Monday Notes: 4 Weeks in the Netherlands

On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card. 

“I left my card at home,” I said.

But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it. 

I checked my bank account: 

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)

Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour. 


This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks. 

It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation. 

The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day. 

Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.

These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.

But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.

I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week. 

Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.

Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:

“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.” 

Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope. 

Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error. 


The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:

  • eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended, 
  • tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
  • visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal, 
  • watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam, 
  • drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar
  • viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule, 
  • toured the city where In Bruges was filmed, 
  • eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes, 
  • photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
  • walked an average of six miles per day. 

It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.



Monday Notes: 3 Things I’m Tired of Talking About

Even though I’m not in the States, the way the world is set up, I’m still in tune with the news, and let me tell you … recent events have left me tired of recycling the same conversation over and over.

Domestic Terrorism against Black Lives

The Federal Bureau of Investitgation (FBI) defines domestic terrorism as violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. 

Therefore, when Payton Gendron not only killed ten people in Buffalo, who were mostly Black, but also left behind some type of white supremacist manifesto, it should’ve been a no-brainer that his acts were the literal definition of *domestic terrorism. What I’ve noticed, though, is that Black people seem to understand domestic terrorism and the consistent role it has played in American history. Other people, not so much. 

There’s always some person who wants to wait until all the evidence comes out, and even when all the evidence comes out, that person wants to take a meticulous look at how each piece of evidence may not really be racist, and even if they somehow agree that this incident is domestic terrorism against Black people, then they’ll only agree that it’s this one incident, not an historical pattern. And I’m tired of talking about it.

School Violence

Speaking of domestic terrorism, I’m also tired of discussing school violence in America. But I suspect conversations centered on the Uvalde incident will not last long. 

Remember Columbine? That was 1999. We were shocked. Though we have made strides in police officer and teacher preparedness, I mostly remember the US arguing about gun control. Remember Sandy Hook? That was 2012. It was a traumatic mess. Schools have done a great job of decreasing bullying, which Ron Avi Astor attributes to a decrease in overall school violence. But even then, we argued about whether it really happened, there were a bunch of lawsuits, and there was no national shift in legislation. Remember Parkland? That was 2018. It, too, was traumatic. Know what happened? There were more lawsuits, and because it’s Florida, a hasty bill was passed allowing teachers to be armed. Luckily, school districts disagreed. Still, there was no US legislation to protect public school students, faculty, or staff.

With this one, I’m tired of talking about school violence as if history hasn’t shown us things will worsen. Why do I have to convince someone there’s a problem, whether it be a mental health one, a gun control one, or a school violence one? In my opinion, the reason school violence hasn’t been resolved is because it is not a priority for elected officials. You know what is a priority? Banning critical race theory, redistricting every ten years, and drumroll please …

Abortion

Though I’ve decided to continue sharing part of my story and other people’s stories as a way to raise awareness, I’m tired of talking about abortion. Abortion has been a topic for half a decade, not reproductive rights and not women’s health, but abortion, specifically. You know why? (Aside from patriarchal ideology), it’s because it has remained a priority for elected officials, who want to advance a conservative ideology, and as the current Florida governor has shown, when elected officials prioritize something, that something gets all the attention in the world, sans what the majority of constituents actually want or need.

For example, even though the majority of US adults agree that abortion should be legal, no matter the circumstance, states continue to push for the opposite. Kind of like school violence, why do I have to convince you that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, whether you, the Bible, or the church agree? The only thing I have left to say is I hope there’s someone left to revolt when the government comes for something you have the natural right to do.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk. Is there anything you’re tired of talking about? Let’s put it in the purge pile in the comments, then let us go effect change that will protect all US citizens.

*Officials are considering a terrorism charge for Gendron


Monday Notes: Compromise: A Definition

Dwight enjoys watching Marvel movies. Me? Not so much. I’ve written before about how as I learned what I liked and disliked, sitting through the same superhero trope was one of the first things to go. However, Dwight values these movies and sees them as a way to introduce me to something he used to enjoy as a child—reading comic books and seeing them come to life in film. Because I recognized this, I told him I would watch one a year with him. 

