So you’re walking down the street one day when you overhear a couple of people gushing about whoopie pies.
“They’re so delicious!” you hear them say. “And so hot in New York right now!”
One of your foodie friends confirms the rumor: whoopie pies are the hot new street food. As a matter of fact, there are food carts popping up all over the place selling whoopie pies for six dollars each, and they’re making a killing.
“Six dollars each?” you think to yourself, incredulous. “For a whoopie pie? Hell, why don’t I make some whoopie pies?”
You go home to your kitchen, pull out some ingredients, and start messing around. Your first few batches are nasty, but you get the hang of it soon enough, and it isn’t long before you have a caseload of whoopie pies ready to sell.
You wheel your case of whoopie pies out to the corner and stand there waiting for your first customers. You’ve only been standing on the corner for ten minutes when a man in a designer suit and sunglasses sidles up to you.
“Whoopie pies, eh? So delicious. And so hot in New York right now. Are you in the market for a business partner?”
A business partner. It seems premature—after all, you only started making whoopie pies a month ago. But the attention is so flattering. And the man seems so convinced that your business can succeed. Why not jump in right away?
You and the man sign a deal, and soon enough he’s standing on the street corner right next to you, helping you sell your pies. He’s good at what he does: he orders you a nice big sign full of flashing lights, which attracts lots of customers to your stand. He writes brilliant copy advertising the tender sweetness of your whoopie pies.
“I’m not making any promises,” says the man, “but I have a feeling you might be able to quit your job soon and make whoopie pies full time.”
A week later, he strides up with the news: he’s snagged a deal with Whole Foods. A huge, unprecedented, four-whoopie-pie deal. For the next four years, you will come up with a new flavor of whoopie pie every year. Your pies will be distributed to 440,000 Whole Foods outlets across America. World whoopie pie rights have sold to Sysco Systems. Soon, everyone on the planet will be devouring your whoopie pies. Isn’t that great?
You’re overwhelmed. Flabbergasted. You can’t believe your luck. A four whoopie pie deal. Nobody gets a four whoopie pie deal. This is amazing.
Your business partner immediately launches a full-scale marketing campaign. From now on, you will be known as the Whoopie Queen. When people see your face, they will think “whoopie pie.” When people hear your name, they will think “whoopie pie.” You will live and breathe whoopie. You and your business partner will both be set for life.
This is amazing. This is amazing, you tell yourself. But also a little uncomfortable. After all, you started making whoopie pies on a whim. Because you heard they were hot. Because you knew they would sell. It seemed like fun, at the time. Just a fun little whoopie pie project on the side. But all of a sudden, making whoopie is your life. Your whole identity. And you didn’t exactly plan on that.
You start thinking about all the other projects you wanted to do before you got caught up in all this whoopie business. You used to enjoy baking bread, and growing vegetables. You sort of wanted to become a soup maker, before all this whoopie stuff started getting big. You used to love the feeling of pulling fresh vegetables out of the earth and transforming them into a nourishing, unusual, completely organic meal. Sure, making these elaborate soups took a long time and you never made a cent, but you loved doing it. Not that you don’t love making whoopie pies. Whoopie pies are fun. It’s just….it’s just…
You talk to your business partner about this whole soup idea. He’s sympathetic; he’s totally behind the idea of you being a vegetable soup maker. For now, though, it’s important for you to focus on making whoopie pies—just while you’re building your audience. After that, you can branch out into soups. You have that four-whoopie pie deal to think about, and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.
But by the time you’ve fulfilled the terms of your four whoopie-pie deal, your audience is huge and rabid and they want whoopie pies, nothing but whoopie pies. You’d feel bad disappointing them. You’d feel bad disappointing your business partner, who already has plans for another big whoopie pie deal. Besides, it’s not like you have time to experiment with soups anymore: being the Whoopie Queen is a full-time job.
You tell yourself you should be grateful for all your whoopie-making success, but deep down you’re frantic: how did this happen? Where did you veer off-course? Can’t you have your whoopie pie and eat it too?
It reminds you of that time when you were six when you went to the carnival with your cousins. As soon as you saw the elephants, you screamed “Elephants!” and ran to get in line to ride one. As you waited in line, you were so excited you squirmed. You were going to ride an elephant and it was going to be so much fun!
Finally, you got to the front of the line. The elephant man hoisted you up onto the elephant’s back. There you were, riding the elephant! It couldn’t get any better than this! You might as well be famous!
You turned around to wave at your cousins. But while you were getting onto the elephant’s back, they’d all wandered off to get cotton candy. Suddenly, the elephant felt scary-huge. It started lumbering away with you on its back.
“Wait!” you said, panicking, but the elephant man didn’t hear. You twisted around and saw your cousins laughing together, walking off with their cotton candy to find another ride. “Wait!” you shouted again.
“What’s wrong?” said the elephant man. “Didn’t you want to ride the elephant?”
You burst into tears without knowing why. Yes, you wanted to ride the elephant. But you thought your cousins would stay. Now, they’re all having fun without you, and you’re stuck on the elephant, high up and all alone, and who knows what other things you’re missing out on?
The elephant man was exasperated. “Aren’t you the little girl who begged to ride the elephant?”
“Yes,” you said, “Yes—but I didn’t understand!”
“Didn’t understand what?”
You clutched the elephant-saddle and sobbed. You didn’t understand that riding the elephant meant missing out on other things. You didn’t understand it was a choice, and making a choice meant giving up one thing for another. You didn’t understand that one tiny choice could carry you away on its back, while everything else you knew and loved got smaller and smaller in the distance.
Sometimes, you dream of riding an elephant all your life, and when it finally happens it’s a dream come true. But sometimes, you don’t realize you’re climbed on an elephant’s back until you feel it start to move beneath you.
Still, INTERN can’t decide if it’s better to choose your elephants wisely, or if the universe smiles on those who jump blithely onto the elephant’s back—or those who have the courage to jump off if they realize their elephant is moving in the wrong direction.
Where has your writing-elephant taken you lately? Are you conscious of your long-term career direction when you start a new writing project? Or do you chase dreams as they come to you, without worrying about where you’ll end up? Have you ever changed directions? Why? Was it hard?
INTERN wants to know!