Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I received a forwarded e-mail from a family member yesterday titled "9/11 Flag Flying". It was one of those mass e-mail messages that come around every so often, urging a national movement. This one was to encourage every household and individual to fly an American flag on the 5th anniversary of 9/11.

I've thought about the 9/11 tragedy often in the past years, and I'll certainly think about and commemorate it in my own way next Monday, the anniversary. But all that I could think when I read this message was--was that really 5 years ago? How could that be? How in the world could 5 years have passed so quickly?

On Sept. 11, 2001, when I heard about what had happened, I was sitting at my desk at the Highlights for Children editorial office in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. We were just a few hours from NYC, and some of the folks I worked with had family members in the city. I remember that one friend in particular was in pieces worrying about her sister, who worked (if I remember correctly) not far from the World Trade Center. (Her sister was just fine.)

At that time, I was in a one-year internship with Highlights and working toward grad school. I wanted to write, perhaps to teach, and I was consumed with the idea of getting into an MFA program and making that dream a reality. I spent evenings and some entire weekends writing. I had only been in Honesdale about 4 months, and I wasn't very concerned with being social or productive in any way except in writing. I saw the year as a pause in life that would give me time to write.

That fall, I applied to 4 graduate programs. By early February, I had received my form rejection letters from each. (In retrospect, applying at schools like Iowa and U of Michigan may have been shooting a bit high, but you know what they say about hindsight.)

And then life began to pick up. Work, boyfriend. That spring, I was offered another year at Highlights, which I accepted. I began to settle into Honesdale, to build a life that was more than temporary. My sanctuary, my "pause", was over. I filled my time with this new life, and I said I would write more later on. I just needed to get over the blow of grad school rejection. I just needed to wait until the big event at work was complete. I just needed to wait until after Christmas. I just needed to wait until ... Soon my time ended at Highlights, and I moved to Philadelphia, then back to Honesdale, then to Cincinnati. Filling and filling my life with a hundred small things, distractions. Filling it, too, with large and important things, but also all of those little unnecessaries.

When I sat behind my desk at Highlights 5 years ago and thought about the future, there's no way that I thought I'd be where I am now. It's so easy to dream big dreams, but there's no way to work toward those goals without the sweat and grind of everyday, without carving into your schedule (with a large butcher knife, if needed) time.

During the past year, I've been edging closer to the creative life I want to lead. (And I thank this blogging community for helping me to stay on track.) I hope I can continue to expand. Five years from now, I don't want to wonder--where in the world did the last 10 years go?


  • Erin,

    I can remember the days when you sat in my office and we talked about things like this. I remember sharing with you how I got off track after I got my MFA Degree and I didn't write for 5 years. Believe me, if writing is important to you, you will come to a point in life when you look up from what you're doing and say, "Man, I ought to be writing." And you will get very humble because that's the only way to really know yourself, and you'll take those first steps back to it, back to writing, because NOT to would mean you aren't really alive. That's what it feels like. You are still very young. I was 45 before the pieces started coming together for me. Yet I do remember the frustration and the disappointment of not having accomplished what I wanted to. There are a lot of low-residency MFA programs around that would allow you to work and also work toward an MFA, if you still want one. But, really, the main thing is just to write.

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 9:33 PM  

  • Now, at the age of 51, I ask myself, what if I never accomplish the things I wanted to, with respect to writing? This may sound negative, but in fact it has started to become positive to me. Still, I think it seems inevitable that we ask, what happened in the last 5, 10 years? Did all I learn be myself, to be more compassionate? And now I think, maybe that's it!

    Writing is how I listen to myself. Without it, I don't know what I think, not at my deepest, most interesting, original self.

    By Blogger beths front porch, at 10:22 PM  

  • Erin, where are you going for your job interview?

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 1:06 AM  

  • It is so easy to get distracted from writing, and that is such a mistake, always. Blogging is a way of forcing myself to be productive, to an extent, and yet it's limited in some ways too, because it's not the same as keeping a journal...the freedom of that. I still keep a journal...well, several, in fact...and yet I don't feel I'm very productive, most of the time, in what I'd like to write.

    By Blogger emmapeelDallas, at 6:17 PM  

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