Before I had kids, I was a public school English teacher for about a decade. I spent my days teaching grammar, spelling, composition, and literature to students in grades ranging from middle school to high school. There were times that the decade felt more like a millennium, but it was who I was and what I did. When my first child was born, I hung up my pointer and whip, and became a full-time parent, only occasionally wondering about the outside world filled with other people’s children.
At the time, my life was full and so was my womb again. When asked if I’d ever go back to teaching, I firmly said I wouldn’t. In retrospect, I was a perfect teacher who never had problem students or difficult days. I didn’t want to go back to prove the opposite or ruin my fantasy.
When my husband decided he wanted to be self-employed instead of depending upon others to go bankrupt without consulting him, I joined him and did the parts of the business that one could do at home while raising a family. During the years we joined hand in hand to conquer the world, I learned more about business and retail than anyone could teach me in a classroom. We also purchased our first computer on which I produced spreadsheets, invoices, and a yearly holiday letter.
One year, my holiday letter was a humorous story about all the extra expenses we had that we hadn’t counted on. Another year, the letter was a poem about the surgery my cat had when he ate a piece of string that got stuck to a furball inside his stomach. I also included a copy of the bill from the veterinarian. “You should be a writer” was the response to my annuals. “You’re so funny!” What was odd was that I wasn’t trying to be funny.
Although being a writer was always in the back of my head, the process of writing slowed me down. I had always written. I had notebooks filled with ideas. It was my original major in college until I was convinced by my father that a teaching certificate was more practical. The thing that kept me from submitting was a combination of a lack of confidence and the process of producing a readable copy using a Smith Corona and carbon paper. It was too tedious even for the most detail-oriented person. But the computer opened a new world for me as it has for the rest of the writing world.
And thus, I wrote. Others with more experience than I had suggested I submit my work, and with the organization that only a true neurotic could recognize, I started making sales. I read whatever information I could, and I learned from my errors. It was very slow-going, but it was a necessary step in the process. If I had chosen to save them, I’d have a very impressive pile of rejections to go along with every sale.
Recently, economics forced me to look for regular income. Kids are expensive. Kids in college are more expensive. Or as Robin Williams said about thirty-ish years ago, “Reality. What a concept!”
So I sat down at the computer and created a resume. The resume was my reality shock. I thought my resume would look like a half page of exaggerations with real employment dating back twenty years, but when I typed in “Freelance Writer” and started listing some of my credits, even I was impressed. I wrote and rewrote the resume, just as I do with everything else I create. I sent it to the first place that looked like a good fit, a multi-sensory learning clinic. I didn’t want to go back to public school teaching, but one-on-one sounded very interesting. The interview went well, they offered me a job, and the rest is history.
What was interesting to me was how impressed my current employer was with my list of published credits. To someone outside a writer’s area of expertise, ANY publication looks impressive, I suppose. All I know is that when I get a new student, I’m introduced as “Felice Prager, our resident author.” I blush appropriately. Since my students range in age from elementary school to post graduate, the reactions are mixed.
The learning clinic has created a bulletin board in the outer office where they hang up my most current published pieces. At first I was extremely embarrassed by it. Writing isn’t something I talk about a lot; I just do it.
If someone asks what I do, I say I’m a freelance writer and try to change the subject quickly. The bulletin board at the clinic kind of forces me to keep writing because I hate when an article sits on my board too long. And the wonderful thing about this employment is that my hours are varied. I still have lots of time to do what I do best…and that’s not cleaning house.
Felice Prager is a freelance writer (and a multisensory learning therapist!) from Scottsdale, Arizona. Her work has appeared in many local, national, and international publications. Please visit her website: Write Funny — http://www.writefunny.com.