When a Door Closes . . . Kick in a Window


“Dear Dr. Kramer, we were impressed with your credentials and the high quality of your work but . . . ”

“Dear Ms. Kramer, Your poem was beautiful but too personal for our . . . ”

“Dear Lisa, While the article you wrote does not suit our needs at this time, we were impressed with the writing and hope that you will submit again . . . “


I get them all the time, beautifully written, respectful letters that tell me I am really good, really talented, really impressive, but I still didn’t make the cut. I’m still not what they are looking for. While the above are made up examples (based off of memories from past letters) the following is from an e-mail I received yesterday:

“Dear Dr. Kramer,

Once again, thank you so much for sending in your course proposal to [. . . ].  We received over 80 applications from scholars and artists from all over the country.  The committee deliberated with great care over all of them and in the end chose the three that most closely matched our curricular needs; this was not an easy task, as you may well imagine.  Although your course was not finally selected, we were impressed with its quality and hope that you will keep an eye on our website [. . . ]o see when we might send out a call again.

Thank you again; we are so appreciative of the obvious time and effort you put into your proposal.”

Again, good . . . but not good enough.

Now, obviously this was an encouraging one, and I will indeed continue to apply and keep my name in the game, but meanwhile I have to deal with the emotions of what simply feels like another defeat.

Yesterday I also learned that I didn’t place in a children’s poetry contest that I entered a few months ago.  (I’ll post my submissions later).

Yesterday, I began my new writing course, only to face a complete dearth of ideas. I have no clue what I want to write. I just spent a lot of money, only to have a panic attack  and stare at blank pages while I call myself a fool.

I hear the sound of doors slamming in my face.

I’m tired of that sound, and I don’t accept it anymore.

Too often I’ve heard it only to discover the ideas I expressed in an interview, the suggestions I made to improve a program, the thoughts I shared along the way have been taken and used by somebody else. My ideas are always good enough to “borrow” or “steal” but I never get the job or the recognition. (I’m not saying this is going to happen in this case, just that it has happened in the past).

I went to bed feeling defeated. I woke up feeling like kicking doors down or smashing in windows.

You don’t believe me? A picture is worth 1000 words:

Yesterday, someone on Facebook posted a link to an article called “Being a Success, Without Being a Bestseller” by Dan Blank. In the article, Blank writes:

How you measure success will define the type of writing career you have. While we all dream of being bestsellers, of having the world validate our work on a grand scale, the fact of the matter is: many of us will not be number 1 New York Times bestsellers.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be great.

Sometimes, it’s not about being a bestseller – it’s about being a writer, putting your work out there, and affecting peoples lives. Of creating meaning for others, one person at a time. Of building a legacy for your work that extends beyond your own lifetime.

Today, I am re-defining success for myself. For too long, I have set my ideals of success in the hands of others, only leaving myself open for the feelings of failure and defeat that come when someone deems that I am somehow “not good enough.” But, NO MORE! I don’t need the big paycheck. (Although money coming in would be nice to be completely honest). I don’t need the title and the accolades. I don’t need the big name company or school to recognize my greatness. I don’t need millions of readers.

What I need to be successful is to do my best and feel that I have done my best. I need to create quality work, no matter what that work is. I need to know that I have somehow reached a few people, and made a difference in this world, even if my name is never emblazoned in lights.

Success for me will be a quiet endeavor. Except, of course, for the sound of me kicking down a few doors along the way.


All We Need to Know About Life

I don’t know where this originated but I stole . . . um borrowed this from my friend’s Facebook page because I found it full of inspiration and truth.

Here’s the thing, life is not worth living if we spend all our time worrying and stressing over things beyond our control.  Life should be something we embrace every day with passion and joy.

I am hereby making a promise to myself to live my life as joyously as possible. I’m going to trust the universe to provide what I need, and meanwhile I am going to continue to work towards achieving the dreams and goals that I have for my life.

What exactly are those dreams and goals? Well they seem to be every-changing, but that’s okay. I happened to read a quote today from Martha Steward (not one of my usual sources, I admit). She said,

“My new motto is: When you’re through changing, you’re through. “

Changing dreams and goals is part of living. Learning how to embrace those changes to live a fulfilled and happy life is perhaps the most important thing we can do as individuals.

