This morning a friend sent me news of a college classmate who has an MFA and my familiar rising jealousy of his degree was smaller than before. I know that’s because I spent an hour or so this weekend deleting computer files from 1999 to 2013. Oh, what I discovered! I forgot all the places I wrote for, including the articles I wrote about child development when my oldest was a baby. This cleaning up of my old computer showed me all the striving I have done to meet my goals of becoming a good writer and parent.
In the vacuum that is the now, I usually recall goals not reached when I read about successful writers. Jealousy hits me when I read of someone who has an MFA. But I spend part of Sunday wading through all the documents that make up my writing and parenting life. The organizations that I wrote articles for long ago: I saw those alongside all of the essays and poetry that lives within my computer’s memory. I saw all the research I did in my quest to become the best parent I could be, too. As I practiced my writing, I was also on a quest to parent my daughters well.
I think I’m ready to stop wondering what would have happened if I had gotten an MFA. Why do we always want what we haven’t got? Why do we look at shiny stories about people we don’t even know and wonder what our lives would be like if we had traveled on their roads? We don’t even know their roads. I’m guessing in the middle of the night they also wonder about the degree not achieved and hurts I can’t even begin to imagine. But the Q&A looks so fancy, their degrees and accomplishments sound so impressive.
It’s taken me so long to know I don’t know what their lives are really like. Which is weird, since I interview people for work all the time. I’ve forgotten that I’m not asking them about what keeps them up at night, their regrets, their paths not taken. I’m writing articles that celebrate their achievements. These are short pieces that don’t have the word count needed to explore their hardships and demons.
Lately I’ve been interviewing people for my own purposes: to explore work options as my youngest child now needs me less. Now I am hearing about paths takes alongside hardships. I’m hearing about how no one has it all, and here’s how they weighed money versus time, corporate in-house jobs versus freelancing. People have taught me about key word resumes, linked-in profiles, the world of grant writing; how they’ve not gotten the desired job; and how they have landed a job because of who they know. One person admitted they are now throwing pots, taking a break after their job search didn’t lead where they wanted it to lead. I’ve heard about using horoscopes and intentions, jobs taken for benefits and how some in-office jobs offer a ton more encouragement than working at home as a freelance writer and editor does.
Through all of this, I’ve begin to think about that parenting part of the puzzle. How when I started to prep for interviews this fall, I was so annoyed that it felt like I couldn’t tell people about my proudest accomplishments: parenting my girls. I mentioned this to a friend I met with last week to talk about work. Of course you can mention that, she said, it’s all about how you spin it. Holy crap, I can talk about all the articles I have researched and written to answer my parenting questions. The years I spent helping Annie that led to me writing about learning issues that in turn helped other parents and caregivers. All the angst-filled essays I wrote about my journey with Annie: those in turn gave other people a place to grieve and rest in. Ahh: synthesis.
This is why my jealousy over that MFA-path-not-taken is finally fading. I’ve seen all the articles I’ve written since I became a writer that have taught me how to be a writer. Yesterday, I deleted files that contained articles I wrote about child development and parenting that helped me and others become the parents we want to be. It reminds me of what a high school teacher told me once about my journey to be a writer. He heard Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of “Women Who Runs with the Wolves,” speak one night. The next day he told me I was like her: I would need experience to have something to write about. Oh, yes, I’m in that sweet spot now. I’m ready to be the writer I always dreamed of being. I’m her, I’m here, I’m a writer (and the parent I want to be). Ah, life, you taught me well.