As I head into the second half of my 50th journey around the sun, I am finding my self – in a way I never expected.
Up until this point, the pieces of my life have sort of fallen into place. A new mom at 21, I went directly from being a child to being a parent. Although I had choices to make, none were all about me. Up until now, everything I've done has been largely influenced by someone else’s needs. This is not to discount the influence my husband still has – his opinions have tremendous sway – but now, no lives depend on me getting it right. I can make some decisions just because I want to.
Motherhood was good for me in many ways, which caught me off guard. Despite the fact that motherhood came at a time when I didn’t expect it, I embraced it and for many years was defined by it. Like other moms, I was frequently referred to as (insert child’s name here)'s mom, with no name or identity.
When the time approached for my youngest to go away to college, I realized I needed to redefine my role. Although I generally do not plan anything far in advance, I spent over a year pondering what I would do “after.” I considered going back to work full-time, but kept returning to the idea of writing at home full-time, something I've wanted to do for a very long time.
Writing always came naturally to me. Even at the age of six, I wrote stories for my baby sister on 3x5 index cards stapled together. They often starred our dogs, who patiently listened to me when I needed an audience. I switched gears through my school years, believing that writing was a dream, not a realistic way to earn a living. Sure, some people did it, but I didn’t really think I would be one of them.
But my first job out of college was with a publishing company. There I was: writing and getting paid. After I had a second child, the pay didn’t warrant the costs of working, so I became a stay/work-at-home mom, writing pieces on a freelance basis. Eventually the demands of caring for four children sidelined the writing altogether. I pushed my dream to the back, saying I didn’t have the time.
I used to think about how, if I became a well-known writer, I would answer the question, “Why do you write?” My answer was easy, “Because a writer is what I am, not what I do. Writing is like breathing, something that is part of me, not a choice.” At some point, I lost that. When I was facing the end of the childcare years, I realized with dismay that it had been years since I had written anything. I felt lost, empty. This frightened me.
For 27 years, I had been mom. Who was I now? Was there any more to me? Had there ever been? These questions prompted some serious thought.
As I was needed less by my children, I found that I once again had time to read, which I quickly realized I had desperately missed. Soon I found stories forming in my head. I dusted off an old idea and started to research in earnest. A free week found me writing almost 10,000 words for a novel I had long wanted to write. Then, once again, I got tangled up in life and stalled.
My youngest left for college, and it was time, but I was still stuck on details and concerned about spending time on a project that would take years to bear fruit. I needed some immediate results. Surfing the internet, I had an intriguing thought. There were a handful of websites with great content that kept coming across my newsfeed . Maybe I could write for some of those sites. One thing led to the other and I found myself reading and writing more and more.
Now I'm writing every day. Some days the thoughts can’t get on the paper fast enough. I'm taking risks, pushing beyond my comfort zone. I can feel the wings opening, stretching – like a butterfly (or, if I'm passionate about something, like a dragon). I feel more alive than I have for a long time. It’s like I'm a whole new me.
My family, I can tell, has been amused by the new, animated me. They smile as I share my joy each time my work is accepted for publication and patiently listen to my hopes and goals. They seem to be telling me, “It’s okay, Mom, it’s your time.” I think they're on to something.