Maybe It’s Enough

Reading Time: 8 minutes

When I was little, adults often got caught out when they asked the all-too-common question, “what grade are you in?” I was educated at home by my parents until I was 9 years-old and only started school in Grade 5. So, the querying adults tended to move on quickly to the also-rather-standard: “how old are you?” If conversation progressed enough, we then meandered into the equally scintillating realm of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

And, I would answer: “A writer and a mom.”

And I meant it.
That was what I wanted.

I never skipped a beat when I replied. I wasn’t speaking from a rote place just to keep the boring grown-ups at bay. That’s what I truly wanted to be and the words came from a real place inside me.

As time has passed, and my scant number of longterm relationships have failed, I cannot help but wonder if I should have gone with something like “A writer, a mom, and one half of a truly solid, loving, supportive, reciprocal, and fun domestic partnership…” Because doing all of the things I’ve done day-by-day without being someone’s priority and the pleasure and privilege of prioritizing someone besides my son, can be kind of exhausting.

Oh well. C’est la vie.

I was little. I saw what I saw, wanted what I wanted, manifested what I manifested.

Flash forward a whole bunch of years and I am at the Canada Post pick-up spot for my neighbourhood trading a delivery notice for a package. I thought the package was a couple of books and other items I’d ordered and was really excited to get, but the box in my hand was unaccountably small. It just couldn’t be what I’d ordered but I couldn’t think of what else it might be.

I was with my son when I got it, having forced his then-cresting-into-adolescence self out on a walk with me. We sat on a bench in the bigger box strip mall courtyard overlooking a teeming parking lot and I opened the package to find the book that contains the only peer-reviewed publication I ever published in my 7 years of graduate school (3 part-time years to get a master’s, 4 full-time ones to finish coursework and do many other things for a PhD before I decided to withdraw from the program). In my hand was a hardback volume with a nondescript cover. The chapter where I share the writing credit with my friend/former PhD supervisor is a longer one toward the end of the book.

I am extremely proud of the deep heart-and-soul work we did together and so grateful that I got to share in it and the writing of the chapter was its own distinct part of that journey. Every word got written between co-teaching 55 students, my advisor moving house, juggling all the pieces of her professorial job, all the complexities of her not-small family, me scrambling to keep up with my commitments to my son, to my personal graduate work, to my friends, to the Graduate Student Association. My advisor and I were both fried and full of a strained and borderline hysterical laughter when we hit send on the first draft just as students were walking in for that week’s class.

All of this to say that the chapter we wrote matters and came from a beautiful and also completely real place.

As I was sitting there on that bench with my son (= MOM) holding my first *officially* published work (=WRITER), I remembered one of the punchier and more hilarious edit sessions she and I had had in the pub that was just to my left in the same strip mall and I laughed. I was also stunned to realize that as much as it meant to me to share the unveiling of this “published writing” with my son, I’d actually never felt less like a writer than I did in that moment.

Never. Not even in the driest of creative dry spells I’d ever experienced.

I had felt like more of writer when all I ever did was write short stories and screenplays by myself in my London flat while my then-partner was at work.

I had felt like more of a writer when I was in a screenwriting workshop offering endless words of peer review and penning my own works for feedback but never even entering a contest no-less trying to get an agent or reach out to a production company.

I had felt like more of a writer staying up until the wee hours writing blog posts that were maybe seen by 70 people, actually read by approximately 10.

I had felt like more of a writer when I was 10, had an electric typewriter, and always wrote myself as a redheaded girl with long legs named Alexandra.

I had felt like more of a writer on a long walk thinking about writing.

When I was that very young girl who said “writer and a mom” I had never imagined being an academic writer. I had imagined pretty covers and words printed on good paper. Colourful children’s books with rich, compelling illustrations to lose myself in; a book that looked and felt good in the hand. As I aged, I suspect – if pressed – I would have said I wanted to publish fiction, personal narratives, rants and ravings. Poetry has always just sort of claimed me like a virulent stomach flu that sends you straight to the loo without any choice, but I’ve written it all my life. Screenwriting. Vague, terrible attempts at play-writing. With or without full awareness or the right words to say so, these things were what I meant when I said “writer” which was why I was so clear that this book in my hand just wasn’t “it…”

I have never been very good at the “put my work/self in the world” thing. A false positive extrovert, I’m actually quite introverted and require a lot of solo and down time. Add some healthy doses of perfectionism and fear-of-failure in there – plus a significant amount of privilege that I feel has absolutely affected my definition of “hustle” – and I have lived many-a-phase where I have found sick solace in the idea that “I’ve never really tried, so who knows if I could succeed or not?”

This said, I have also lived phases where I researched literary journals and filled-out many a “SASE” (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope). I even received some interesting, hand written, and thoughtfully personalized feedback along with the poorly cropped check-box rejection slips. No one ever said, “Yes! We love it! We’re publishing it!” But, as I found out later from more experienced humans, I got some of the better rejections you can get when trying to peddle your fictional wares.

Even though one of the happiest times in my life was when I sometimes wrote 10 hours a day in London, there is this massive battle that has always raged in me – a battle as cliché as the questions adults ask children – about how the deep love and foundational peace I feel when I write just can’t be “enough.”

Along with many others, I have long felt a pressure to have some socially validated “career.” From the ethics and intensity of my father, I feel I’m supposed to be a hands-on advocate for people who need another set of hands to solve a problem, or to defend themselves against wrongness. Or, from the creative passion of my mother, I feel I’m supposed to be a natural researcher reading countless books on infinite subjects and making sure my family and friends have as much information as possible to live well. Or, from the fierce strength and capacity of my sister, that I’m supposed to be exceptional at reaching out to people and getting them to work with me to get what needs to get done, done.

Yet another type of cliché – it feels as though I am always failing because I’m supposed to be something and someone else.

I’m supposed to be a professor (but left my PhD program at least in part because a traditional professorial or academic life was very unappealing);
I’m supposed to be a mainstream classroom teacher (even though I do not have a teaching degree and would probably get fired for some kind of insubordination);
I’m supposed to be a lawyer (but I walked out of the LSAT to try my hand at acting instead);
I’m supposed to be a therapist (because I’ve been told many times by credible and credentialed humans that I would be good at it);
I’m supposed to have buckled down at some point and done something worthwhile that made me a decent living so my father would have known I was “okay” before he left this earth…

Though I have versions of all of these things in me – I am not these things.
I am not my father. I am not my mother. I am not my sister. (I am only intermittently solvent.)

I am a writer, though.
I am a mom.

All the advocacy, ethics, passion, desire to connect, to get things done, to help and share – it all lives in me in vital ways. Burbling, bristling, spill-all-over-myself ways.

It lives in the chapter I wrote with my friend and advisor.
It lives in this website I am building. This intentional space I am creating for myself – for anyone who might find it and find something here that has meaning to them.

And maybe it’s enough.

Maybe it’s always been enough.

The powerful lifelong compulsion to string words together as my way to contribute, to build a life, to lovingly offer what I can to the world.

It’s what my son and I do… String words together… Talk about anything and a lot of everything… Listen to song lyrics together… Sit on the floor and talk about the things that are harder to talk about… Words upon words upon words…

Maybe I am a professor and a teacher and a researcher.
Maybe I get a hell of a lot more done than I realize.

And, maybe one day I will hold my words wrapped in a truly beautiful cover, pages printed on smooth, heavy paper, and I’ll feel like the kind of writer I once imagined I would be. And, I’ll get to open that package with my son too. Maybe…

I’d like that.

For now.
This –
just this –
is enough.

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