A return to words

ksmith2

I remember this day so clearly. I was so pregnant (see my belly sticking out from behind that jersey?). It was so hot out — the end of July in Minnesota. And it was the last day I covered a baseball game, something I had been doing for five years. I remember asking my last questions, transcribing my last quotes, saying goodbyes, writing my last game story and calling the copy desk one last time to check for questions.

And I remember walking, alone, out of the Target Field press box, into the humid, heavy Minnesota summer night air, meeting my husband at a nearby restaurant and sobbing. A sort of very embarrassing, very public type of sobbing. The kind you do when you know something is really, truly over.

This picture is of a previous life.

It was more than seven years ago now. I was 27 years old and walking away from my career. In the eight weeks after this photo was taken, I quit my job, had my first baby and moved to a new city in a new country where I had no friends and no family, save for my husband and my 5-week-old son.

I didn’t have any idea when I sobbed that night over sushi what I was really crying about. Covering baseball was a hard job, but I understood, going into it, what I was getting myself into. Long hours, no days off, trying to reason with people who don’t want to talk to you (yes, I now realize this sounds a lot like parenting). I had spent months telling myself I was ready for a change, that I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be as a beat writer, that moving to a new country for my husband’s job was going to be an amazing adventure!

And I was right, in part. I couldn’t keep covering baseball and be a mom. I would have been miserable. What I didn’t expect is what no 27-year-old does — that life is hard and complicated, beautiful and sad, full of joy and full of heartache, often all at the same time, that marriage is so very hard and parenting breaks you wide open.

But two months after I said goodbye to my career, I was naive enough to be excited as I stood in line to board a plane to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with my 5-week-old son strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn. (I realize many people don’t know where Calgary is. It’s north of Montana, on the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies. My favorite story about Americans having no idea where I live happened at the dentist a week before we left Minnesota. I told my hygienist I was about to move to Canada, specifically Calgary. She asked me, “Oh, what providence is that in?”)

I had no idea what was waiting for me in Calgary, and thank goodness I didn’t. In the years since that day, I developed often-debilitating anxiety, I learned about trauma and real loss and that parenting is basically realizing more each day how little I knew about babies, about people and about life.

I found that I could hate life and love it at the same time.

Today I have a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, and mostly I still have no clue what I’m doing. But lately I have started to come back to life. To my life. To the person I was all those years ago, crying in that sushi restaurant for something I understood on some subconscious level — I was already mourning a life I would never get back.

Parenting changes you on such a fundamental level. And for me that has born out in a lot of ways. The most profound, maybe, is that after spending all of high school knowing I wanted to be a journalist, after pursuing that singular profession in college, after having internships at the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, after graduating from the University of Kansas and getting my dream job — which was covering the baseball team I grew up listening to on the radio during summertime crop checks with my dad in our beat-up crew-cab pickup while he drank a Miller Lite and I stuck my face out the open passenger-side window to smell the freshly-cut alfalfa — I walked away and put it away and stopped writing entirely.

What I have loved, always, about journalism is telling other people’s stories. One (big) thing that’s kept me from writing for so many years, is that I don’t know how to tell my own. Or why anyone would want to read it. Even as I type this, I’m not sure I can do it. Or that anyone would or should care to read what I have to say.

But maybe it’s time to just put it out there in the universe. To see if my brain can still function in a way that doesn’t involve my kids and their schedules and who hit who and did he eat enough vegetables today and what will happen if she subsists on milk alone and how much screen time is enough and how much is too much?

So here I am, 35 years old, with a blank space on my resume that surpasses the number of years I actually wrote after college, starting over again. Trying to figure out if I have interesting things to say, if anyone wants to read them, and if any editors want to publish them.

In this blog space, I’m going to share my successes and my failures as I try to reenter the professional world. And I’m going to write about myself. I’m going to do my best to be real, to tell you stories about my life and my failures and my stay-at-home mom guilt and my woman guilt and my feminism guilt and how motherhood has opened up all of these doors of being guilty about things I never even considered I could feel guilty for!

Some of it will be funny, I hope. Some of it will be sad. Some of it will be about panic attacks in the grocery store checkout line, and some of it will be about when my daughter talks about her vulva in very public places, like in line at the amusement park. It will be about how I go to bed so many nights worried I am totally screwing up my kids, how other nights I lie awake overwhelmed by what I’ve given up to be a mom, and how, on other nights still, my kids fall asleep with their head on my chest or their hand in mine and I know that no matter what I gave up, it’s all been worth it.

About how, basically, I’m just like you.

If you’ve read this far, thanks. I hope you’ll stick around.

– Kelsie

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