Finding My Path

hiking path

Six years ago next month, my first newspaper feature in more than a decade was printed in The Roanoke Times. That story marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I would attempt to add a career in writing to the swirl of raising three kids and eating local food and volunteering in my community.

I’d be lying if I claimed there were no tears or mess or crippling insecurities.I’d be deluding us all if I didn’t confess to burned dinners and forgotten children and missed deadlines and days of despair.

It’s been hard. Finding time to work. Finding the space to work. Elbowing out the distractions (looking at you laundry and social media). Freeing myself from the fears that someone might need me and I wouldn’t be there. And from the fears that I didn’t have what it took to succeed.

But the hardest part has been picking a path and staying on it.

In just the last six years, I have worked as a newspaper food writer, magazine features writer, blogger, cooking instructor, and as a marketer. I’ve dabbled in restaurant reviews and book reviews and press release writing. I’ve begun a nonfiction book for 8-12 year old readers.

I have also realized that I can’t succeed on all these fronts. And that I needed to make some choices.

But I’m not good at making choices. I’m much better at procrastinating.

I am realizing this is why there are such things as vision boards and life coaches, self-help books and personal retreats.

Me? I’ve mostly jumped in and then asked myself: Is this the best use of my skills? Is there room to stretch and grow in this space? Can I hope to make a living doing this?

All the trial-and-error has been exhausting. Certainly not efficient. But also, maybe, exactly what I needed.

Because, it helped me see more clearly the paths I did not want. It helped make me brave enough to hold tight to what was true.

I am choosing to write. Not cook. Or teach. Or move into marketing or grant writing. I am not pivoting to something more practical. Or easier. Or with more regular hours or higher pay.

For quite possibly the first time in my life, I am not factoring in the expectations of my parents or professors or bosses or peers or cultural norms. I am picking this path because the work brings me joy, because it uses my talents, because I feel I can do good while pursuing it. 

I understand that all this — the questioning, the experimenting, this very choice itself — is a luxury. Not everyone can take the time to build a creative career without the pressure of supporting a household.

But at this moment, I have been given a gift: I can turn my passion into my profession. What’s crazy is how difficult it has been for me to gratefully receive it.

Yet this is what I come back to again and again: Writing is what I’m meant to do. I may as well do it as best I can.