I am 31. I just broke up with the man who I thought I would marry. The man who I wanted to be the father of my children. I date, drink, and work jobs to make money. I dance but I make nothing creative of my own. I am empty but I don’t know what to do. I don’t notice, but I learn how to do research. I help publish over 20 papers. Publications are the accomplishment I am most proud of. The seeds are watered. I begin to grow.
I am 33. After realizing that my emptiness can’t be filled any longer by dating, drinking, and working jobs to make money, I quit my academic job and hit the road. I need to leave Chicago. My only goal is to write what I want to write. I hold myself accountable for consistently writing in what is now my blog. I spend time on the West Coast, Taos, New Mexico, and I think I should go to France.
I am 34. I decide to go to Paris. Patti Smith spent time in Paris. Henry Miller spent time in Paris. I want to follow their footsteps. I hope I can find their inspiration. I worked part-time at my job. In the afternoons I would walk to the bar where Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The Sun Also Rises.” I would ask for a Pastis in French. I write, soaking in my inspiration. I meet someone and stay in Lyon for almost a year. Our relationship ends badly, and I end up back in the United States.
I am 35. I am living at my parents. I don’t have a job. I spend most of my day applying for jobs. I go for a walk every day around the high school track. I am too sad to write but I think about it every day.
I am 36. I moved to Maine for a job. I moved to Maine to write. I moved to Maine to be alone. I moved to Maine because I feel alive when I am in the forest. I learn guitar and I write songs. I continue with my blog. I begin freelance writing. I summarize books, I write original content. I realize I love writing about music, comedy, and mental health topics. I build endurance as a writer. I realize I can write a book.
I am 37. I visit Wisconsin. I meet a B movie actor and playwright. We become friends. He offers to read me, and I oblige. He insists on telling me via telephone how awful my essay is. He continues to say repeatedly, “What is this?” Every sentence is wrong. He challenges me to rewrite and send it back. I hang up the phone and cry for hours. Then, instead of revising my essay, I write what is now my first book, “Lunch with Dr. Loering.” It is my response to a patronizing man. It is my response to all patronizing men.
I am 38 years old. I don’t feel mature. I still dream like a child about being a writer. I still have the wonder of a child about the world. Society tells me I am older, I should have a family, solid job, mortgage payments, and miles racked up. My family has given up hope of me settling down, yet they secretly hope I will. My friend, a new mother, asked me when I was going to have a child. I hear them as I look outside my window, dreaming I am a writer.