Again, I ask myself, what are my dreams and goals? I can only answer for this moment in time, but here is my list in no particular order of importance:

  • Give Sarah a life full of opportunity, learning, and travel.
  • Travel myself to visit all the places I still dream of heading (including England, Ireland, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Alaska, revisiting Bali and Japan, and many places I haven’t even thought of yet).
  • Write several books that actually get read, some for young adults, some non-fiction, some for adults.
  • Direct some more professional productions for adults.
  • Direct some more professional productions for children.
  • Actually make a living as an independent, freelance writer/theater educator/theater artist
  • Develop arts programming that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  • Have a home that is my own. It doesn’t have to be huge, but something comfortable where we can live, create, and grow together as a family.
  • Write a script and create a puppet show with/for Nathan.
  • Find a way to merge my love of teaching/mentoring young women with all of the other passions of my life.
  • Meet some of my favorite blogging buddies live and in person. 😉
  • Become healthy in body, mind and soul.

The list is long but not impossible. It is also a list that can last years, or change with time. I think for me it is not about achieving goals in a specific time period, but enjoying the journey as I work toward those goals.

All we need to know about life, then, is that life is worth living as passionately and beautifully as possible.

Pursuing Passion and Creating a Life in a World Gone Mad

I have never really followed a traditional career path.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had tons of jobs, and have been successful at each one. Give me a challenge and I live up to it and surpass that challenge. Most of my employers would hire me back in a second.

But I’m not really a  9-5 kind of gal. I can work 40 hour weeks, and I often work more than that, but I function best in jobs that offer variety and flexibility. When I do have full-time office jobs with regular hours, I tend to fill my other time with other kinds of work to fulfill this need for diversity. At the same time, I try to go above and beyond expectations at the job itself so that I get interesting tasks assigned to me and get diversity in my regular work.

In academia, I’ve never had a tenure track position. It has nothing to do with the quality of my work, as I’ve been nominated for teaching awards, given classes and opportunities based on my work, and very rarely receive negative evaluations. Yet, when it comes to interviewing for tenure track positions, even if I make the cut of the top three, I don’t usually get the job. Why? I think it’s because people can sense that somehow I function better in a more fluid type of position, where I follow projects with passion because I choose too, not because I have to. Of course, this usually means that I work as hard or harder than many of the faculty who are tenure track–for less pay, fewer benefits, and less recognition. I do it because I care about my work and the people I work with–and at least I usually don’t have to attend quite so many meetings. That is a definite plus. I mean, meetings with a purpose I’m all for, but meeting to have meetings–not so much.

Why am I talking about this? As you know, we are planning a move to Massachusetts, which has its challenges. Finding housing seems to be the biggest one, so we are looking at the possibility of buying again. We have good credit. We have a down payment. Nathan has a job. But, as of yet, I don’t and that could limit the possibilities of what we are able to buy.

So, I spent the morning updating my LinkedIn profile, creating an on-line portfolio, sending letters to a few people, working on expanding my network, and trying to establish a more professional presence as I search for work to help us with this move. [I’ve been working so long on this computer that I just had to scrounge for a replacement battery for my mouse ;)] Of course, working on this project forces me to think about what I really want out of employment. Do I want the traditional regular hour job that comes with a secure paycheck and benefits? Or, do I want the gypsy lifestyle of a freelance worker that comes with no security, a smaller paycheck, and no benefits– but does allow for options, a flexible schedule, and projects that I choose?

The truth is I want both. But, I may not have a choice in the matter. Trying to take a little break from the work, I wandered over to Facebook only to stumble upon this thrilling news “‘Unemployed need not apply’” from PBS. Now I’ve never been unemployed (except for a few months after I graduated from my MFA program, and for a semester after having Sarah) or collected unemployment–because I’ve never been fired or downsized. I’ve always walked away from jobs because of moves or starting school or something legitimate. I’ve always left a job without burning bridges. But, ever since I graduated from my doctoral program, I haven’t had a traditional contract either.  I have worked full time for the most part, sometimes teaching more credit hours than tenure track faculty while directing shows and teaching outside classes. I have been given year-long contracts that can be renewed yearly. But I have not followed a traditional path of employment, so it looks like I’m a scattered gypsy that might be an insecure risk–even though anyone who has ever employed me would probably sing my praises.

Yet, today we live in world where people lose jobs while the rich get richer and get tax cuts. Then those same jobless people cannot get jobs because they have been unemployed, or because they have passed an invisible age line that seems to get younger and younger. In a ridiculous reflection of American society, which values youth and beauty over wisdom and learning, the system gets tougher as you get older.  Life-wise, 40 may be the new 20, but job-wise 40 is closer to retirement and redundancy–somehow out of touch with the fast-paced changes of the world.

I am not out of touch. I learn and I grow and I challenge myself on a daily basis. But on paper, I am someone who has gaps or a non-traditional resume.

So what is one to do to help secure a life and a home for a family while also living a fulfilling life in a world that doesn’t seem to want hard workers to work? Only time will tell in my situation, but the adventure is going to be an interesting one.

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