Sunday, February 28, 2016

Choosing What I Love Most

I'm home in Colorado from Indiana for a long weekend to celebrate my granddaughter Kataleya's second birthday. Here is the photo montage that her mother, Ashley, assembled for the occasion:
It's an awfully vivid way to demonstrate how swiftly time passes and how much each second counts.

I've decided that after this semester at DePauw finishes in May, I'm not going to seek or accept prolonged teaching appointments far away. I withdrew my application to teach for Semester at Sea, which would have involved teaching three courses on board a cruise ship sailing to ports in Japan, China, Burma, Vietnam, India, Ghana, South Africa, and Morocco. I still have a commitment to teach for six weeks in the summer graduate program in children's literature at Hollins University in Roanoke in the summer of 2017. But except for that, my plans now are to stay closer to home.

I feel a little bit like Professor Harold Hill at the end of The Music Man, the traveling conman who decides not to flee River City after he falls in love with librarian Marian. "Well, for the first time in my life," he says, "I got my foot caught in the door."

Having a little grandbaby here in Boulder, and another on the way in May, I've gotten my foot caught in the door. While I'm certainly going to keep a valid passport close at hand, escape no longer beckons with the same allure.

I've never been the kind of person who believed that family was everything. Indeed I wrote a post on this blog a few years ago that staunchly maintained the opposite, and I still stand by every word of it. I'm not someone who thinks that on my deathbed all I'll care about is the time I spent with my family. On my deathbed I'm going to be proud of the books I've written and the students I've taught. I have loved being a writer as much as I've loved being a mother, and now a grandmother. There, I've said it again.

But here's the thing. Lately I haven't been much of a writer. With all the work to prepare the three courses I'm teaching this spring, two of which I've never taught before, and now teaching those same three courses, five days a week, I've crowded writing out of my life. The person who gives inspirational talks on how she writes all her books in just an hour a day while working hard at another full-time job isn't writing much at all. I've chosen to focus on what's urgent now - getting ready to walk into the classroom prepared for class tomorrow - over what's more important to me in the long run: writing books. I love teaching, I do; but I love writing more.

So in choosing home over faraway adventures, I'm not just choosing time with a sweet, stubborn, funny, naughty, adorable little grandchild over a full and flourishing career. I'm choosing both the people I most want to be with and the work I most want to do.

I'll still have a heart that seeks and needs and loves both work and family. But for the foreseeable future, at least, I want to love both of them here, in this one place.

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