I spend a lot of time crying.
Last week my son, Ethan, was away for an end of summer “boys only” week long bash. Normally I could handle it alright but this year is a different. This year he is five years old and this week he will start school. Without him here last week, I had 194 tear filled hours (give or take one) to flip through the pages of his life, pictures of him and by him: a documentary of a boy. My boy.
I owe my writing to Ethan and apples. You see, few years ago I was trapped in a miserable job working sixty hours a week. I didn’t have enough time with him and the little time I had I was too tired to enjoy. Late one night I was watching him play in the middle of the room. He was reading simple words and adding: “Two plus two is four. Four apples. Two plus three is five. Five apples. Mommy! I count apples.”
Apples? He can count apples? Foggy and sleepy and confused I thought “When did he learn to do that?” I was sleepless that night thinking of all the things I was missing out on in his life, trying to recount the last time I had giggled for no reason, hating myself for turning into a corporate drone. He was only three at the time but since his birth I tried to impress on him the importance of finding his passion and pursuing it.
But what about me? Writing is my passion but for practical reasons I never seriously thought to pursue it. Utilities, medical, 401Ks, 529s, shoes…argh! I had myself convinced all those things meant working ten hours a day even if I was miserable. Then I thought of the gleam in his big, brown eyes when he announced he could count apples. I wanted him live every day looking at the world with that glimmer in his eyes. If I wanted Ethan to live that life, I would have to lead by example. When the sun came up the next day (I hadn’t slept so “waking up” isn’t exactly accurate) I made changes the smart way: immediately and without thought. I quit my job and took a significant pay cut to work in a field more creatively challenging. With my extra time, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
And cried. A lot.
I cried sad tears when I got my first paycheck – I hadn’t thought the pay cut would be that drastic. I cried tired tears through my first NaNoWriMo. I cried a few celebratory tears when I finished my first manuscript and many many more a few months later when I found out my manuscript had sold. I cried happy tears when my book hit the shelves of a bookstore – a real bookstore, a big one with a cafe and couches and everything.
One day when we were scoping out my book, watching to see how many people would buy it (don’t pretend like you haven’t or wouldn’t do the same thing). Ethan announced to a stranger who selected it “My mommy wrote that!” The pride in his voice could not go unnoticed.
So what did I do? I was happy, pursuing my passion and my son was proud of me. So I didn’t cry, I smiled.
How do you like them apples?