Write of Way by Mary Lou Sanelli

Tuesday, May 03, 2016 10:19 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

Lucky Charms

The beauty of a lucky charm is that it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. 

Mine include shells and a stone with the word INSPIRE inscribed. 

The shells recall the year I taught dance throughout the Caribbean and how afraid I was at times. “But it’s good to be afraid,” they remind, “you pay closer attention when you’re afraid.” 

The stone is from a friend who said I inspired her daughter, Rose. “Really?” I said, “Because I remember thinking you wouldn’t like what I had to say.” 

Why did I say it anyway? For the same reason I keep my shells close, to remind me how fear is a huge part of it. 

And by “it” I mean my work, the most essential part of my life. 

But saying this is what I was afraid of. It would have been safer to say not that my work is the most essential part, but second to love, family, the kind of thing people say all the time. 

I wondered, too, if I should have directed Rose toward a higher paying career to help drive the economy. But my driving advice is more: inch along until you find the work you really want to do.

You may be thinking, “What, are you kidding me? That won’t pay the bills.” 

But I’ve come to believe that money is overrated. Too little is horrible, but less is not the end of the world. I don’t know how much of this insight comes from being a woman or an artist, or both, but I can’t stop trying to figure out the conflict between what we really want and what we’re told we should want. And why it so often keeps us from pursuing our dreams.

I told Rose that if we have the courage to do what we love, it’s our best career choice. But in order to continue, most of us can’t fall prey to owning all the things people buy to try and ensure their happiness.

After college, I worked as a waitress…until I threw a drink at a patron who said an inappropriate thing with his hand on my behind. I’m glad I was fired. Because the money was good. I might have stayed too long and not got on with my dream of opening a dance studio. 

Well, obviously dance studios don’t pay all that well, either. So I found an affordable town to move to. My life moved on. And so did Rose’s.

Rose dreamed of becoming a writer. But she went to work for the huge, thrusting, economy-driven tech world dedicated to making more and more stuff we don’t need. The last time I heard from her? February 2014. She gave reasons why she had no time to write. 

So often I’ve wondered what would have happened if she’d kept at it? If she’d allowed herself to go without mortgaging a condo and all the trendy furniture to fill it?

I know how delicate a balance between passion and a lofty paycheck is. I also know how many well-paid people I meet who can’t remember the last time they felt excited about their work.

Recently I came across a display of stones like mine. And I was thrilled to find my favorite noun inscribed: PERSISTENCE.

I lost touch with Rose. 

But I keep my eye out for that book she always wanted to write.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Mary Lou Sanelli works as a writer and literary speaker. Her latest book is A Woman Writing. For more information visit www.marylousanelli.com.

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