Hard Choices

I’m halfway through Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, a book about her four years as Secretary of State. It is an interesting read. It’s not often I hear about the good the US does for other countries. Living abroad I’ve met a lot of people (mostly Europeans) who are eager to point out my country’s faults, and so reading about how we’ve helped different nations is a nice change.

As a writer, I also find it interesting because I’m fairly certain I can distinguish the parts she’s written from those of her ghostwriter’s. This is not to say that it is poorly written–I think the way the authors are able to take sometimes boring and mundane circumstances and turn them into intriguing international incidents is a testament to their writing skills.

But I guess the main reason I find this book so interesting is because of a few hard choices I’ve had to make recently.

I’ve been writing creatively since high school. It all started one year after reading the books on my English curriculum. I was thoroughly disgusted with the lack of control and the quality of decisions made by the female protagonists in these books. Where were all the modern women? The generation of women before me were breaking glass ceilings everywhere and Blacks and minorities had shattered some of their own as well. Why was I still reading about slavery and segregation when a Black was the protagonist or about arranged marriages and suffrage when a woman was the literary subject? Where were the stories about women like my mom? About the woman I had visions of becoming?

So I set out to write a story with a female protagonist like the women of my time: educated, working, and mistresses of their own fates. I began by writing scenes in my composition notebook. Those scenes grew longer with each attempt, and before I knew it I had over two-hundred pages. At some point I let a few friends read some of my work. They asked for more, and I’ve been writing ever since.

There’ve been times when I took a hiatus, like when I graduated from college, again when I moved to Japan, and obviously for the birth of each of my children. But with each change a new routine was established and I would carve out some time for me, and that meant writing.

Recently, I’ve decided to put my youngest in school come January. It was a decision I didn’t want to make. She’s my baby, my last child, and so I want to hold onto her for as long as I can. She never got the one-on-one time with me that her older sister had, and so I guess that’s made me reluctant to let go.

But each morning when we drop off my eldest at school, the joy that spreads across my little one’s face becomes harder to ignore. I have to drag her out of the classroom, away from the toys and other children who seem to be having the kind of fun she wants. It’s time, I tell myself. She’s ready, even if you’re not.

I’ve managed to carve out an hour or two from my morning routine so I can write, but with her starting school in January, things feel as if they’re changing. Our time together seems rushed all of a sudden, which has left me with an interesting choice to make: continue to write in the mornings or… not.

It is one of those easy-hard decisions. I want to gobble up each of her crooked runs and celebrate every trip she makes down the slide. I love those little arms when they wrap around my neck after she’s found me hiding around the corner. I guess I love those moments more than the strong protagonist who’s kept me up at night just begging for me to tell her story.

I know mothers everywhere battle with their own hard choices: do I take that business trip or let another colleague position himself for the promotion? Do I accept that new job with more money even though I know I’ll miss bedtime a few nights a week? Do I continue with the novel or do I teach my kid how to go up the slide the wrong way–because all kids need to know how to do this before they begin school.

The notion that we can have it all or do it all without having to make some hard choices is a naïve one. The good news is that there are no right answers, only ones that are right for us.