I am high above a brisk northern California beach. Why am I not walking safely atop this wall? The wind is obviously pushing me in all sorts of directions. A friend is turning to look at me. Is he concerned? I feel exuberantly free.
In the mid-1990’s, these are my college years just before I enter into the graduate program for speech-language pathology. I’m taking adventurous road trips with friends. I’m dating angry, sexy young men. My mom is nearing the end of her life, her health rapidly deteriorating after years of alcohol use and a family history of high cholesterol. I’m both incessantly worried and in denial that she’ll ultimately pass away before I earn my Master’s degree.
It’s the last year in graduate school in the late 1990’s and I’m not sure how my mom feels about my future.
She was a single mom for most of my upbringing and I got the message that I, too, was supposed to:
- Keep busy; rush from here to there.
- Have a Job (nearly any job).
- Collapse into an exhausted, deflated heap.
I know she’s relieved that I finally decided on a career, but does she understand how emotionally and intellectually fulfilled I believe I will be? How I will, finally, get to help students after I myself struggled with academics and felt ignored in the public schools?
Then, months before she dies in 1998, she sends me a copy of her favorite children’s book from the 1930’s, The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. Inside, she inscribes:
To Kim — This was my first grown-up book when I was about 3 or 4 yrs. old – I would carry it everywhere & pretend I could really read it. I hope all your little kids will love this book like I did. Love, Mom
Leaving the job I have now, I delve as deeply as possible into the past in order to figure out my next steps. It is not everyone’s way, I understand, but it sure does feel nice to sort it all out. I remember Mom telling me, “I wish I could sleep through the night, but I usually wake up at 3am and worry.” I now understand this working world anxiety — and it’s just me, with no child to support. She toiled hard, and she got the both of us through all those years to the very day I left home. (Thanks, mama.)
2016 marks 17 years since I embarked on my career as a public schools speech pathologist, and since I lost her. The two events are eternally intertwined inside me: a beginning, an ending.
I come to the surface of all of this with continued indecision and fear, but also a gradual understanding that no matter where I work, I’m still me. There is no wrong path.
Respectfully, I bow to single parents, singletons, the past and present, loss and learning. I crawl toward change. With every breath, in each moment, I begin again.
Thank you so much for reading. This was the third post about my job changes and I’ll take a break to focus on Who but You? contributions — and the actual work of finding new work!
As always, no matter who and where you are, you are not alone.