“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings.” ~Hodding Carter
When I was a youngster, my parents routinely put me “in charge” of different elements of our travels–navigating London subways with my postcard-map in hand, or selecting which whale-watching boat to charter from the Cape Cod jetty. I realize now that my parents didn’t need me to perform these tasks, but my active involvement gave me a sense of responsibility and personal investment in our travels. I’ve applied this lesson with my own children, regularly putting a 10-year-old at the head of a backpacking troupe with topo-map and compass and the title of “Navigator” for the excursion. If they imagine themselves to be indispensable (as if Mom didn’t know which way to hold the chart), well, that’s fine with me. All seven of our kids now comfortably navigate travels of their own, from the second-grader biking to school to the adults with their own “Captain Kids” in the lead. Ours is a clan with a happy travelogue of shared memories.
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” ~ Anna Quindlen
We used to operate within limited lives, my husband and I—limited by the ruts of our career paths, by our addictions, by former spouses, by people’s views of us, by the “scripts” we believed we had to follow… We both started over three years ago, via the troublesome technique of first destroying everything with our addictions—we met in rehab (proof that God has a sense of humor!) and if our new life and our marriage have a theme, it would be the phrase, “Because we can.” It’s a joyful ritual of ours, this oft-repeated answer to so many questions.
Why have I covered myself with stories-in-ink? Because I can. Why do we swing-dance fully dressed under the sprinklers in a state park, or put Spam on our pizza, or go fishing in the middle of a weekday, or stop to learn the life-story of a stranger in the produce section? Because we can. So please ask me why I would cut loose from the safety of a scheduled work-week and paycheck to WRITE. Don’t ask because you don’t know the answer; ask because the answer itself is a celebration: Because I can.
Here’s a question for you (not rhetorical—if you’re reading this, I’d actually be interested in your answer). Please introduce yourself by completing the following sentence: “I am a _____.”
And here’s why I’m interested—I’m wondering if most people would automatically fill that blank with a job title. I’ve certainly done it. “I’m a school administrator.” “I’m a restaurant owner.” But although both of those were things I DID, neither of those phrases express the things I AM. Sometimes there’s an overlap –“teacher,” for example, describes both a natural inclination and a one-time profession of mine—and I suspect the most fulfilled folks are those with the most intersections between their “I-Am” and their “I-Do” descriptors.
A month ago I was sitting in the entrance booth of a state park, wearing my cute little ranger-hat and pondering how the incoming drivers would answer if I asked each of them fill in the “I-am” blank… So I grabbed my notebook and began to scribble what grew into a two-page list of words that I might use about myself. “Writer” topped the list. (“List-maker” also made an appearance.) My husband and I pow-wowed that evening and (because we can) concluded that if I wanted a job description that matched my “I-Am” list, if I wanted to write… I should.
A month later, I’m writing for an Idaho travel magazine. I’m picking up freelance jobs. Last week I was writing about Scuba-diving destinations around the globe (I AM a Research Diver). This week I’m writing 400-word blurbs about travel destinations for a car rental agency (I AM a Traveler). They aren’t glamorous gigs, but I just cashed my first-ever paycheck for writing. And because I’m at the keyboard, I’m also resuming my long-neglected practice of writing for myself. I’m relishing a life in which I’m not limited to “safe” choices. Our existence is spicier since we burned the script.