by Nikki Di Virgilio
At 19, I became pregnant. I wasn’t married. I had just started
college. When I found out, it should have been a crossroad moment,
but it wasn’t. I wanted a baby. I wasn’t afraid to commit, even when
counselors told me being a young, unwed mother was the surest way to
poverty. Even when my boyfriend told me he was going to play video
games while I told my parents the news.
Twenty years later, holding the embryo of a writer in my womb, I sit
at a crossroad, staring. I understand what writing might require of
me. I’m scared. Will I commit or won’t I? This time, I have doubt.
Motherhood has been my life path. I know how to walk that road with
confidence. But I don’t trust I know how to walk the road of a
writer, although I’ve been paving that road for many years already.
It began with a love for reading. I devoured every Judy Blume book
and reveled in every Shel Silverstein poem. Then at 13, an English
teacher said: “Throughout 7th grade you are going to keep
a journal.” A journal? He didn’t tell us what to write about,
only to write. English class was before swimming, which meant my
journal became an instant friend who held the horror of my chubby
body being seen in the black, unflattering suit. It held my terror
of water: at the age of 3, I fell in the deep end of a pool, and
never wanted to return.
Seventh grade passed, but Mr. Ziegler’s instructions to keep a
journal never did. I allowed it to continue to hold my fears. Then,
in 1994, after the break-up with my daughter’s father, I found a new
friend. Her name was Melody Beattie, an author who wrote the book
Codependent No More. This book held me in my pain and assured me
I was not alone and I would persevere. I wanted to do for others
what she had done for me. I wanted to be an author.
When my daughter began kindergarten, I cried as I left her
classroom. I got in my car, still teary, but hopeful. This is
when I will write. I have all day to write now. No more excuses.
I couldn’t tell you what I did with those hours, but I didn’t
write. The fear and doubt inside said I was too young. No one would
take me seriously. Then, later, I got married. I was a homemaker.
Folding the sheets, organizing drawers and files, stocking my pantry
full of food, and shopping and eating lunch with my mom were all
satisfying achievements—until they weren’t. I wanted something
more. I still wanted to write.
This past August, I moved from my hometown of Minnesota to Los
Angeles to support my daughter’s dream of becoming an actor. Before
we moved, I asked to be given another opportunity to write.
daughter finishes her education at an acting academy and I live in
the opportunity to write every day, I notice our lives moving in
similar ways. We are both here at this crossroad. Had I not been
pregnant with her, I would have faced what she faces now: Can I
take the next step? I’ve always thought I was fortunate to have
my life figured out for me at that age. Being pregnant made life
obvious to me, and my steps for the next 18 years were clear. Now,
at 39, I am faced with it: Can I take this next step?
We both fear and anticipate our capacities. Are we ready to let go
of our old identity – her identity as a student, and mine as mother
of a dependent child – and embrace a new one? Will I rise to the
role of a writer as I did a mother? Since moving to California, I
have learned that there is no going back. I look behind and see the
divot in the road, created with my nos and my fears of
walking the writer’s path, and realize perhaps I just wasn’t ready
to stand where I am now at the crossroad. Often this crossroad feels
like quicksand where I sink into the layers of my procrastinating
past, my years of excuses, and my lethargy. They bring me to a place
that is familiar, as if they have a life of their own and want to
keep me stuck. There are times they succeed, but I notice that if I
keep showing up, the quicksand disappears into a stream of water,
and I use my strength not for fighting the flow, but for
surrendering to it. I realize the demons of the past arise not to
take me down, but to depart in response to me showing up and
allowing the flow. The crossroad then is a neutral place, where a
new path is being formed.
At 19, I rose to meet the responsibilities of my child. I wanted to
be seen by my daughter and myself as a good mother, so she could
sparkle and shine. It was my highest intention, and she is on her
way. When I come to the page and fear and doubt arise, I ask myself,
“What is my highest intention?” I want to honor what is within me. I
want to give myself another chance for something new. In this space
of clear intention, the fear lets go and the blank page remains.
Open, ready, and present, I notice its loyalty to me. The page has
been here the whole time. And seeing this, I begin to acknowledge my
loyalty to it. I want to see what we can do together. There is no
need to doubt. I am on my way.
Nikki Di Virgilio writes for her blog,
The Soul Reporter, and recently, to help encourage and share
the writing process, she began
The Constipated Writer, She also works on a memoir and a
spiritual guidebook. Her daughter, Alyssa is now 18, and she has
another daughter, Lilli who is 10. Nikki is married to the father
who played video games.