Why I Left A Dream Job For My Real Job
Written by
Brianne Hogan
July 2014
Written by
Brianne Hogan
July 2014

Not long ago, I was promoted to Associate Editor at the local Toronto magazine where I had been working as an Assistant Online Editor. Shortly after receiving the news, I cried at my desk. They were not tears of joy. No. These were snot-is-coming-out-of-my-nose-running-into-my-mouth tears. These were I-am-an-uglier-crier-than-James-Van-der-Beek tears.

My co-worker sent me an email, asking: “Is everything okay?”

It clearly wasn’t.

Amidst curious stares and GChat gossip, I dashed outside to the parking lot and called the one person who, much to my stubborn Capricorn chagrin, always had the best advice: Mom.

Here’s pretty much the gist of how our conversation went that day:

Me: I got a promotion. I want to kill myself.

Mom: Oh, stop being so dramatic.

Me: No. Seriously. I want to run in front of this oncoming FedEx truck and end it all RIGHT NOW!

Mom: Why don’t you just quit?

Me: I can’t QUIT! This is a REAL JOB! I have BENEFITS! And I’m actually getting PAID TO WRITE! I should be so happy!

Mom: But are you happy?

Me: (long pause) No.

Mom: Then quit. Life’s too short.

About two months prior to my parking lot meltdown, I turned thirty. At my birthday party, my friends and I dined at an old steak house. We danced to the Bee Gees. We got righteously inebriated. I had fun. I was happy. But it was the Band-Aid-kind-of-happiness. The kind that hides and soothes the pain momentarily, but all the while, you know that you will soon have to rip that crummy Band-Aid off and deal with the injury at hand. My injury was this: I wasn’t following my passion, and time was slipping by.

The thing is, turning thirty changed me. Even if I had always been a little relieved that I hadn’t yet succumbed to the three fateful M’s (Marriage, Mortgage, Maternity Leave) that some of my other friends had chained themselves to, and that I didn’t even look like I was someone turning thirty (thanks to my genetic youthful looks and the occasional bout of adult acne), entering my third decade pulled a whammy on me.

Robert Frost once said: “Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty.”

What the hell does that even mean? Does it mean that after turning thirty, a woman’s life is perpetually on a downward spiral — or worse — unobtrusively stagnant? That all of the choices a woman makes before the age of thirty will sustain deep, long-lasting consequences that will further alter the course of her life, like she’s some sort of unsuspecting pawn in one of those Choose Your Own Adventure stories? I hated those stories growing up as a kid. I always chose the adventure that ended with going into a stupid time machine and having to do the whole thing over again, or I turned into a hot dog. I didn’t want to be the hot dog anymore. And I certainly didn’t want to do my life over.

It’s not that my job was overly terrible. I was editing and writing for a city magazine. Serve up that little factoid onto people at a party and suddenly they think you’re Carrie Bradshaw or Jennifer Garner in that “13 Going on 30” film, all fancy clothing, Starbucks-sipping and happy typing in ceiling-to-sky window offices. It’s really not like that, and it really wasn’t for me.

A little preface about me: I wrote my first play at six years old. In high school, I wrote fan-fiction episodes of “The X-Files” and gave them as Christmas gifts to my friends. I advised my graduating class to “never settle” in my yearbook message and when it came to applying to colleges, I only applied to one: NYU. Before Alicia Keys even belted out the words, I always thought New York was the concrete jungle where my screenwriting dreams were made of. What can I say? I had big plans for myself.

But, like most aspiring artists, fame and fortune didn’t automatically roll out its red carpet for me. There were some pretty lean times with tons of serving jobs and odds jobs (including operating a hot dog stand) to help pay my rent.

There had been also another meltdown moment. I was twenty-four years old, barely out of college, I didn’t know how to start my “real career” as a screenwriter. My inability to propel forward made me a monster truck of a wreck, sabotaging everything around me. I got fired from my restaurant job, I alienated my family and friends, and then this scene happened: My boyfriend and I were at a bar. We were in that bickering pre-breakup phase. He made a douchey comment about how my dreams were just “too big” and I sulked. He said to me, “Look, it’s not that I don’t want you to succeed, but I just don’t want to see you be a waitress at thirty.”

From then on, I only sought out “real jobs” that made use of my talents and skills, but were devoid of my true passion.

