From the time I was in kindergarten, people have told me I was exceptionally bright and that my gift was in using words, specifically with reading and writing. I am not saying this to brag; in fact, I think it has been one of the biggest curses of my life.
To be clear, the curse was not in having those gifts, but the over-attention to them. Since I was in elementary school I felt like my life was planned for me, and I was supposed to do something involving words. (The obvious lesson here for myself and all parents and teachers: give your kids the room to discover their own gifts and goals.)
That led to dabbling careers in writing, substantive editing and librarianship. I have not found any of them particularly enjoyable or fulfilling.
There was once a time when I loved to write. In high school and for a couple of years after, I did not go anywhere without a notebook. I wrote everywhere: while waiting for appointments, on breaks from work, while watching TV. I even kept a notebook in my car because sometimes I had to pull off the side of the road to write! How many times I have wished and prayed for that to return.
My compulsion to write disappeared almost immediately upon getting married. While staying home with the kids I started my first blog, which I loved because I felt no pressure. I thought my friends were the only ones reading – though it eventually grew to a few hundred people reading daily and I got scary anonymous emails – and I didn’t censor my thoughts and said whatever I wanted. Writing a blog stopped being fun once I felt like it mattered.
Then I started freelance writing, and my love of writing died again. It’s still dead.
I’m making more money now from freelance writing than I’ve ever made at any other job (which is still not much, mind you) and I’ve achieved my dream of being published in a book and in national publications, but I hate every minute of it. I am finally realizing that the reason I lack motivation is not that I’m lazy but because I don’t really want to be doing this at all. I have spent most of the past 8 years working multiple jobs and attending school and getting excellent grades, while raising three kids. I enjoy being busy; I thrive on it.
I believe I am capable of writing beautiful words that could touch someone’s soul, but the harder I work to make a living from writing, the less connected I am to the spirit that I would allow me to write that way.
I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to be something other than what I am, what I perceive other people want from me. The only thing I truly enjoyed was studying sociology, but you can’t make a career from that. I tried desperately to be happy staying home with my kids because I do believe that a parent at home is the best thing for children, but it was an absolutely terrible fit for me.
I honestly believe I can achieve anything I want to, and so far I have. I just don’t want to achieve more in the writing field badly enough. It has been “just a job” since I started eight years ago, and not one I particularly enjoy. I believe that I should be a creative type person, working in an artistic or intellectual field, and that anything else is beneath me – but it turns out that’s not really me.
But I have periodically wanted to work in the medical field since my first child was born, and I’ve always talked myself out of it for numerous reasons. I am equal parts deeply intrigued and terrified by the medical field, but I don’t think it’s intellectual enough. I am analytical, curious, fascinated by the human body, and as the mom of three boys, I’m not easily grossed out. I want to be busy at work. I want to feel like I am helping people. And I want to feel like my work is physical and intense.
I am finally going to pursue the medical field, but this worries me too. What if rejecting what I’ve always been told I should be still doesn’t make me feel fulfilled? And even if it does fulfill me, what does it mean to give up on all those books I should have written? I feel like I am not living up to my potential. Not everyone supports me going into the medical field, either, and it’s clear that I am letting them down, which makes this even harder.
It is exhilarating and liberating to walk away from everything I was told about myself, but it’s also terrifying. What is my identity now?