This was not going to be my next blog topic, but I find myself, once again, perseverating on what to do with myself that doesn’t involve an eighteen-month-old appendage.
A bit of history, I was unemployed when I was pregnant, and kept myself busy with volunteering opportunities that were not all that engaging, but they engulfed time, and I had the freedom to waste my time as I saw fit. Pregnancy was a type of limbo holding tank; the consumption of parenting unknown in every possible respect, and I drove myself crazy. I decided that I would pursue part-time employment because that is what every mother who has the option should choose, right? Because I wasn’t already working somewhere I loved, considering full-time work carried my personal judgment that I would be a terrible person if I made such a choice; we don’t need what would amount to my paltry income when staying at home was the more appropriate, noble choice. Mind you, I don’t have such a judgment of other women who choose full-time work for any reason; perhaps it was because I was so ambivalent about having my own children for so long that choosing a role as primary caregiver would convince others and myself that I was invested. Regardless, the choice was made, and finding someone willing to hire a pregnant woman even part-time was elusive, so I remained unemployed and the interesting positions available ceased to appear.
Time trudged; my son was born, and the first year of Mommying was spent with moment to moment things. The gods of good social fortune blessed me with valuable friendships through that time, something I was hard pressed to find in the fifteen years I’ve been living here. I organized a new mom social group and waited; for what I still can’t say.
Staying at home has a strange internal clock. I took up this blog at a transition toward normalcy that I only vaguely understood, but craved it nonetheless. No longer could I say there was a blur of infant tasks to accomplish that absorbed every ounce of brain power I possessed. My little man was growing, and I eventually exhibited coherent thought that couldn’t be denied by anyone…mostly…as well as the ability to actually plan a dinner. Yes, the times were changing. My friends and I stopped meeting quite so frequently as they experienced similar personal drives.
I’ve written about it, but not as often as I consider it, probably because I actually have readers, and no one wants to read pages upon pages of self-important whining even if my struggle is the same struggle of so many Mommies over.
The core question is, “Who am I?” In some respects my future is a blank slate, which is horrifying or at least unsettling despite the envy of some for the liberating possibilities, even if they aren’t entirely limitless. It occurred to me, last night actually, that my personal endeavors outside of raising my wonderful little boy are not as vacant as I’ve managed to convince myself all this time, and it has been, and will likely continue to evolve as all dynamic things do.
I think part of the problem with how I’ve considered my pursuits are that I label them as needing to fulfill requirements I’ve made up, but have no real bearing on anything real. For so much time I only considered my work legitimate if it adhered to a specific schedule outside the home and I was receiving monetary compensation for my toiling. I guess if I decide to ever run for a political office, no one can say that I’m not an American… But, if I stop minimizing my fairly recent accomplishments and look through a larger lens, I’ve managed to meet much of my need for independence while living an example that make me proud that I am a human with the capacity to help improve the world in my small way, as well as enjoy and challenge myself at the same time regardless of the lolls that inevitably transpire throughout this process.
As I said, things are ever evolving, but what I’m living is more than dreams; I’m managing to take risks and do things that are new and interesting, and I feel confident they will lead to somewhere unknown and unexpected down the road. I’ve been talking around the particulars, but I think we are all friends or at least friendly acquaintances by now, so perhaps the specifics are prudent at this point.
Obviously I’m writing. This blog has proved more popular than I ever envisioned it would be. I always assumed this would be a document to aide my memory and perhaps help or entertain a person here and there, yet I have a small, steadily growing following despite my limited exposure and publicizing; a far cry from reaping financial benefit, but why not call this expenditure of time a success? Even if my readership does not flourish from here, I’ve found a voice that I’ve never particularly had, and that has value…and witnesses… Along a similar vein, a few months ago I started writing short stories and submitting them to contests. I’ve had dreams of having something published since college, but I never had the determination nor courage to set finger to key. And, true, my chances are probably slim in winning one of these literary magazine contests, but an editor sent me a very kind unsolicited rejection last night. I did not make the finals, but she liked my story quite a bit. Again, no financial gain, but, wow, I never envisioned something like that either, so maybe someday I will be in print after all…and a check wouldn’t be so bad either…
Then there are my longtime, consistent passions. For a couple of years now I’ve been an educational consultant and adovate for disadvantaged families, and even though I’ve had several cases, I have difficulty claiming it as an occupation because I don’t accept payment. Perhaps it is strange to dismiss my work because there is no financial gain, merely a human one… I’ve had the privilege of helping struggling families form clarity and a plan that is in the best interest of their child. It seems I have been successful, so when people ask what I do, why can’t I tell them that? I don’t know. I’ve enforced a narrow dogma to myself that because the opportunity that would lead to financial reimbursement has not been what I had hoped thus far, the rest of my work cannot be declared as legitimate. I’m trying to convince myself such thoughts are foolishness as ardently as my conviction that success must be traditional…and paying…
Even more recently I’ve started volunteering through an agency that provides pschoeducational groups and educational classes/tutoring for the Department of Corrections. This opportunity is developing at a vertigo inducing rate, and the most frustrating for me, probably because I want this so much that it resonates in my mouth every time I think about the possibilities. My work with the agency started as one thing, and has rapidly changed course in a timeframe that could conceivably be calculated in days, albeit it would be a tad cumbersome. At this juncture I’ve written a few different group and class curricula, one I want desperately to teach myself. However, even if the process becomes too complicated to achieve fruition, I managed to impress people with my creations, which is satisfying…granted not as satisfying as formal program approval would be… At the end of the day, the constant evolution I find myself in with this particular investment will likely have me tutoring small groups of inmates a couple of evenings a week in reading comprehension and expository writing remediation for the new HiSET exam, which is close in some respects to the whole class literacy program I hope to run someday before God retires. Eventually part of the tutoring responsibility will include supporting other tutors, creating curricula, and likely some program development once this matures from a seed to a sapling. Again, I won’t receive a paycheck for my work, but I will have the rare schedule outside my home and participate in one of my deepest passions in life.
All of this in maybe the last six months, so why do I torment myself with the fallacy of personal stagnation? Admittedly, this isn’t ideal on every count, but my next pursuit is to give myself permission to enjoy the fruits of quite a bit of labor and the patience to know that nothing is an end unless I determine it is.