This, according to Collins dictionary, is a compromise, a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because of circumstances or because they are considering the wishes of other people.  

For the past eight years or so, I’ve been declaring that I no longer compromise in relationships, but this isn’t true*. A compromise implies that both parties get something out of an agreement. In this case, I watch fewer Marvel movies with my husband, but he knows I’m fully devoted to at least one per year. We’ve both compromised what we want to happen. 

Here’s what I actually no longer do:

Acquiesce

Collins dictionary says if you acquiesce in something, you agree to do what someone wants or accept what they do even though you may not agree with it. In my Marvel example, acquiescing would mean I say, “Alriiiight. I’ll go,” and not only watch Spider-man: No Way Home, but also Shanghai and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That’s not a compromise; that’s giving in, and in this scenario, only Dwight would get what he wants.

Prioritize Others’ Desires over My Own

If I prioritized Dwight’s wants over my own, then I would continue watching Marvel movies even when I’d rather be reading a book or writing a new blog post. That wouldn’t be a compromise because I would be either ignoring my needs or putting my desires last (and also sending a message that what I want doesn’t matter as much as what my husband wants). Again, only Dwight would be benefitting in this situation.

ONLY Prioritize My Wants

Doing what you want, regardless of what others want implies a type of selfishness. I care about my husband, his values, and desires. If I didn’t, then I would’ve told him I’m bowing out of all Marvel movies, at the theater and at home. But sometimes he’ll say, “Hey Bay! I really think you’ll like this one,” and I’ll listen to his reason and make a decision. That’s how I ended up watching Doctor Strange in 2016. And he was right. I did like the movie and its concept. 

A Final Word

A lot of us think we’re compromising, when really we’re acquiescing to someone else’s desires or asking someone to give in to ours. Although I’ve based my example on a romantic relationship, these ideas also apply to familial relationships and friendships. For example, family members seem to think you’re supposed to prioritize their needs over your own a disproportionate number of times and innumerable ways (i.e., calling, visiting, spending time), simply because they’re family. And friends oftentimes have selfish requests where one person’s wants end up frequently prioritized with no regard for the other person’s time or circumstances. 

True compromise, however, is a win-win for all parties involved. It shouldn’t involve manipulation, selfishness, or crossing of boundaries. It should feel as if you and the other person have met in the middle. So, what do you think? Do your relationships include compromise or something else?

*Thanks to Rob over at Friends without Borders for prompting me to think about this a little deeper.


Monday Notes: Living Overseas (again)

Happy Monday, Everyone! If you follow me on Instagram or one of my other blogs, then you may already know this, so apologies for the repetition. Buuut, Dwight and I have been living in the Netherlands for about two weeks. We have two more weeks to go, and then, we’re off to another part of Europe for a bit.

I will sporadically blog about my experience here, mainly because, we already write about our travels at Garlands Abroad. However, I will consistently share some inspiring images from this side of the world.

With that said, I hope everyone’s doing well! Feel free to share your summer plans in the comments.

Monday Notes: 4 Takeaways from a Writer’s Residency

Last week, I explained that I’ve been in Monson, Maine for two weeks participating in a writer’s residency. As promised, here are four takeaways from my time there:

Clearing space is important.

Before I flew to Maine, I knew it was necessary to clear space in several ways to make room for writing. I suspended all editing services and didn’t accept any new clients; I stopped judging essays for the Florida Writers Association; and I stopped writing new blogs. I focused on my actual job for one hour a day—don’t tell my director. Also worth mentioning, is that I’d already cleared space in other, more personal ways when I decided to release specific angst about people. I’m confident I couldn’t have done this if I was still worried about who was visiting, calling, or maintaining contact with me. It was taking up too much real estate in my head, which I believe can affect your creativity. Clearing space helped me to center my attention solely on my new project. While I was in Monson, I wrote for five or six hours straight, with the exception of eating meals and taking bathroom breaks. 

There’s a difference between grind and flow.

