I have been going through a bit of a mid-life crisis (people have corrected me and called it a third-life-crisis, but really, how could we know?). Staying home for the past two years has been a nice sabbatical from full-time work, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always known I would go back, one day. But to what?
After a bad experience working in HR, I would like to stay as far away from that as humanly possible. I’m too old to teach new tricks to (I’m not, but recruiters will see it that way). No one wants to hire a thirty-something with no relevant experience into a decent-paying job. Maybe I could do sales of some sort, but only the non-pushy, relationship-building type. Or I could own a little coffee stand somewhere, but the risk involved, the stress of profit and loss…never mind. I’ll just buy my coffee instead.
The only thing I would want to do for the rest of my working days is to do what I do even when I’m not being paid for work: writing. Of course I’d love to be a published author who can write from the comfort of my own home, while being around for my boys to make them homemade cookies for after school. I’d love to be around for PTA meetings and soccer games. If they ever need to stay home sick, I will be here hogging the remote and making sure they don’t pull a Ferris Bueller. I will be Beverly Goldberg, but the one who gets paid. And in addition to being around for my kids, I’ll be able to do what I love. I will create characters and conversations and scenes and write into existence what was only in my mind before. It’s a win-win.
If only we could all just become published writers with book deals, though. If only it was that easy. Writing is one of the few professions where you don’t get paid until after you’ve finished all the work. And even then, you might never get paid. You might just submit your work to him and her, here and there, hoping that one editor or editor’s assistant somewhere will get you. When I tell people I want to be a writer, they look at me with their eyes squinted, cheeks pulled up to their eye sockets like it is an impossible pipe dream. I know that is supposed to deter me, but it hasn’t. What it has done, however, is made me consider a fallback, you know, just in case, not that I’ll need it.
Last fall, midway through my mid-life crisis, I applied for grad school. I applied not really knowing whether I’d get in, but just wanting to see if the door was open, if the option was viable. I felt like a child in an adult’s world, answering “N/A” on all the questions of my publications and providing my meager resume with a pleading Statement of Purpose: “Although my resume might not be impressive (OK, I know it isn’t), I’m hoping you see my passion, candor, and earnestness and translate that into potential.” I provided a writing sample – 30 pages of the novel I’ve been writing – which I knew would be my only hope.
Two weeks ago, I got a call. It was the Associate Director for the MFA in Writing program and she was excited to welcome me into their grad program. So it was a viable option. The news was exciting, even though I hadn’t accepted or declined, hadn’t worked out logistics like childcare and payment. I hadn’t asked Steve how we were going to manage both of us in grad school before our kids were in school. But I knew it was what I wanted. I want to be in a community of writers, to have my work critiqued, to hone my skill and to write with the fervency I did during my undergrad years. And when it was finished, maybe I would have a book deal. Or maybe, I would use my degree for my fallback idea, which is to teach writing. Those who can’t do, teach, after all.
Last weekend, Steve and I went out to eat and I asked him what he thought. Should I do it? He was hesitant, as he should have been. After all, I already have a degree in writing, what good will a second one do me? But this time, I have a plan. This time, I know what real life entails and I am more equipped to handle the stark reality of it. Steve and I have this relationship where we push each other to become better versions of ourselves, and because of that, and because he saw it was what I really wanted, he told me I should go for it.
So here I am, again feeling like a child in an adult’s world, applying for scholarships, trying to make sense of student loans. I am filling out immunization forms and trying to track down my advisor. I am learning already that I am capable of more than what I was doing. And isn’t that what becoming a better version of ourselves is, really? Shedding old skins and growing new ones for the new seasons we find ourselves in, adapting always. Growing older, yes, but because we’re growing.