when i grow up…

Recently, as in a few days ago, I looked through the help wanted ads in my area. There are days, more than not, that I think I should get a job. Like a real job. Like a 9 to 5, or a 10 to 6 … or an 11 to 7 kinda job. Make steady money. Contribute to our household on a weekly basis. Being a freelance person means insecurity – in every which way – emotionally, financially. It’s scary. It seems my line of work – writing – isn’t very popular in a small community. It’s hard to get work. A job. A real job, with benefits. Or without benefits. A paycheck.

I have always believed that nothing is impossible. I left home when I was a teenager and had the power of rebellion carrying me through. If someone said I couldn’t do something, I set out to prove them wrong. If someone said I wasn’t capable, I showed them I was, if someone said I wasn’t good enough… well, then… by God, I was gonna be good enough.

I think about this often these days. Getting older, feeling less vital. It all feels a bit impossible. Some days I feel completely invisible. Not knowing whether to turn left or right.

Folks are out of work.
Tons and tons of women are out of work. Women my age.

For many years being a writer felt like – and was – the coolest job/gig in the world. I WAS A WRITER. A paid writer. I had a couple of books under my belt, all published by big-wig major cool Publishers. I had written two movies, both made by big-wig major cool Studios, I had written for two TV series on big-wig network television, I had co-created & co-edited an all women’s issue of a Buddhist Magazine (which is now in it’s 10th year), and I was a contributing Editor (with my own column) at the glossy & fabulous Urban Refugee Magazine. And I was the guest Editor-in-chief for the WOMEN’S ISSUE at Milford Magazine. All women, all the time.

And the kicker, the OMFG moment: I did it all without a degree. I didn’t finish school. I had hopes and dreams and faith. I had determination and passion and a deep desire to create value and work. I had balls and chutzpah. And a waistline.

And now it isn’t as easy as it used to be. It’s difficult to get a job, a gig writing, editing. You send an e-mail, and no one gets back to you. You’re one in a million, but not in the good, cool sense. Maybe you went into spam, or the Mailer Daemon file, or just plain lost in the ether. Boy, to even think I would one day long for a rejection letter.

Now it feels harder. Less encouraging.

And I realized as I went through the want ads, that I was not qualified for one thing. Not one. Maybe I could categorize myself as “semi-qualified,” but even that’s iffy at best. I look back on my body of work and think, HOLY MOLY, look what i’ve done, created — without a degree. i did that. Me. I wrote that. I edited that. HOLY SHIT.

Now, I couldn’t get a job – a real job – at a Magazine or a newspaper to save my life, because … I don’t have a degree.

But then I think about everything I did do, everything I set out to do, accomplished, everything I did because I had something to say, something to create, a need to express myself, a desire to help another person find their way. I did it because it wasn’t just the only thing I was qualified for, I did it, reached in for it, grabbed it, took hold of it, pulled it up and out of me BECAUSE I HAD NO CHOICE. I am a firm believer that once we determine to achieve something, accomplish something, reach for something – and no, not because we are told to, or someone wants us to – that’s when we create and awaken to our MISSION in life.

What is it you wanna reach for?
Grab hold of?

What is it?

Go for it.

for Hollye Dexter’s amazing companion piece, please read:


Category: Uncategorized 10 comments »

10 Responses to “when i grow up…”

  1. madgew

    Or cheekpsa as Michelle Bachmann says when she is speaking Yiddish. Brilliant today Amy Ferris as you are always. You are successful and have a job whether you realize it or not. You are published, you are a writer and you have an anthology coming out with Hollye on the Shame Prom. I say that is wildly accomplished. Money is good but not as good as all the feelings of success inside you already. Love you Amy Ferris.

  2. madgew

    For me I love the confidence I have to put myself out there and see where it leads. I have found some amazing things within myself that are now shaping my adventures.

  3. alex

    Hi Amy,I came via Hollye’s post. I have one strange twist to add, and that is the new reality for writers in this social media age. I’ve interviewed for writing jobs where one of the first questions was, “Do you blog?” For many writers the idea of a blog holds no interest, but as print dwindles, it seems that the clips coming from printed media are less desirable that those that can be tracked with site stats and user comments.

  4. BigLittleWolf

    It’s certainly not degrees. (I have those.) It’s not experience. (Have that, too.)

    What we don’t have is a birth year that says we’re under 40.

  5. Jennifer

    I have to agree with BigLittleWolf. It is a strange time to be in your 40s and 50s – so many of my friends are in exactly this same place, degrees or not. I have been teaching for 20 years and I often look at the want ads, not for any particular reason (I mostly like my job), but because it seems almost a type of reality check. Am I doing enough ? What I should be doing? Could I be doing more? Making more money? Being a better role model for my kids? I think the best thing I can do is get quiet with myself and realize that what I am doing is enough. And so is what you’re doing, Amy.

  6. Susan Brownmiller

    Uhm, I don’t have a degree either and I’ve been unable to get anything published for quite a while. In sisterhood, Susan.

  7. Judy N

    Amy, I think of you as an enormous success. Both your column and Hollye’s have stunned me. I was lucky to have a tenured job that I loved, but now that we age differently (are younger as we age and live longer, like my Mother who died at almost 102) we expect much more of ourselves. Historically, I think this is new and that we haven’t planned for it because it’s new. I didn’t think about what I would do after I retired until just before I retired. Travel is not enough!
    It’s also harder to be outside of an institution than I realized.
    Publishing as an academic seemed really straightforward. Publishing as a nonacademic seems like playing the lottery. Still, I write because I need to do it. I try to hold onto that– and also pray that I don’t outlive my pension or social security!

    Susan B–is that THE Susan B?

  8. Debra DeAngelo

    Oh, this struck such a chord with me. Although I’m in the writing and journalism field, I too have no formal education for this. I have a degree in psychology, and planned to become a psychologist. (Life had other plans). I am in this field by accident and as you said, chutzpah.

    Here’s the thing though…. My God, Amy – you are one of my muses. My role models. You are one of the people I look to and think, yeah, I could do it. I could try. And you’ve offered your enthusiasm and support to me so freely. It’s like karma coming home. I have offered support and guidance to up and coming columnists, and now I am plucking up the courage to step on the novelist’s path, and you’ve done the same for me.

    Just saying, “Yes!” to me was huge.

    Amy, you aren’t just a fabulous writer, you’re a mentor. Sometimes we’re the gardeners, sometimes we’re the flowers. It’s all good. YOU are all good. And if you applied for a job at the Express, I’d hire you in a moment!

  9. Jesse Loren

    Amy, this is pretty personal, but I think sometimes we all feel like charlatans. It’s as if we have been walking the tightrope for years then suddenly look down. Looking down is for doubters. Look forward. We are women and that means we will always manage to figure it forward.

  10. Marcia

    You nailed it!

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