I used to want to be a writer when I grew up. Now I am. Just not the kind of writer I wanted to be.
For the most part, I’m OK with that. Sometimes I’m not.
Just before I turned 30, I had a nice quarter-life crisis that sent me through a depression, a separation, and a one-year stint teaching English in South Korea. At the time, I was questioning WHAT IT ALL MEANT. I still do that. I don’t think I will ever stop doing that. But, at the time, I was really angsty about it. So I decided to stop fucking around and just do this shit. And “this shit” was everything I had been telling myself that I wanted to do for years and just never did. I made a list and everything. I decided to finally learn to play guitar (and I did). I decided to buy a flute and start playing again (which I did). I decided to get in shape (which I did by lifting weights and getting up to running six miles). I decided to get a sewing mannequin to start making my own clothes (which I did) and to take singing lessons (which I did).
I did a lot of other things on my list, both big and small, like whittle down my Netflix list, stop working on dolls so much, start dressing more nicely and taking more care with my appearance (shot to shit since having a baby), find a new job, and freelance more (full-time now).
A few things I didn’t get around to — no surprise. I never lost those 15 pounds, and I never learned how to move my humps in a club. Sad face on that last part. (Seriously.)
On my writing, it was a mixed bag. I did start writing more, and I did revise some of my old stuff to make it better, and I did start submitting to more journals in an attempt to be published. I never did get around to finishing the novel I was working on, and I never got around to doing as much writing as I wanted generally.
But I was OK with that. And I still am.
Over the course of that year, I let go of that childish need to BE. To be famous. To be successful. To be rich. To be recognized.
It took moving around the world and getting completely out of my habits, my routine, and my rut with family and friends and ideas to cut through a lot of the shit that was making me unhappy. I just let go. Not of the desire to write or of the love for the things I love. But I let go of the need to check off certain milestones or to meet certain benchmarks for success.
One of the biggest things I finally let go was the idea that if I didn’t become a published author, I was going to somehow have a less meaningful life. Before then, I couldn’t imagine what would be special or fulfilling about my life if I didn’t accomplish something extraordinary.
When I was in high school, I listened in horror at friends who talked about becoming mothers. It was never a dream of mine. Ever. When I asked one friend what she wanted to do after high school, her whole answer was “Be a mom.” I pressed her about what else, and there was nothing else. That’s all she wanted. I felt so sorry for her. How could that ever be enough?
My views have changed pretty dramatically since then. I don’t know why, but over time, I not only opened myself to the idea of becoming a mother, but it became something I desperately wanted.
However, it is still not enough for me just to be a mom. The days are long. The nights are long. There is never a break. I become irritated. I get angry. At times, I want to cry from frustration and desperation. I don’t get what I want to do — ever. Forget about writing. Forget about playing the guitar. Forget about even going to the bathroom without a companion.
While I don’t think that being a mother is “enough” — nor do I think it should be all-consuming — it is a lot. For most of us, it is the most significant thing we will do. When you become a parent, everything you do and everything you say takes on meaning. You have a profound impact on whether your child grows up to be happy and able to maintain healthy relationships.
We make choices. I could go back to work so I could put Quinn in daycare and get a “break” during the day, but I want to be the one who raises her, not strangers. I could stay up later to work, but I don’t want to make the mistake I did during that quarter-life crisis when my hormones were totally fucked, I was overweight, and I was miserable because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I could let Quinn stay up at night and cry, but I don’t believe in letting her cry it out.
There are hundreds of choices I could make, but these are the choices I am making. And I’m OK with them. I’m OK with them because I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. No matter what Cosmo might tell us, we can’t do it all. We have to prioritize and do the things that matter. Right now, being a good mother is what matters to me. Raising a happy little girl who won’t ever doubt my love is what matters to me. Building a strong marriage and a happy family is what matters to me.
In the meantime, I write when I can. I work on creative projects when I can. I see friends when I can.
And I remember this:
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
There is time.
I am not defined by one thing. I am a person who has infinite possibilities before me, and there is no reason that I cannot explore them all. Being a mother is not an “excuse.” It’s one of the many ways that I am embracing my life and squeezing every last drop of happiness and wonder and excitement out of it. Though the days may be long, and the responsibility tedious at times, make no mistake about it: This is what living life to the fullest looks like. You don’t have to win awards or see your name in lights to know that what you do matters. You can just look at the person growing in front of you day by day to know that the best of you has been immortalized, and that there are so many more amazing things to come.
There are no arbitrary deadlines. There is no one label to fit you. There is no ration of happiness.
There is time.
There is time.
There is time.