Life as a Subplot

I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of?

Last weekend, I was rocking out to Partridge Family tunes (you’re welcome for that image now embedded in your brain) and thinking back to junior high. (For you young whippersnappers, that's the same as middle school.) Back then, my main goal in life was to become a Hollywood actress and marry John Travolta (whom my mother insisted on calling John Revolting). I had recently outgrown David Cassidy, though I might still have accepted his proposal had it been forthcoming.

In high school, I morphed into a journalist wannabe, idolizing Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Barbara Walters. I joined and eventually became editor-in-chief of my high-school newspaper, dreaming of my future as a reporter with The Washington Post

During my college days, my journalistic quest lost its allure. Instead, I reminisced about the inspirational teachers who had touched my life, and I decided that my destiny lay in education.

And no matter my ultimate career choice, I wanted to have a family, to be a wife and mother.

 

While those possibilities churned, fighting for control, a voice within whispered about writing books. Wouldn’t it be fun?she asked. Wouldn’t that make you happy?

But I couldn’t do it all. I would need to destroy most of the identities grappling for dominance within my psyche. 

So I became a teacher, first of English and then of journalism, and I spent twenty-four years learning, laughing, and loving alongside hundreds of teenage students. During those years, I married a fabulous man (thirty-five years this December) and had two extraordinary daughters, (now thirty-two and twenty-eight). Life raced along, one year following the next, the joy and the tears, the work and the play weaving into the tapestry that illustrated my life.

Then I decided it was time to try something new, so I got my master’s degree in counseling and worked for six years as a high school counselor before retiring in 2014.

 

I glanced up and discovered that I was fifty-two years old. 

And the whisper I had stifled those many years ago became a roar.

Turns out I hadn’t killed that lurking identity. She was alive and well and demanding her turn.

At first, I tried to quiet her. I told her she was too old—that she would make a fool of us. Nobody starts writing books in her fifties, I said. For three years, I suppressed her. When she tried to sneak into my brain, devising stories, plots, characters, I shoved her aside and moved on to something else, something more in keeping with my stage in life. Volunteering. Cross stitching. Lunching with friends. 

But it was as if I was trying to hold back a tsunami with a dinner plate. Like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, my whispering alter ego would not be ignored. Finally, I turned towards her. I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of? 

I acquiesced to her demands and wrote my first book. 

And now I am her.

 

The book, An Instant Out of Time, is in the hands of editors and beta readers, and I have embarked on the second installment of the series, Capturing Souls. Though I can't foresee where this path will lead, I find I don’t need to predict the future. If I stay where my feet are on this journey, I am content. Not only did I heed to the insistent voice within, I listened to the people who encouraged (nagged) me to follow it, and I am grateful to them for their support.

Conceding to my inner voice has taught me the wisdom of the verse "for everything there is a season." I wasn’t ready to be a writer thirty years ago. A lot of people blossom into writers at a young age, certainly, but I wasn’t meant to be one of them. And that’s as it should be. I was a pretty good mother and teacher and counselor, and I'm glad I didn't miss out on those experiences. In fact, they provided the seeds for the stories I now wish to tell.
I’ve discovered you can do it all. (Within reason, that is. I’ll never marry John Revolting, but in retrospect, fate did me a positive turn in that regard.) Life has infused me with several gifts, and I can use all of them. Maybe not at the same time—probably not at the same time. But life is long, and I have plenty of time to drink it to the lees.

 

What is that thing you always wanted to do? What little voice whispers inside you, just waiting for her time? After a long day at work during which you felt bored or unfulfilled—or even if your day was interesting and rewarding—what dream bubbles in your subconscious, tickling and poking?

Acknowledge it. Tell that voice you hear her and that her day will come. Enjoy what you are doing in this moment, give yourself over to the present. But recognize that your life will continue to evolve as whole new worlds await you.

Because you know what really happens to a dream deferred? 

It continues to ripen until you are ready: ready to pluck it, to bite into it, to savor it. 

Lori Herbst4 Comments