Here are the first few paragraphs of an essay I started writing a while ago but have gotten somewhat hung up on. I like the way it starts, but I think that I might be getting off track by the end of this excerpt. (There are more problems later on, but we’ll start here.) What do you think? What do you like or dislike? Any questions or comments? Thanks in advance for any feedback you may have. And if you don’t have anything to say, I hope you enjoy reading it anyway!
I walk down this street several times a weeks, sometimes several times a day. The stores and sights and sounds and smells are all familiar. But something is different, something that leaves me feeling slightly unhinged, afraid that I might do something rash. Run into the street, trip over a cat, get myself maimed in some unimaginable way. It’s an eight minute walk from my apartment to the train station, but it feels much longer this evening. I feel like I’m bumping along, clumsily bouncing down the sidewalk, driven by a silent wind, uncertain of what will happen next.
It isn’t until I’m on the train, or perhaps until after I’ve arrived at my destination that I figure out why I am so unsettled, untethered, undone. It’s because I am alone. My two sidekicks, both less than four feet high, are at home with their dad, taking baths, being put to bed, read to, sung to, without me. I’m used to having them so close, to holding my older son’s hand, to wearing my younger son on my back. The weight of their bodies holds me down, steadies and focuses me.
That night as I walked down the street without them, without my husband, I felt almost as if I were a decade or so younger, a high school student with vague, but high ambitions, few friends, and a penchant for keeping myself from being “tied down” – to one set of friends, or a particular subject, or even an idea of a career goal. At the time, I thought I was free to do whatever I wanted, to hang out with those I felt most comfortable around – or no one at all. I was free to explore the range of human knowledge with out getting too involved in any one area before I was ready. I would, I was sure, stumble upon the career path that suited me as long as I kept my options wide open.
What happened instead was that I spent a lot of weekend nights alone in my room, waiting for the phone to ring or trying to muster the courage to call someone else. I spent a lot of time fretting that I wasn’t good at anything, that I had no talents to develop, that I was doomed to watch as those around me found happiness, success, and fulfillment while being unable to partake of it myself. But such, I thought, was the price of freedom, of being open-minded and adventurous, of hoping that, through all this stumbling, I would one day find the golden fleece and my ambitions – no matter how vague they were — would be realized.