I have a confession: when I was a teenager, I told my parents I was going to move to California.
Back then, I wanted to act. Still kinda do (minus the whole stage fright thing). I’d performed in school plays (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), community theater (Anne Frank in The Diary of…), and landed roles in TV and radio commercials through a local Michigan agency. My SAG-AFTRA card has been firmly in hand since I was twelve, and for many years, I openly dreamed of leaving Michigan.
“Mo-om, the weather is, like, SO MUCH BETTER there,” I said on more than one occasion. “Why would anyone choose to live in a place with so much snow?” I went on and on about it, actually, much to my parents’ chagrin. I swore I would get out of Michigan and give acting the ol’ college try right after…you know, college.
I was a homebody even then, so I’m not sure what I was trying to prove. I really had myself going for a minute there.
It sometimes happens with a twist, though, doesn’t it? We’re a looong way from Hollywood, and Silicon Valley isn’t quite what I imagined when I thought about moving to the West Coast.
It seems like I wrote my First Cali-versary post last week, not last year, so a lot of my 2016 sentiments are kind of the same. I’m still mesmerized by the mountains. I still have visions of Michigan places and things as if they’re right around the corner. And despite its drawbacks, I still miss teaching immensely. How has it been two years already? It doesn’t seem like enough time has passed for anything to feel different.
Our living conditions have certainly been different, that’s for sure — after the falling-apart rental debacle, we are totally in love with the new house (which is almost a year old now…what?!). Al’s commute is still a big-time issue, as we suspected it would be, but the jury’s still out on whether or not a longer drive is worth such a breathtaking view. Either way, I’m incredibly grateful for it.
Some of my Michigan relationships feel a little different, too. In our first year out here, just about everyone regularly kept in touch — they checked in to see how I was holding up, I checked in to hear about all the awful and wonderful things I was missing, and connections stayed strong. But throughout the last several months, it’s started to happen less and less. I still miss everyone just as much, but with some people, I can feel myself slipping into the nebulous blur of their past. It’s an uncomfortable place to be.
If my first year in California was a time of booming, explosive change (moved a million times! Had a baby! Made new friends! Went to conferences! Achieved some writing goals!), this second year has been a time of comparative stagnancy. It feels like I’m on a massive plateau, or in a raft on an endless, waveless ocean, and there is a long stretch of unexplained nothing no matter which direction I look.
This doesn’t apply to motherhood. My children are the things that keep me afloat even while I sometimes feel as though I’m drowning in banality, these kaleidoscopic beings blooming and learning changing right in front of me before I can even process it has happened.
No, the terrifying expanse of nothingness refers to this whole writing thing. Although, to be totally honest, the past year hasn’t been COMPLETELY stagnant in that regard — there was that post that went legitimately viral back in August, and I cannot believe this, but I just found out that I won a personal essay contest forThe Writer magazine (my second time published in print! I was so excited I cried). It’s just that I’m not sure what my next steps are meant to be. Maybe there aren’t any. Maybe I’m just supposed to write blog post after blog post for all eternity and that will be enough. (FYI: Since I don’t run any ads on my blog, this site of mine isn’t a money-making venture — which is probably a poor business decision, but I just truly enjoy the communication and the connection. So thank you for being here.)
Or maybe I can imagine a few “next steps” — query dozens and dozens of literary agents? Look into self-publishing? Attempt a second manuscript? — but maybe I am too afraid to do any of those things, because what if I’m wasting my time? The thought of squandering any of my minutes is the scariest thing of all. I don’t want to do that — not ever, but especially not while my children still beg to build blocks with me. Not while they’re still captivated by snails or excited about rain or curious enough to ask things like, “Mom, how do trees breathe?”
I don’t know if I’m doing enough — for them, or for me, or for the family. I don’t know what I’m doing, period.
So that’s where I’m at. I can’t decide if I’m peacefully, comfortably still or just…standing still.
I’m not super into publicly announcing goals — because if I fail, everyone knows it, not just me (hello, humiliating) — but I guess putting them out into the world is ALSO very The Secret-y, so here it goes: by my Third Cali-versary, my goal is to be able to tell you that I have a literary agent. Preferably one who loves me and believes in me and can effectively guide my career toward book authorship. So anyway. There it is, all laid bare.
When I first embarked upon this writing journey two years ago, Al warned, “At some point, there will be a sophomore slump — there always is. How you handle that will determine the outcome of your writing career.”
Well, our second year in California is up, and that means sophomore year is officially over. Hopefully the “slump” is, too. It’s time to be a junior now. I don’t really know what that looks like, though, or what it means, so I’m not sure if I’m going to “handle it” correctly.
For now, these are my best guesses as to how to proceed: Keep praying. Keep parenting. Hopefully, keep writing. And keep gazing at those magnificent mountains, so that if we ever do move home, they will have burned like sunspots into my memory.