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A Case of Misplaced Identity

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When the time came that my children had both gone off to college and I was (finally!) able to do whatever I wanted, I was surprised to discover that I had no idea what whatever I wanted was. Having spent twenty years as a stay-at-home mother, I was suddenly unemployed, if you will…the things that had taken up so many hours and emotional and physical energy were no longer in my job description. Now I was a stay-at-home “looking for a job but not having much luck and not sure what comes next” middle-age woman. I was having a crisis of identity, and I was searching for a way to be part of the world that didn’t include being a mother. I never thought it would be so terrifying…but it was.

Suddenly the days stretched out ahead of me like long, empty country roads – no stop lights, no traffic signs, no directions telling me which way to go. My calendar was no longer dictated by the school schedules of my kids. My time was no longer taken up with the joys – and tedium – of being a mother. Always an early riser, my days begin at six a.m. and last until around 10:30 pm – a lot of time to fill with, well, I didn’t know what. I alternated between being grateful for the solitude, peace, and chance to take time to figure it out with being frustrated by the lack of stimulation, interaction, and responsibilities. I looked for work, but honestly, with twenty years of not much on my resume except volunteering and working part-time at our business, there weren’t employers lined up to hire me – no surprise there. I applied for over 150 jobs over the course of six months and got one request for an interview. What was surprising was how difficult this was for me. I had expected to revel in the freedom to do anything I wanted, but the truth was there wasn’t a whole lot I wanted to do – even reading my beloved books and magazines was becoming a little, um, boring.

Then I remembered that I am a writer.

At first I wasn’t clear about what that meant, and it took me months of thinking it over before I could actually say it to myself, much less to anyone else. I have always loved writing. When I was young I imagined being a journalist, and when I went to college I spent many, many hours writing both fiction and non-fiction for my writing classes. But I put it away when I graduated, because, let’s face it, making a living as a writer is pretty close to impossible, and I needed a job.

But back to my midlife stay-at-home mom what to do next crisis. I decided to begin blogging, just to see how it would feel – and it felt really, really great. I called my blog Empty House, Full Mind, for obvious reasons. At first it was just my friends and family who were reading my posts, but as I learned about the blogging community, and syndicating my writing, and Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more, my audience grew and my confidence grew along with it. I found my voice, my style, and so much satisfaction. I began reading blogs by others, and I’m consistently amazed at the range of ideas, the truth of what people say, and best of all the encouragement, positivity, and inclusion of those in the blogosphere. But still, I had a hard time saying “I am a writer,” as Dawn Storey, a fellow blogger, discusses in her post http://www.alphabetsalad.com/what-is-a-writer/. Is it ok to call yourself a writer when the most you make in any given month is just about enough for a large coffee and a bagel?

No matter, I am ready to say it now. I am a writer. I write for fun, for attention, for provocation. I write to express my opinion, to solicit the opinions of others, to spark conversation. I write to connect with the world, to be part of something, and to feel fulfilled and successful.

And I can buy myself a cup of coffee and a bagel.

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13 Responses to this article

Jane Carroll March 29, 2012 Reply

I really enjoyed your post and look forward to reading more of you entries. I felt a kindred spirit.

I always enjoyed writing but never found the time when the kids were at home. As soon as the last one was married, I started writing a book about empty nest…sort of a self-help, figuring out who you are kind of book. Sadly…it sucked…even I thought so! Then…a character named Bertha took over…and the book was all about her. It was a ton of fun to write. I’m still working fulltime…blogging…and working on a sequel.

sharongreenthal March 30, 2012 Reply

Writing a book is such a major accomplishment – it’s something I hope to do someday! Congrats on your achievement.

Dawn Storey March 29, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing this – I love getting to know my fellow bloggers a bit better, especially when it comes to how and why they decided to write!

You’ll have to share your “large coffee and a bagel” secret – so far as a writer/blogger, all I’ve done is shell out money! The day I earn my first penny from my writing will be a day of celebration indeed. :)

Thanks for the mention!

sharongreenthal March 29, 2012 Reply

Have you signed up with google adsense? Itty bitty $$ but they add up. Also blogher.com is a great place to post, and if you’re asked to join their syndication network you start making money there also.

Dawn Storey March 30, 2012

Yes re. adsense, but I haven’t seen any income from it so far. And I would die happy if BlogHer would invite me to their syndication network! I’ve had a few featured posts there, but that’s it. Something to hope for!

julie winn April 9, 2013 Reply

I’m with you Dawn! Same aspiration, same income! :) Maybe we can do the bagel and coffee together one day, when we both ‘arrive’ ! Meanwhile, I’ll check out your blog…

Fireman March 29, 2012 Reply

I’m impressed you make enough for coffee and a snack, you are my idol, hahahah.

sfiberworks March 28, 2012 Reply

interesting. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum you could say; I was always a writer, published 2 novels, professor of writing for years, THEN I had children in my 40s. You did it in the right order! :) ) enjoy that written word.

Sharon Greenthal March 28, 2012 Reply

A published author and a teacher of writing…you are my hero! Thank you for reading and commenting, it means a lot coming from someone who has made a living off of the written word!

Linda March 28, 2012 Reply

I’m kind of in the same position, but I still have kids at home. They’re now at school all day which gives me some time to think about what I want to be when I grow up. :)
I love to write too…I would love to take it in a certain direction, but for now, I think I’ll keep writing and exploring the “world of blogging.” (I’m new at blogging).

Take care!

sharongreenthal March 28, 2012 Reply

what is your blog? I’d love to take a look!

kristina0202 March 28, 2012 Reply

I love writing too. I do it for most of my classes at school and whenever I have free time at home, I write fiction. Not too many people even see it but I do it because it’s the only thing I really know how to do.

sharongreenthal March 28, 2012 Reply

What matters is that you do it for you, and it makes you feel good.

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