I have four children, the youngest of whom is around 18 months when this story begins. I used to be a teacher, before I had kids; I taught junior high and high school, and before that I worked in health promotion in elementary schools. While raising kids I did some child minding and ran a small business of my own for a while, but I haven’t been meaningfully employed in what feels like a very long time.
With my last baby not being a baby anymore, I begin to consider that it might be time to go back to work. So I fire up the old resume and cover letter. My spouse is self employed, and I decide that even if I end up just doing some substitute teaching, it may be time to let my other half do some of the child minding for a while as it’s been my job for so long.
I write two full application packages, complete with cover letters and resumes and really, truly excellent letters of reference. And I do mean excellent; one of them actually brought me to tears. I send off a package to two school districts, and I also apply by email for a separate, independent gig that matches my skillset perfectly.
While I wait to hear back, I take out my tarot cards, because I’m that kind of witchy hippy flower child lady. And I shuffle them slowly, thinking hard about my job applications and wondering what kind of stellar advice the cards may deal about my hunt for employment.
I cut the deck.
It’s the Five of Cups.
In my deck, the Five of Cups depicts a young woman standing on a hillside near a lake, wrapped in a gold and navy blanket, her body facing away from the viewer, looking back over her shoulder. Her expression is mixed; a little fear, a little concern, and a little pride all mingle in her eyes. At her feet are five wine goblets: Three of them lay on their sides in the grass, spilling their contents to the ground.
Three job applications, three fallen cups.
I frown to myself, thinking that doesn’t seem like a very good portent.
And as months pass, nothing happens. I don’t even hear a sniff of reply to my resumes, beyond ‘We’ve received your application’ – and that was only from one of the three jobs.
As my littlest has grown, I’m beginning to have a little more time to myself, and starting to feel like I should be doing something productive with that time – whatever that means. So I dig way back deep in my past, all the way back to my Phys. Ed. degree, and I decide to start exercising. Each nap time I commit to a workout and a healthy lunch, and I’m doing well and feeling great. It feels good to spend some time on myself. I buy a FitBit and track my steps, I drink water.
I’m taking my kids to the park. My eldest three trot excitedly ahead of me and my littlest is in the carrier on my back. Up ahead we have to cross the street, and I call to the kids to wait for me. They are sometimes good listeners and I’m lucky because today is one of those times, and we cross the street ‘sort of together’.
A car pulls a loop beside us, driving up to the community mailbox on the other side of the street. An elderly gentleman calls out his window to me, ‘My you have your hands full!’
I have not yet stepped up the curb. As I try to step up the curb I also try to cleverly respond, ‘Yes, and also my heart!’
I cannot cleverly step up the curb and cleverly make parenting retorts at the same time.
I not-so-cleverly fall, sitting my own weight and the weight of the toddler on my back directly onto the fifth metatarsal of my foot.
I wear an air boot on my broken foot for two weeks, and it is painful to walk for two more weeks after that.
I don’t feel much like exercising anymore.
I check my email. It has been several months since I attempted to send out a job application. I fat-thumb accidental-tap into my outbox.
Blinking there, unsent, is the job application for the independent gig.
I explore the contents of a box of things from my childhood. This box has sat unopened in my closet through at least three moves, and I decide it’s time to deal with it.
Inside the box is a fat envelope of writing from my teen years. Some of it is absolute teen angst trash. But in among the angst and misplaced lust, there is actually some really good writing.
I share a poem on Facebook. It is cute; we laugh.
I recycle the stack of writing.
Two of my children are attending school now and I start to feel again the desire to fill my day with something more than children and house-wifery. I imagine what other kind of work I could possibly do while continuing to fulfill my role at home.
I remember my recycled stack of writing, and it dawns on me that I used to really like writing and I used to be pretty good at it, and the upfront investment on writing is pretty low. I think ‘maybe I’ll write a book’.
I promptly talk myself out of it because ‘I don’t have writing skills or an idea or a story to tell and who am I to write a book?’
But I’m a fairly cocky lady, so I say ‘self, you’re doing this thing.’ I decide I will draw a tarot card (witchy hippy flower child lady) each day and just do some free writing. Just practice, based on what I see in the card and what that stirs up inside me. Just practice. I’ll edit them, and work on my skills and grammar.
Practice makes perfect, right?
So I shuffle the cards and cut the deck with a notebook and a laptop in front of me, ready to spill some words.
And it’s the five of cups again.
‘That seems serendipitous’ I tell myself. And I begin the writing exercise.
And before I know it, the ‘writing exercise’ is seventy thousand words, and there’s so much more story to tell about this world and these characters.
I gleefully announce to the world of Social Media, ‘World! I have written a book!’ I wear my baby-who-isn’t-a-baby on my back, rocking her to sleep, and I receive a message from a person I know who also happens to rock babies to sleep.
‘You don’t know this about me but I am an editor, a real live editor, it is my job to edit. I like books and would love to read yours.’
Never in my life has anything ever felt so right, or fallen into place for me step by step in a visible, winding-but-unbroken chain of events.
In the end though, I realize, it’s always been books. When I taught, I was also a teacher librarian, connecting kids to content. When I was a weaver, I wove book titles like Pete the Cat and Lord of the Rings. As a mother, I read to my children more than I do almost any other parenting act; if my kids are acting foolishly, I know I can slow them with a story.
It’s taken me a long time to find this path, but it feels like the right one. And I’m welcoming you to wander it with me.