Passion is something I've looked for, without knowing what I was looking for, throughout adulthood. It wasn't to be found in parenting, no matter how much I love my kids. It certainly hadn't been in my previous job. I know I had passion when I was a budding musician back in junior high and high school, but that was many years ago and it was right for that time in my life. Now it's become more of a hobby and I'm happy with it there. Still I searched for something... I took classes, I took up hobbies, still nothing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all of it, but there's a huge difference between enjoying something and wanting to live to do something.
When Amanda and I began writing the book and later blogging, I wrote with vigor. I loved the writing, and I wanted to do it all the time. I would start writing and completely lose myself - then I'd look up and realize I was late to pick up the kids from school! I'd have to tear myself away, go get them, and then try to rush back and pick up where I left off. (Not easy when you're in the "zone".) I felt that passion, and I loved it!! The trouble was, when I would explain to people what we were doing, I immediately felt the scorn. Friends would immediately ask "Are you a groupie then?" I'd try to explain that no, no we weren't - we were fans like anyone else, but that we were curious about studying the fandom. Then they'd say "Oh well isn't that the same thing?", then they'd follow up with "What does Walt say about that?" In my head I'd think, "Who in the hell CARES?!? Since when do I have to ask him about writing a book?!?" I can't tell you how many times I've been asked those same questions since I started writing. The same happens even with family, and I'm pretty careful about with whom I share "book news". Invariably my family - the very people who should be the most supportive - are simply not. I had a conversation this past summer with one family member who literally chuckled and scoffed about the book. "It's just a little hobby that's gotten out of hand, Rhonda. I mean, how are you even qualified to write something like that?" I had to remind this person that I actually did go to college, and that my degree was based in writing, very similar writing to what I'm doing for the book, and that makes me qualified! The immediate reaction is typically to downgrade what I'm working on to a hobby at best, and something slightly more icky at worst. For me it's a personal game of tug-o-war between feeling as though people (and my family most specifically) should simply accept me for who I am and be supportive, and feeling like I've got to hide my interests because they just aren't quite as acceptable as being President of the local MOM'S Club or working at the kids' school. It's constant and honestly, it is even degrading. I feel like I've got to keep the one thing I'm passionate about to myself, or face the scorn and disapproval from friends and family.
I try to keep my lives as separate as possible. I don't talk too much about the blog or the book on my personal Facebook, primarily because it's the way I keep in touch with a lot of my family. I still use my Facebook to comment on friends pages, and sometimes - I even comment on the pages of band members, never usually considering who might be reading because I don't really say anything that I'm ashamed of saying. Yesterday though, that too came to a crashing halt because an extended family member inadvertently noticed a comment I'd made on a Facebook public page and commented in return. It was completely innocent and innocuous, but it forced me to explain some things that I'd previously kept quiet, and as a result it's become the subject of a bit of uproar in my extended family. "A book about a rock band? Are you serious Rhonda?" (Well no, it's not really about a ROCK BAND...it's about being a fan) "Being a fan? Isn't that something you should have given up by now? You're not a young woman anymore? Who would buy such a silly book? Does Walt agree with this?" (A. Yes, I'm a fan. B. No, I won't give that stuff up until I'm dead because I enjoy music. Why is that bad and why don't you have your own life? Oh...and I'm not THAT old! C. I'm not even going to go into who would buy the book because obviously you've already made up your minds about my "silly book". D.Why even ask?) I've found myself left with quite a bit of anger and frustration as a result. You'd think that I quit school and joined a rock band or something...!!! (Irony is a funny thing.)
Perhaps it was naive on my part to assume that my family wouldn't notice. I'm always telling my own kids that you never know who is reading what is posted online, and I probably should have followed my own advice. I didn't post anything that I'm ashamed of...it's just where I'd posted that is apparently the problem...and apparently now my posting is under more scrutiny as certainly family members have gone back to see what else has been said/written, and they are reporting back to my husband. I guess that the boundaries and considerations I afford my family members are simply not extended to me. I'm frustrated, mad and bewildered today. So I'm doing the only thing I know to do....I'm writing.
