False Starts

Like many others, I have had a lot of “false starts” throughout my life when it comes to creative projects and other pursuits.

I started many novels as a youth and never made it past the first couple of chapters.

I took only two years of college– never quite settling on a chosen degree– before I left school to marry my best friend.

A few years later as a young mother I got it into my head to go back to school to become a personal trainer; I took classes for two semesters and then never even collected my certificate from the college, let alone pursue accreditation or even apply for a starting job at a gym. As much as I had loved my classes and gained personal knowledge which has been a blessing in my life, I had already come to the conclusion that personal training was not the career I wanted. I had pursued it for the wrong reasons, thinking that if I made fitness my career that it might inspire me to become more fit myself; but fitness would never be my passion. And my second child was on the way, and I knew I’d need to devote far more time to caring for two children than I had for one.

I tried the Independent Consultant angle for about a year then, but discovered that I am not a salesperson.

A couple years after I had my third child, I had been in the business of birthing and caring for babies for several years, and thought that supporting other mothers could be my passion. So I took a birth doula class and made my most valiant effort to round up clients to complete my certification requirements. I had one client, and while the experience of supporting another woman through labor and delivery was truly a special experience which I will always cherish and never forget, my inability to find any other clients before my certification period expired led me to the sad decision to not pursue that path any further.

When my youngest was four years old and starting preschool, I finally applied to become a substitute teacher for my children’s school district. Substitute teaching was the hardest job I’ve ever had; but through that job, I fell into the opportunity to work as a special education paraeducator for the past three and a half years, which is by far the longest time I’ve ever worked in a single job and I have loved it. Maybe I’d found my calling at last; I could do this job until I retired, and I could be happy.

Two summers ago, I started writing again. I began a project which I thought I would make into a serialized novel online. I created a blog, announced my plans to friends and family, and acquired a handful of followers amongst these friends. I wrote feverishly for most of the summer and produced nearly 80 pages of typed raw content. It wasn’t ready for publishing, though; and then summer ended, and I went back to work. I went through my manuscript and made a few edits here and there. The following summer I started up again with the same project; but then, for various reasons, I ended up dropping it. Maybe someday I’ll pick it up again, but I just knew the timing wasn’t right. But this false start– more than any others before– had me questioning my ability to ever follow through with anything. Who was I kidding? Even my husband was losing confidence in me after all the other things I’d tried and then dropped.

Even now, I sometimes wonder if I’m going to end up fizzling out yet again. What unforeseen roadblocks will I encounter this time? And is it really external forces that have prevented me from accomplishing my goals? Or am I just a quitter? Too wishy-washy to ever truly commit to anything?

I am not a quitter. But I do have priorities. And my priority will always be to my faith and my family first (though I do not always live this perfectly, I keep trying to do better every day), and my career second. In other words, it wasn’t that I was not committed to those other things I tried– but that I was more committed to something else.

Even now, I know that if something unexpected came up within my family which required my devoted attention, I would set down my writing “career” in a heartbeat. But even though I accept that possibility, I really hope it doesn’t come to that. In that instance, however, I have come to the conclusion that I would not call putting aside what I have accomplished so far a “false start,” but rather an “interrupted beginning.” Because at long last, I know that what I am pursuing now– a career in creative writing– is the passion I have held within me all along.

I used to tell myself that I would not pursue a career in writing, because if I did then writing would just become my “job,” and I worried it might lose its appeal. I am not worried about that any more. I will write for the rest of my life, whether it nets me thousands of dollars, or nothing more than the satisfaction of having a handful of people read my stories. I will write, whether it’s 100 words a day or 1,000 or more.

This is not a false start; it will never be a false start. Fitness was not my passion; sales was not my passion; birth support was not my passion. Writing is my passion. It’s what I do. It’s what I breathe. It’s what I think about when I have nothing else to think about, and even sometimes when I do. I’ll talk about it with anyone willing to listen (usually that means my husband). It’s what I wanted to do all along, and now I’m finally doing it.

I’ve come full circle. There will be no more false starts.

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