I always wanted to be a writer.
(Except when I wanted to be a librarian because I thought the job description was: read all the books in the library so you know what they're all about. In case someone asks. Also, know the Dewey Decimal System.)
The only thing that ever changed throughout the years was what kind of writer I'd be. There was the Nancy Drew phase, where I wanted to write about mysteries and teenaged heroines who got kidnapped every other week. There was the travel brochure phase, where I realized that the people writing the travel brochures probably got to travel to the places they were writing about. Then there was a romance phase and a journalist phase and a biography phase and a comic book phase and a music/interview phase and even a choose-your-own-adventure novel phase, among others.
The options! Were! Endless! Every time I read something -- a children's book, a magazine, the back of a cereal box -- I realized that these were someone's words that someone else had deemed worthy to put into print in whatever form that might take. The ultimate honour.
I told this to a friend at summer camp one year. She looked shocked. "That's, like, eternal English class."
I nodded excitedly. "Exactly."
She shrugged. "When I grow up, I'm going to be a full-time mom."
And I shrugged back. "Of course," I said. "I'll be a mom too." Because that was always kind of a given in my world. Girls were moms. Moms and maybe something else, if you wanted. Probably not, like, an astronaut or anything, though.
Fast-forward through the next ten years or so and there I was, at 25, wondering if I might not be a mom after all. Not that I didn't have time left, just that we'd done all we could medically and our specialist had said, "You're infertile and I don't know why," and our only remaining option (from a financial and emotional perspective) was "wait and see."
It was a weird shift for me. Like I was suddenly on the ceiling, upside down, and everyone else in the world was still standing on the floor.
Then the people around me seemed to start having kids all at once. Like there had been a meeting about it. And then, because it's what happens, the baby showers started. I don't mind baby showers. I don't like that one game where you have to eat the baby food and guess what kind it is, but baby showers in and of themselves are nice, I think. Balloons! Food!
But at the baby showers, I'd inevitably get cornered by someone I didn't normally talk to, who didn't know me very well. I'd be downing pink cake by the handful and she'd pat her newborn's butt or rub her own expanding belly and say something like but not necessarily, "You don't know what you're missing out on. My life didn't begin until I had a baby." Or she'd sigh deeply and philosophically and say "I didn't know what love was until I became a mother." Or she'd laugh, "You have no idea how selfish you are until you become a mother!" And on, and on.
And not just at baby showers. Facebook, real life, blogs, wherever. A lot of women love to talk about how the act of bearing a baby makes you stronger, how childbirth pushes you to inhuman limits, how motherhood makes you softer and more loving, how it cements your relationship with your husband, how it changes you and grows you and shapes you.
(And I'm sure it's all true! And I'm sure these sweet ladies meant well. It felt more like they were trying to recruit me than make me feel inferior.)
But hearing all of this made me worry. I'd spent my whole life believing that part of my job as a woman was to have a baby, and, I guess, that that act would take me to the Next Level as a human being. This might sound absolutely ridiculous to you, but in my mind, 'infertility' equalled 'stunted growth'. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally. Like the doctor was saying, "Well, you're doomed to be exactly as immature and selfish as you are right now and your marriage won't be as amazing as it could be because you don't even know what love is and you're going to miss out on approximately 3/4 of the average woman's life experience." Like I could never be a whole, complete person. Like I got stopped at the gate for no apparent reason and had to watch everyone else board the plane and fly away.
I was saying yesterday to Barclay how the taste of infertility that we got (because I know, I know it was only a tiny taste compared to what many have to go through) is probably one of the experiences I'm most thankful for in my whole life. Because [a while] after my dramatic perspective shift, after the part where I laid down on the ceiling and cried my eyes out, I began to realize that personal growth, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, isn't something passive that happens to you as a result of an event or an experience or a life stage. It's something you have to work at, and something that you can and should work at no matter what stage in life you're at.
And that there are a lot of beautiful, strong, selfless, amazing women who have made a massive difference in my life and in the lives of others who are not mothers to the people they're loving and building into. That I need to keep my eyes open for opportunities to build into others and to love others really, really well, like they do.
And that I have intrinsic value beyond what I have or haven't done or experienced in this life.
And that we aren't all given the identical life path to walk, and that that's actually a good thing. Some of us will be moms, and some of us will be single, and some of us will be married, and some of us will be writers, and some of us will be astronauts.
And it's not about us anyway.
And as a result, this past year has been so full and good and fun and rich and stretching and challenging and growing. I've been travelling and trying hard new things and meeting new people and building relationships and keeping my eyes open and learning.
And in May, when we found out that it was finally our turn to experience the parenting thing, I found that my whole outlook on it had changed. I wasn't looking to motherhood to fulfill me as a person, or to make my marriage better or my life more beautiful or whatever. I'm crazy thankful for it, but it's not The Thing. I want to keep growing and learning in other areas. I want to keep enjoying new music and new experiences and new places.
I want to keep my eyes open.
I still want to be a writer.