If you want to stop punching a time clock and getting paid to pursue your passion, you have to be willing to take a few risks.
It took my husband, Zeb, and I, seven years to finish college. It wasn’t because we lacked the intellect or were partying too hard— it was because we were paying for it ourselves. We were fortunate in that I was on the Alabama GI Bill— because my dad is an injured Vietnam veteran, the state of Alabama paid my tuition and book fees for my college career, up to my last two semesters. But Zeb’s books and tuition came straight out of our pocket, as did our mortgage and other living expenses.
We worked multiple part-time jobs and Zeb took off a few semesters, simply to pay the bills and save for returning to school. We took advantage of Pell grants and any sort of financial aid available to us, decreasing our need for loans. We did leave school with some debt but it wasn’t overwhelming.
Because Zeb sat out semesters, I graduated before he did and began working fulltime as a nurse. We had health insurance! We could pay the bills without trying to figure out what we could pay late without being penalized! I didn’t have to put items back at the grocery store because our budget was so tight!
When I got my first paycheck, I sat in my car and cried tears of joy.
Some people say college is the best years of your life. For us, real grown up life was like a Caribbean vacation compared to the seven years we spent constantly working nights and going to school during the day.
I worked full-time while Zeb finished his degree in Building Science and was pregnant by the time he graduated and was offered a full-time job in Savannah, Ga., making more money than we had ever seen. His salary, although modest, was twice what I had been making as a nurse.
By the time we moved to Savannah, I had given birth to our first daughter and was pregnant with our second. We quickly realized the cost of childcare for two kids was going to take a large chunk out of my salary. Since I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, we decided it would easier to start with one income, than for me to go to work and become dependent on two incomes then eventually have to cut back. We were used to a tight budget but we were still making more money than we ever had.
I loved being at home with my kids and the older Aubrey and Emma became, the funnier my days became. Our extended families were so far away, I began sending short stories about the hilarity of everyday life with my two girls.
Sidebar: I always, my whole entire life, wanted to be a writer. But because I wasn’t drawn to fiction and had no interest in being a reporter, I pursued nursing instead. It was stable and reliable.
As I began getting feedback from family and friends, I realized I had found something to write about. I started a blog and began outlining a book.
We moved again, had ANOTHER daughter (I KNOW!) and I continue to write. I realize in hindsight, I began treating my passion like a serious business. I read every book I could get my hands on about writing, how to get an agent and how to build my brand as a blogger.
I loved being a stay-at-home mom and anybody who tells you it’s not a fulltime job is a liar, liar, pants on fire. But I planned to go back to work as soon as our youngest, Sadie, began kindergarten.
I wrote constantly. My desk was in the middle of the girl’s playroom, I interacted with them as I wrote. I wrote while they were in preschool. I wrote with my laptop balanced on my knees while I nursed Sadie in the middle of the night. In two years, I had built I website with a solid following and had signed with a top tier literary agent.
We moved AGAIN, (but didn’t have another daughter!) and I slowly started making money as a blogger. It wasn’t an income but it definitely supplemented Zeb’s salary and made life a little easier.
I continued to treat blogging and writing as a business, which required a little overhead. I began traveling to blogging and writing conferences, to learn more and connect with people who could help me advance my career. I’m not going to lie— I felt guilty. I loved what I was doing so much that I worried I was going to spend more money going to conferences than I would ever make writing.
I was wrong.
By the time Sadie started 4K, my first book, Ketchup is a Vegetable & Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves had been published and I began getting monthly royalty checks which were more lucrative than the salary I had made as a nurse.
We didn’t foresee that the time I spent as a stay-at-home mom would turn into an opportunity to pursue my passion. But I am beyond grateful that I took a risk by believing in myself and treating a hobby as a job.
It was risky to pay babysitters for two years so I could write. It was possible the money I spent on conferences would turn out to be a vacation pursuing my favorite hobby. But, if you want to stop punching a clock and getting paid to pursue your passion, you have to be willing to take a few risks.