People Don’t Want You To Succeed

Okay, not all people. Obviously. But there are people in this world who will see what you’re trying to accomplish, and for various reasons decide that they’re better off if you don’t succeed.

Working with words has always been a not-so-secret dream of mine. I am a reader by nature and the idea of getting paid to read books all day was something I’d always desired. When it finally dawned on me that people actually did make a living doing just that, and moreover I could do the same, I was determined to make it a reality in my life.

Over the summer, I took a one-day workshop that introduced me to the wide world of editing. One of the ways they suggested getting valuable real-life experience was to volunteer our editorial services in exchange for a recommendation.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed about a month later when a local yoga studio posted that they were looking for a proofreader for their teacher training manual. Would anyone be willing to do it in exchange for a free class or two?

I was the first person to respond. 

I wrote, “Hi! I would love to proof read your manual. I’m trying to break into the business and would be happy to help.”

I felt pretty new and untested, but I was willing to give it the ol’ college try. After all, I could tell when there was a period missing or a word misspelled. Maybe I wouldn’t find everything, but I would find the big stuff. After all, it was a yoga training I’d actually taken; I knew the coursework. I could proof that, easy peasy.

I was so proud and excited. I took that first step. I put myself out there. Moreover, I let the world know that this was my intention, my Next Step, my New Career Choice. Whatever the outcome, I was on my way. I felt good.

A second person responded to the post shortly after I did, and their post was in direct commentary to mine. It was just one word: “proofread.”

In their defense, they realized pretty quickly that what they did wasn’t exactly yogic and deleted the post. It couldn’t have been up for more than a minute.

But I saw it. 

Now, obviously I had no idea what they were thinking when they posted that one simple word. But in doing so, what they said was, “Oh my fucking god, how dare you even attempt to edit anything when you can’t even spell proofread right. Go home, person I don’t know on the internet. You’re not even drunk, you’re just stupid.”

I cried for a couple hours, and I was depressed for at least a week. I gave up on the idea of being an editor. I gave up on the idea of writing. I let go of the idea that I was any good with words at all. 

I walked away from a dream because one person (whom I’ve never met) wrote something catty on Facebook.

After I came out of my funk (which, to be honest, lasted a solid month), I recalled a passage I read in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:

“Not surprisingly, the most poisonous playmates for us as recovering creatives are people whose creativity is still blocked. . . . If they have trouble with your recovery, they are still getting a payoff from remaining blocked. Perhaps they still get an anorectic high from the martyrdom of being blocked or they still collect sympathy and wallow in self-pity. Perhaps they still feel smug thinking about how much more creative they could be than those who are out there doing it.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that 1) this person needed to feel superior for whatever reason, if only for a moment, and probably reacted out of something that had absolutely nothing to do with me, and 2) why the hell was I giving some stranger so much power over my life?

Around that same time, I received an email from the people who’d done the workshop earlier in the year. They were putting on a mentorship program; was I interested?

Yes, yes I was.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been in the mentorship program since September, and they recently decided to extend the program into 2019. I’m learning a lot, and I feel much more confident about my abilities than I did when this unfortunate incident happened. I still have things that throw me for a loop, but now I know where to go for assistance. 

What I learned from this experience is, there is always going to be one person with a snarky, passive-aggressive comment designed to bring you down and “put you in your place.” The kicker is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with you

What you’re getting is a firsthand glimpse of their inner monologue. You’re seeing their fears, their insecurities on full display. By Doing The Thing, you’re showing them that it can be done, which is in direct opposition to everything they’ve been telling themselves. People will go to extreme measures to keep their self-told stories intact. 

I still have moments where pursuing this dream overwhelms me and terrifies me. I am lucky though; I have an amazing support team. My husband is incredible and thinks this is the best idea since sliced bread. My mentorship leaders and classmates are wonderfully uplifting and knowledgeable. I am so grateful that I found this amazing group of people, and I look forward to seeing how this community of Vermont editors grows.

I am excited to count myself among them.

Here’s to the start of something magical.

PS: For what it’s worth, proof reader is not incorrect; it’s just outdated. While proofreader is most common these days, a Google search will show that proofreader, proof reader, and even proof-reader are all still in use. Language and usage changes as time goes on, especially in our digital age. Ironically, copy editor/copy-editor is now in the process of becoming copyeditor. So new is the closed version that computer spellchecks don’t even recognize it yet. 

So . . . nyah.

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