Flash forward to the parking lot scene where I’m thirty, and that boyfriend is long gone (I got rid of him a week after he made that comment) and I’m writing for a living. It wasn’t a terrible existence (even if I had threatened to just end it all by throwing myself in front of oncoming traffic) but I still had that little injury of mine. Was I going to let the wound scab over and forget about it or would I pick at it instead? Well, I’ve always been a picker.

With my mom’s voice echoing in my ear, I knew I had to choose a new adventure.

It’s been about two months since I quit, and though it would be a great ending if I told you that I sold my pilot to HBO, I cannot. What I can tell you is I have been the most prolific in these last few weeks than I have in the last few years. Most importantly, I can tell you that I am happy. That sentiment is shocking to those who can’t believe I’d give up financial security or a fancy job title to follow my passion of writing for TV and film. I get a lot of “Oh. Really?” (as if I just told them I hated “Game of Thrones” or something). But I consider myself lucky to not only know what my calling in life is, but that I am at the perfect moment in my life to achieve it. Because as much as I would like to have those three M’s in my life at some point, the fact that I don’t have any of them right now is actually a blessing. I can concentrate on my “too big” dreams without bearing responsibility for anyone else’s well being. Though it’s not paying the bills yet, I am hopeful.

So, just how am I paying the bills? I’m waitressing. At thirty.

The original article can be found on The Frisky.

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  • Amazing and well-put. Like many others here, I support you going for it. Inspiring!

    Thanks to your commenters for inspiring stories as well. I needed it.

  • Brianne Hogan

    Thank you again for all your kind messages. I am so happy (which is a huge understatement, really) for the support, and even more thrilled that my little post is inspiring others. Thank you for reminding me why I write! 

  • Kierie

    THANK YOU I needed this so much!

  • DuEwa Frazier

    I love it!  I can relate to your need to break free.  Sometimes the "dream job" is really a nightmare because it strangles your passion and thwarts your creative process.  Kudos to you for following your gut and not the cookie cutter follow the "American Dream" scenario.  Best wishes on your writing for TV/Film!

  • Pamela Olson

    Wonderful post. I have bartended and waitressed many times to follow various dreams. To know that you are aiming toward your most authentic self casts everything in a brighter light. Tapping into your own truth and wisdom brings the right things in to your path. It's up to you to recognize them. I haven't reached any kind of conventional fame or fortune, but what I've received is worth far more. As Henry Miller said, "Paint as you like and die happy."

  • Didem Durak Akser

    This is a very inspiring post. Congratulations and thank you!

    I understand you very well since I worked in a totally different field (IT!) before I decided to follow my dreams. It was not a easy decision to make especially when you want to remain financially and psychologically independent, but I thought to myself "I will always find an excuse." 

    I like you writing style Brianne - with all the jokes and vivid descriptions of the office life. I believe that everything we do adds up. Every single experience, moment, mistake, decision make us who we are and bring us to this very moment. Waiting tables is one of the best jobs to collect stories and write them (also pay the bills).

    I am sure you will sell that awesome script to HBO some day soon.

    (I am not a native speaker. Apologies if anything is unclear or inappropriate.)

  • Jobi Harris

    Congratulations - both for quitting your job and having a really cool mom! I was born to be thirty and have more than doubled it since. My average stay at jobs during my life is about three years, due to the ever-overriding desire to be who I want to be. I have to admit I am still working on it, but I do enjoy the process. 

  • David Robinson

    You're on the right track, Brianne. I've been an editor of books and magazines and I've written books and magazine articles and the two roles are worlds apart.


  • Take your passion and make it happen, Brianne. I was a lot older than you when my first book was published. Don't wait!

  • Olga Godim

    Great post, Brianne! I understand completely. I also worked in a different profession before becoming a full time writer. I was a computer programmer with a decent salary, but every hour I spent on that job felt like time wasted. Since I quit (and it was an agonizing decision, after months of depression) I've been happier that ever in my programming life. Poorer by far but happier.

    I'm a freelance journalist as well as a fiction writer, and today I interviewed a local poet and songwriter with a story similar to yours. She pays the bills by waitressing and writes and performs her songs on the side. She said her creativity, being able to do what she loves, is its own reward. I agree. As long as you're happy, nothing else matters much. 

  • “Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty.”  What Frost meant, I think, is that at 30 a woman can stop time...she's beautiful, she has her whole life and all her dreams before her. In other words, Frost, who I'd bet wrote that as an older man, believed a woman of 30 had it "all before her". Could do no wrong. Was young. Still. Had her dreams before her. The beginning. Not the end.