As our readers know, I'm a stay-at-home mom. (I still don't know why they call it stay-at-home. I'm a glorified, volunteer chauffeur and houseslave. Home has nothing to do with it unless I'm cooking or cleaning.) Once upon a time, I did work outside of the house - I wouldn't have called it a career, but I did earn money. (I was a staffing coordinator/account manager for a few different staffing companies after I graduated from college. Basically, I interviewed and placed applicants for temporary light industrial and clerical jobs.) I can't really articulate just how much I hated that job, no matter what company I worked for at the time (there were a few). I felt horrible telling people "No, we don't have work for you today." thousands of times each week. I despised getting the phone calls at 5pm from clients saying that they needed 100 people on a job site the next day, knowing that our company policy was to stay until the "order" was filled - whether that meant we left at 5:30 or we left at 2am.(and there were plenty of those days - we'd leave at 2am and have to be back at work at 7:30am. I lived 40 minutes from work, so you can do the math as to how much sleep I would get.) I despised the companies that would call and ask for specific races/ages/skill levels of people (no joke), and I honestly didn't like the applicants that would come in and assume I worked for THEM when in fact it was the other way around. It was a horrible place for me to work, and I had zero passion for the staffing industry. My job had an enormous amount of stress attached to it - it's never good when people call you and start crying when you tell them there's no work, or when they call you and shout at you over the phone because a job has ended. So, when I found out that I was expecting our first baby and my blood pressure got so high my doctor insisted I stay at home, I quit. Gladly. With great enthusiasm even! The only passion I had for that job consisted of dislike.
Let me be clear, I love being a mom. My children ALWAYS come first, except in those very few times when I attempt to do something for me - and in those times - I typically feel guilt. I feel like I have to say that out loud, often - because the people around me (whom I will choose not to name) tend to believe otherwise. I have made certain decisions to ensure that my kids remain happy, cared for, and whole. Many times, I've made those decisions at the expense of my own happiness. I don't regret those choices and decisions, but make no mistake - I live with the consequences of those choices every single day. Sometimes I wish I could scream that at the top of my lungs. Not because I think I deserve an award or something, but because again - there are people that believe otherwise, and I guess to some degree I still feel as though I need to prove my self-worth. Other times I think I need to say those words because I need to remind myself of what I'm doing or what is the final goal. I'm not sure that any of that constitutes real passion. I just know what has to be done for the love of my three beautiful babies. (They hate it when I call them that!) Regardless, the one thing in my life that I am the most proud of is that I'm a very good parent, and that I love my children more than they'll ever really know.
Even so, there's been something missing in me, in my spirit, for years, and John Taylor hit the nail on the head in the speech he gave to his old school in Redditch this past week. Here's a short excerpt:
"For me, passion is the most important asset a person can have. To work with feeling for something. To care. That’s why I think it is most important that we connect with what it is we want to do- not someone else’s idea of what we should be doing with our time and our lives. Sometimes people are old and grey before they realize they have been following their parents dream, not theirs- and they wonder why they are so unhappy.
Find your passion and you will find happiness, because there is nothing more important in the adult world than enjoying your work. That has been my experience. And if you enjoy your work you will find work, because you will be appreciated wherever you go. " -John Taylor
I found my passion. My passion is writing. I'm lucky that I can take that passion and use it to fuel an interest, which of course is Duran Duran, but I also have the interest and passion of bringing people together...creating a community...fostering a community. I want people to feel the connection, the sense of belonging, and the sense of place that I have struggled to find for most of my life. For far too long I've allowed the scorn, disapproval and flat out judgment of others decide my fate. No more.
To begin with, my family really needs to respect some boundaries. I don't follow anyone, including my husband, to their places of business. I don't read every email they send, listen to their phone calls, or even see if they are on Twitter. I allow them to do their jobs, scorn free. I also do not ask how much they get paid and then decide if their job is an appropriate career choice based on how much they make. That isn't MY business, and it certainly isn't anyone else's either. My statement is simply this: I write, and yes - I write about a rock band and about fandom. I am thrilled with what I do. I can only hope that others feel the same about the work they've chosen.
Finally, I need to respect myself and recognize that I really am fine. As Amanda knows - I talk a good game but the fact is, my self-esteem has taken a beating over the years. It isn't an easy thing, but I recognize where I'm at. I have a favorite saying that I tell my oldest two children pretty often, "Nobody gets out of childhood unscathed", and I'm no exception. Of course, that's not where all of this comes from, but it's the beginning. It's time to live my own dreams and my own passion and stop worrying about proving myself to the rest of the planet. I'm happy, and really - isn't that the point?