I have this weird little quirk (I know that others have this quirk, too) wherein whenever I have to distinguish right from left I have to pause and look at my hands and think about it. Even after I perform this little ritual, I sometimes say right for left or vice-versa. That is not the weird thing though. The weird thing is that I generally know direction, as in North, South, East, or West without even thinking about it. Of course giving this type of direction is not helpful to others, as most people have no idea what I am talking about when I tell them to head West or South, etc. While knowing direction in this manner is useless in the real world, (unless you are lost in a forest or at sea or something of that nature) knowing direction in life is important to everyone. However, this is not always as easy a process as distinguishing left from right, or East or West. At some point in our lives, we all face cross roads. I am no exception.
Many moons ago, when I was twenty-years-old, I was just finishing my studies in Practical Nursing and I had the dream of joining the Peace Corps. I was also in a serious relationship. At the time, I felt very free in expressing my goals to my boyfriend, friends, and family. However, I received very few positive reactions, and had to face some difficult decisions. Which direction should I follow? Should I ignore the advice of others and follow my dream to travel to distant places to help in the world at large? Or, should I accept the advice of others and take my place in society to become another person working to find the proverbial American dream? I admit that I knew the path I wanted to follow and yes, although the pull to follow my dream was strong, I squelched it and followed the desires of others instead of my own.
Over the next twenty years I married, assisted my husband in building a home and a successful business. We never had children of our own, but we did help to raise other’s children through foster care. There were many difficulties, happy times as well as heartaches. Yet, overall, the satisfactions far out-weighed the difficulties. However, I always had the nagging feeling that something was missing. By the late ‘90s, the children were gone—the older grown and beginning lives of their own, the younger reunited with their own families. My husband, immersed in his business and other activities, was barely ever home; and so I started turning my attention inward to focus on my inner voice and to listen to the message it was trying to convey to me.
I started searching and experimenting by taking some art and writing classes, and in doing this, I found a freedom that I did not know existed. I earned certificates in proofreading and editing which proved useful in obtaining several freelance writing jobs. I also picked up a bit of contract work for some volunteer agencies. I still assisted my husband with the business when he needed me and earned a small compensation for my work there, but I felt I needed something of my own. Unfortunately, my husband, now ex-husband did not agree. We split in September of 2003. I was not surprised nor I have to admit, extremely upset that our twenty-something year relationship was at an end. In fact, that new-felt seed of freedom began to blossom, and I saw myself facing a new direction.
Two months later, I started classes at the local community college and graduated two years later with an honors degree in writing communication. However, finding a good and permanent position as a writer, especially in the declining economy, proved next to impossible. So instead, I volunteered at the Central Library’s bookstore, and picked up some odds and end jobs here and there. At one point my neighbor, knowing that I had nursing experience, asked if I could care for her mom on weekends. I took the job and later, during a conversation with one of my fellow volunteers, the subject of my work came up and he asked me if I would interview to care for his mom. I acquired the position and continued for the next three years. However, the directional pull toward writing did not cease. I began to compose essays and poetry to satisfy my need for self-expression.
In late June 2009, I had a freak accident in which I broke my left arm and shattered my wrist. The bones of my wrist did not set correctly and the doctors had to re-break and reset my wrist after the first four weeks of its casting. Consequently, I was in a cast for the next three months. To make matters worse, I did not have health insurance to cover these bills and had to apply for public medical assistance. It is surprising how helpless a person can become with only the use of one arm. Actually, I think it was more the cast that made tasks so difficult as it was extremely heavy, clumsy, and the fact that I could not get it wet. Though I taught myself to do many things with the use of one hand; some things however, were impossible to manage. If not for some awesome friends, I don’t know what I would have done. Anyway, my wrist never did set correctly and I have limited use of it. What I found interesting during those three months of incapacitation was that the pull in the direction towards writing became stronger, and I continued to write poetry and began jotting down ideas for stories.
In October, once free of the cast, I resumed my position as nurse and caregiver to my friend’s mom. By the following June the position ended, as these types of positions always do. The hunt for work once more commenced. After several months of an exhaustive and disappointing search, (at one point, I submitted resumes over a ten week period to a total of 150 companies and never received so much as a phone call) I realized that nothing was going to surface. Yet, I was luckier than some as through mutual agreement with my ex, I remained living in the house (I live here alone) and he supplies me with enough money to cover food and minor expenses. It’s not very much but it’s all I need, and I occasionally land an obscure writing assignment to compensate. So once again, my directional focus rested on writing and art.
Currently, I am in the process of writing two books, which is proving a slow but steady process. Also, I work on art projects to submit and sell at the many art festivals held here annually. I plan to take a grant-writing course in the fall that may supply me with additional writing work. I would still like to volunteer a year of service to the Peace Corps and/or AmeriCorps Vista. It remains as one of my future goals. Interestingly, when I recently mentioned this goal to a family member, the response was rather insulting, with the question, “Why do you want to live like a vagabond?” I ignored it…
I no longer care about the opinions of others. I am following my inner compass and I feel content and free. Granted it took half a lifetime of trial and error, and many disagree with my current path. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I know without question that I am heading in the right direction.
Thank you for reading. ~ Yvonne ~