    Brianne, don't feel bad. I did at 50 what you did at 30...I quit a really good advertising job with benefits, etc. to finally follow my passion of writing novels. But for 25 years I had been holding down a "real job" I hared during the day as well as writing at night. It was really hard. In the end my personal life and friends suffered; I was tired all the time. I had 15 novels published during those hard days. But I wrote at night. I wrote whenever I could. I followed my dream and held down that awful job at the same time. I had to, had no choice. There were bills to pay and a family (husband and son and house and two cats) to take care of. Well, you ask, what happened when I quit that good job at 50 and followed my dream? Nightmares of a different kind. Though I was finally free to write full-time and wrote lots of books...I made very little money for years and years. My husband had to support me. It was awful. Being broke. But I kept writing and publishing and now it's 14 years later and only TWO years ago I started self-publishing and now I have 20 books out and I FINALLY MAKE A LIVING FROM IT. Not a great living, but it's building every year. It proves that sometimes a dream can take 42 years...but you must never give up if it is what you love doing. Just remember...it might just come in an instant or take decades.

  • Tina Barbour

    Thank you for sharing your story, Briane. I, too, always wanted to be a writer. I have been working as a reporter for 5 years, and I feel like I should love it--I get to ask questions and write for a living! But I yearn for more time for "my" writing and less time being stressed by deadlines. I understand the sense of feeling like you should be appreciating what you have more than you do. Maybe someday I will figure it out. I love reading about people who find their passion, and I wish you the best. :-)

  • B. Lynn Goodwin

    Oh wow! (So sixties of me to phrase it that way.)

    I love that you choose writing (and waitressing) because you are following your passion. If this is any example of your talent, you'll find your writing home. When your first book comes out, if you'd like us to review it and maybe even interview you on Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, please get in touch. There should always be a contact button on the website.  

  • Tyra Brumfield

    Thank you, Brianne, for writing this. I like to pick at things too, namely writing. My brother sent me an article on the difference between an amateur and a professional. So, am I an amateur writer, who picks at writing, or am I a professional, who stays the course, consistently, until she becomes an expert AND makes the big bucks to back it up? I want the latter, but the dream seems daunting. Unlike your friends, I've gone the route of the 3Fs (fear, failure, and forgetaboutit) People (mostly ads) say you can make a living at writing and I say, yeah, right, but then I tend to be a glass-half-empty person. So, I allow a part-time job that I'm miserable in continue to suck what little life is left in me out. It gives me a good excuse not to write. The job is in a field I enjoy, but is it what I was born to do? Is writing? I don't know the answer, but your article and others like it are gradually helping me to see that maybe the risk is worth it. 

  • Brianne Hogan

    Thank you for reading, and your wonderful comments. I wrote this article over a year ago, and I read it again the other day because I needed to make sure that I made the right decision. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm still freelancing, still chasing a dream, but happy. I posted it with the hopes that it would inspire others, and, in turn, your comments have inspired me! 

    Again, thank you. Let's all keep writing !

  • Regina Y. Swint

    THIS...was a flippin' awesome read.

    I recently retired from the Army, after 20+ years, ending a career dedicated to doing something meaningful, real, significant, to earn a respectable living, while I tabled my aspirations of becoming a writer. I was a couple years out of college when I joined, neck-deep in debt, and nothing to commit to, except more debt. Many of my friends had since gone the 3M route as well, and there was nothing like that in my life plan at the moment.

    And while the Army was all of those things I was looking for at the time, a sustainable and respectable life, and I wrote plenty for work-related tasks, even self-published a labor of love novel (coincidentally titled THE OTHER SIDE OF 30), the Army was not the life I'd aspired to have. I know that probably sounds like a big ass ladle of contradiction soup, so sorry, if I lost you. Even in my so-called focused 40s, my life can feel like a walking contradiction.

    Now, separation anxiety aside, I find that I have some great opportunities ahead to actually pursue my writing and publishing, maybe even full time. The retirement pension helps. Thank you, for sharing this. It is is the first thing I've commented on SheWrites in months! Thank you, for reminding me and reaffirming to me that my dreams are still out there waiting for me. Thank you. And all the best to you. :)

  • Kirsten Fogg

    Following your passion and your dreams takes guts. As someone who's speaking from the other side of 30 and not far off 50 -- and as someone who worked as a translator, editor and reporter to pay the bills --  I admire your determination. I've recently put my own passion -- thoughts and questions on the idea of belonging -- into a blog.

    Who knows where our dreams will take us?

    All I know is we can never dream too big.