V. “When you are finished changing, you are finished” – Benjamin Franklin
When I finally said “I can” to having a baby by myself and finished all the plans and preparations for invitro fertilization, I thought, “Wow, life is about to change” and then the next day my beautiful, joyful and enthusiastic father went out on a short bike ride, collided with a car and died instantly.
In the year before his death, I had a soul whisper that I wanted to get to know my dad on his terms. He had been a Presbyterian minister for 40 years before his retirement and an enthusiastic supporter of many, many people. It was hard to get him to talk about himself, but I sat him down and asked questions and recorded his stories. It was one of the luckiest things I ever did. His death catapulted me into an ambition to write a book about him. In those months as I was pregnant with my daughter and writing about my dad, spinning between death and birth, I met Sheila, my writing coach.
With her help, I finished and published the book, and after my daughter was born, I found more to write about. When I contacted Sheila again, she asked, “Do you remember the first thing that you said to me?” I didn’t so she reminded me that I had told her I wasn’t a writer, I just wanted to write a book about my dad. But as we worked together, she told me along the way that I would have more to write about.
I was so quick to disavow any greater aspirations and it showed how much I was trying to insulate myself from admitting that I was open to a change in my purpose and work. I didn’t want to presume that I had anything valuable to say (or write) and it wasn’t what I went to school for. In fact, when I was finishing my BS in Electrical Engineering, the last course I needed to complete was a technical writing course, and it took me until after I walked through ceremonies and had a real job to complete those credits and finish my degree.
Self-doubt seems so reasonable. I’ve discovered that it’s akin to letting a monster shelter in my home. It drains me of energy and vitality because it means I use precious resources to bury my hope and inspiration instead of letting it bloom. I can’t conceive where I will “finish” on this journey but this Benjamin Franklin quote makes me believe it is vital to try different things along the way. That the point is that we rub the grime and grit of the years off when we change because it’s the grinding against something hard that polishes a stone. Then in perfect synchronicity with the way it started, the day after I finished the edits on the book about my dad, I gave birth to my daughter. To say that event marked that I was not finished changing would be an understatement. I was just starting my continuing education course on how much and how fast humans can change.