Eleven days before the 2014 NACWE Catch on Fire Conference, I received a message on Facebook from my sister-in-law, Sara. She works at the American Embassy in Canberra, Australia and had flown in the previous weekend for a visit. Her message followed up on a brief conversation we had about her friend Diane’s conference coming up: “Might be a good chance for brainstorming and networking for you. Dad and I would like to gift you the admission if you are interested and available to attend—let us know!”
Initially, I wasn’t sure about it at all. I graduated from college in 2012, and it felt like I had pushed off from a dock in a canoe and I was just floating aimlessly down a river. I had just quit my job working as a secretary at a local high school, and, although I had a vague idea about what I wanted to accomplish, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to try to defend that idea to anyone else. I sat in my favorite chair and took a hard look at my life.
Since quitting my job, I’d submitted several applications to different businesses and schools trying to get more office work. When I thought about actually getting one of those jobs, it felt like a boulder sitting on my heart. I imagined driving to an office, sitting at a desk, and completing tasks I didn’t care about for the rest of my life. I remembered how terribly I handled that at my previous job. I thought about all the days I had to redo my makeup in the parking lot because I had cried it all off during my commute. Surely, through all that stress and pain, there was a lesson I could take away. A popular quote says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I had tried the “9-5, M-F” JOB. I needed something else. It was time to start paddling that canoe.
My husband, Sam, was the one who helped me find the courage to quit my job in the first place. He knows how stubborn I am, and when I protested giving up and quitting, he told me, “You’re not quitting; you’re starting something else.” That’s when I started my freelance writing and editing business. My blog, Mighty Markup, was born in the final weeks of my old job. I had been freelance writing for a local publication for six months, but suddenly I was able to take more assignments than ever before. Sam’s godfather had written a book and became my first major editing client. For the first time, I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do, instead of what I had to do.
I’m supposed to write. I’m supposed to edit. Those are my gifts that God has given me. Some have a gift with numbers or football or singing—my gift is with words. I love them. I have linguistics textbooks on my nightstand. I just bought a book called The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, and I have already devoured it. I diagram sentences for fun. I’m a poet, and I write stanzas on napkins in restaurants. I have “Red Pen Syndrome,” and I don’t know if there’s anything more satisfying than to polish up a piece of writing until it shines.
I know all these things about myself. I’ve known for twenty years. As we all know, doing something with that knowledge is the challenge that separates entrepreneurs from dreamers.
I wanted to stop dreaming and start doing, so I wrote back to Sara and said “yes” and “thank you.” I woke up on Friday, February 7 and drove 45 minutes through downtown Dallas traffic. I slipped on some high heels and walked into the hotel. I wandered around downstairs for a while trying to look busy until someone told me there were conference rooms on the second floor (who knew?). I picked up my name tag. Even though it was only 8:30 in the morning, I ate some chocolate that was sitting on the table (these already seemed like my kind of women). To my relief, a ten-year-old girl was sitting at my table. I’d been sure at 24 I’d be the youngest person there.
We began by going around the room, sharing about ourselves and why we were at the conference. Usually, that kind of thing makes me nervous, but I was excited this time. By the time it was my turn to speak, 30 women had gone before me and we were short on time. I rushed through my story and felt encouraged by the positive response I received. As I sat down, I felt a strange mixture of emotions. Part of me felt like a duckling in a room full of mother ducks. I felt like each woman in that room was willing to take me under her wing and help guide me to a brighter future. The other part of me felt like a lion—fierce, strong, and ready to fight. I could do this! If all of these strangers could believe in me, I could certainly believe in myself.
As the weekend went on, I met so many amazing women and learned more than I ever expected to learn. I started a to-do list for my business, and by the end of the weekend it filled an entire page. I learned from every single woman who spoke to me. I listened and absorbed as much as I could. By the end of day two, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I made it back home on Saturday night, grabbed the thermometer, and collapsed into bed. 100.2°. Even through my throat was swollen and my muscles ached, I had to laugh. I had literally “caught on fire;” I was feverish with excitement. By Monday, I was ready to start my first workweek with a brand new outlook on how to treat my business and myself.
I could let the phone ring for the rest of my life, banging my head on a table, plugging my ears, screaming, “Can’t you see I’m busy?!”
Or, I could answer it.
The Catch on Fire Conference helped me realize that listening to my “calling” is the right thing to do, that using my gifts shouldn’t be discouraged. What’s calling you? Pick up that phone. Be a lion.
Callie Revell runs Mighty Markup (mightymarkup.com), a website catering to writers looking to improve their language skills. The website’s blog publishes helpful writing tips, linguistic studies, and grammar demonstrations to develop a well-rounded appreciation of the English language. Her editing services include book manuscripts, blog posts, websites, articles, and much more. Her goal is to help her clients successfully use English to communicate their professional and personal ideas with others.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hardin-Simmons University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and minors in Communications and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. During her time at Hardin-Simmons, she served as Chief Copy Editor of the school’s student-run newspaper, The Brand, for two years. She also served as the Head Literary Editor for the school’s literary arts publication, The Corral, her junior and senior year. She currently works as a Freelance Writer for NOW Magazine, a publication serving the southern Dallas-Fort Worth area. Thanks to the power of the internet, her writing and editing services extend worldwide. She lives in DeSoto, Texas with her husband, Sam, and their two pets: a Labrador retriever named Sadie and a chinchilla named Rigby.