I’ve quoted her before, but I love it when Jo says in Little Women, “I should have been a great many things.”
Do you ever feel that? I feel it not in a sad way (i.e., If only I were rich) but in a matter-of-fact sort of way. I think about it in terms of another life. For instance, in another life, I’m a hermit, living away in a mountain cabin somewhere or a beach house. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I really like people. But somewhere inside? There’s a recluse.
Then of course there’s the life in which I went to Hollywood instead of a bible college in the Midwest. There’s the one where I live on the Upper West Side or in Chelsea or Greenwich Village, and I work in a really tall building overlooking the streets of Manhattan.
And maybe most likely of all, I should have been Donna Reed. In that one, I’m not employed, and my work is to clean all the things and cook well and garden and pack the lunches. I used to think surely that was my calling, you know? A wife and mama is all I ever wanted to be – especially in those later high school years when I should have been running toward college but had to be shoved instead.
Fortunately, in one of these scenarios, in a life I’ve imagined living, I have a job in an office, with walls. I organize things and capture the minutes and file during the day – a delightfully varied group of tasks way, way outside the creative writing and pondering I like to do on the side. And because the Donna Reed dream was only one happy version of me, I find that I’m almost unmixedly happy in this version too. In fact, for the moment, I’m happier, because while working from home I was sort of the poor man’s Donna Reed – with less cooking and less cleaning and nary a daytime dress.
There are a few moments in any given day when I sit at my shiny new job and wonder What Have I Done? I Miss My Boys at 3 p.m. And WHEN will I Write? But those moments are swallowed whole by the happiness that after thirteen years of one version of me, I’m getting to try another. In yet another Little Women reference, it was hard sometimes to always be the one left behind. They all went off to work and school. They came home to kiss me then headed off to practices and youth groups and games. Now we all leave together. And somehow it’s that much more fun when we all eventually come home.
Of course, the title of this post is a little bit pretend. I can’t actually tell you how to love your job. I only know it’s possible. I know you can not really want a day job at all because what you really want is to go to the library between laundry loads and make homemade frosting for the graham cracker snacks after school – all while becoming J.K. Rowling. But then knowing you need to have a job you make a list of all you hope it could be, and then you get one and it IS all those things. And you’re perfectly willing to belong to it for the hours of the day in which it neatly fits.
Now – seriously – WHEN am I going to write?