2009: I’m 25. I’m two years away from finishing my graduate degree in Social Work. I’m a year away from getting married. Six years away from having my first son. And countless soul-searching breakdowns away from figuring out why I am so dreadfully unhappy.
I spend a lot of my time crying. A lot of my time wishing I could figure out what the hell is going on. I know I have so much. I get to marry the love of my life, I’m in a reputable grad program, I have amazing friends, a loving family. Life is staggeringly good to me. Why is there still a crack in my heart? Am I that f-cking ungrateful?
I ignore these questions for awhile. I do shots with my friends, yell in crowded bars, dance late into the night, and manage to carry on with nothing but a slight headache to show for it (ah, youth). I’m on a career track I don’t know how to stop, so I just keep going.
I pour myself into my graduate program, do well, make friends. I’m still unhappy. I wait for something, but I don’t yet know what.
2010: I’m 26. I get married. We have the most kick-ass wedding and I can feel the tide of my tumult trying to turn. I run my fingers down the spines of every book I read on my honeymoon with a resigned longing. I’ll never do this. I tell myself that’s fine.
2011: I’m 27. I graduate at the top of my class and line up a job. I work hard. Grinding, heartbreaking days with kids experiencing the worst mental health crises of their lives. I dedicate myself to the lives and livelihood of my clients. I love making a difference (though it’s rare). I love righting some of the injustices in their worlds (though even rarer). Through it all, I am still deeply unsatisfied and restless.
Then. One random afternoon, after sobbing in my office, I write a (bad) short story. I feel a wellspring of hope bubble up from the center of myself. I write more. All the time. I don’t tell anyone.
2012: I’m 28. Breakdowns slowly turn into breakthroughs. I wake up to the alarm bells of my own mind. Get in tune with the rhythms of my yearnings. I feel euphoric with hope, though there’s still much to tackle.
I confront the ‘buts’ first.
But I don’t even know how to write.
But I just spent all this time and money on a GRADUATE degree in this WHOLE OTHER FIELD.
But I thought I could shove this artistic and creative yearning away forever.
I consume. I read craft books, and author’s blogs, and watch YouTube vlogs about writing. I write a few more (bad) stories.
I battle the ‘what-ifs’.
What if I’m a bad writer forever?
What if everyone thinks I’m an idiot for trying this?
What if I AM an idiot?
2013: I’m 29. I feel a sense of urgency that if I don’t try now, I’ll regret it forever. I choose to be brave. I tell my people I’m writing. Because that’s all I do. All the time. More bad stories. Half a novel. A private blog with my sisters. Reviews of television shows just for my own enjoyment. A sort-of novel during my first NaNoWriMo. I apply for a freelance job as a contributing writer on a (now defunct) television review website. I get it. Suddenly I have a byline and am writing to deadline several times a week.
2015: I’m 31. I have a baby I adore but new motherhood is overwhelming. I don’t write for two years. I develop postpartum depression and an all-too familiar feeling of restlessness. I cry a lot again.
2017: I’m 33. I feel aimless and hopeless. My husband gets me a laptop for Mother’s Day. “Write” he tells me. I do. I start this blog. I start my book. I make writer friends. I push through imposter syndrome and self-doubt. I write like my life depends on it, because it does.
Some of that writing gets published.
I feel a shift in the wind and double-down. I treat my writing like a job. My husband and I structure our lives around it. When I’m not full-time momming, I’m writing. I write my novel. I learn and struggle and grow and improve. I work evenings, nap times, weekends, every chance I get for two years and I don’t look up. I finally stop looking up.
2019: I’m 35. I still cry. I still feel restless. But now it’s usually when my novel, that I finished, and believe to be good, that my agent is submitting to publishers, gets rejected. (Which sucks and is happening a lot. But still. It’s happening.)
I’m ambitious and goal-oriented and tend to get caught up in all I don’t achieve, rather than celebrate what I do. I think too much about the fact there is no guarantee I’ll achieve my dream as a published author any time soon (if at all). But I also remember that though it may not be next year, it may not be this book, I’ve learned this decade that the dreaming is nothing without the doing.
I sit down one afternoon to really think on the abundance of gifts I’ve received this decade. My husband. My children. My education. My heartache. My lessons. I write this post and realize in stunning simplicity the most profound change of all. In 2009, I wished.
In 2019, I write.