This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is Kristin Halbrook, debut author of Nobody But Us and one of my Anticipated Debuts for January 2013, sharing hers…
Guest post by Kristin Halbrook
When I was little, I had lofty goals. I was going to be president! I was going to be the first female NFL quarterback! I was going to be a writer!
During grad school, my aspirations changed. Did I want to be a teacher? Did I want to continue into the Phd program in Women’s Studies or in Social Geography? No matter how my path changed, I always was setting goals for the next stage. Always looking to meet the high expectations I had for myself. Before any of these possibilities came to fruition, I became a mother. And my aspiration became: be the best mother possible.
I bought a house in the suburbs. Because that’s what I was supposed to do. The man I’d been working for actually suggested that to me, as though raising a child in the city would turn the world on its head. I hated the suburbs. A few years later, I packed up and moved to a small town across the state because even though I was thinking about pursuing my Phd, I was convinced my desires were selfish and that my partner at the time should be doing his schoolwork, instead. I hated it there, too.
I’d hoisted upon my shoulders a traditionally defined role of motherhood. My time belonged to my children first, and my own dreams took a backseat. When I decided I would dedicate my free time to pursuing writing, as I’d wanted to my whole life, I came up against a wall of constant disrespect. I’d spent so much time supporting the efforts of others that my time didn’t belong to me anymore and my partner at the time fought to keep the benefit of my time for himself.
It wasn’t good.
When my second daughter was born, I spent a lot of time soul-searching. I thought about how different my two girls were, how the only thing, truly, I wanted for them and their unique paths in life was for them to be happy. In whatever thing they decided to do. Anything else—everything else—hardly mattered.
And then I wondered: Why wasn’t that good enough for me?
Why wasn’t I happy? Why had I abandoned my dreams?
What kind of example was I to them?
Not a very good one.
And so my Turning Point was the powerful moment I realized I needed to be the person I wanted my daughters to be. Not long into my motherhood, I surfaced from a state of drowning.
I needed to pursue the impractical, explore the barely known, fight for what I knew would make me happy. I began to work on novels during the time that I should have been sleeping. I added words; ten, twenty at a time while the girls were eating lunch. More, if they were at a friend’s house playing—if I had time. I was also working part time from home, tutoring online, writing online articles, TAing for an online university. I wrote partial novels, I wrote paragraphs of ideas, I wrote complete novels that were part of my apprenticeship and should never see the light of day. One time, I saw a call for pieces for a small magazine and sent in an essay. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.
The day I got my acceptance letter and my check for the essay, I called myself a Writer, capital W.
But in my day-to-day life, nothing changed. I still struggled for time and autonomy without the support I needed from my adult relationship. In these moments I came to realize, with a painful clarity, that I was in a terrible marriage. Why was I doing this to myself? This woman who studied Women’s Studies at university, who claimed feminism proudly, who felt that a woman should be able to choose whatever life she wanted, whether mother or maintenance worker… My choice had turned sour. Not long after, I left that toxic relationship. I knew things would be a struggle, but what came next was a freedom and release of bitterness that felt like coming up for air after holding my breath as long as I could. I was Me again. I had ultimate claim over my time and my goals. Much of that, I continued to devote to my girls. I still want to be the best mother I can be. But I also started to respect myself enough that I carved out time for myself to write. At first, this was in the evenings and while my youngest was settled into a project. As preschool and kindergarten came, I moved into developing my goals full-time. There were and are moments my girls have to entertain themselves while I work, but that’s not a bad thing. They should see me actively pursuing my dreams. They should know that I respect and love myself enough to give myself the time I need. And they know that, once I’m finished with whatever I’m doing, our fun time together is more precious than ever. It means more. To all of us.
I’m kind of living in a fantasy world right now. I mean, things aren’t always easy and I work hard, but it’s the work I’ve always wanted to do. My now-husband has always known me as a writer and he values me in that role. My girls know me as a writer and speak about me to their friends and teachers with pride. I’ve accomplished things I’ll never give up, that are a part of me. Every step I took to publication was a moment of further empowerment: signing with my agent, selling Nobody But Us, working on my next projects. And I’m finally happy. Happy with reaching my goals and setting new ones. Happy about the example I’m setting for my girls to pursue their dreams, to become the women they want to be, knowing they can because they’ve seen their mother become the woman she is now.
Kristin’s debut novel, Nobody But Us, comes out on January 29 from HarperTeen. Come back next week for an interview with the author and a chance to win the book!
Kristin Halbrook is a Seattleite who loves good coffee, good food, good music, good sports, good causes, good reads and the word good. She travels a lot, but loves coming home just as much as exploring. She’s both intense and a goofball, introverted and gregarious. Nobody But Us is Kristin’s debut novel, about a boy and girl desperate to leave their pasts behind and the systems that make happiness just so hard for them to find.
Visit Kristin online at www.kristinhalbrook.com.