The sun shines through the massive windows where I sit drinking a steaming latte. The door to the coffee shop is held open by a colorful rock, allowing the breeze to deliver the first hints of spring.
My heart races. Nausea swirls through my belly, and my legs quiver beneath raspberry denim. I am exhilarated and terrified. I close my eyes and draw air in slowly through my nose and out through pursed lips. The square breathing doesn’t work; I’m still shaking.
The first time I felt this same breathless anticipation was on the day of my first daughter’s birth—when I held her fragile body, red faced and screaming, in my trembling arms. The next was when I delivered my second girl and clutched her against my flaming mother-heart. With each birth, I stumbled into different versions of the same reality—motherhood, secretly convinced I didn’t belong in either.
In the first version, I was a selfish thirty-something woman thrust into caring for a being dependent on me for everything. In the second, I was a mother so in love with her firstborn, she worried she could never love another baby in the same way.
Both times I managed to rise to the occasion, learning how to be a mother under the expert tutorage of those two amazing babies, both now adults.
Today, I am poised on the precipice of yet another version of reality, a proposition that leaves me every bit as petrified and exhilarated at the first two. Today may be the day I say goodbye to thirty-seven years as a health care professional. Today may be the day I embrace a dream and commit myself to a brand new career—writing.
I have just finished a most satisfying meeting with the lovely woman, a multiple published author and editor I hired to review my manuscript. We discussed possible edits. She was pleased with all my suggestions; I basked in her compliments. I was moved to tears by her words: “You truly do have talent—and a good story. This business has a lot of ups and downs, but hold on to the fact that you’ve got that certain something. You’re a storyteller!”
She has long since left the café. I remain, waffling over a decision I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to make. I think about my girls, about what my oldest wrote on the card she’d made for my birthday a month back, “Thank you for always encouraging us to be everything we are capable of being.” The words seem prophetic somehow.
I bow my head and close my eyes, forcing my breathing to slow, my heart to settle. The busy everyday sounds of a café—the clinking of dishes, the murmur of voices, the scraping of chairs—all fade away. Calmness overcomes me. I ask myself, If you’ve spent their entire lives encouraging your girls to reach for the impossible, to dream big and aim high, why are you not doing the same?
A favorite quote floats through my mind. One I have shared with my girls on many occasions, by Lewis Carroll. “In the end…we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” In that moment, something lifts from my shoulders, something I have carried with me for far too long. Self-doubt.
I finish my cup of coffee, and collect my belongings. And, with that, I package my previous self into a box entitled “That was my old life” and head out into a day filled with possibility.
Leslie Wibberley loves the written word almost as much as her extremely tolerant husband and her two outstanding daughters. Her creative nonfiction essays can be found in Mamalode, Mothers Always Write, Literary Mama, and The Manifest Station. Her short stories have appeared Devolution Z and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her work has also won a 6th place and an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s Annual Competitions.