I’m not very big on regret, but I’ve been thinking a LOT lately about wasted opportunities. There was a recent opportunity I had that I really thought was going to change the trajectory of my career, and it did sort of. But after one book I was let go and found myself back to square one again. I found out that opportunity ended up being even better than I could have imagined and I think about why I wasn’t able to do what I needed to do to make it work.
Ever since college, my life and career have been defined almost entirely by opportunities I’ve wasted. I was in college for almost a decade across four colleges and still never ended up earning a degree. This really hurt me early in my day job career life by severely limiting my job options. Eventually I made it work for me and I’m doing great now, but I do think about what could have happened if I did it the way I was supposed to.
Then we have my writing career. I finished my first novel when I was 25, but I didn’t have a novel published until 14 years later. And instead of making the most of that opportunity, I dicked around and missed a bunch of deadlines on my second book, pissing off almost everyone who worked with me on it. And then I took three more years to finish the third book on my contract, which my publisher didn’t even like and canceled my contract. Then in 2020 I had the previously mentioned great opportunity come my way and same story. Every time.
I used to feel bad about this because I thought it was because I was lazy or unmotivated, or just untalented. I briefly worked with a doctor to try anti-depressants, which wasn’t the thing. It wasn’t until recently when we’ve been working with doctors for Spenser and Natalie on ADHD issues that it finally clicked for me. The problem isn’t any of the stupid protestant work ethic issues our society drills into our heads, my brain is just broken.
Once I finally realized this I was relieved that maybe there was a way forward to start making the most of whatever opportunities may be left for me, but I was also pissed that it took almost half of my life being over before I had this option. The mental health system in this country is just abysmal, but so is our societal attitudes around mental illness. Even as much as visibility has grown over recent years, there’s still this underlying belief that if you just work hard and eat right and just work through it that you can fix anything.
Well fuck that.
Now I’m on the fun rollercoaster of figuring out what medicine and dose will work for me. After an annoying bit of business trying to find a therapist in the first place that would work with my insurance, I found one who seems to be great. He started me on a non-stimulant medicine that seemed to start working right away, but has nearly debilitating nausea as a side effect. I think I’m about ready to tap out on that one. Hopefully we can find something else that works and doesn’t make me feel hung over all the time.
The issue for me now though, is to make sure I don’t get so caught up in thinking about these wasted opportunities that I don’t continue seeking out new opportunities or believing that I still have a chance to succeed. I hate the corny idea that these wasted opportunities were gifts I should be thankful for, because they’re not. I can say without a doubt that I would be in a very different, more successful place in my life right now had I made the most of the opportunities offered to me.
BUT, I like my life the way it is right now, so I don’t regret what’s happened because it’s all part of what got me to where I am now. What I want to do is keep myself in the game and keep my name out there so people know I’m someone to be trusted with opportunities. At the end of the day, I’m a professional writer and I want to be viewed that way by the community and my peers.
Part of that is also figuring out what works for me as a writer. That’s why I’m leaning into writing funnier, more traditional mysteries instead of trying to write hardboiled social novels. Who knows where all of this will ultimately end up, but I still feel optimistic about this industry and my future in it. My goals and dreams change as the industry and market evolve, but the core goals of being read widely and making good money from my work remain.