Recently I’ve had recurring dreams in which I own a rowboat that is docked and that each time I approach it, I discover it has a hole in its hull. And I’m beginning to understand what this dream might mean. If you’ve followed my Tumblr for more than two seconds you know I love boats—to me they are a means of escape, relaxation, and recreation. They represent freedom from tether. In my dream I keep looking for a means of escape, yet each time I find I’m prevented because of this hole that causes the boat to fill with water.
I’m in a tricky position now in my career. I’m a book editor with a company I greatly respect and which I think has a lot of potential for growth. However, the book industry has been hit hard and budgets have been tight. I’ve had a pay cut and, eventually, a promotion with a modest increase to make up the difference. In the 4 and a half years I’ve been with the company, I’ve risen up the ranks steadily. I have a lot of responsibility and I’ve taken a leadership role with a top performer in the industry. I absolutely love my job, even though it can be very stressful. But I am still making less money than I made in my first job out of college—it amounts to an embarrassingly low figure. I have a close and friendly relationship with my boss; I have no doubt he wants what is best for me. We have discussed my salary in the past, but have run up against tight budgets and no room for a salary increase. Recently I’ve decided that I can no longer subsist on the salary I make now. At times I’ve struggled to pay my bills, and I know that I must strive for something better, even if it means changing careers from what has long been my dream job—becoming a book editor. But it’s not that easy to give up. I confronted my boss again today to request a promotion. Though he “has been thinking about it for a long time, too,” he admitted that there is no money for increases this year, and though he could potentially offer me a better title, was that what I wanted? Of course not, I wanted to say. It was what I expected, I explained. But the truth of the matter was that I was only able to keep this job, which I loved, because I did freelance editing on the side. But that work had slowed dramatically this past winter and left me in a very scary financial situation. I have few options left, and I need to be able to pay the bills. Of course, he understands, and I’m not sure whether it was the reality that I was struggling to such a degree or that my voice was undeniably shaky that moved him to say that he would “see what he could do.” But I’m not optimistic that much can be done. I am finally, painfully considering how long I can continue at this company.
I spoke to a friend and colleague of mine this evening, and she had a lot of great advice. And she was able to explain how my position translates to other positions in the retail market, in ways that I hadn’t even thought about. She even put me in touch with a recruiter who might help me. I am so relieved and encouraged by my conversation with her, and I feel a little less upset about possibly having to relinquish my dream job.
Yet, even now I find myself close to tears thinking about what I might have to give up. Maybe it’s the third glass of wine. But I doubt it.
What is so immensely valuable about my experience is that it allows me (and forces me) to constantly evaluate the big picture. I am young, I am single, and I have the freedom to go wherever I choose and work with people who value (both professionally and financially) the many skills I can offer. I am a leader in my field and I intend to continue being a leader wherever I go—just as I always have.
I have not sprung a leak. I am not drowning. I am not tethered. I can do this.