One of the other writers and I had a great conversation about the difference between grinding and flowing. Grinding can occur when you’re worried about the goal; flowing is akin to floating with no worries, yet somehow accomplishing the goal. If you’re doing something you love, but you find yourself stressed about it, then that is the opposite energy you probably want to have. Grinding can manifest in several ways. For me, I developed a headache and felt lethargic. (Remember, my body clearly talks to me). Once I sat down and evaluated why this could be, I determined it was not only because I’d been staring at my laptop too long, but also because I’d been thinking deeply about narrative and research connections too long. I was straining my brain. Even if you love something and are in the flow, you can still overdo it. I needed to not write for an entire day to remove the grind mentality.

Being around like minded people is pertinent.

I really enjoyed being around other artists. On day three and nine, we had to do an artists share. I listened to and viewed some very interesting projects. Artists, no matter the medium, are different. They see life differently, and being around them felt as if I wasn’t in the real world. For example, no one called anyone’s project outlandish, no matter what the idea was. No one was negative or judgmental. Each person was supportive of whatever they heard. This warm response is different from how people interact outside of residencies. In my experience, non-artists always have a lot of questions, like why would you do that? What is that supposed to be? Why don’t you do it this way? There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but I’ve noticed these questions are usually rooted in a lot of judgment. We’d all do better to take a page out of artists’ ways of functioning and simply head nod and find something nice to say about one another and our ideas.

I need more freedom than I thought.

Every time I leave my house for an extended period of time, I realize freedom is top priority for me. But this time, being away from everyone and everything solidified it. From day one, I was hella excited to wake up whenever I wanted, with nothing to do for the day, except whatever I conjured up. Even though it was nineteen degrees one day, I bundled up and started walking toward the Appalachian trail. Another day, I made up my own yoga routine, and another day, I stayed in bed all day and wrote. No one questioned my safety when I was walking, my sanity when I stayed in bed , or my decision making when I decided to finish my book. My life and time were mine to create. If you’re thinking these seem like small things, you’re right. But guess what? If you’re not careful, then small things add up to one big ball of resentment. For me, I’ve realized I have to build a sense of freedom into my regular life. It’s mandatory.


Turning Page Farm

Participating in this residency is one of the few places I’ve gone in my lifetime where I felt as if I belonged. I didn’t expect to find a sense of belonging among people who, at first, seemed so unlike me. But as time wore on, I saw it clearly. There was an energy that bound us together. I understood when my housemate, who is a visual artist, didn’t wake until ten, spent the day in her studio until two in the morning, and then came home. Likewise, others understood when I closed the door, skipped lunch, and didn’t socialize sometimes. Other than having beer with goats, no one tried to guilt me into hanging out. There was a mutual understanding for artist’s behavior, and quite honestly, after getting to know each person, a common liberalism that superseded race, age, gender, or sexual identity constructs emerged. While I get along with mostly anyone because I love people and socializing, this residency showed me who my people are.


Monday Notes: Things I’m No Longer Doing in 2022

1: Persuading People to See My Point of View. A few years ago, I went to help my stepmother with her breast cancer surgery. I was happy to be able to help in any way I could, and she was grateful. However, before I left, she brought up something I’d written in my last anthology: Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. In it, I described how my father used to leave the house and announce that he was “going to get laid.” I was sixteen at the time, and it seemed not only inappropriate, but also unnecessary.

She began the conversation with “Tony said that because of your mother’s condition, she wasn’t able to have sex very much, so when she died…”

For the next thirty minutes, she defended my father, his actions, and his words. And for those thirty minutes, I tried to convince her that he wasn’t quite the man she thought he was. I tried to get her to see my point of view.

But let me tell y’all something. It takes a lot of time and energy to convince someone to see your point of view, when their motive is really to defend someone else and their actions, and I’m not doing it anymore … with anyone.

2. Chasing People for Reciprocity. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them,” and I say when people show you the level of engagement they want to have in your life, act accordingly. The best example I have of this is when my sister-in-law agreed to make amends and develop a relationship.

“Do you want to Skype?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “With the kids and everything, I don’t have time.”

“Do you want to talk on the phone?”

