Finding That One Thing
I realized I needed to make a commitment when I could no longer keep track of everything I was supposed to be doing. I got home from teaching writing classes and tutoring international students, to freelance editing projects to list of to-dos for my Enneagram personality workshop business. If I was lucky, I might get to write that day. There were things I liked about all my jobs, but I could no longer handle the exhaustion of bouncing between them, I quickly ran out of steam.
I needed to define a more consistent path for myself. The catalyst for change was moving abroad to Scotland.
Once in Edinburgh, I set up a UK-based business and did some soul searching about how to combine my passions into a manageable structure. I’d recently coauthored a book combining my interests in teaching the Enneagram and writing—and proving that my professional selves didn’t have to be separate. The Enneagram workshops I’d taught had brought valuable knowledge to dozens of people, shedding light on their own motivations and helping them understand the often-differing viewpoints of others, but I’d also loved working with words as much as possible. Could I do both in one job?
Rather than trying to grow my workshops and my writing/editing career at the same time, I sought a way of combining them. I decided to coach writers and help them edit their work, integrating my knowledge of personality dynamics while continuing to teach a few Enneagram workshops on the weekends.
It’s amazing what happens once you commit to a course of action. Shortly after setting up my new business structure, I gave a conference presentation where attendees spoke to a depth and usefulness emerging in my work. Editing projects landed in my inbox. People came out of the woodwork to seek my help with writing coaching, wanting guidance and structure to finish the projects that mattered to them.
I could see that my new approach was working, so I redid my website to reflect my work with writers, while maintaining a personality-based approach. I created a work-from-home schedule. For the first time in years, I wasn’t trying to juggle multiple projects and selves, idly hoping that one of them would take off and prove to be the right direction. Rather than letting fate take the reins, I steered my own course.
If you’re unsure of your own “one thing,” wondering which path to commit to, here are some things I’ve learned on my journey.
Seek a path that combines your interests. If you love gardening and cello playing, look for ways to bring these interests into harmony. Some people balance two career paths (I’ve found three, four, or five to be too many!), or pursue one interest professionally and another as a hobby. Don’t rule out merging both into a creative career. You might find your one-of-a-kind combination of passions to be more of an asset than you realize, filling a niche or creating a unique offering that no one else can.
Cello lessons in the garden, anyone?
Be honest about who you are, and realize that it might take time to find your path.
Just because you dream about doing something doesn’t mean it’s the best match for you. Many people train for one career and later discover that it isn’t their best fit. Others have a change of direction, leaving one thing they enjoyed for another that calls to them more loudly. Both internal and external factors matter.
If you’re unsure what path to commit to, consider the marketplace and employment prospects. Get feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. Get honest about what sort of work and lifestyle will meet your needs. Be patient with yourself through the process, and keep an open mind.
Once you’ve found a path that speaks to you, don’t be afraid to commit. Even if you have other commitments that make it difficult, seek manageable ways to integrate it into your life. You never know what’s possible when you pursue a course of action that feels aligned with who you are and includes all the disparate, messy parts of you. Try it out and see what happens!
By Melanie Bell
Melanie Bell offers writing coaching, editing, and personal growth workshops through InspireEnvisioning.com. She is the coauthor of a best-selling nonfiction book, The Modern Enneagram. Her creative work has appeared in Cicada, xoJane, Autostraddle, Grain, and various other publications. She loves crafting fantasy worlds, exploring the real one, and reading in her pajamas. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.