I am highly self-critical. I am not known to give myself a break very often, whether it’s a browbeating for past mistakes and poor decision making, pushing myself to do “more” (exercise, work, writing, cleaning) even when my body and spirit have clearly had enough, or simply honing in repetitively on perceived flaws.
The last seven months have been hellish by any standards: extended unemployment that caused me to question my place (like, if there was one) in the working world, fissure in a marriage to the man I still (and may always) consider the love of my life, and most recently, a battle with stage 2A cervical cancer. So clearly, if one is judgmentally introspective by nature, life has handed me a veritable buffet of reasons to feel like a loser.
I have written about the need to develop new pathways for myself, because at nearly 33 years of age, one thing is clear: the grief I give myself hasn’t amounted to to any sort of spiritual epiphany or life fulfillment. If anything I’m beginning to consider that my own unforgiving navel gazing (this blog bears the title with good reason), has not been a tool for healthy ruminating and moving myself forward, but rather an overly self-conscious roadblock that has led me to make “safe” decisions that instead blow up into explosive peccadilloes. I have been too afraid to follow my “inner voice,” which I am learning a lot about from an unusual authority – star publicist to the fashion world Kelly Cutrone.
In recent discussions with my therapist, I have shared that the one thing I have done right in the last few years was to take a gamble on myself, finally heed the inner voice that screamed at me all throughout my 20s that I was a corporate fraud. I didn’t want to climb the ladder, grab the brass ring or sit in the corner office fending off sniping barracudas. I wanted (nay, needed) to be a writer. That admission was not an acknowledgement of talent by any means. I was completely unsure I had anything to offer, or even knew where to start.
I am not going to rehash the two year-journey spent hustling down unpaid freelance lane, the strain I put on my marriage by asking Eddie to comprehend what must have seemed like a midlife crisis of sorts, where I remained unwilling to birth babies, yet brought no income into the home. It was one of the first truly selfish things I have ever done – and it came with a high price.
As someone in the business of self-flagellation, I often succumb to the inviting temptation to second guess the decisions that brought me to where I sit today: sick, alone, and financially shaky.
But on another level, I am covertly and tacitly aware that I am doing it. I am living my dream, however small and unintentionally isolating it may be.
This past Saturday, and for the second year in a row, I was awarded writing prizes from the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Last year, I went on to take first place from the National Federation of Press Women in one of their “Special Article” journalism categories. This year, proving that I am more diverse in my skillset than I have otherwise been willing to admit, I received two second place certificates for work on this very blog, “So This is What Fat Looks Like?,” and “A Generation X Bedtime Story.” Additionally, I received a first place award in the state category, “Column Written Specifically for the Web.” That honor was received pursuant to a piece I wrote on education for RootSpeak magazine.
The latter distinction means that I will be able to try my fortunes at the national level in August.
As a struggling writer, I feel very blessed. I have a lot to say, an abundance of avenues in which to be read, and best of all, the occasional validation of my peers to tell me I haven’t turned my life inside out for naught.
It’s important to take a moment now and then to acknowledge that.