Finding what to do when grown up

“Her’s was a life well-lived.” I heard that statement at a recent funeral, summing up the long life of a woman now passed on to Glory. She left behind a legacy of faithfulness, including people I’m thankful to call friends.

The entire service was lovely. But out of all that was said, that particular statement stuck hard and fast, as thinking about how I live my life and the effect of the work I do has been on my mind recently.

As my role of full-time mom has shifted in the last few years as my kids aged into elementary school, I’ve been faced with the age-old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” It’s not a question I’m fond of. When I was young, I never had a great answer. Now that I’m older, I still don’t.

You see, I have always been content with being a mom. After my first child was born in 2008, I quit working full time as a Hillsboro Free Press journalist to stay home with my children. Whether I would stay home full-time or not was never a viable question for me. As soon as I got that positive pregnancy test, I knew what I’d do and what I wouldn’t. Being “Mom” has always been my highest career aspiration.

But all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Don’t I need to get a job now that my kids are in school? Don’t I look lazy if I’m not working outside my home now that I can? What am I supposed to fill my time with while my kids are gone? Don’t I need something meaningful to do? And what is it?

The obvious answer is writing. I’m a writer. My writing resume looks professional. It’s what I was doing before I had kids. It’s what I’ve continued to do after I had kids. It’s been a constant in my world since I was young, writing laments in a locked diary.

But now, all of a sudden, the pressure’s on to make something of myself in the field. Perhaps I’ve put the pressure on myself, feeling guilty that I don’t make money. I get paid in likes and comments on social media, and that’s flat out fickle and unfulfilling. But I’ve got it in my head that numbers are what matter in this world of writing. And I don’t have what it takes.

Each time I look at my blog statistics, I see a collapsing dream. My numbers are awful. And then I try to talk myself into being content with what I’ve been given. I do OK with that for a while, only to be sucked back into the cycle of loathing the fickleness of the crowds and how great an impact it has on my heart.

And that’s when I think, does my work even matter? Is this writing career and all it demands of my heart worth it? I’m not into selling my soul to gain the world, and the last few years it’s felt that way as I pursue building a platform in order to “look good” to publishers.

Not only do I battle a desire for affirmation from the people around me–more likes, more comments, more views–but I also wrestle with the need to be known by people I will never meet in real life. And all this to establish myself as a “go-to” voice in a particular area, as one mainstream publisher suggested.

As I’ve wrestled with my attitude and my desires, I’m closing in on a conclusion that I need to be less worried about establishing myself “out there” and more involved in what’s going on right here. I’m not sure what community involvement as a writer looks like, but I’m tired of trying to be somebody in the online writing world.

And more than anything, I plan to wholeheartedly continue my all-time favorite career desire, finding a healthy way to transition motherhood into this new phase of our family dynamic. Just like it took a while to get my feet under me as a new mom, so it is with this new chapter. I’m not needed as a full-time caregiver, but I am still needed. My presence in my family is still important. And splitting my time with people on the internet versus people in my life just doesn’t seem like a worthwhile exchange anymore.

Because when it’s all finished, it won’t be people I’ve never met saying “Her’s was a life well-lived.” It will be the flesh and blood life that surrounds me in this place I live. And that starts within the walls of my home.

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing, visit her blog, www.malindajust.com.