About a year ago I decided that life was too short to hope that one day things might change for me. Well rather than suddenly decide, it hit me like a brick, slap bang in the middle of my head. It came in the form of losing my Mum.
Prior to that, it wasn’t even really a conscious thought that I was looking for anything else. I’m blissfully happy with my husband and my children, we have everything we need. I had a job to return to after my maternity leave, as an editor in a business writing firm. That was good, great, in fact. There were things I didn’t like about it (like the commute), but mostly I was pretty happy with my job.
I’d done a Masters in Editing & Communications, so I was right on the path that I’d envisaged. Except that secretly, I really wanted to write, not edit. There were a few opportunities for me to do some writing, given it’s a writing firm that I work for, and I relished them.
But there was one issue, I was too scared to really give it a go. But those moments between my editing duties, where I got to write a feature for the website or a business magazine, I was in my element. But I had this internal dialogue going on. I’m sure some of you will recognise it.
Me: I love this writing thing. It really is what I want to do.
Other me: You’re shit! Don’t be ridiculous. Get on with your job. You have an editing deadline.
Me: I’m sure I’m not that bad, I’ve had some stuff published, surely your work doesn’t get published if you’re shit.
Other me: You’re shit. Forget it. It was a fluke.
Me: Hmmm. OK. I’m shit. Get back to your editing deadline.
And so it went. The number of times I had this internal conversation between me and myself, I can’t tell you. Then Mum died.
And yes, life really is separated into two distinct categories for me at the moment: When Mum Was Alive and After Mum Died. I got to thinking, Mum was 71 when she died; no spring chicken, but not particularly old. And I thought ‘If I die at the same stage of life that Mum did, I am over half way through my life’. That, my friends, is a very sobering thought. She still had lots of living left to do. ’Lordy’, I thought, ‘I need to make it count. From now.’
And so here I am. I still have my job as an editor, but I only do it one day a week. On another day, my youngest goes to day care and I work from home while the older two are at school, carving out my writing career. Success is elusive, but also subjective, so it’s not a metric I’m interested in measuring at this early stage. But the deep sense of satisfaction I get from doing this, I’ll boldly say, makes me a better person.
Better, in that I’m finally being honest, I can look at my husband and my children and honestly say that you must do what you love. But I can say it, and mean it, not say it but secretly wish I was doing it. It is vitally important, because you only get one chance and it is fleeting, at best.
There’s no hankering feeling anymore; and that’s a revelation. I recall a conversation with a friend, when I was telling her of my new plans to strike out on my own, doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I told her I was scared. Her response was simplistic, but completely accurate ‘It’s either fear or love that holds us back’. So when you don’t choose love, you automatically choose fear.
I get it that life is much more complex than this, but ultimately, when you distill all your reasons for not doing something important, more often that not, it is fear that’s in the driver’s seat.
While it’s never easy to learn from someone else’s experiences (life is best learned in your own boots) but if you’re open to it, I would urge you not to wait for your own ‘brick in the head’ moment. Put your fears aside and make the most of your transitory time here. It’s incredibly freeing. And the best thing about it? You choose.