Who am I? What do I want from life? What do I have to give others? How do I get where I want to be?
These are just a few of the questions we all struggle with on a daily basis. There are many others, of course, but right now, for me, these are the key ones. I’ve always been aware that my choices in life are what determine my destiny. That’s not to say I’ve always made the best choices, but I’ve known that they were mine to make. So are my mistakes, and triumphs. I chose to marry my first husband, knowing that there were things that weren’t right from the beginning. After my marriage, at the tender age of 17, I thought I needed to change to become the kind of wife my husband needed. I began hiding my sadness, and for a very long time, wouldn’t admit how unhappy I’d become. I remember one instance where my husband actually claimed that he wanted “the girl I married”. My God, I’d grown up over the years. I couldn’t ever be that 17 year old girl again, nor did I want to! My two children became the reason I stayed. I told myself they needed their father, even if that father wasn’t the kind of man I wanted as a husband. I made excuses for his poor behaviour, and told myself I was being a good wife by standing behind him. In the beginning, I was too young to realize that I shouldn’t be standing behind him, I should be standing beside him.
Eventually I realized that I couldn’t change him, and no longer wanted to adapt myself to his model of an ideal wife, like his mother. I realized that nothing I did or said would change him, and nothing he did or said was a good enough reason to change myself. That’s when I decided to leave the marriage. My own parents have a strong, loving relationship, so I’d seen that relationships shouldn’t ask you to be something you’re not. Oh, they had their squabbles, lots of them, but never once did my father ask my mother to be different. This knowledge helped sustain my decision. I couldn’t be other than who I was, and as I began to grow up and into myself, that realization only solidified.
Leaving was scary though. I was striking out on my own with two young children with no financial support from my ex. The future loomed dark and frightening, but also exciting and brand new. I was finally free to discover who I was; who I wanted to be. The next dozen or so years were more than difficult as I struggled to provide for myself and my children. As a single mother living at the poverty level, you learn to make some very hard choices, and you can’t give your kids all that you wish you could. Early after our separation, my ex chose to absent himself from our lives. That was hard. It was hard to understand how and why a man would walk away from his own flesh and blood, but I knew I couldn’t change him. His choices were his choices. So I continued putting one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily on family who loved and supported me. Slowly I gained confidence and courage. I began to make better choices for myself and for my children. When I began dating again, I knew I was looking for a certain kind of man; a man who would accept me and my children as a package deal. One who wouldn’t want me to change who I was to fit his ideal model. I wanted someone kind and loving, and who shared my vision of what a family looked like.
I was seeking a partner, and so I set out on every new date, in every new relationship, looking for the qualities I knew I needed to see. I wasn’t going to try to change someone else to fit my ideal model either. He had to come prepared to meet me half way. It took a long time, but finally I did meet such a man. He came with his own baggage, three teenaged children, and a host of idiosyncrasies, but he also came with a huge heart, a loving embrace, and a willingness to walk with me through the fires ahead. He didn’t want to change me, he accepted me, even encouraged me to chase my dreams. Every time I started a new vocational venture, even when it was tenuous and far from his own experiences, he supported me. Fifteen years later, he still does.
By the time I began writing, and made the decision to become a full-time writer, I had gained enough confidence to actually believe I could take on this nebulous, insane business and find a place in it. The more I wrote, the more convinced I became that this is what I was placed on this earth to do; communicate. Still, with little more than a love of words and stories, and a grade 10 education, I knew I had a lot learn. Along the way I’ve shed my share of tears of frustration, of disappointment, and felt the tearing insecurities every writer feels. But I go to bed and rise every morning knowing that this is what I want to do with my life. It is a conscious choice.
But even this decision is difficult when so many of my closest family and friends don’t really understand what I’m doing. When I try to share my journey, I can see from their expressions, or tone of voice, that they don’t understand. I suspect they don’t believe I have what it takes to “make it”. Some ask when I’m “going back to work”, as if what I do isn’t really work. Others scoff and ask how many writers actually make a living off their craft. They don’t understand. Recently I had a meltdown with my husband, when I broke down and cried and screamed that “They don’t think I can actually make it as a writer!”. I ranted and raved, and cried and shouted.
When I was spent, I went to lie down. That’s when I realized that I was looking for validation. I wanted to hear that other people take me and my work seriously; that they believe I have a certain talent, and because of that, I can and should succeed with my writing, and make a decent living doing it. I had chosen a path less followed, and I wanted those I care for most to appreciate what I was trying to do, and believe in me. That’s when I had another ah ha moment. I realized that it didn’t matter whether or not others understood me and my path. They loved me and supported me, for me, not for what I was doing. That had to be good enough. I have to release my expectations of other people, and continue walking my own path. I’m grateful for those who love and support me, and for the few who truly do “get it”, they are the wind beneath my wings. Not because they think I can do something remarkable, but because they will support whatever I do, just because they love me. I believe I know who I want to be in this life, and I now believe I know what I want to do with my life, but what do I have to give?
Well, I know I have a great capacity for love. I know I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me. I know I will protect those I love to the best of my ability, and I won’t walk away. During one particularly difficult time in my family’s lives, I needed to do more than stand up to the devil. I needed to kick his sorry ass to the curb. I refused to stand by and let him have those I love. Those were dark, terrible days for us all, but at least I knew I’d done what I needed to, and I’d do it again. Those days taught us all something about ourselves, and for me, it taught me the power and value of love. It also reminded me of my own courage to do what’s right, not just what’s expedient. I’m far from perfect, but this is one of the things I like most about myself.
I often claim I’m a “connector”. I tend to connect to other people, and connect people with other people. I believe we’re all connected, and each person who enters our life has a lesson to teach us, or a purpose. We’re like links in a chain. Sometimes the links remain strong and true and endure throughout a lifetime, while others weaken and drop away, but the value of each link remains vital. I guess that’s why I write. I write as another medium of connection, of communication, of linking, and because it’s another extension of my nature, it feels right. I like that.
So, I believe I know who I am, where I want to go, and what I have to offer, but how do I get where I want to be? Honestly, I’m not sure. I have learned though, that following my instincts and my heart have always lead to my best choices. When I make choices based on fear, they inevitably are the wrong ones. I have plenty of fears, plenty of baggage, and loads of insecurities, but I know I can only be me, and I can only walk my own path. I guess I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe that I’m headed in the right direction. Along the way, I’ll encounter hills and valleys, and people who will try to help, or hinder me. But I don’t know how else to proceed, except one step at a time. I’ve gotten pretty good at going over, under, around, and through obstacles, and I’m very good at surrounding myself with people who support me, even when they don’t understand me. I’ve also developed a pretty good internal GPS that keeps me moving forward. I guess it’ll have to be good enough. I’m betting my life on it.