Next Steps

 Finding a few moments of beauty and joy in a parking lot, waiting for a mechanic to repair my car and hand me a hefty bill.  Which says it all, really. 

Finding a few moments of beauty and joy in a parking lot, waiting for a mechanic to repair my car and hand me a hefty bill.  Which says it all, really. 

As many of you know, I left my job four months ago in order to recharge, spend more time with my daughters, and figure out a new way forward.  The decision was not an easy or hasty one - it took me a good year to get my ducks in a row and get up the gumption to take the leap - but it was absolutely the right one.  The past three years have been the most challenging of my life, and I knew that if I didn't stop and prioritize my health, my family and myself, there would be dire consequences for all three.

When I left my job, my thinking was this: I'd take two months (May and June), while my kids were still in school, to rest and think and have some time to myself, and then spend the following two months (July and August) enjoying quality time with my girls.  And then...well, I wasn't sure what would come next.

Those four months played out more or less as planned.  While the spring was not as productive as I had initially imagined it would be, at least in terms of coming to any grand epiphanies about my life and putting new plans into action, it served as a much-needed restart.  Around that time, I was speaking to one of my best friends about my frustration that I was not further along in figuring out my life.  She responded by reminding me that a machine, when it is restarted, needs some time to fully shut down before it can start back up again, and she urged me to be patient with myself.  I decided, then, to ignore the grand to-do list I had written and just let go.  I wrote without quota.  I read voraciously.  I worked out and nourished my body.  I haunted coffee shops and caught up with friends.  I relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in years.

By the time the kids were out of school, I was ready to be there for them in a way I hadn't been able to be for a long time.  While not every moment was picture perfect by any stretch, my time with my kids this summer was as wonderful as I had hoped it would be.  We went to the beach and explored the city, made living room nests and watched movies, took countless trips to the library and belted out Taylor Swift tunes on car rides, slurped slushies and sidewalk-chalked the driveway.  But most importantly, I held them in my arms and kissed their freckles, eavesdropped on their early morning sister conversations before they climbed into my bed with their poking elbows and soft cheeks and giggles and complaints, listened for "just a few more minutes" and smoothed the curls out of their sleepy eyes as they shared with me their amazing 5-year-old and 7-year-old thoughts and dreams.  For the first time in a long time, I felt I had a few more minutes to give, although I was really the one who received.

The one big adventure my daughters asked for this summer (aside from taking the city bus, which was also a hit) was to go to Canada's Wonderland.  And so, on one of the hottest days of the summer and a Sunday no less, we ventured there.  And had The Best Day.  It was only later that I realized that I hadn't even flinched at the idea of taking the girls there all by myself and dealing with the crowds and the heat and the line-ups and tired little legs, a situation which, in the past, would have been far too daunting for me to even contemplate.  It hadn't occurred to me not to do it and it hadn't occurred to me to be nervous that I couldn't handle it.  I was relaxed and expected to have fun, and so we did.  This realization highlighted for me what this time has given me: it has allowed me the chance to restore my faith in myself and my ability to not only handle any challenge that comes at me but to create a happy life and joyful moments despite those challenges, whether they be the oppressive heat or obnoxious crowds or negativity or what others think or heartbreaks or disappointments.  It has allowed me to move a few steps closer to becoming the parent, and the person, I want to be.

But now, it is September, and the kids are back at school.  So now what?  A part of me has been dreading September and the questions that were waiting for me here, the main one being how I can support my family and build the life I want through a career that allows me to use my talents and do something of value.  I've spent the last few months and several sleepless nights wrestling with these questions, trying ideas on for size, researching options and hitting roadblocks, tuning into my intuition and turning away from anything my gut tells me is the wrong path for me.  I still wish to pursue a writing career; in addition to my writing here, I have finished the first draft of my children's book and it will (WILL!) be sent out to publishers by the end of this month.  And then, I'll be starting on the next, and my writing will continue to be a priority.  I have big plans for this website, and several book ideas queued up anxiously awaiting my attention.  But, as much as I would love to ignore this fact and live my creative life, there are bills to pay.  Publication is, in large part, out of my control and frankly, no one ever went into writing for the money.  Luckily, I have more to give than words alone and I'm making some progress toward fine-tuning my understanding of what those skills and talents are and figuring out a (compensated) place to put them to use.

To that end, this fall will be about testing my hypotheses and beginning to put toes in the water to give some ideas a trial run, amongst other relevant metaphors.  In addition to continuing with my writing and keeping my kids and my health front and center, I will be taking a few courses to further my education and I'm pursuing some volunteer opportunities that will help me to reconnect with my community and gain some experience in fields that I think would allow me to do important work I care about.  I'm also working with an employment counsellor and applying to positions that I think might be a good fit, both for what I'm looking for and what I can offer.  And I'm staying patient, and continuing to have faith in myself.  I have the luxury of having more time to sort things out, but I'm not taking that luxury for granted and I'm aware of the possibility that my best-laid plans may not work out as hoped.  I'm okay with that.  I think that optimism and realism can live hand in hand.

So we'll see.  That's my answer right now to all inquiries about what I'm going to do now.  We'll see.  I'm as curious as anyone.  I have these next steps in place but I have no idea where the staircase leads.  Do any of us?  What I do know is that I couldn't have done all of this and made it this far without the tremendous love and friendship around me, and I want to take this moment to thank you for continuing to read my words here and for offering me your own words of support and advice. 

I don't know what the future holds.  I don't know what I'll be doing and what my life will be like another four months from now.  But I'm more excited about that than scared because I know I can make molehills out of any mountains I may come across on my path, and I know these steps are just a small part of the journey.