For the last few years, I’ve been forcing my round self into a square hole.
Know the feeling?
I left my job as a bureaucrat close to eight years ago, but it took me a long time to recover. In many ways, I changed very little — I traded the 9-5 hours for being a full-time mom and a part-time employee of myself.
Essentially, I set up a life where I was never off the clock. Ever.
Then, one day, it felt like the squareness got pointier in the corners while my roundness became more pronounced. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I was exhausted. Not just tired. To paraphrase Hochschild, I had begun to think and talk about getting sleep the way starving people talk about food.
Around the same time, a man at my church passed away suddenly. He was a vice-president at his company, well off, smiling in his Linked-In profile, with beautiful children who go to church school with mine. I never met him, but I knew who he was. Overnight, he was gone.
It’s strange that my first thought was, “I wonder what he wished he’d done.” I was struck by how much I found myselff grieving for this man — until I realized that his sudden death scared the bloomers off me. His life, smiling profile picture and all, was what I’d been brought up to believe was “IT”. Was that where I was headed?
Then, as I struggled with why-am-I-so-unbelievably-exhausted and why-did-this-father-pass-so-unexpectedly, I got an email from someone I respect tremendously, who acknowledged that he was moving in a new direction despite his long-time success in other areas. He felt he needed to do this other thing. He didn’t want to have regrets.
I read it. I read it again. And again.
And I realized something.
At the end of my time here on earth, I would have regrets if I continued on my current path. I would regret not really focusing on my writing. I would regret not fighting for my characters, not helping them become real in the minds of readers, and not putting more of their adventures on the page.
I would also regret going back to the life I once led — focused on what I was supposed to be, but missing out on who I really was.
So for the last few months I’ve been silent. I’ve slept, started working out daily, and began delegating chores and responsibilities to my children who are now old enough to handle some of them.
I’ve spent the last few weeks with a pencil in hand, or at my keyboard, breathing life into writing.
I’m taking very tiny baby steps toward becoming visible as a writer, starting with — gulp — actually allowing a couple of people to read some of my stories. I actually putting “attend writing group” on my calendar for this month.
I will figure out how to move forward, and what it means for me to be a writer. I will aim for no regrets.
It seems scary and huge, but I can do this.
So now, it’s your turn. What would you regret?
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