If I could have my way, I would spend my days in coffee shops, tap tap tapping away, heavy fingers on my keyboard making too much noise, the way I do. I would read a book or two each week, the good stuff. Epics, deep philosophical rants, a bit on theology and culture and always a few pieces of overwrought fiction.
I would engage in meandering conversations with old men I meet on the street and shop owners and children and women buying dresses. And then I would walk back to my chair, wherever it was, to my safe corner with my blank screen and I would write out the stories I’d heard.
(If I could have my way, I’d also be twenty pounds lighter and hire someone to do my laundry for me, too. But alas.)
Thursday night we had a talk, the six year old and me. I was propped against my heels as he stood facing the peg board on the wall. It was filled with hand-drawn pictures on cards – a dishwasher, a bathroom sink with a bucket of cleaning supplies, a toy box, a backpack placed properly on a hook.
It wasn’t that he was slacking on his chores. No, not at all. Zealously eager to be helpful, my boy had spent the week taking out the trash, loading dishes, and folding socks – effectively, he had done all of his brother’s chores and had, for the most part, left his own undone.
That button of a nose always wrinkles when he’s puzzled, and he was indeed perplexed. “But Mama? Why can’t I do those other jobs, just to help out?”
“Baby, it’s great you want to help. But if you spend all your time doing the chores of everyone else, who will do your jobs?”
If I could have my way, I’d be making a career of writing. I wouldn’t have taken a break from public insta-publishing last year, my fingers wouldn’t be rusty and my words wouldn’t creak against each other as they attempt to exit my pent-up brain.
But my days are spent on a kitchen bar stool, up and down stairs, back to the kitchen bar area and in and out from the car. I run to appointments and I stand over the stove and I make adjustments to the family budget. I spend hours, now, with my laptop in front of me, this new work-from-home gig whirling me away from the world, clicking and typing and hunching for just long enough to remind me to make a chiropractor appointment. The reasons behind this current season are myriad, but they’re valid and weighty and all tied up in this idea of nurturing future endeavors.
I’m not telling my stories, for lack of hours in the day and too much exhaustion by the time I climb into bed toward midnight. I’m not engaging in conversation with strangers on the street. I’m not spending entire days writing and I’m not in talks with agents and publishers.
Now and then (last week) I drown in pathetic doses of self pity, because, well, I’m not getting my way and it all feels a heavy sacrifice. Because, you know, my ambitions are so much more important than anything else, than everything else.
I whine for a bit. As head-in-the-clouds people pouting with a protruding bottom lip are wont to do.
And then I look hard into my own retinas and tap my forehead against the mirror and say, “Baby, it’s great you want to do All The Things. But if you spend all your time doing the Things of everyone else, who will do your jobs?”
Today I’m working, because grown ups do that sort of thing, and I’ll probably be here at the computer completing tasks and doing anything other than writing stories for most of the day. Instead of talking to rosy-cheeked children and ladies buying dresses, I’ll be listening to a five year old narrate his Hot Wheels car race. Instead of sipping coffee and staring at the wall in existentialism, I’ll be wiping a happy baby’s tiny rear and yelling at the dog to stop barking.
This is my job. It’s my job. Someday, likely, my vocation and focus will change. But now? If I’m so busy chasing the jobs of everyone else, who will do my own?