Funny thing for a writer to say, but we all know it’s true. Self-reflection can be grueling, tiresome work. It means being brave, and being open to change.
So, I avoided it at all costs.
I’d dreamed of becoming an author since I was a child, clutching tight to my copy of A Wrinkle in Time and vowing that one day, I would create something equally magical. Yet by the time I got to college, it was deceptively easy to convince myself that my desire was a silly thing. Unattainable. Impractical.
Life’s trials piled on—the loss of my father, my mother’s first battle with cancer, the pressure of deciding what the hell to do with the rest of my life. I stumbled into teaching, and then academic advising. I dedicated myself to helping teens discover their passions, while in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t following my own passion.
My students, God bless them, were all bright, lovely, wonderful, intelligent people—even those who were uniquely talented at driving me up the wall. Often, in the course of discussing college and career options, my students would look at me and ask, “What made you want to do this?” As if they couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to work in a high school. And while I did enjoy working with them—their exuberance for life was infections, the question never failed to make me feel like a hypocrite. I expected these kids to sit down with me and work through all these tough, introspective questions, when I myself had neglected to do so. The irony of the situation was not lost on me.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a bad student. I wasn’t unhappy with my life, and I didn’t dislike my job. Yet there is a difference between being good at what you do and finding the thing that makes you tick.
Thanks in large part to the inspiration of my students, and of course my husband’s loving, gentle encouragement, I finally started writing.
To be honest, it was rather terrifying at first. I still remember opening up a new document in word, staring at the blank page and that damn blinking cursor while the snide voice in my head said, See? You have nothing to say.
But I knew that wasn’t true. So I gave him the finger and pushed on.
As an English teacher, I walked my freshmen classes through many a creative writing exercise. I stood at the whiteboard and cited scientific studies linking writing in longhand to unleashing creativity, positive thought, and increases in neural activity.
Funny, then, that I sat there with my own pen and paper, thinking some of the same complaints that they’d often lobbed at me.
I don’t know what to write.
What’s the point?
This is so effing hard.
Why am I doing this, again?
Yet every time I shoved those voices aside, I found that my soul felt full, in a way that it hadn’t it a long, long time.
Again, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel complete or happy before. It was that in finding a thing that gave me so much freedom and joy, I was left wondering why the hell I’d laid it aside in the first place.
Self-doubt is crippling. As is fear. And that little, incessant voice who keeps whispering that you’re being selfish, for claiming time for yourself? Yeah, he should be shot.
We all have duties and responsibilities, but we shouldn’t lay aside our aspirations because of them. If becoming a mother has taught me anything, it’s that I cannot be the person my daughter needs me to be, if I am not taking the necessary steps to care for myself. Writing has become one of those steps. And the more I write, the more I realize introspection isn’t so scary, after all.
Jesse Weiner writes both fiction and non-fiction. She graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with dual degrees in English and International Affairs. Her favorite things include hiking, photography, travel, cooking, and coffee.
This blog was first published on Amy Rivers‘ wonderful blog. Check it out!