That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Starting again

When I was in grade 1, I tried to rub out an error in my handwriting by licking my finger and rubbing the paper until all that was left was a small, dirty hole. My teacher, Mrs Rogers, glanced over her shoulder and reeled in horror at the ugly mark in the middle of my story. The rubbing out made the mistake so much worse. There was no way of patching the hole. After chastising me, she explained that all I needed to do was mark a line through the mistake, and try again.

I did as I was told, as good girls do, but it set the tone for a life where my finger is poised to rub out any mistakes, despite the irreparable holes that may leave. In year 7, I ended a toxic friendship by moving schools and no longer speaking to anyone who I knew before, even though we had been friends since early primary school. At university I dealt with social anxiety in lectures by avoiding classes altogether, then enrolling in film subjects because it was the only class where the lights were (for the most part) switched off. I further went on to choose subjects that only assessed through essays or exams. I do not do oral presentations. At 31 and ¾ years, avoidance has now become my trademark, my modus operandi.

For the sake of my word count, I’m just going to file this under ‘inappropriate coping mechanisms’.

I was supposed to start my writing course last week after spending the whole summer in a state of indecision over whether or not I should go ahead with it. It’s one thing to apply, it’s another thing to show up. The issue was compounded by a crumby timetable, and my first day of classes being only 2 days after First Born’s first day at school, leaving no time for him to adjust before I whisked myself away from him. It would be hard to gauge if my ducks were in a row if I weren’t actually there to check.

Last week, when First Born had his first day of school, I decided it was his year and I would defer, or, if this were not possible, I would withdraw from the writing program entirely. I needed to be around for the boys, to be available, to be the contingency we will most likely need when winter comes and we’re all sick and we need one parent available to ride the merry-go-round of childhood illnesses. Historically this parent has been me, because Mr Karen is The Earner. Letting go of this mantel has proven harder than I imagined in the heady days of filling out tertiary admission forms.

My consolation to staying at home was that if I could find the time, I would attempt to write a book (though in the back of my mind I was already talking this down to anything longer than 1000 words).

That night, with my decision made, I lay down on the couch, put my head on Mr Karen’s lap and mourned my future. I cried. I felt bruised and sad and completely lost. I was staying at home in spite of myself. I realised that while I might have the reserves to work hard at writing a book, I am not a person with natural reserves of confidence and buoyancy in times of doubt. I am the freak up the back of the lifeboat, screaming “We’re sinking!!! We’re going to die!” In short, my plan was to stay at home, and not write.

Please, feel free to hit me with your oar.

So much of life has transpired and still, when faced with a big life decision, I ruminate until I become exhausted and emotional and wear my nerves down to a point where starting again seems like the most simple way to proceed.

I can’t tell you how I ended up on the city train on Friday morning. It had nothing to do with the overthinking that happened between Christmas and the day before my first class. It had everything to do with a gut feeling that I would regret not having tried to make this work. It had everything to do with a supportive mum and husband, a car full of petrol, a packed lunch, and legs that propelled me from the carpark to the ticket machine to the train platform. Legs that propelled me, despite my worried mind. Legs that knew better than my brain.

It was a pleasure to sit in classes at the end of my mothering week. I met more new friends in one day than I have in my entire time as a stay at home mum. And they all speak fluent book nerd. I found I didn’t have to edit my ramblings to avoid boring the pants off anyone. The program is populated by like-minded people, though we all come from different parts of the country, and differ in age, background and history.

Never mind the 2-hour commute, the parking at Frankston station, the childcare, and the silent treatment First Born dealt me when I finally arrived home after 12 hours away. I’ve made the right decision. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s better than rubbing out this whole chapter with my finger.

36 Responses to “Starting again”

  1. terrisv15

    Good for you! I’m practically standing up cheering you on. You are a better mom if you take care of yourself, too, I promise.

  2. Shelley

    Oh my! My heart was in my mouth right up until you got on the train. It’s okay to put a neat line on a page. I used to use liquid paper, but when you write over it, the words come out a little bumpy. It’s still your own words, no matter how they appear in the end. xx

  3. Cat

    Without a word of a lie I was going to look you up today and send you an email saying I was thinking of you & that I hope you’re well, actual better than well, good. And then this! I just cried big, fat & super ugly tears. I am SO happy you decided to go against your nature. That you took that huge first step is amazing and I’m ridiculously thrilled you did. You go you fabulous woman you! Is it ok to say I’m proud of you? Xxxx

  4. Sarah

    Jesus…this is your book!! I was reading and screaming DONT DO IT but recognised all the angst and drama and guilt that layers the mum years. I skipped out of something I had been hanging on to for ages last week, I crumbled, I screamed and cried and I didn’t go but this week I got back on that uni horse and trotted away so even if some weeks you don’t get it together you will on other weeks x

  5. yellow

    The husband is here and there and so proud of you and will do his best and worst to prop up, mop up and truss you up.