“I don’t really like talking on the phone. Anyway, people who talk on the phone usually just gossip,” she said.

After a bit more prompting, this is what she revealed, “Kathy, I’m good with seeing you every five years or so.”

Although my feelings were hurt by her honesty, I was grateful for her words. I used to be the type of person you had to bonk over the head with a message, and this was one of those times. She and I had two different definitions of relationship, and I didn’t need to keep trying so hard to develop the kind I was seeking, not with her or others who clearly show they’re not interested in the type of relationship I’d like to have.

3. Ignoring My Gut, Literally and Figuratively. 2021 brought my gut issues to the forefront. Digestion has been problematic since 2017, but I’d ignored it. I’d also been taught how to hold everything in, until it burst, and that didn’t serve me well. A laryngopharyngeal reflux diagnosis woke me up. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to seek treatment. But we learn what we learn when we learn it, right? I’ll write a longer post about this situation. For now, I’ll share this: I’ve learned that I don’t have to hold everything in. I can calmly speak my mind in the moment. If the other person doesn’t like what I’ve said or that I’ve said it, that’s their problem, not mine. I’ve learned that my body doesn’t like all of the foods, even though the pleasure center in my brain does. Honoring these two things has helped me pay attention physically and metaphysically to my gut.

Each of these examples are old situations, but they’ve persisted in my life throughout the years to varying degrees, with different people, and with subtleties. However, 2022 will be an intentional year of honoring these three specific points: I don’t need validation for how I feel about my experiences with people; I am grateful for current symbiotic relationships; and my gut always knows best.


What are you doing for 2022? Are resolutions your thing? Are you focusing on one word? How are you going to bring happiness into the new year?


Monday Notes: The Relationship I Have with My Body

“When is the last time you felt good about your body?” the naturopath asked me.

I thought about it for a few seconds, then I said, “I think I’m going to cry.”

“That’s okay,” she and my husband affirmed.

I knew it was okay to cry. But I was taken off guard by own emotions. When I really stopped to think about it, I didn’t know.

It wasn’t in the past year, when out of the blue, I developed a rash that took up my entire forearm. It’s healed now, but it looks like a faint trail of bacteria.

Last year is also when perimenopause seemed to have ramped up and took a hold of my physical being. It’s also when I decided to get a crown on my front tooth, instead of a cap. Since December, I’ve worried everyday about my crown falling off when I eat or when I sleep and grind my teeth, leaving a gaping hole in my mouth.

So, no. I didn’t feel good about my body last year.

What about ten years ago? Nope. That’s when I started gaining a pound a year, even though I worked out four times a week and ate mostly healthy foods. My primary care physician didn’t seem too worried about it, so I figured I didn’t need to be either. Still, I didn’t feel good about my body. I felt fat.

What about twenty years ago? Definitely not. That’s when I had to deliver my second child as a C-section. I wrote about this experience recently, but I want to reiterate that there’s no way anyone can prepare you for your body being sliced open and sewed back together in what seems to be a lackadaisical way.

What about twenty-six years ago? Almost. I almost thought I was okay. It was a year before my wedding. I was talking to my grandmother, and she mentioned that I was fat.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids before you get fat,” were her exact words.

I was 125 pounds.

The next week, I began eating 1200 calorie meals and doing aerobics five times a week. By the time I stood at the altar, I was 100 pounds and a size one, something I’ve never been in my life before or after that date.

What about thirty years ago? YES! The last time I felt good about my body was thirty flipping years ago when I was an eighteen-year-old high school senior. I was petite. I was cute. Curves were curving in all the right spaces. Skin was tight and bright. All of the things were where they were supposed to be.


It’s amazing what can be revealed by just one question.

I’ve never thought of myself as having issues with body image, not really. But as I sit here and reflect on how long it took me to come up with a real answer (30 minutes) and what it took for me to figure out an answer (blog), I admit I have. If I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question much quicker or at least three weeks ago, while I was actually at the doctor’s office.

So, today, I have questions, instead of answers:

  • When is the last time you felt good about your body?
  • If you already feel good about your body, how do you maintain that feeling?

