9:02. I am sitting at Gate 20 in Terminal A of Bradley International Airport, not because it is my gate (it isn’t), but because Gate 20 is home to the only electric socket that I have found in the entire airport. I consider peeing on it, to mark my territory. I plan to Get My Internet On for a few hours until my flight departs at 12:10. Three hours early: I like it like that. I love to be excessively early. It makes me feel accomplished, adult, less like the harried single mother I am most of my days, and more like the Career Woman Lite that I once was.
I am not traveling for business, but I try to pretend I am, with my laptop and smart glasses—the extent of my writer costume. All around me, people are reviewing notes in binders and presentations on computer screens. They discuss in grim tones whether or not they’re “on target” for their clients and how their “plates are full.” The men wear clever ties and sharp suits and shiny sensible shoes. The women sport classic bobs, perfect highlights, crisp blouses, pencil skirts, black pantyhose (without fail), and gleaming pumps.
I have never owned a suit, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason to procure one now. My stint as an official copywriter and career-chaser in New York City was relatively brief before I got knocked up and all bets were off. I never had The Look that these folks pull off with such ease. One purple velveteen blazer from The Limited, a few pairs of pants, a few dresses, one pair of stacked-heel black oxfords: that did the trick, in my case. Nobody expects much from writer-types in the way of Business Chic. As a literary agent once told me, “You’re the talent. It makes them nervous if the talent doesn’t look like the talent. Wear jeans and big glasses and a coffee stain.”
Sometimes I wish it were easier to explain what I do to my daughters. Their father teaches. He leaves, he goes to a college where he has an office, he directs productions that they can see. They know what he does. A writer: this is a vague business at best, to kids. Mommy writes. She sits on her bed, the least chaotic space in the house, and she types onto her laptop. Sometimes, a play gets produced in a faraway place, or an article gets published, neither of which event they find very interesting. There’s nothing reliable or regular about what I do, not at the moment. I spend a lot of time working on things that don’t pan out. I do plenty of research, much of which leads to nothing. There are plenty of dead ends in this business, and plenty of self-marketing that looks like futzing around, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, blogging.
“I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up,” I tell my younger daughter.
“You’re already grown up,” she says.
“I just look grown up. But I’m not done. I think I’m supposed to be doing something else,” I say.
“Maybe you should just adopt more animals,” she offers helpfully.
“I was thinking more along the line of jewelry design,” I say.
She screws up her tiny elfin face. “Well…that’s one idea.”
I read a quote the other day: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” I couldn’t agree more, which makes choosing a new career path all the more daunting. More schooling is a risk; I haven’t paid off my original student loans. What can I do with what I have already? An MFA in Theatre, a BA in Studio Art. Not bad for a new path in jewelry design, but way off the mark for something like, say, nursing. I feel the pull of something—something else—but I can’t articulate it yet, can’t nail it down.
9:47. The real estate around Gate 20 begins to fill: more focused business folks, scowling into their cellphones. I’ve spent the last two weeks home with the girls, who were on Spring Break (not exactly a break for mama). So the next two weeks are my Spring Break, a time on the West Coast with someone I love. I like that my work travels with me, that my office will be a coffee shop a block from the Pacific Ocean. I know where I’m going, but not where I’m headed.