Saturday, December 7, 2013

How I Got Here From There


I used to write a blog here. I did it as a way to process being a new parent, which then evolved into writing about my decision to get a divorce and the aftermath of co-parenting with an ex-spouse. I stopped writing there mainly because I felt like I had a handle on those things and I didn't have anything original to say on those topics.

A few weeks ago I re-read the later entries that focused on the decision to leave my marriage. Reliving those moments felt very similar to the decision I made a year ago to get serious about my writing. When you're in a miserable marriage you accumulate tiny moments of clarity, hoarding them, trying to make some sense out of them. You lay them out sequentially, hoping they will add up to reveal the answer to a question you don't dare ask aloud. I worked hard to convince myself I was happy enough, that living with someone I didn't really like or respect was good enough. But those moments of clarity accumulated until I had so many I couldn't ignore them any more, and I knew I was living a version of my life that needed to end so the next part could begin.

People often ask, "How did you know you wanted a divorce?" My answer is always the same. "You won't know until you know." There will be one incident, one irretrievable moment when you will just know you're done. Once I made the decision to be on that path, however winding and uncertain it seemed, I was ready to commit to it and next steps unfurled before me.

The decision to get serious about writing happened in much the same way. I've been a teacher for sixteen years. Before that, I wrote and worked at a university. I took creative writing classes through both UCLA and Berkeley, writing, submitting intermittently, and failing.  I was on that path, but I wasn't ready for the work and stamina it required, so I fell into something comfortable and safe. Teaching was hard in a different way, but it was predictable and an enjoyable way to spend my days. I'm a good teacher on most days, and some days I'm a great one. Though it's not my passion, I convinced myself it was good enough, that I was happy enough.

I didn't know I was ready to do something else until a year ago when someone asked me to describe my dreamiest day. I listed all of the predictable things: Sleeping in, reading, going out to lunch or dinner with friends, having time to exercise. But once my dream day was over I'd be back to my regular life and work, which made me angry and resentful. Happy enough was no longer enough. So I went back and re-framed the question, asking instead to describe my dreamiest life. What I came up with wasn't a surprise. I've always known I would write, and it seemed the time to sit down and actually do it had finally arrived. Those accumulated moments of clarity about what my life was supposed to look and feel like came together, and suddenly I knew. Like my divorce, once I realized what needed to happen, I got busy making that vision a reality as quickly and systematically as I could.

 I wasn't ready to commit to being a writer, until one day, I was.

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