This post is one of those deep (but not quite profound), reflexive passages on overcoming barriers in life. On why I stopped being a full-time attorney to take a chance at becoming a fiction writer. An author. Why leave a highly respected, well-paid position to become a starving artist?
As we drove to school today, my daughter Hannah snapped this picture. Besides its obvious artistic value, it provided me with a moment to reflect. How many times have I been traveling along and had my course altered by a road closed sign? Actually, not very often, at least driving on the asphalt roads. But, in a metaphorical sense, we find ourselves running into road closure signs all the time. I’m not advocating you break the law, but I am suggesting that we reconsider always listening to the voices and words that prevent us from following the path we want to follow.
For some reason, this sign reminded me of the times well-intentioned people have advised that I follow the main road. That I remain on the smooth, clear path of the many. It reminded me of what I’ve done this year. What I’m doing.
You see, every time I saw a ROAD CLOSED sign that kept me practicing law, I wanted to barrel through that sign like Bo & Luke Duke (my apologies to Boss Hogg and the boys in Hazard), taking a risk that would probably end up as a flaming mess. Taking the risk nonetheless because stepping out into the unknown or the uncomfortable is the only time I ever really feel alive. And writing is the only thing that I completely love doing no matter what kind of day I’ve had.
I have (had) a respectable career. I am (was) an attorney. I worked hard to help my clients get a good outcome, regardless of their situation. Through the years, I have held a lingering (unshakeable) desire to become a fiction writer. Every time I’d pull out a story and start writing, I soon was compelled to get back to “real” work. After awhile that real work became a ROAD CLOSED sign over my life. This year, I jumped in the General Lee and crashed through that sign. This year, I left the practice of law to become a full-time author. Crazy? Yes. Reckless? A little. Don’t worry, I have a business plan and I’m working things out. After all, what’s the difference between opening a cupcake shop (a “normal” business) and opening a writing shop? (a naïve and stupid enterprise, or so I’ve been told) I think there is very little difference.
I often told my wife, even though people think it’s impressive (not as many as you’d think) that I am a lawyer, practicing law without enjoying it is no different than being on an assembly line in some dull factory with a 30-minute lunch break and no air conditioning.
Maybe there are a few of you out there that know what I’m writing about. You feel like every time you try to follow your dreams, a giant ROAD CLOSED sign appears. I say ignore it (unless the consequences of doing so lead to bodily injury or jail time), and pursue your dream. Follow it as far as you can. You might just be surprised. Once you’re on the other side, you might realize it’s a lot easier to get around when you’re on the road less travelled. This much I know for sure – if you just keep driving by, staring wistfully at the sign and the path behind it – you’ll never stop wondering what might have been.
Time will tell if my headstrong move to drive through that pesky sign pays off. One thing is certain, I will no longer drive by and wonder what would have happened if I ignored that sign and took the path my heart longed to take. And even if I do crash in a flaming mess, at least I won’t carry the weight of wondering “what if?” the rest of my life. And believe me, that makes every white-knuckle, held-breath, sweaty-brow moment of this drive worth it.