With the kids back in school now, I’ve been facing a bit of an identity crisis. Sort of like an early version of empty-nest syndrome, I suppose. I’d steeled myself for years to come of homeschooling, long kissed goodbye the idea of solo trips to the doctor, the grocery store (…the bathroom. Well, maybe not that now that the kids are bigger. And our bathroom doors lock.), and then everything changed. The kids are in school now and doing fine. Me? Not so much.
So, I’ve been on a “what now” mission, trying to figure out what to do with all this “free time” now that the kids are away to school from 7:30am to 3:50pm. I’m not having an easy time of it. I started out looking for a little gainful employment, but found that most employers don’t have hours conducive to my schedule, and I’m loath to be gone from them the few precious hours they are home -so, square one on that idea.
Then, it occurred to me, I used to have this wild idea of finishing college once the kids were all old enough to be in school themselves. That, of course, was before I wrapped my brain around the idea of how much it costs to send three children to Christian school, oh -and feed, clothe, and house them. Not much left there for college tuition and books. Nevertheless, I proceeded undaunted through the FAFSA form, and found that the federal government agreed that I was, indeed, impoverished enough (still) to be deserving of some aid. Long story short, I found that financial serendipity was on my side, and it looks like I will at least be able to begin classes at Dordt in January, just in time to get in on the last class Prof. Schaap will be teaching. Fiction writing. Which is wonderful, because, well, I’m allergic to fiction. I flew one Grace Livingston Hill novel too many over the cuckoo’s nest in high school and, like a kid who’s eaten too much of something sweet and can no longer bear to look at it, now I’m spoiled to enjoying it at all, let alone writing it. As to this class? I anticipate joyous, enthusiastic, messy, spectacular failure. You’d think I’d have learned from my ceramics class disaster. Ceramics. The one thing I used to think I was “naturally” good at when it came to art. (sigh) Until, that is, I actually did it in college. My pieces in that class (the ones that didn’t have an unfortunate meeting with the floor or the “wailing wall”) were a marvelous example of passionately produced mediocrity. I left that class humbled and profoundly discouraged.
It was probably after that class, actually, that I had my memorable encounter with Prof. Alberda in the hall of the art building. She stopped me to comment (favorably) on a piece I’d written for the college paper, and we got talking a bit about it when she asked me if I’d considered journalism as a career.
Being one of twelve (TWELVE!) art students in a college of a thousand students at the time, I was under the impression that the department sort of couldn’t afford to lose one more, so I took the comment very much as a backhanded compliment and left scratching my head and pondering the fact that maybe putting all my art projects to the last thing I did in the day (precipitating the need to just about literally camp out in the art building the last two weeks of any given semester finishing them), was maybe not so wise, and was perhaps an indication that I might, indeed, find more fulfillment elsewhere. Well, that last part went through my subconscious, but I didn’t really allow it to go any further forward. I’d already mourned the loss of my future as an educator after one (count ’em) education class. I wasn’t about to let go of my one last hope of a career plan that easily.
But, eventually, after working relatively successfully as a production artist for several years, I did. I accepted the fact that I really don’t enjoy creation “ex nihilo” so to speak as much as I do tweaking others’ artwork and solving problems. I’m more of a scientist than an artist. And that’s okay.
And then I became a mom, and learned all sorts of new talents and skills along the way, including getting to fill that desire to teach for a little bit. And I started writing a little here and there again. In Arizona, we took a class called “Charting Your Course,” during which I realized that the knack I have for metaphor and analogy and my love of reading and words might not be an accident after all. There might be something to this. So, the blog was born, and that’s about as far as anything got. Until now.
So, I went back to Dordt last week, wandered halls that were only half familiar, and wished Prof. Alberda were still there so I could thank her for her guidance in the form of a backhanded compliment, but she’s since retired, and probably wouldn’t remember me, let alone the comment she made about twenty years ago. Sometimes the way is right in front of you, and you almost miss it.