    Well done DP


  6. Kelly Exeter

    Oh PHEW!! I was definitely ready to hit you with the oar!!

    Well done to you Karen – the reward is the meeting of life minded types isn’t it? How nice is it to talk to people who speak your language 🙂

  7. Beware of Falling Coconuts

    I totally identify with how terrifying it all, compounded by being the primary-carer parent and wondering how the hell you’re going to juggle all those balls. It took a great leap of courage to turn up! But I know it will pay off, and I totally know you can do it. You’re right: you would have regretted it if you’d backed down. So often there’s no ‘easy option’ in the choices we have to make! But if we embrace the challenges, it always pays off. Good luck! Let me know if you do proofreading/editing classes and I may be able to swing some work your way if you’re interested. I’m studying too this year and also wondering how the hell I’m going to keep all my juggling balls in the air! x

  8. Susan @ Living Upside Down

    So pleased that you are taking this time for you. I can absolutely identify with how tempting it was to stay at home, having abandoned my own attempts to study when my youngest started school due to lack of family support. I was so disappointed to let go of that dream, even if it was only for a while.

    Cheering for you and inspired by your decision. Can’t wait to see what comes next. xxx

  9. Kim

    Well done! There is so much self-doubt to overcome in order to write, and children provide lots of opportunities to talk yourself out of putting pen to paper! My own plans are on hold due to the imminent arrival of (surprise) baby number 3, but one day, when my brain isn’t quite so fuzzy, i’m going to make the hard decision to get back to it. Happy, creative, fulfilled mummies are better for everyone. xK

  10. Christina

    GOOD ON YOU KAREN!!! It’s all about baby steps and for you this has been a GIANT step. Proud of you. XX

  11. Karina Quinn

    Dearest Karen,
    this made me cry. I’m currently swathed in guilt because I wish I had more writing time and less kid time (and am in the midst of composing a post about it). Thank you for writing, and for going. You are wonderful.
    Karina x

  12. Maxabella

    Feel proud and buoyant, Karen. It is so easy for all of us to get into ruts and find them very, very comfortable. CHallenging yourself is the hardest thing to do when you are warm and cosy in your special rut. Once out, though, you realise that you can make anything work, anything. If you want it enough and are passionate about it, you will make it work. Your family can only benefit from your renewed zest for… you!

    You have made the write decision.


    PS – Sorry about the pun. Happy Valentine’s Day. They are everywhere, I couldn’t help myself. x

  13. Gill

    I am so very pleased you ended up on that train and that you chose not to rub out this chapter.

    It’s good to see you here. x

  14. MultipleMum

    You bugger! I thought you had pulled out and I was feeling really disappointed for you. And then hooray! You did it. And what a reward. Big smiles from me. Go the book nerds x

  15. Felicity

    I’m SO VERY happy for you and look forward to learning how this new adventure unfolds.

    BIG. PROUD. VIRTUAL. HUG from afar,

  16. Lucy Mulvany

    Errr, a post that had me crying and grinning in the space of twenty seconds?

    Karen, I can identify with so much of what you are going through.

    I complete my final day of my study today. I qualify today. It has been so so hard. But worth it.

    In your case, I suspect even more so.



  17. Paula

    Well done on taking the first and probably hardest step!!! I am sure you will do fantastically!!! And yes, your blog is your book!!! Never underestimate how many people read and follow you and LOVE reading!!!!! Good luck!!!!!!!!!

  18. Steffani Packard

    Yay, I’m so glad you decided to do it! I’m not going to lie, my heart sunk a little for you when you said you decided not to go, but I’m so happy you turned that around! =)))

  19. Deborah Grinter

    You had me gripped to every word. Which means I’m so glad you took that train!

    You will get there, no matter how long or unexpected the journey will be.

  20. Secret Water

    BRAVO! I just popped by your blog wondering if Karen might have changed her mind and broken her blogging break. What a nice surprise! Well done you and good luck with the course!

  21. Catherine

    Oh, Karen, I’m so happy you’re back! I was starting to cry as I read the opening paragraphs because I could feel your pain but then the ending? HOW WONDERFUL!! I am thrilled for you. You are a beautiful writer and to be surrounded by people who are going to see this and help you grow, well, it’s the best news I’ve had in a while. Cheers to you, brave girl.

  22. Michele

    I am so glad that you made the decision to go. I know it was a difficult decision, but as you said, you never want to wonder “what if.” I’m proud of you for facing your anxieties.

  23. teamgloria

    smiling at you from soho, nyc.

    completely relate to the wearing ones nerves down to their scared filaments before Starting Again.

    and we cheered when you showed up for the class.

    brava, lady.

    _teamgloria. xx


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