Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Identity Insights, Part 2

 I’ve written so many posts since I started blogging that it’s hard to recall them all. A few, however, stand out and, as I was writing yesterday’s post, this one hovered in the back of my mind. Not only do I remember it, but I remember where I was when I wrote it (the old Starbucks at Randolph Park — which is now a smoothie shop — and, if memory serves, I was at a table near the front window). In addition, I recall the sensation of something clicking into place as I drew closer to my conclusion.  

With some posts, I know where I'm going as soon as I begin to write. With others, like this one, realization dawns as I type, the act of writing unlocking insight. Though it’s been more than ten years since wrote this post, and much has ostensibly changed, my eventual conclusion  remains the same.

It's been over a year since I submitted my letter of intent, more than nine months since my last day of school. I think it's time I changed my name. 

Not my actual name. Though I toyed with more "glamorous" alternatives in my teens and in my twenties, I've always been pretty satisfied with my given name. And, I had the good fortune to marry someone whose last name didn't send me screaming into the night, or off in search of spelling lessons.

The name I need to change is the one I use to identify my profession. It's time.

Although I changed my status on Facebook, I haven't made the leap in real life. School counselor was such a huge part of who I was for nearly three decades that it made me sad to let it go. So, I simply slapped "retired" on as a prefix and kept my identity.

But that's not who I am any more. At least not officially.

But "retired" doesn't fit either. I know it's a stereotype, but to me, retired is early bird dinners and daytime movies and senior citizen discounts. And that's not me.

As I grumbled while ironing a freshly-laundered dust ruffle, then wrestled it onto the bed while formulating blog and story ideas, I decided homemaker wasn't the label I was seeking either. Though I love the stay-at-home mom part of my life, I find the "mom" part much more interesting than the "home" part.

But chatting online yesterday with children's writers about reading periods and book reviews - that's me. Walking down a hallway in a school building last night with two aspiring writers, imparting my wisdom (such as it is) - that's me. Sitting at Starbucks this afternoon and holding my breath as I hit the key that sent my submission hurtling through cyberspace - that's me.

I am a writer.

I have been a writer since Miss Lee introduced me to creative writing and weekly spelling tests when I was in seventh grade - maybe even before that - and I've used that moniker for the past twenty years as I squeezed writing time into (and out of) Friday mornings and weekend afternoons and weeknights spent waiting in the car while my daughter danced or played her flute.

But that label has always been subordinate to something else - a "real" job, offering a paycheck and benefits - something responsible adults do. Responsible adults don't retire at 51 and pursue their dreams while they're still young enough to run after them with both hands outstretched.

Excuse me. Why is it that they don't do that?

Okay, okay, there are a million logical, practical, responsible reasons. But that's exactly what I did, and one of my New Year's resolutions was to stop apologizing for it. So far, I've done very well except for that pesky little matter of the name change. And now that I think about it, it really shouldn't be that hard. One is simply an extension of the other.

Or, more accurately, a correction, because, you see, I'm not retired. I don't have time for early bird specials or afternoon movies.

I'm a writer. And an instructor, and a speaker and a wife and a mom.

A part of me will always be a school counselor, and I bring that to the table every day, whether I'm teaching aspiring writers, doing a presentation or advising a friend. So, I don't really need to let it go completely - at least not until it lets go of me. All I need to do is reverse the order of the labels.

I'm a writer. And a former school counselor.

Nothing retired about it.

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