So I ran into a friend at the grocery store around 5:30 p.m. and she was like, “Oh my god! Why are you here?” But it wasn’t a question. “I have to be here now,” she said. “But you? You can grocery shop any time.” Because, you know, I don’t have a JOB job.
Like I just sit around all day, Facebooking and watching my toenails grow? I totally do not watch my toenails grow.
I do feel guilty about not having a highly structured day gig, but it’s not like I don’t get it. Not so long ago, I worked all day and went to grad school at night while raising a couple of kids somewhere between research, writing, and reading from an endless stack of enthralling freshman comp essays.
I didn’t tell her that, though. Instead, I just turned red and mumbled something self-deprecating so she’d feel better knowing that I DO REALIZE, ON A CELLULAR LEVEL, just what a lazy, lucky sombitch I really am.
I’m no longer teaching and I’m no longer covering heated island politics or salacious small-town scandals. It was a choice I made so I could write fiction and raise my kids with less guilt. Except now that the wee one is the full-day kindergarten type, I have weird guilt about actually using my writing time for writing. Don’t get me wrong, I DO IT, but I feel almost apologetic about it.
The guilt builds when I wonder if I should be volunteering more at the school or coaching an AYSO team or at least getting a better handle on when people like me ought to be at Publix.
And there’s the guilt-oozing fact that I’m not generating much (okay, any) income right now. My family’s down with it, but I’m hyper aware that my people have given up things they’d like to do or have just so I can spend a few years (possibly 10, but definitely no more than 20 or 30) chasing my dream.
Guilt isn’t going to get me any closer to seeing my first book in print, though. I mean, people believe in me. They’ve given up things for me and they’ve taken chances on me (thank you, Linda). The least I can do is protect my writing time from evil outside forces, like the PTA. Plus, I want to remind my kids that I have personal goals for success outside my job as their laundress.
During my JOB job days, did I leave during class to fold the whites real quick before they got wrinkly? Did I take off in the middle of deadline day to go work lunch hour at the kids’ school? Did I alter office hours to accommodate Shark Week programming? Hell no!* I couldn’t. I was working.
And I’m still working. Jesus, I have my dream job! Time to get better at treating it as such. Time to stop giving so much brain space to futile guilt.
Writers, what’s your brand of guilt?
*Except for the Shark Week part.
Several years ago, R.L. Saunders quit her job as an English teacher, sold her house, dropped out of her Ph.D. program, and moved to an island. In Key West, she spent a couple of years teaching, then had a boatload of fun as associate editor and columnist for an island newspaper. Now she writes full-time under a palm tree, sipping rum from a coconut. Living real life in the middle of everybody else’s vacation is a constant challenge.