It’s Scary

But it's scary
photo credit: tyler s miller


When you’re a kid people ask you what you want to be. As we get older that simple question expands into more specific things. Where do you want to go to college?  What will you major in? How the hell are we going to pay for that?! Once adulthood hits though, it isn’t so much a question to be answered as a quest we’re on.

It wasn’t until I hit my forties {gulp} that I really felt compelled in any way to set off on that quest. For the most part what I was, was on autopilot. Wife, mother, maker of dinners, keeper of calendars, planner of trips, czarina of mismatched socks. It all just sort of happened in the way that we take in and let out a breath. You just do it.

This isn’t to say that I hadn’t accomplished anything, or was a nobody. There were things along the way that I was proud of having done, which had nothing to do with parenting or marriage. The thing is, even those things weren’t really what I would have said I wanted to be.

In all fairness I’ve wanted to be several things in my four-plus decades {again, gulp} on this rock hurling through the void. Not the least of which was a forensic pathologist.  I was a huge fan of Quincy back in the day. I went to cooking school, opened a catering business, worked in criminal investigations and higher education, learned how to paint, sold some of the photos I’ve taken, picked up a few rudimentary language skills, and traveled the world.  None of that was wholly, me.

It may be rather romantic to say that all those things were simply steps in a journey. Each getting me closer to the quest’s end. Sorry to break it to ya, but the truth is rarely ever romantic. Whether I chose to face it or not, the fact was I’d known what I wanted to be from the age of nine and that scared me.

It’s scary to want something. Truly terrifying, in fact.

What if wanting it isn’t enough? It never is.

Beyond having to work to get this thing you long for, there is the fear of never getting there no matter how hard you work. I love to sing in the car – much to the chagrin of anyone unfortunate enough to be a passenger. I know that even if I longed to be a singer, I still couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a Birkin bag to put it in.

I can live with never singing a solo, but could I say the same if that thing I’d wanted to be since I was nine never happened? Fear is the ghost that haunts our every decision. For years I’d let it paralyze me to the point that not only would I ignore what I wanted to be, but I couldn’t even bring myself to speak the words to another living soul.

I want to be a writer.

Even typing that was scary. I know I’ll never be a Susan Jane Gilman {one of my very favorite authors}, write the great American novel, or any novel. I own the fact that my grammar and spelling are – to put it mildly– wretched.  I think though that I can tell a story, I love telling stories. Words are my narcotic, my high. Even if I can’t spell most of them.

Yesterday I took a seriously scary hairpin turn in my quest to be what I’ve always wanted. My first piece was turned in to the editor at the Washington Post who asked if I’d like to write for her a year ago this month.

It isn’t a full story, more snippets on a topic. But I did the research, made the calls, and wrote the words. My name will be on an actual check from their publishing department. Of course I also got a good friend to help me edit it before I sent it in – grammar and spelling support, a must.

Hitting send was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The most liberating, fulfilling, kick-ass keyboard stroke of my life. I may never be a known name, or even a marginally successful freelancer, but for the moment I am who I always wanted to be… a writer.

Yeah, it’s still scary.

UPDATE: You can read my first Washington Post piece here. Already working on my next assignment. And yes, it’s scary… still!



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