Once upon a time, I had my whole life planned out: every career move, the year we'd buy our first home, when we'd have children... every step.
Then my body betrayed me. My plan of having a child at 25 was derailed by a mysterious inability to conceive. At the same time, the journalism career I had loved -- I once dreamed of becoming editor of my hometown paper -- was losing its luster. I found myself spending my days pining for a child and at work, serving as a billy club for political opponents to bludgeon each other in the paper. Truth? No such thing. Too much spin, and any attempt to write what I really thought was happening would have been "bias."
The life I'd imagined was nothing like my reality.
We eventually did conceive a son (and later, a daughter) and that's when I made the toughest, scariest decision of my life.
I quit my day job. It was the job which made up half our household income, the job for which I'd trained, the job where I had a bright future. Indeed, I won a statewide journalism award the year I quit, as if to underline what I was giving up.
I found a part-time babysitter so I could still freelance part-time. I wrote light feature stories about local personalities and businesses. I stayed away from local politics as if I'd break out in hives. And in between freelance assignments, I returned to my earliest love: creative writing. I'd loved writing fiction ever since the crudely illustrated stories I'd scribbled in elementary school.
Success in fiction writing was not immediate. It took five years and five manuscripts for my first novel, Real LIfe & Liars, to be accepted for publication.
I had started what would become my second novel before my first book deal. It had a different title then, but would come to be known as The Life You've Imagined, after a famous Thoreau (mis)quote that goes like this: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you've imagined.
My characters in this novel are four women connected by a failing family business who find themselves stunned to be living lives that are nothing like they expected. The book tells how they learn to cope with life as it is, not as they planned. It will be published in August.
It's not such a bad thing when plans go awry. Would I have asked for two years of infertility? Never. Yet, if not for that struggle, I may never have quit my newspaper job (and would probably have been downsized by now).
I was asked in a recent interview by the young adult author Joelle Anthony where I see myself in ten years. I answered that I've learned by now not to plan so far ahead. I just hope it's good, whatever is coming, but if it isn't, I'll make the best of it.