“I am participating in Diane DeBella’s #iamsubject project http://www.iamsubject.com/the-iamsubject-project/. Here is my #iamsubject story.”
Do you have a women’s story you want to submit for possible inclusion to an upcoming anthology? Please click on the link above and join us.
Have you ever hear the sermon about the guy who’s caught in a flood and ends up on the roof of his house? Cold and scared, he prays for God to rescue him. Before long, a log passes by, and he reaches out, but misses it. Then he sees a guy in a rowboat approaching him. He starts to get excited, but when the boat gets close, he can’t bring himself to step off the roof. Now frantic, he looks toward heaven and makes a more desperate plea.
Eventually he hears a rescue helicopter flying overhead. He’s relieved until a gust of wind swings the basket wildly and he becomes afraid to climb into it. Finally he’s swept away with the current and dies. When he sees God, he’s angry that his prayers were unanswered. God says to him, “I sent you a log, a rowboat, and a helicopter to try to save you.” In shock, the man replies, “You sent those?”
Well, my life reminds me of that story.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a tough time figuring out what I wanted to career-wise. Like the man on the roof who got excited each time he thought help was on the way, I’ve gotten my hopes up, only to have them dashed when things didn’t work out. For years I’ve prayed about it and asked for inspiration.
In first grade, I was positive I wanted to be a nun. In the fifth grade, it was a prima ballerina. By high school, my calling became less clear. A good student, I didn’t feel drawn towards any one subject. When it was time to decide on a major, with my anxiety rising, I began to search in earnest. At the last moment, I settled on textile engineering. My mother was a fashion designer, my father an engineer, and I was a people-pleaser.
After two years in college, I lost my way. I quit school, got married, had a baby. I began a series of “do anything for a buck” jobs. I worked in sheet metal, I painted warehouses, I stocked shelves. When my marriage didn’t work out, I took in sewing in order to support myself and my son, and decided to finish my schooling.
Again it was time to choose a major, and the panic returned. As a single parent paying for my own education, I had to make it count. I settled on psychology, since I’d always been curious about people and relationships. I can still remember my excitement as I declared my major. I sailed through my classes and thought I was finally on my way.
But the excitement was short-lived. When graduation time came around, well, you guessed it. I couldn’t figure out what to do with my degree. It appeared that grad school was necessary for most of the jobs in psych. By then I had remarried and my new husband was working on his PhD in economics. It was my turn to help with our financial situation.
I ended up working for my brother’s start-up computer company, at first in human resources, and then writing computer manuals. I found that I had a knack for learning new software and writing step-by-step instructions. Technical writing became my specialty, and eventually I moved on to other software companies. The money was good, and it kept me motivated for a long time. Finally I could not write one more computer guide. I had continued to study personal growth on my own, and felt called to share what I had learned.
The company I was working for at the time was expanding. I switched to employee development, teaching small-group seminars on professional and life skills. The employees seemed to enjoy the classes, and I was finally using my psych training. I was convinced I had found the right career at last. Unfortunately, there was a change in management, and the job was dissolved. Disillusioned, it was time for a real leap of faith.
I’d gotten close to my dream career, but something wasn’t quite right. Then I happened upon an out-of-print book called Living Life on Purpose, by Greg Anderson. The author suggested that the little voice we hear inside, nudging us, is the voice of God. This was a startling idea to me. I’d always thought of God as somewhere out there, not within. As Anderson says, “Spiritually God has already assigned us a unique mission. God has given us talents and has given us the guidance of our Inner Wisdom as to which talents give us the greatest pleasure.”
Shortly after that, I had a dream about my dad, who had passed away that year. He had beautiful handwriting, from the Palmer Method they taught in his day. When I was little, he used to take my hand and help me practice making circles on the page to ensure that I was using the proper motion. When I awoke from the dream, my hand was moving in a circular motion and I was repeating the word “write.” Could there be a clearer sign of what I was supposed to do? I had been writing for years, but not from the heart.
With a new sense of direction, I decided to try freelancing. I wrote a book about the benefits of psychotherapy. I started submitting articles to the local newspaper, and eventually landed a monthly column. I published a book of personal reflections, followed by a book about my parents’ courtship during World War II based on dad’s love letters to my mom. I have become a writer.
So what does all this have to do with the man on the roof? Well, for years I prayed and cried, cried and prayed about my career “block.” But when I step back to look at how my prayers have been answered, it’s kind of embarrassing that I didn’t recognize the clues. Over the years I’ve had: grammar drilled into me by the nuns; a huge family and rich life experiences to write about; years of computer experience; and my own dad appearing to me in a dream, taking me by the hand and showing me my future.
As if that weren’t enough, I found a friend and mentor in the person of Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons TV show. One of my early newspaper articles was about the strong family values inherent in the series. Mr. Hamner and I began corresponding. I have adopted his personal philosophy: “We are human and small and vulnerable but our journey can be magnificent and memorable and worthy, valuable to us and to those whose lives touch our own.”
You hear musicians say they don’t write their music, they just hear the songs in their heads. Writers experience a similar phenomenon. The words don’t come from me, but through me. The work is effortless, and energizing, because I’m finally doing what I love: using my voice to inspire others. All my life, I’ve been told that I’m smart. But on this career issue, as my friend Earl would say, I didn’t see it coming for a country mile.