Cover Photo by Liza Summer
Because I teach on a university campus, I am constantly reminded of my age. No one says anything about it, and it’s not about how I look—I’ve been mistaken for a student a few times. Instead, I’m reminded of my age because of how I think.
My students have such grand ideas and are filled with excitement. It’s magnetic, and I am drawn to their optimism and energy. They believe anything’s possible and, sometimes, rock up to class late, apologizing profusely, explaining they’ve overslept.
I nod and say, “No worries,” because there are none. By 2 p.m., when my class starts, I’ve fed three people, twice; walked the dog; prepped for dinner; graded papers; answered questions; some days, grocery shopped; and dropped and/or picked up kids from summer camps and playdates while my group of students are just getting started.
I envy their relationship with time.
Does Age Kill Optimism?
I was like them once. I remember when all things felt possible. Effort determined success and hard work felt like the only essential ingredient. Sure, one should never underestimate the importance of luck, but didn’t the adage say one creates their luck?
Luck n. The intersection of hard work and unexpected opportunity.
Now, my thinking is quite different. There are a lot of hard working people whose dreams never materialize. I think about all the writers who’ve put in the effort, wrote the words, sacrificed their family time, yet their manuscripts have never seen the light of day. Or those, whose lives have evolved, slowly, into a series of responsibilities, and while they continue to work hard, it’s never on the activities or goals that truly fulfill them.
When did I accept—because that’s what it really boils down to, acceptance—that not everything is possible? While hard work is an indispensable ingredient, it is far from enough. When did life become a tradeoff? When did one task or activity become an opportunity cost to another?
Is it a midlife thing?
I started 2022 with one simple goal: Complete the first (possibly second) draft of my epic fantasy manuscript, BLOOD RAIN. But life has a way of reminding me that my time no longer belongs solely to me.
By March, I was looking at a first half of the year that would keep me flat out with teaching, and that would eat into my time for home and family responsibilities, so I wisely reduced my BLOOD RAIN goal to outlining the first draft of book one.
Surprisingly—and perhaps, uncharacteristically—I have not been upset by that adjustment. In fact, I feel the opposite. (That, my dear readers, is what I call personal growth.) I forgot how good it feels to luxuriate in my imagination. I also remembered good ideas are not born immediately but often require time to marinate. This time cannot—should not!—be rushed. The length of time dedicated to the marinade is directly proportioned to the quality of the idea.
Taking the time I know I need to make the ideas real and authentic has empowered me and filled my creative tank.
During the last twelve months, I’ve been doing some aspects of life coaching in an unofficial capacity, and things have started to fall in place for me to formalize some of this side work.
Serendipitously, life has led me to reconnect with friends who have gone down a similar coaching path, and their willingness to guide me and answer my questions has been affirming.
Nothing is more trustworthy and consistent than time; nothing is more nebulous and fleeting.
After about seven months of research and zoom calls with different schools and organizations, I’ve finally found the coaching program for me.
Ten weeks: Three hours of instruction and ninety minutes of workshopping, plus five hours of homework per week.
This is the time commitment if I want to take the coaching course.
It is What it is
Nothing in my life is going to give. My current responsibilities will not diminish. Time will not stop or magically duplicate. Therefore, I have to be real with myself.
- Can I find the time in my current schedule?
- What impact will taking this course have on my current lifestyle and those who depend on me?
- Are the opportunity costs worth it?
I’ll be honest, it took me months to answer these questions. I went back and forth. One week I was all-in. The next few weeks I decided now wasn’t the time. The course wasn’t going anywhere. It could wait until one of my current responsibilities dropped.
Then I thought of my students… They still believe… in their stories, that they will be published, and that they will earn a living wage as a storyteller.
I, too, have held similar dreams. I’ve walked that path. I know what’s waiting at the top of the “storyteller” mountain: unexpectedly more mountain.
It is what it is.
The Answer is Within
After much flip-flopping, asking friends and family their opinions, and creating a pro and con list, I know that now is the time. I can’t exactly tell you why now versus six months from now or a year from now or five years from now, but I know—because it wakes me up at four in the morning (my bestie can attest to our 4 a.m. texting)—that the timing is now.
So, if now is the time, what current strengths and resources do I have to help me accomplish this goal?
Cataloguing a realistic list took even more time, but I got there. I have a working plan. I’ve put my family on notice. Everyone knows they will have to step up. I’m even surprised by their level of support and the words of encouragement from my friends who have said this seems like a natural next step for me.
Leaning in… to me
I’m excited because this feels right AND I’ve taken the time to draw up a plan. I have support, and equally important, my expectations are managed. For ten weeks, there will be late nights and early mornings.
I. Cannot. Do. It. All. Not all at once. So, I’m going to give myself the grace to juggle less balls. Somethings will have to wait.
Even though I know that at the top of the mountain is more mountain, I can’t deny the contagious excitement and positive energy that fills me.