In Defense of Wandering

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography


“What am I doing?”

I stand in the middle of the kitchen and ask this question aloud, even though there is no one else in the house aside from the dogs. My coat is on, phone in hand, and the dogs stare at me. What the hell was I going to do?, I think again as I look at the dogs.

Oh, yeah, that’s it! I was going to take the dogs for a walk. I grab their leashes, a plastic bag, and head out the door.

I might have an immediate answer to the specific question, but it is the bigger question that doesn’t have an answer. Because, really, what the hell am I doing?

The calendar turned a week ago and since then there’s been a lot of chatter about what 2016 will bring. What are your goals?, people ask. What do you want to do this year? Where do you see your writing career going?

To which I want to answer, WHAT?!

I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. I have no idea what I’m having for dinner tonight, how am I supposed to know what I want to do this year? And “writing career” – what does that even mean?

I am an adult.

I should know what I’m doing, shouldn’t I?

I should have a plan, a list of goals. Right?

People who now a whole lot more than I do tell me I need to specialize, that I need a niche. A niche? Good God. I’m still not even sure how to pronounce that word. (Is is neesh or nitch?)

And everywhere I look writers are turning themselves into brands. Hashtags have become a sentence. 140 character tweets are an essay.

Quite frankly, it all exhausts me. I suck at self-promotion. It feels icky and annoying to me. I don’t want to stick to the Path; I want to wander. I don’t want to promote; I want to connect. I don’t want to be a brand; I want to be a person – a crazy, inconsistent, messed-up, completely human person. And then I want to write about that. Is there a niche for that?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the validity of resolutions, goals, and plans. I understand the importance of the Path. Wandering isn’t good for sales rankings, Facebook likes, or page views.

And yet.

Wasn’t it Walt Whiteman who said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” He might have been on to something there. Because sometimes I feel like I’m so many complexities and inconsistencies that even I can’t keep track of them. I am a human, not a brand. I am many things – woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, humanist, writer, spiritualist, lawyer, optimist, recovering perfectionist, frequent half-asser. Is there a hashtag for that?

And still that question is there: What am I doing?

Well, an hour ago, I was getting ready to take the dogs for a walk. Right now, I sit at my kitchen table writing this long overdue blog post about who-knows-what. I am putting the finishing touches on some essays that are due soon. I am working on some new projects that simultaneously thrill me and scare the shit out of me. Soon, I will get pick up my boys and their friends from school. Later tonight I will nag my kids to do their homework, practice piano, and – for the love of God! – to put their wet towels and dirty clothes in the laundry chute. I am wandering.

I’m not exactly sure what 2016 has in store for my career – or me, for that matter. But maybe that’s okay? Because with all due respect to the Path, wandering is pretty good too.

Then again, what the heck do I know? I sometimes stand in the kitchen with my coat on, phone in hand, and talk to myself.


This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. The premise is simple: Angie sends me a couple of photos and I write a blog post based on one of the photos. It is always fascinating to see what words her images bring out of me. Not only have Angie’s photos served as inspiration for several blog posts over the past three years, but they have also inspired certain chapters in Open Boxes and we are working on a putting together a collection of our collaborative work. Stay tuned! 


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