I’ve begun reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I guess I should say, I’ve begun re-reading the book, as I’m fairly certain I read this (skimmed it? perused it?) while taking undergraduate creative writing courses at University of Puget Sound more than a decade ago.
I came across a paragraph in the book the other day–no less than twelve hours after a lengthy conversation with my parents about why I am so driven to pursue this writing thing–that spoke to me like a bullhorn in the ear:
“A friend once told me, ‘Trust in love and it will take you where you need to go.’ I want to add, ‘Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.’ And don’t worry too much about security. You will eventually have a deep security when you begin to do what you want. How many of us with our big salaries are actually secure anyway?”
I’m not so much of a dreamer (Andrew might differ with this) that I don’t recognize the importance of basic needs like, needing to earn enough money to put food on the table for your family, etc. And also, there isn’t a day that goes by during which I think about the huge amount of time and money I (we) invested in my PA degree with the expectation that I would have a long and fruitful career in medicine.
But, by and large, I didn’t like working in the medical field. Moreover, I didn’t love it as I thought I would. And, those things aside, I still could’ve been fine working as a PA if I hadn’t been so damned anxious every time I walked through the door to work. Let me put it this way, when a person finds herself praying, “dear God, please don’t let me kill anyone today at work,” she is either, 1) a serial killer with a conscience, or 2) in over her head in her chosen career.
Yes, I probably could find a PA job in a dermatology office or a women’s health clinic and be relatively happy with it (especially if there were a women’s health clinic in town that 1. employed PAs and 2) embraced a remotely similar philosophy about women’s health care as me) but I’m not sure I’d be happy looking at skin rashes and moles all day and I definitely won’t work in an OBGYN office that doesn’t 100% embrace the idea of gentle pregnancy, labor and birth practices.
Am I being too demanding in what I want out of a career? Probably Absolutely. But that is precisely why the Goldberg quote above resonates with me.
I did not find myself loving the work I was doing as a PA. I did not see my work taking me where I needed to go. Quite frankly, I was a miserable, anxious, depressed person when trying to fit my square self into the round hole of the medical world.
Since returning to writing (as well as teaching chilbirth preparation classes–both being extremely creative processes) I am happy. I am happy in my work. I am happy at home. I am happy on the inside and the outside. For the first time since entering the working world, I trust in the process and the direction my work is taking me in. I feel secure in this work because of how it makes me feel. I have a grand plan for what type of writing I will perform–writing that will, if all pans out, exact (or at least encourage) social change when it comes to collective societal thoughts about women, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
I plan to write strong female characters. I plan to make statements and assertations about the woman’s place at home and in the work force. I plan to influence the thoughts and perceptions of others in the sneakiest of ways (and sometimes the loudest and most obvious ways) through my writing. Through my speaking. Through my exemplification.
Perhaps this is something I could (could have) accomplished through my work as a PA. But I’ve finally come to a point in life where I’m willing to be honest with myself: I just don’t have the energy or the verve to fight that fight. I guess I’m a bit selfish and narccistic in that, I need to fight a fight that I feel gives me something back in return. My #1 job as a mother is, by and large, a selfless job. I need for whatever other role I choose to play in life to be one that evens out the balance sheet a little.
Writing and teaching does that for me. The energy I expend comes back to me in the form of satisfaction with my work, a sense of calm in my spirit and the succulent temptation to believe my work and effots will, in one way or another, last well beyond myself. Is that not a basic element of the human condition? To want our efforts to guarantee a little perpetuity?
So, at this point in my life, I am exchanging the promise of a big salary and job security for the relative unknown that encompass teaching and writing. And, in so doing, I am so much a better person. I am a better professional, a better wife, mother, friend and daughter. At least, I’d like to think so.