I spent the past five days in Connecticut, training for my new job with the Institute of Children’s Literature. I met wonderful writers and supportive administrators, and I got to spend some time with my dear friend Jan Czech
who drove down (over? up? – I get so confused on directions back East) from Massachusetts to see me. After being away from home for five days, however, I was eager to get back to my husband, my family, my animals, my family, and my computer.
During the 4 1/2 hour flight, I pulled out the lap top and started doing a little work, and thinking about all the information that had been crammed into my brain while I was gone.
The people from ICL spoke repeatedly about “respecting writing time” and understanding that we were “writers first, instructors second.” As I did a little market research and a little revision work on the plane, that thought kept rolling around in the back of my mind. I finally decided I needed to pay attention to it, since it wouldn’t leave me alone, so I came up with my own classification system for how I view myself.
First, I am me. Okay, that’s a big “well, duh” sort of thing to say. What I mean by that is that I am a conglomeration of a lot of interests, jobs, responsibilities, hobbies, and demands. But I own them all until I relinquish them for my own reasons. I wear a lot of different hats, and they are equally important to me at times, so classifying one above the other is often difficult, if not impossible. If I have to pick just one hat, it is my wife & mother hat. I can’t separate them, because they are too closely related, and I can pick one over the other. I’m not a mother first and wife second, nor am I a wife first and mother second. Asking me to choose one over the other would be like asking me to pick my husband over my kids, or my kids over my husband. Sorry – no can do. I love them all too much to relegate one to second place.
Second – I am a daughter and a sister and a friend. Once again, don’t ask me to pick one over the other. Both my mother and my sister have contributed greatly to the woman that I have become. My father did as well, but there is no longer a choice to be made on his standing. My step-dad is very much alive, and the fact that he has been around a shorter amount of time does not diminish his importance in my life. I guess I could add daughter-in-law in here, too. My mom-in-law is both family and friend, and she has benefited me in so many ways. And some of my friends are like sisters to me, like my friend Jan. It’s probably a good thing she lives clear across the country from me. Otherwise, she and I would constantly be getting into trouble!
Third – I am a writer. Sometimes this aspect of my life gets stuffed behind the day-to-day requirements of life, but it is like a vital organ to me. If I go too long without it, I suffer. It adds a lot of meaning to my life and it is one of the most important ways I define myself. Yes, I approach it like a job, because I need that level of discipline to keep me focused and directed, but in what other job can you go to work in your jammies, have this much fun, and occasionally get paid for doing so? Writing helps me make sense of the world, and helps me fill a need to communicate that is apparently pretty deep-seeded in me. I have always written – since I was very little (my mom still has the poetry and stories from my elementary days to prove it), and I will continue to write until the day my nose lands on the “h” key of my keyboard.
Fourth – I am a teacher. I love teaching. I love helping students to develop an appreciation of – if not entirely a love of – language and written expression. I enjoy hearing a student say that he or she never liked English before, and now it doesn’t bug him or her quite so much. That’s progress, in my book.
Fifth – I am a resident of my community, and a resident of a greater community. I love the volunteer things that I do, and I love supporting my kids in their community service organizations as well. Both my daughters are involved in Job’s Daughters (as I was a long time ago), and I am actively involved in Eastern Star, carrying on a tradition of Masonic involvement introduced to me by my grandfather. I am also involved in writing groups and professional writing organizations, and – of course – a few knitting groups and a golf league.
There are other hats and identities that I wear from time to time, and I could keep listing them for hours no doubt.
So after I sorted this out on the plane, I started looking at how perfectly this new venture fits into my idea of my life. It respects my number one priority (my family) by not asking me to be gone from them day in and day out, at nights or on weekends. It is a job that emphasises teaching, but it focuses on writing, and it honors my role as a writer by making sure I have the time to do that as I need. It is a perfect fit in my life right now, and it is a welcome change that both grounds me in my discipline and offers me stability at the same time.
I have taken another step forward in my journey. The training is over, the gradual build up to being a regular instructor has begun. The job that has caused me so much stress for the past year will be finished in five weeks, and I will be in a position to earn an equal amount of money for less effort, less time, and less stress so that my focus on writing can be returned and sustained. That’s progress, baby – no matter how you look at it.
I feel more optimistic, more energetic, and more creative than I have felt in months. A glorious return to normal – with a steady paycheck to boot!
Go write something good!