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"Get a Job"...Career Choices - Roadmaps and Routes
Pari Noskin Taichert’s first novel, THE CLOVIS INCIDENT, wound up being a Book Sense 76 pick and an Agatha Award Finalist in 2004. Now, THE BELEN HITCH is about to be released and she can only wonder how far this new book will go. For more information about her books go to http://www.parinoskintaichert.com http://www.badgirlspress.com or http://www.unmpress.com
Roadmaps and Routes
When I was a kid, I had it all figured out. I’d be married by 25 and have all my kids by the time I was 30. Sure, it’d be difficult those first few years, but my parents would be around to help. By the time I was 40, I’d be a famous author, my kids would adore me, and life would be peachy-keen. Only my schedule didn’t go according to plan.
In January of 1978 when I was almost 20, my dear stepfather died. The unexpectedness of his death jolted me and sent me into a tailspin that took years to recover from. Writing lost its pleasure for me. My plans to go study Chinese in Hong Kong became my only escape. However, as most of us know, you can’t escape emotional tragedy for long. In Hong Kong, my loneliness was amplified with each hour. Everything seemed worthless in the face of mortality. I dropped out of school, came home, and found no solace there. Finally, I went back to Michigan and completed my college education. I was still frightened to set goals. After all, I could die at any moment. I worked odd jobs, fell into and out of relationships, and then I decided to go to grad school.
So by 25, I was entering school yet again, and marriage seemed far, far away. I earned a Masters in Social Work, moved to Washington, D.C., and got better odd jobs with bigger and more impressive names. But I still felt lost, as if in an adult adolescence. After a few years, I returned home again.
In Albuquerque, I realized all of my work had led me to public relations. It was my profession that helped focus other parts of my life. By now I was 30, still no marriage, kids, or book written or sold. But things were becoming more solid once again. I made tentative plans, set tentative goals, and inched my way back into believing in life and myself. I started writing seriously again.
At 33, I reconnected with someone I’d known since childhood. A romance ensued, and at 35, I was married. One doctor told me I was too old for children. I got pregnant and miscarried. I swirled into another tailspin with the fear that I’d never be able to have children because I’d waited too long. A new doctor said though my age might make me seem old for having babies, my body didn’t act old to him. He urged me to try for a child once more, and I did. I gave birth to my first daughter when I was 37.
As I sat marveling at her beauty, my own creativity rekindled, and the idea for a mystery series was born. In the long midnight hours with my newborn, I worked on the outline for my first novel. The same year I completed the manuscript, my father died. Then at 40, I had another daughter. My mother died eight weeks later. My godfather died two months later. The realization that I’m at the top of my family’s generation has had a different effect than the horror of the first death I experienced. Now I’m even more determined to live my life well, and to provide my children with the resilience to meet life’s joys and tragedies and not be knocked down for as long and as hard as I was.
Oh, and at 44, I’ve written three novels. My third was the first one to sell. It will published around the time of my 46th birthday.
No, things haven’t gone according to plan in my life. I missed many of those important chronological benchmarks. But I did become a wife, a parent, and an author. What has my roller coaster life taught me so far?
Well, making plans and having goals is like designing a roadmap. The destination is important, but the journey to getting there can go any number of ways. By having destinations on your life’s roadmap, you can gauge your progress. For goal-oriented people like me, that’s important. But I’ve also learned through my up-down life that it’s difficult to force the details of the journey.
When I went to Hong Kong, I planned to stay for years. Though I left after eleven months, living there and learning what it was like to be a visible minority instilled a sensibility in my writing that would be difficult to gain any other way. I had my children much later than I anticipated. The delay allowed me to travel and have a profession before pulling back into the singularly intense experience of being a stay-at-home mother. I’m a more patient parent as a result, and I’m convinced it has made me a more grateful mother than I would have been had I had children in my late 20s.
In our generation, we were told to, “go with the flow.” I never quite bought that concept because it was too vague. I didn’t know if I was supposed to float along aimlessly, or grab every opportunity that came my way. A roadmap is priceless for developing your life’s goals. But just as important is the realization that there are myriad routes on that map. Many yield more interesting and fruitful results than the ones you originally planned.