How do you know when it’s time to call it quits on pursuing a certain career and move on?

I have loved making movies since I was about 14. I come from a tiny town of about 3,300 people and when I first started, I was just doing it for fun with friends and it gave me a sense of self, identity, and control when I felt like a perpetual outcast due to life circumstances. I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career and spent the next 14 years doing that to various degrees of seriousness. In college I studied TV broadcasting and mass communication, which was fine. The video production classes were trash, though, as the professor somehow knew less than I did (which wasn’t a whole lot). I ended up getting a job as a daytime TV promo editor in Los Angeles after college and spent about 4 years out there participating in a few short films here and there with others, plus a micro-budget feature film. But what’s struck me recently is that none of those projects were ever really “mine.” As in, I didn’t set out to do them, but they fell into my lap and I ran with the opportunities.

When Covid lockdowns started I was let go pretty quickly from my job (that I was getting ready to quit anyways because it was crushing my soul working on meaningless daytime TV shows). I had been dealing with some pretty serious mental health issues for a couple years leading up to that, so I took some time off of working to deal with those and ended up moving back to my home area. After a few months there, I ended up getting a job in social work thanks to my best friend. I’d long been interested in psychology and my positive experience with therapy had gotten me interested in what it may be like to help people in that way. I worked with parents who were involved with Child Protective Services and I found it quite meaningful despite the low pay. Throughout my time there, I had my eye on returning to filmmaking eventually with a friend of mine who bought a house in the Atlanta area. Then, after what I interpreted as signs to do so, I ended up taking a position working directly with kids whose families were involved with CPS. It was with a small, but tight-nit team and I fell in love with the work. I’d never felt such intense meaning in work outside of the times I spent actively making movies. It was so intense that I truly contemplated not even returning to filmmaking at all.

However, I eventually decided that I should take the chance and give filmmaking in Atlanta a shot and try to really focus in on it this time. So at the end of this past summer, I left my favorite full-time job I’d ever had and moved to Atlanta. I’ve been here a little more than a month, haven’t gotten any work yet and…I’m feeling like maybe I don’t actually want to do this. I’ve missed my kids so much. I miss being someone who could help vulnerable souls feel safe and like they have someone they could trust. I miss playing games with them. I miss feeling that deep sense of meaning. I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to remind myself why I want to do this filmmaking thing. I know that I do enjoy it immensely. When I’ve actually been working to make the movies I have made, they’ve been incredibly positive and fun and nothing else makes me fully immersed like shooting a movie (I have ADHD, so that’s a big deal). But I realized yesterday that it’s literally been about 10 years since I last made anything that was truly my project; where the idea came from my mind and I actually shot it and edited it and finished it all on my own volition. Everything else since then has been school assignments, work assignments, or other people’s projects.

I haven’t self-started a project in 10 years. So I have to ask myself…what does that mean? Do I really want this as much as I’ve told myself and other people? Or do I just *want* to want this? Am I afraid to let go of this thing I’ve made such a large part of my identity for so long (and subsequently put almost half the years of my life into)? Am I just anxious because I haven’t gotten work in my new home yet?

People who have let careers go and changed course, how did you know it was time to move on? How much more time and energy should I try putting into this thing I’ve called my dream? Are there resources out there that can help me (preferably that don’t cost much, as I don’t exactly have much income right now)?

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