My parents were terrified of uncertainty. They had a hunkered-down mentality, as if they were spending their lives in a bunker. Taking any kind of risk was unthinkable. “Don’t rock the boat.” “Be careful–you don’t want to burn your bridges.” Being raised this way tends to give a person a slow start.
My parents had a skewed way of looking at things—college, for example. I was told that I had to go to college so I could get a job and pick up the slack if something happened to my husband. This was my mother’s reality; my dad had an accident and ended up partially disabled. Mother graduated magna cum laude from USC and after graduation, she went to work as one of the “girls” in a dental office. Every job she ever had was in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, and she seemed to believe a bachelor’s degree was required for these jobs. She never had a library card; for entertainment, she read the short articles in Reader’s Digest.
I, on the other hand, was a book addict. I always wanted to write. I wrote my first “novel” at age 9, about a horse. At university, I had lots of ideas for books and stories, but there was always an academic paper that I had to write instead. I don’t think they had degrees in creative writing in those days, so I majored in literature. When I graduated, I was expected to return home and get a job filing charts in the doctor’s office where Mother worked. I needed that degree in order to file the charts in alphabetical order.
I rebelled. I drifted from one place to the next, picking fruit, cleaning houses, pulling weeds, and writing in fits and starts. I never finished anything I wrote. I ended up a single mom, and like my mother, found myself doing doctor’s office jobs—billing insurance, transcribing chart notes and letters, and handling worker’s compensation claims. In my spare time, I started a novel set in Egypt’s First Intermediate Period. I wrote 300 pages before I got stuck. By then, my daughter had grown up, and I had moved up from working in private medical offices to hospital systems. It was a good living until I got laid off. Writing was still my passion, though, and I started another novel. I finished that one and wrote two more books. It has taken a lot of years, but I’m using my education at last! I’m a very late bloomer, but now I’m writing from a lifetime of experiences as a single mom working in the trenches. The good thing about being a late bloomer is having so much to draw on—bizarre work situations, hitchhiking, living in the woods, and so much more. I have lived it all.