Amy Ferris and I had this conversation the other day and decided we’d blog about it together. Mine is below, and Amy’s is linked at the bottom.
Every time I start to panic about money, and start looking for “real jobs”, I am daunted by how unqualified I am – for everything. I truly am. I’ve joined every networking and job search site. I spend hours going through the job opportunities but don’t qualify for a single one.
You see, back when I was a youngster in college, I believed I wasn’t as good as the other bright young kids. I was damaged, flawed, hiding a terrible secret about who I really was -the daughter of a convict. I let that feeling overtake me, until the anxiety attacks caused me to drop out of college. So I never got a degree. And these days, you can’t get any kind of decent paying job without one. I was a college dropout with no experience, other than waiting tables. I ventured out into the world with nothing but my heart’s desires to lead me.
I had no business experience, but at 20 I started a craft business, selling at fairs and local shops.
I had no design degree and couldn’t sew, yet at 27, I started a children’s clothing business. When I couldn’t find fashions I liked for my two kids, I designed my own. I didn’t know anything about the clothing business, but I asked. I learned. I read. And within a few years my fashions were in Fred Segal and Macy’s and in the window of Barney’s New York.
I don’t have an MBA or any music education. I can’t even read music. But at 32, when I couldn’t find anyone to put my music out into the world, I started my own record label. I ran a small ad in the local paper stating that I was doing business (DBA), and got a business license. I found a manufacturer who did small runs at a decent price. I had a friend who wanted an “executive producer” credit, so he paid the $3000 to manufacture the Cds. I had no right to, but I put out two albums on my own record label, and got them into Tower records and selling worldwide at CDbaby.com.
I’m not a licensed teacher, have no degrees in social work. But at 37, I wanted to use my music to help kids, so I started a nonprofit, teaching music and art to teens in foster care. I knew nothing about nonprofits, how to set them up, how to run them. I found a free seminar put on by L.A. County and they taught me everything I needed to know. I called the head of music therapy at Cal State University of Northridge, set up a meeting, pitched my idea and we shook hands on a deal. He put his faith in me based on not my experience, but my intent, my sincerity and my true desire to help. Later that year, we put on a fundraiser. I had never done a fundraiser. I had no marketing degree or experience in that arena. I bought books. I called people who knew how to do this. I took them out to lunch and asked questions. What I’ve found is that, generally speaking, people are happy to share their knowledge. We got Michael Mc Donald, Christopher Cross, Dave Koz, Karla Bonoff and Stephen Bishop to perform at CSUN, for free! We raised enough money to provide a full year of music therapy to autistic children.
All from a girl with no qualifications.
I don’t have a BA in English or MFA in creative writing. I just write. Every day. Ten years ago, I found the only writing group in town- a Senior Citizen’s community writing class. I went every week for two years, just me and all my adopted grandparents. Eventually, I wrote a book, and started a blog, and sold some essays. And now Amy Ferris and I have sold an anthology.
Would all this have been easier with a college education? Hell yes. But just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
I’m not qualified for anything, but I do it anyway. And yet lately, I feel depressed and worthless because I don’t get callbacks from the jobs I’ve applied for, because according to them – I’m not qualified. Six months with no response. I’ve let it make me feel worthless, even though, when I think of my past accomplishments, I know rationally that’s not true. But when life knocks you down, it’s easy to forget what you’re capable of.
I think it’s important for all of us to keep a mental running list of the things we HAVE done, the things we never believed we could accomplish: Raising a kid, keeping a marriage together, surviving disasters, landing jobs, volunteering, working, refurbishing a home, learning a skill… I mean, think back to when you were young. Did you ever in a million years think you’d _______(fill in the blank). We all surprise ourselves by doing things we never knew we were capable of. And yet society, and even well meaning friends and family, will try to dissuade your from following your dreams. I say f*ck that. Do what you want to do. If you’re not qualified, and have no money, and no one supports you, do it anyway!
If we limit ourselves by what society wants us to believe – that there is only one way to success, that we don’t have the qualifications it takes, that our dreams are impossible – then we miss out. As far as I know, this is the only life we have, and all those “one day…” and “someday…” dreams? If you’ve hit middle age like me, Someday is Today. Right now. So do what you have always wanted to do, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not “qualified”.
You are here, you’re alive, you have dreams- that qualifies you.
Step into your full power. I dare you.
(are you listening, self?)
Please share with me today…I’d love to hear about something you’ve done in your life, that you never imagined you could.
For Amy Ferris’ brilliant companion blog “When I Grow Up”, click here: