In late March, I opened an email from BA50 with an invitation to sign up for a blog writing class. Curiosity and mid-life direction led me to the checkout cart before self-doubt or fear could find me. A week later, heart pounding, trembling fingers and help from my daughter logging onto my first Zoom meeting I watched the little blue circles spin around, waiting to be welcomed in to one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
With a warm smile, our instructor, Felice introduced herself and then invited us to do the same. The other ladies were professional, accomplished. Taking deep breaths, I scrambled through my brain trying to think of what to say. What was my status? Stay home mom sounded so dated and that was exactly what I was in the process of trying to change. Reinventing myself so that I don’t end up pining after my adult kids while taking the dog for the 3rd walk of the day.
At the next class we read our first 500 piece essay out loud. My voice shook, I was so nervous. Would I feel safe enough to struggle through speaking publicly after so many years at home? Could I feel confident enough to share my authentic self through writing? Did my story have value? Fuck it. Fuck fear. Let it go. Be vulnerable.
My classmates were generous with their positive comments, and support. Respect gave way to trust. The first session turned into a second and then a third. I was enamored with this same group of ladies from all over the country. I was curious to know them better. Months of mind exercise and deadlines met and summer turned into fall. With Felice’s encouragement I started seeing myself as a writer. I had the freedom to write as Joannie, not mom, not wife, not volunteer, or teacher. This meaningful purpose became cathartic.
Over time and through story we learned about one another. We share the human condition of mid-life over and over again through our unique lenses. Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, isolated in our homes and yet discovering each other’s experience through writing. During shut down our world opened up with each other’s narrative.
The more we wrote the clearer my goals became. I started a blog, writing about my passions. The idea of writing short stories to eventually give to my kids doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I want my grandkids to know what it felt like to turn with a century. Why I love the pictures of my kids on the beach much more than the few portraits we hung on the walls, what my aunt’s carrot recipe meant to my whole family at Thanksgiving. I want them to know where they come from and about my red Dutch oven. Where so much of gratifying purpose began.
Maybe the 2027 self-published book from a life told through pictures, recipes, and story will someday lie in a pile in my grandkid’s basement covered in dust. That part I have no control over, what matters to me is that I left them stories about a time they did not live. I left a life well lived with purpose. And the idea began in the pandemic of 2020 with a group of women I’ve never hugged but mean the world to me.