For the last two weeks I've been in Halifax. Away from my kids. My house. My boyfriend, friends, family. And did I mention my kids?
Perhaps the hardest part about being a mom is leaving your kids, tearing yourself in half, whether for an MFA residency, like I'm doing, or even just to travel or go to work each day. Parenthood is a juggling act, and some days we are better at balancing than others.
Over these last two weeks, I haven't had to balance anything at all. Every minute of every day has been about working toward my master's degree. I go to class. I read. I write. I read and write some more. And when I'm not reading and writing, I'm discussing it with my mentors and classmates.
It might sound boring, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm surrounded by people who have the most fascinating lives, people who have lived, who have talents and experiences I couldn't imagine. And they are willing to expose themselves, put it in writing, share, which is the most vulnerable experience of all. This isn't the kind of group that mocks one another, or hopes others fail so we can succeed. It's been the most positive, supportive environment, where we help one another, listen, and push one another forward. We know there will be room on the book shelves for all of our books. We plan to attend one another's book launches. To buy one another's books.
I might take it for granted, but I can write.
As social as it is, being in university, living in residence, going to class and workshopping our pieces in small groups, it's also been a time of introspection. I often suffer from insecurity, and this is especially the case with my writing. It can be a lonely kind of job, sitting at my desk alone, writing about my life and my experiences. Who is ever going to want to read this? I'll ask myself. I'm boring. What was I thinking taking on a piece of personal journalism? I preface everything I share with, "I tried my best, but I'm worried it's not funny or good, so please let me know if you have any feedback."
Last week, a classmate called me out on it in the kindest most caring way. He asked me why I'm so insecure. He suggested I really look within myself to better understand why I think I don't deserve to be here. Why I don't deserve to have people like my book.
It's made me think. I had a fairly normal happy childhood. Nothing out of the ordinary or traumatic ever happened. Was it my divorce that did this to me? Am I reacting to the feeling of wanting to be liked? Am I scared I'm not talented? That if I don't get a book published I have no other fall back plan because this is the only thing I've ever wanted to do? Am I afraid of being rejected? Of exposing my fears to the world and being laughed at or called boring?
I've been trying since then to have a new attitude. To be positive and hopeful. I might take it for granted, but I can write. And my book is good. It's funny and emotional and most of all I think people will be able to relate. It might never be a best seller or win an award. I don't think I'm that kind of literary writer, like Margaret Atwood. I am proud of what I've done. If I'm persistent, if I think positively, maybe my manuscript will become a book. And if this one ends up in a drawer, I'll write a new one because it's the only thing I want to do. There's no choice in the matter.
So you see why I'm in Halifax and not at home for two weeks. I speak to my kids each day. I see their little faces on FaceTime and I want to kiss them through the screen. I know how they feel and smell and I ache to hug and kiss them. But I can't. Not yet.
I'm still here, living in a dorm room, attending classes, and writing a book. I have to do this for myself and my kids. They need a mom who is happy and fulfilled. Who sets goals and achieves them. Whose life isn't all about them. Who isn't afraid to lack balance sometimes, or tear herself in half when needed.
This degree, this book, is like my RRSP. I'm presently planning for the future. And I must be present. As hard as it is, I must persevere. When I graduate, I want my kids to be at the ceremony, to see me in my hood and gown, clutching my degree, and one day, perhaps even my book.
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