Once upon a time, I got into a fight with my younger sister.
*That’s every day, Katie-* THIS HAS A POINT, I PROMISE.
We shared a room, and I wanted on the computer. Cause I had very important twelve year-old things to do.
And she, being who she is, was super quick and clever in telling me to bug off. An argument about computer rights unfolded until I did what every normal, irritated, and technologically-unaware person would do in that situation. I yanked the plug.
For that, I was grounded for about a week.
Which, looking back, is more than fair.
But my mother, knowing what was close to my heart and knowing a bookworm weirdo like me wouldn’t miss the flaky middle school snark factories that were my friends, grounded me from the thing I cared about –
a) Harry Potter and b) our trampoline.
BELIEVE ME THIS IS AN AERODYNAMIC NERD’S WORST NIGHTMARE.
According to my mother, that was one of the toughest weeks of parenting she’d ever experienced, because here’s something some of you might not know about me: I don’t give up easily.
I hounded her. And followed her around. I bargained. Came up with my own version of the Magna Carta and demanded she hear me out. IT WAS JUST A COMPUTER, GAH, MOM.
I should’ve taken the punishment, I know. But I had this drive inside me; this need to get what I wanted. I was a mini William Wallace plus inch-thick glasses and minus any justification for my crusade.
I did this for an entire week. Every waking moment was devoted to regaining my freedom.
Why do I bring this story up, you ask? Because my mom does. Often.
That’s because life and I have always been kind of like
and even though I’m constantly like
I keep coming back for more. And after recalling my stubborn adolescence, my mom often says, “I’m so glad you decided to use your powers for good instead of evil.”
And I realized that it’s true.
My cue to give up was probably like… seven exits back. My chance to slip away gracefully and with my decorum in tact is now long gone.
Sometimes I forget that story of pain-in-the-ass twelve year-old Katie, but last night, I remembered why it is important.
This last weekend, Aryn was patient zero for a stomach flu plague that knocked out our entire family. I’ve just started this new job and was so looking forward to a weekend of rest. I was thinking Ross and I could go see Mad Max, I could write a little, maybe take Aryn to the park… and then I remember that my life is sometimes a GIF-worthy joke.
So nope. Lysol and buckets and saltine crackers, as far as the eye could see.
I was like… okay. Not ideal, but let’s just push through. I got sick on Monday night, but Aryn seemed to be feeling better and it looked like the worst might be over. I lost a couple of writing days, but I knew I could bounce back.
Yesterday was a 12-hour work day (trailer launch days are awesome and SO LONG). I signed off, achy and happy. Ross and I went and picked up some dinner, took Aryn out for ice cream, and I was back in time to watch The Bachelorette while sipping some wine.
I was in bed in time for a good night’s rest before my 4:45 writing wake-up call.
Then Aryn woke up at midnight and projectile vomited all over everything.
And somewhere between guiding her to the bathroom and waking up fully, I lost it. She was laughing and playing in the bath, obviously feeling better, but I started crying. Thoughts ran through my mind:
This is going to keep happening. Writing time is going to slip through my fingers, a day at a time, until it’s the end of the year and I have nothing to show for it. This is dumb. Not everyone is meant to achieve their dreams in life. People leave dreams on the side of the road all the time.
Then I felt terrible for even wanting writing time when my baby had just tossed her cookies.
It was a huge, vomit-soaked pity party, right there in the bathroom. Ross tried to talk me down, but I was already halfway through reinventing what our Five Year Plan would look like if I stopped trying to be an author.
After everything was clean and Aryn was back asleep, I lied down and let the tears roll down the sides of my face. I stared up at the ceiling and deflected every kind word Ross had to say, spinning them around, sharpening their edges, and chucking them back in his direction. They were ugly, hurtful things I spat back at him while licking my wounds.
Not my proudest moment.
I lie there in the dark, thinking: I can’t have everything. I can’t be a mom and a writer and have a full-time job. I just can’t. Aryn needs a good mom — I know that was the most important thing. The other two fall behind that.
I can’t work 40 hours a week and keep writing while also being present for Aryn. It’s not possible.
I woke up determined to try and let the dream go. It was time.
I dropped Aryn off at the babysitter and tried not to cry when she did. As I stood in line at Starbucks after (because it was a Venti kind of day), my arms folded over my stained sweatshirt, the thoughts kept rolling over in my mind like a slow boil of negativity:
I give up. I give up I give up I give up.
The wins come, but so do these times. What comes up must come down. For every time I have something awesome to work for, there seem to be three I have to fight through.
And I’m effing tired.
I kept telling myself that everything would be easier if I stopped running myself to the bone trying to make a long-shot dream come true.
I’m giving up.
And then, somewhere deep in my chest, little twelve year-old me started stirring. And it felt like she followed me to the car. And then into my house – hounding me like I once hounded my poor mother.
That same pestering insistence. Every time I thought, ‘I’m giving up’, I heard:
The hell you are.
And then, I started realizing giving up wasn’t going to be so easy.
I still got excited when I logged on to my computer. I still smiled at the sight of my character notes hanging above my desk. I still chewed eagerly on the inside of my cheek as my outline reminder popped up on my computer calendar.
Wait, no. I give up I give up I give up. This is too hard-
The. Hell. You. Are.
I didn’t have an “Ah-HA!” moment. No huge revelation occurred. It’s just that my resolve to give up started sliding down my body like ink, until it was all puddled at my feet and I stepped out of it without even realizing what I’d done.
I went for a walk on my lunch hour. I opened the window. I pulled the hair out of my eyes.
I can’t give this up. I don’t know who I would be if I did.
Truth is, it can kick the sh** out of me as many times as it wants. I’ll always keep coming back.
Somehow, my worst quality has become a strength. That isn’t always true, of course. It’s probably made an ass out of me more than it has paid off. I take stands on arguments when I know I’m wrong. I’ve lost friends because I wouldn’t let things go.
But today… today I saw where it could be an asset.
So this is to my worst critics, from the snarky classmate who made fun of YA to the professor who recently called my writing style “careless” –
– and, most importantly, to me. To the me that comes out in the middle of the night in the bathroom when things aren’t going according to plan:
I can’t take a hint.
I’m never going home.
I missed my cue to leave.
Deal with it.
And somewhere in the space time continuum, twelve year-old me is looking up from her reading session on the trampoline and smiling.