I'll be the first one to tell you I never imagined any of this- I never thought I would be in my late twenties, rocking two babies on the side porch of our home in the country. I never thought I would lie on my back on a blanket by a trellis of muscadine vines while my daughter played on the handmade wooden swing behind me and my son nibbled on fallen grapes.
You see, I was supposed to be the career girl.
I graduated top of my college class in only three years. I took every AP course there was available to me in high school. I stayed up late on Friday nights not because I was out partying, but because I desperately wanted to make an A+ on my Monday morning exams. Since I discovered my ability to write at an early age, I had done nothing but dream of becoming a famous author. I filled blue notebook after blue notebook with short stories, creating enough to fill up an entire cardboard box by the time I finished elementary school.
After college, I took a job as a technical writer back in my hometown. It was fulfilling and paid well enough, but it wasn't my dream job. That concept was always in the back of my mind: the "dream job." I would come home from work utterly exhausted and suffering from carpal tunnel but immediately after dinner, I would be pounding the keyboard again, working away tirelessly at the next great American novel. I was convinced that if I could just create characters that were interesting enough, charming enough and special enough, I could create a best-seller. Then, that best-seller would be turned into a cinematic treasure. Then, I would win a Pulitzer and an Oscar. It was the dream, I tell you.
I never got too far into that novel, though. Our daughter was born when I was 28 and our son came 23 months later. Suddenly, that mental urge I had to win the rat race was replaced with a maternal urge to nest and nurture my children as much as possible. I decided to stay home with them as soon as I delivered my firstborn in the hospital. I called my bosses and through tears, told them I had decided to step down. My projects, the ones I had planned on completing as soon as my maternity leave was up, would need to be given to someone else. I would be back in the office in a few weeks to pack up my desk, the one I had painted cherry red early one morning before work.
At first, I ran myself ragged: I tried to stay up and write after the kids went to sleep, I asked my parents, siblings, spouse and every friend I had to help me watch them so I could sneak away to a coffee shop a few times a week and knock out a few more pages.
The catch? I missed them like crazy when I was away.
I called constantly to check in, found myself browsing Pinterest for baby ideas more than I was actually working, and glanced at my phone every ten seconds to see if anyone had called. I even researched the legalities of installing a camera in our home to monitor my brood remotely when I was away, like we had done when we boarded our pup. It was all becoming too much and I was becoming a bit of a crazy person.
In short, I was dually consumed. I wanted to be the best writer I could possibly be, but I also wanted to be the best mother. I wasn't quite 30 and I was feeling the strain of a lifetime of commitments. I woke up one morning, however, with clarity.
At least for the time being, these are my characters. This is my story. No, the tale will never leave the confines of my heart and no one will ever read about us at the local bookstore. We won't go down in history for flying a kite in the backfield at two in the afternoon, while the pecan tree blows in the breeze and clothes dry on the line. No one will settle in with a cup of coffee and delve into the story about how we went to the library every Thursday, the same barbecue restaurant for chicken and dumplings every Tuesday, and the playground almost every evening in the summer of 2017.
But as the writer and the teller of these moments, I can't help but be so richly rewarded by them.
I may have given up my career temporarily, but the fact is that the keyboard will always be there, waiting for when I'm ready to pick it back up again. I have no doubt that the day will come when I am, indeed, ready. For now, though? I'm content to move from narrator to observer for the time being. I'll observe how the morning sunlight streams in through his hair when he's just stirring in his crib. I'll notice how her dimples show up when she's laughing with her head thrown back, hanging onto the monkey bars.
As my favorite song goes: "My only excuse for not doing enough? I was too busy being in love."