I want to talk a bit about luck tonight. That elusive four-leaf clover that you find per chance for being somewhere or doing something at the right time. Seriously though, I've seen this happen to a friend who randomly decided to pick up a clover while walking and literally plucked a four-leaf clover without intending to.
Many of us are lucky enough to encounter a metaphorical four-leaf clover at various points in our life. Depending on your optimism, luck could be as small as seeing a shooting star (not that I'm throwing shade at space phenomena) or as big as winning the jackpot.
My early twenties were filled with those kinds of lucky moments. Big breaks that occurred because I took advantage of things during a time when I knew I could. I know luck when I see it. And I know hard work when I see it. That's not to say I didn't work hard on those projects, I did. But I can admit I was also rather lucky.
My first major publication was a combination of luck and timing. An essay on my childhood experience feeling like an other during the National Anthem on the first anniversary of 9/11. It was accepted into a major publication a day before the 14th anniversary of 9/11.
In 2016, after viewing the success of a former classmate, I scoured Twitter to see if I could find and apply for any calls for writers or publishing interns. I happened to land on a post for another major publication seeking writers for their wellness section. It was 11:30 p.m. I was spent but so upset in my recent complacency that it gave me the drive to construct an email with a cover letter accompanied by a couple samples. My essay on my Muslim-American experience again, gave me the ticket to somehow get a response back and publish two pieces with them.
Around the same time, I managed to land an internship with a Chicago-based magazine. Their managing editor also happened to bail when I was only a couple weeks in, leaving an open position in her wake. I was a writer with luck-based credentials and the graduate of a writing program. I was there at the right time and suddenly found myself the managing editor of a magazine.
I've joked to a class (giving talks, of course, was also luck since I would not have been invited to speak if I hadn't had those previously lucky accomplishments) before that many of my previous wins have come through moments of self-loathing and desperation. I wasn't kidding. I was extremely critical of myself but also extremely lucky.
But what happens when your luck runs out?
I realized fairly quickly that my voice as a Muslim-American was what made me valuable to publishers. I also decided fairly quickly that I had no intention of exploiting myself in this way both because I knew I had a voice outside of this identity and because I didn't want to become a one-trick pony.
I think it's shitty that in our present day society the only way minority voices can be heard is if they capitalize on their minority experience. As if our only worth lies in our oppression and exploitation.
I haven't published anything (outside of this blog) in a year. I've pitched and submitted so much work that searching for freelance gigs in itself seems like a job I should be compensated for. You would think that a more robust portfolio would work to my benefit.
Maybe I've lost my four-leaf clover.
Maybe I've lost my "muchness."
In the absence of luck but ankle-deep in self-loathing and torso-deep in doubt, here's what I can tell you: I am glad that I put my happiness over the status of a glorified position. I am proud that I still have the fight in me to work on a book that's taking me much too long to complete. I have no regrets for the rejections or lack of responses I get to pitches because they are still opportunities that I actively tried to make mine.
So. What happens when your luck has run out?
You keep going.
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