Samantha Eaton

Writer.Photographer.Explorer.

The Making of a Creative Life: How Did I Get Here?

I didn’t plan to become a writer pursuing publication. I didn’t plan on seeing the world firsthand with a camera by my side.

When I was 18 and going into college, I had a wildly different plan for where I’d be in ten years. I went to college for criminal justice, got two separate internships with two separate police departments, and thought that being a cop would be interesting enough. I’d move up in the ranks, become a K-9 handler or detective or something cool like that.

Those of you who know me know I went absolutely rogue from that plan.

Now, ten years later, I work as a manager in healthcare technology instead of in any sort of law enforcement (and honestly, thank goodness for that). It’s a solid job, good benefits, flexibility, and good pay. Plus, I can read an EOB and figure out how insurance is trying to screw me over this week.

The best part of this job though, really, is the life it allows me to have. I work reasonable hours, I get a ridiculous amount of time off per year, and I don’t have a treacherous commute. I have plenty of time to write (and have five finished manuscripts since 2014 when I decided to start writing towards publication), focus on improving my photography, and even travel.

But how did I actually get to this point?

I decided sometime in the summer before or fall of my senior year in college that I wanted to travel. So I did exactly that. I booked a trip for my spring break to Dublin, Ireland, and I was going solo.

It didn’t matter that I had only been on a plane once, had never left the country (not even to Canada despite living 2.5 hours away), and certainly had never been anywhere as far as Ireland. I was going.

On March 10th, 2012, I got on a United flight from Boston Logan with more layovers than present day me would ever tolerate, and I left the States bright eyed and a bit scared. By the time I got to Dublin, I discovered the airline had lost my checked bag with my clothes, and I was tired and overwhelmed and frustrated. Me, being about as chill as a habanero pepper, panicked for a second and realized probably the most important thing: I alone had to deal with this situation. I alone had to figure out a solution until they could bring it to my hotel. Everyone I knew was thousands of miles across an ocean.

So I got over it and went to buy a couple day's’ worth of new clothes.

From there, everything went smoothly despite me being out of my comfort zone. I drank warm Guinness, explored museums, talked to strangers with beautiful accents, survived a Dublin St. Paddy’s day, and wandered the city looking for inspiration. It was life changing. I learned how incredible the world can be, and I learned how badass I can be.

The River Liffey and Dublin by foot

I remember doing push ups in my hotel room at night to prep for the physical exam to be hired as a police officer. I remember thinking about how exhausting a job in law enforcement would be. I remember feeling like all I wanted to do was keep looking for the inspiring things in the world.

At the airport on the day I left, I bought and devoured THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I had never read much young adult fiction, and it wasn’t quite a thing yet, but that book shook something loose too. Dublin, Ireland and THE HUNGER GAMES, throwing a wrench in the gears since 2012.

As soon as I landed in the states, my decision was made.

Well, first I needed Dunkin' Donuts coffee because for some reason I couldn’t find iced coffee or cream in Dublin and was ready to cry when I saw that orange and pink logo.

Then my decision was made. I called my mom and asked her to refer me to the company she worked for, because I didn’t want to be a cop anymore. Something about having gotten a taste for the jetset life I could have, and the creepy vibes of a fictional dystopia made me realize law enforcement wasn’t for me.

Obviously, my mom was delighted. I got the job about a month later (and I’m still with the company, though in a considerably higher position.)

No matter what happens next, I know I made the right choice.

Since graduating college and starting my job in May of that year, I’ve done a lot of cool stuff. I’ve traveled to 8 countries (soon to be more!), 47 out of 50 US States, a bucketload of national parks, and have done things I never would have imagined I’d have the chance to do. These things fuel my creativity.

I wrote a book based on a weird story I was told while in Minnesota, and it got into a fantastic contest called PitchWars and I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come with it. Before that, four manuscripts I’ve shelved because they didn’t have the pizazz the industry calls for. Now, I’m working on a weird book based in Maine after reading about some lumberjack who sold his soul to Satan for a magic ax. After that, who knows? Maybe the next thing will be inspired by Wyoming or New Mexico or Arkansas—all places I never thought I’d go, but have.

TL:DR - You don’t have to know what you want to do when you’re young.

It’s okay to go to college for a degree you never use. It’s okay to not go at all. Your life is a path of twists and turns and surprise opportunities that change everything. Go where it takes you and be open to things you didn’t plan on being or doing. There’s no right way to be a person, and there’s no right time to discover your passion.

Guinness bottles over the years - Guinness Museum, St. James Gate, Dublin, Ireland