Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Coming Full Circle

When I was in 5th grade, I decided I wanted to be a writer.  I was obsessed with Judy Blume and became equally obsessed in writing my own young adult novel.  I began writing first drafts of first chapters of various books, never progressing beyond that.  After a couple of years, I gave up and moved onto poetry, mainly focusing on my junior high crush at the time who wanted nothing to do with me.

By 9th grade, it was clear none of my books were ever going to be completed, and my poetry wasn't all that great (and by then, my crush was over).  I moved onto politics, became obsessed with the 1992 presidential elections, and ultimately convinced myself that I should go into the legal field.

Yada yada yada, now I'm in my late 30's, a retired lawyer at home with three kids, contemplating what I eventually want to do with my life.  Continue staying home full time? Focus on volunteering? Go back to a full time job?  Do something completely different?  What I do know, that I didn't back in the 90's, is that I don't want to go back to the legal field.

So far, 2016 has been a year of introspection - of soul searching and reinvention and reaching out for help and a whole lot of yoga.  Pursuant to that, I've made some changes.  I started seeing a parent coach.  I got a babysitter on Wednesday mornings so I could be completely indulgent and do whatever I wanted.  And I decided to take a writing class.

I had thought of taking a writing class for a long time, but, like many new things in life, I was intimidated.  What if I was the least experienced writer there?  What if I was the worst writer there? Who was I to take such a class?  For some reason, signing up seemed like a vote of confidence in an ability I wasn't quite sure I had.  But, in the spirit of new beginnings, I decided what the hell.

I did some google searching and realized that I was lucky enough to live close to The Writer's Center, right here in Bethesda, which offered a wide range of classes.  I applied for a course entitled "The Personal Essay," and did a little happy dance when I was accepted.  There would be eight classes, on Saturday mornings from 10-12:30.

I was extremely nervous for my first class.  I even showered and wore contacts, for no real reason other than maybe if I could at least look presentable it would make up for my lack of experience. When I entered the room, I met my 10 classmates.  Brief conversations before class revealed that almost everyone had taken a writing class before, many had been published, and some even worked as reporters or producers.  We went around the room introducing ourselves, and I think I nervously said something like "I have a blog.  And I am a mother of three boys.  And I really don't want to write about motherhood."

Because surely, there is more to me than just motherhood, right?

The first class consisted of short discussions, and a sign up for weeks to come - each week, we would discuss three essays submitted by people in the class (which we would get the week prior to review).  I signed up for two dates a few weeks away, not knowing what I would submit or what I would write about.  Plus, I wanted a couple of weeks to see what other people's writing looked like. That first day, three people had already brought in essays, for us to take home and review.  That evening, I poured myself a glass of wine, sat on my couch, and started reading.

A half an hour later, I was in tears.

These essays were not just beautifully written.  They were heartfelt.  They were deep.  There were authentic.  They were sincere.  The teacher had told us to write about what "haunts us."  And that's what these people did, in such a vulnerable way.  And isn't that why we like to read essays, or blogs, or any kind of testimonial?  To relate to someone else's vulnerability?  To let us know that although it may feel like it, we're not alone?

From that evening on, my writing class became the highlight of my week.

I continued to read amazing essays.  In class, we would critique them, discuss them, and through it all, I felt intimately connected with the authors.  They were more than classmates.  It was like a fellowship of confidants - a continuous exchange of deep, dark secrets, that we all desperately wanted to write about and share.

I decided I wanted to write my first essay to bring to the workshop from scratch.  I knew what I was going to write about - it was, indeed, something that has always haunted me, and a story I knew I had to tell.  I took one of my Wednesday mornings to myself, took my computer to Barnes and Noble, and shed many tears right there in the cafe area as the essay just poured out of me.

I'm not going to share that essay.  Here or anywhere.  It's way too personal.  But I did share it with my classmates.  And they were so helpful with their constructive criticism, so encouraging with their reaction, and so open to my story.  When it was finally my turn to talk, after everyone had had their turn to critique, I laughed that it felt like a therapy session.  And though there are things I need to edit, I have to say, it's a damn good essay.

After I wrote that essay, something clicked.  I wanted to write more.  I started outlining ideas for that weird science fiction novel I've always wanted to write.  I started a document called "ideas" where I jot down random things that come to mind for personal essays, flash fiction, or poetry.  And I started submitting my work.  The second essay I wrote for class, which, notwithstanding my proclamation on the first day, is about motherhood, is going to be published in an online literary magazine next month.  The fact that a third party is willing to publish something I wrote is both shocking and gratifying.  

You may have noticed that my writing on this blog has been dwindling.  There was a time when I wrote every day, and over time it decreased to twice a month, if I'm lucky.  But really, it's because I'm writing elsewhere.  And while I love the blog post genre, I'm ready to start experimenting with some other forms.  In two weeks, I'm taking my second writing course at the Writer's Center, called "Creative Nonfiction."  And my former classmates and I have started our own writing group, meeting for the first time at my house in two weeks.

I have no idea if anything will come of this.  Or if I even want something to - this certainly is not a lucrative past time, and perhaps I will be satisfied writing just for the sake of it.  What I do know is that I am enjoying it, and it's something I'm really passionate about.  And in my 37 years of being on this earth, I am wise enough to know that discovering a passion is a gift.

And so I write.  Just like I always wanted to.

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  1. I just wanted to say I really liked your post! I'm a lawyer who thought I was out of the legal field but now feel like I may get sucked back in. I love that you're following your passion! I want to become a nurse but sometimes it feels so daunting to change paths with a law degree dragging me down. I love to hear about (former) lawyers who're finding what their true passion is.

    1. I loved it too- I'm also a lawyer and mother who can't afford to quit between still paying off law school loans and a husband who doesn't make enough yet. I've always wanted to be a teacher but it IS daunting to change paths, especially when it might require shelling out more money for another degree. Stories like this are inspiring, and it helps to know I'm not alone in feeling dragged down by my law degree. Seeing someone successfully make a change gives us all hope!

  2. "Creative Nonfiction" sounds interesting. I am glad you are enjoying this new direction!

  3. Thank you for writing this. I DO miss your more regular posting but at the same time, I am very happy for you that you're doing what you've always wanted to do. :) I hope that one day, you will share more of the essays that you write!

  4. Bringing up your children well is the best thing you can do. And then whatever you choose to do besides that will be informed by your experience in the field of law.

  5. Tell me about a parenting coach.
    Maybe a post? I could use one!

    Nice to see you evolving. Inspiring!

    1. My parent coach is Meghan Leahy - She is beyond amazing. I can't say enough great things about her. She's expensive, but she has seriously changed my life! (And I get no freebies for saying this by the way!).

  6. i'm inspired by you, which is why i like to check in with your blog from time to time. good for you on this new direction and do tell us when and where you are being published. you've got a whole community rooting for you!


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