Until then, I’ll be offline, staring in the mirror, saying some affirmations or something.

Monday Notes: I Let Go

I let go of relationships of convenience, where people put you on hold, until you fit into their lives.

I let go of relationships which lack symbiosis, where I visit, and they make excuses for passing my home en route to see someone else.

I let go of relationships where I am not a priority, where careers and other people constantly come first.

I let go of relationships bound to outdated traditions, ones where innovative ways to interact are dismissed.  

And when I let go, I allow for experiences aligned with who I am today.

I open space for new relationships to develop. Relationships where I have authentic discussions with friends about overall wellness—mental and physical.

I recognize friends who have been consistently present, those who communicate in multiple ways during varied times and those who’ve settled in for a lifetime of connection.

I embrace my sister, someone I’ve known for three years, but someone with whom interacting is as natural as breathing. A recent international trip solidified what I’ve always suspected; relationships are not hard.

I notice old friends reentering, reengaging, and recalibrating at just the right moment. Either I need them, or they need me right now.

I accept my cousin’s invitation to commune with her and her family post-Christmas in a different city and state. Her suggestion is timely.

When I let go, I allow myself to expand in newness.

And when I expand in newness, I’m no longer stagnant, resentful, or bitter. Instead, I am growing and evolving in self-awareness and self-love. In this state, I can begin accepting current circumstances, accepting that all relationships don’t last forever, not even if you wish upon a star and meditate on them during the new moon. Some connections are seasonal, and that’s okay.

Peace to everyone letting go of something this fall.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

Monday Notes: A Confession on My 25th Year of Teaching

Twenty-five years ago, I began my career in education as an English teacher. However, I didn’t enter the profession out of a profound sense of passion. Here’s what happened:

I began undergrad as a business major: business management, to be exact. However, there was an assessment everyone took to test out of remedial math (Math 109). I took and failed the test during orientation. Then, I took it again and failed at the beginning of Math 109. The university offered it again mid-semester. Failed. And again shortly after, which is when I passed.

That’s when I figured I needed to change my focus. How was I going to be a business major if I couldn’t do basic math?

I sought advice from one of my aunts, who suggested I become an English major. When I talked to the advisor, she said English education was a better option.

Fast forward twenty-five years, a masters, and doctorate degree later, and I’m still teaching.

I’ve thought about if this one choice was a “mistake.” I mean, clearly, I have a passion for reading and writing, but did I need to become an educator? Maybe I could’ve been an investigative journalist, as my blogging buddy Dr. D. recently observed. Or perhaps I could’ve just begun a writing career twenty years earlier.

I don’t know. Falling into an abyss of what ifs is not good. I do not recommend it.

Here’s what I’ve decided.

There are no mistakes. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices. But our choices are tied to who we are, our level of awareness at the time, and our self-imposed limitations.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices.

At the time, I didn’t have a home to return to in Chicago, and I damn sure wasn’t going back to live with my grandparents. I just wanted to do whatever would afford me a salary and a ticket toward independence. An education degree did that.

However, I also didn’t know any writers. I’d only seen so-called safe and secure jobs: pharmacy technician, accountant, social worker. I couldn’t conceive of a career in writing, much less pursue a degree that may lead to one. My choices seemed limited.

I know what you may be thinking…why get more advanced degrees in the field? My answer is the same: lack of awareness and self-imposed limitations.

I had no idea I could’ve easily switched to an MFA or even a PhD in English, so I continued the same path I’d begun in 1991: Education.

So, here I am.

I don’t have regrets, though. No. That’s not what this is about. I’m writing this to encourage anyone out there who believes he, she, or they only have one path. Not to sound cliché, but there are infinite paths for living life. Infinite. Think about what you want to do. Research your options. Talk to people who are doing what you think you want to do. Then, make up your own way based on your informed decision.

If what you want to do isn’t reflected in your family or environment, then don’t be afraid to create a life based on what you want. Guess what? That’s what I’ve done over the past seven years.

Today, I own a successful business, with no business degree. I’m a successful writer, without having an English degree.

I’m convinced each of us can do what we want. All we have to do is first believe it is possible.