book published, I want to be able to say, “I will one day soon” with the confidence my dad has. I want to whisper secretly to myself that even if I don’t, I’ll still die happy knowing I worked on projects that made me want to get up every morning. Even if the world never sees me as a “successful novelist,” I’ll know the truth, that I grew and got better and made fantastic things.