I’m sitting in Panera, having finally decided to force myself to sit down and write. It’s busy here–college students studying, friends chattering, nurses and medical professionals from the nearby hospital enjoying a lunch break. The busyness seems to complement the t-shirt I threw on after last night’s shift, a black background with white outlines of Castiel and Dean from Supernatural and the phrase “you are not alone.” The shirt supported a mental health charity, not that I need a reason to support Supernatural actors of course, but I love knowing that I can give to others while spoiling myself. I love that little piece of connection.
But in the midst of all the bustle, I realized something. I miss connection. I am lonely. It feels weird to say so, because I am never really alone. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense but a literal one. Other than a few spare hours here and there, I spend nearly all of my time away from work with my husband. Often, that time is shared with some of our six American nieces and nephews, a rough-and-tumble bunch that I love more than life itself, or spent skyping with my sister and four (five any day now) Irish nephews. It is a busy, hectic, full existence, and I love it.
However, I find myself missing my writing tribe more and more. I had a near-perfect undergraduate experience at Indiana University Southeast, then went straight into Spalding’s MFA in Writing program. I didn’t realize how much I counted on deadlines and assignments and fellow writers until I graduated and had to try to strike out on my own. And I have to realize now that I am just not as good on my own.
But I am learning. And finding my way into staying a tribe member without the attachments of coursework. I had lunch with a local writing friend a couple weeks ago, and am meeting another later today. I have an ongoing group chat with a group of fellow writers and amazing women, and they sustain me.
The biggest lesson in all of this is, as important as my tribe is, I have to learn to strike out on my own, too. I have to somehow hold myself accountable, and somehow keep writing and submitting and revising even though no one is holding me to a due date. And, I have to let go of my perfectionism and celebrate even small steps. Like writing a blog post, or drafting a chapter, or sending someone feedback. Or even just reading.
One step at a time.