"I am A Writer"

“So, what do you do?” the esthetician inquires as she applies pressure, extracting blackheads from my nose. 

Wincing, both from the pain of the removal of the dirt and debris from my pores, and the weight of the question, I hesitate to answer. I’m not entirely sure what to say.  Amid a pandemic, I haven’t seen many people since I’ve become a mother.  Many acquaintances have yet to meet my son and also have yet to meet the latest version of me.   I have completely transformed, and I also feel the most me I’ve been in a long time.  It’s been nearly nine months since I left my job of over ten years and life has taken a complete turnaround since then.


I’m reluctant, unsure how to answer the esthetician’s question.  When asked in a more formal setting like a doctor’s appointment, I’ve labeled myself a stay-at-home mother, and that bares a big part of who I am today.  But I’ve also picked up my pen, my laptop, ready to spill my innermost thoughts with an open mind again.  I’ve committed to filling the page as a daily practice. 


“I’m a writer,” I declare, trying on for size. 


Shit!  That sounded strange.  Was that my voice that said that?  The words slipped out, nearly inaudible, barely above a whisper.


It is the first time the title escapes from my mouth, and oddly enough, I’ve uttered this information to a stranger. 


It has taken me years to admit this to myself.  And even though I’ve taken on flexing my writing muscle almost daily since the new year began, I haven’t found myself completely comfortable with declaring myself a writer as of yet.  My insecurity plagues me, dreading the questions that I’m certain are to follow:


“Have you written a book?”

“Where can I read your work?”

“Would I know of anything you’ve written?”


The truth is, I’m only just getting acclimated to the fact that I’m actually on this journey with the goal of becoming a published author, and I feel that I know nothing, other than that I have much to learn.  I bare and unveil my soul with my words, and they have been rejected far more places than they’ve been accepted.  Therefore, I’m not entirely sure where I fit into this new “job” as of yet.  

The uncertainty of my future also includes a barrage of questions I’m asking myself, the most pressing being; will writing provide an income or instead remain a hobby?  I intensely fear settling for the latter.  This uncertainty causes me major self-doubt and I wonder if I am wasting my time.  My primary role right now is mother, and I relish that responsibility.  Observing my son’s growth over the last eleven months has been a joy I never could have anticipated.  I’m grateful to bear witness to every milestone, every first, every sweet moment. 


And yet like Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid, “I want moooorreee…”


Writing has always been a sacred space for me.  I’ve neglected it in the last decade as I ran to Manhattan focused on the fast-paced fashion industry. I had plenty of time for it on a lengthy train commute, and I certainly recorded certain anecdotes from the day or varying thoughts and ideas in my iPhone Notes App, but I was not committed to the craft.  I never felt I had much to say besides the random bursts of thoughts and inspiration that infrequently surfaced in my mind.


The esthetician continues her work, gliding soft fingertips across both cheekbones.  She’s simultaneously massaging and applying toner, tingling my sensitive skin.  She only murmurs, “very nice,” in response to my declaration that I’ve just agonized over, and continues working on my face.  It is likely that she asked me the question as a nicety and doesn’t care about the response.  I remind myself that this is how most of the world operates, on autopilot, and heave a deep breath of relief.


And then it hits me.  I am so conditioned by society to introduce myself and immediately follow up my name with my profession.  I used to say, “I’m Christine.  I’m a Product Developer and Sales Representative.” Once upon a time, I liked that title.  I was proud of the Fifth Avenue address I commuted to daily, and the Manhattan job I’d landed right out of college.  I loved what I did.  In the aftermath of the birth of my son amid the array of changes that Covid presented, that love faded.  I had a new focus; my child, my growing family, and a desperate need to slow the fuck down and soak it all in.


I’d rather not define myself by my work, but if I have to, I’m damn proud to be a mother.  It’s cliché, but while the “hardest job in the world,” is a club I never imagined I’d be a part of, I am grateful that the last two years have delivered me to this juncture.   I’m also proud to be a writer.  (There, I said it!)  I’m living a dream that the 8-year-old me (who used to fantasize about being a published author) would be so excited about.  I’m carving a path that feels natural and right.

And as for my work? Maybe one day I’ll feel safer declaring it to the world when someone asks me.  Maybe I won’t need to justify it.   Maybe I can say, “I’m Christine.  I’m a mother, and I’m a writer.” Maybe I can proclaim it, unapologetically, and not cringe in anticipation of the world’s questions.


After all, I’m following a calling, not conferencing with the world regarding my employment status. I need not grant the space for the careless questions from random voices, and instead embrace my work wholeheartedly, in whatever form it takes.

Work is the theme for my writing group this month.
Read more pieces about work from my fellow Illuminate members:

How Do You Define 'Work'?
 by Adeola Sheehy
My Work is Never Done (a poem) by Mia Sutton
What Do You Do? by Hannah Kewley
They Say a Mother's Work is Never Done by Leesha Mony
Working in the Margins by Laci Hoyt
You Gotta Work B**ch by Amy Rich
Labors of Love by Liz Russell
on my terms. by Eunice Brownlee
Potted Houseplant by Crystal James

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