I know exactly what she meant.
I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. Thirty. Years. *gulp* How have so many years piled up behind me so quickly? After graduation, I’d planned to go to nursing school and eventually marry my boyfriend. I also liked computers and writing, but my mother talked me out of pursuing either interest as a career track. She worried my math skills – or lack thereof – would prevent me from being good at computer programming and obsessed I’d starve as a writer. So I did the practical thing.
And hated it.
Oh, not school. I loved school. I hated people dying. School didn’t prepare me for that and as a result, I came home from my clinical classes entirely gutted. The day I decided to quit nursing school was the day two babies in the NICU struggled to live – one born full-term to a drug-addicted mother who abandoned her at the hospital and the other, a tiny preemie who fit in the palm of my hand, born to parents who wanted him so damn badly, they’d have donated their hearts if he’d needed them. I couldn’t do anything but stand over their Isolettes and cry.
I left school in my second year and drifted around aimlessly for years. I got married. I worked in a series of dead-end, low-paying jobs. I had a baby. I finally noticed that I was almost thirty years old and had nothing in my life that was truly mine. I eventually returned to college, finished first an AS degree and then a BS degree in computer science. It wasn’t easy completing degree requirements while working full time. I had to plan meticulously when I’d do homework, housework, and of course, day job work. I knew it was going to take me at least six years to complete the undergrad requirements and though that sounds daunting, I kept reminding myself that those six years were going to pass by no matter what – why can’t I hold a degree in my hands when they do?
|Mom and me on the day I graduated with my A.S degree.|
I stuck to my plan and when six years passed, I had a degree to hold. My newly-minted degree opened doors to me but my mom was right; I wasn’t a great computer programmer. I eventually managed to land a job that combined two of my favorite interests – computers and writing – and make good money doing it. I’ve worked as a technical writer since the late nineties and love it. Technical writing is miles off-target compared to nursing school, but I can’t help thinking that nursing school was never what I should have planned in the first place.
More years passed.
I started writing fiction as a way to unwind after a long day dealing with capricious software. I’d always dreamed of being a published author, but Mom insisted I’d never make any money at it. For a long time, I thought she was right because I could never seem to finish a novel. For years, I tried. When my son dared me to finish a novel, I finally decided just winging it wasn’t working. Maybe I could do it if I approached it like every other life goal – I broke it into small achievable chunks. How much time could I spend writing? How many words could I write in those blocks of time? I calculated I could finish the project by Christmas. I stuck to my plan and Penalty Killer made it into a gift-wrapped box in time to go under the tree that year. It was never published, but that’s okay. I’d finally finished a novel. That was my goal.
That goal, in turn, resurrected an older one – become a published author. I studied my craft. I wrote more novels. I learned how to query and sign with an agent and last year, SEND was released. Seeing that book on a store shelf was as emotional as the day I held my first born child in my arms.
So even though it took longer than I’d planned to get here, this was my plan all along. At my age, I have a lot more years behind me than I do ahead of me. And that’s okay. I won’t die with regrets.