It was August 27th, 2012 when my husband left for Afghanistan the second time.
This deployment was going to be a short one, only nine months.
I reminded myself of that as I kissed him goodbye, silently praying that this wouldn’t be the last time our lips touched.
His eyes locked with mine letting me know that he was having the same thought. He gave our three daughters a hug and tried to comfort them. Glancing around the hanger I watched as other families were also clinging to every second they had left together. My youngest daughter’s agonizing sobs broke my stare. Her cries had become uncontrollable meaning it was time for us to go. I released my husband’s hand and reached for my children. I forced back the tears that I knew would hurt him and walked away with my head held high.
The parking lot was a blur. The drive home was fuzzy. I kept choking on the sorrow that my daughters didn’t need to hear. I turned on happy music and promised we’d get ice cream after dinner. It took everything in me to make that drive home without breaking down. Once night fell I climbed into bed, reached over to where my husband’s warm body should be and I let myself come undone. He was gone again.
The next morning, with swollen eyes, I prepared for my first day of a new semester. I was attending a local college to become a registered nurse. There hadn’t been a doubt in my mind when I wanted to go back to school for this, after all I had been a medical assistant for years and loved working in the field. We agreed that when the time came for my husband to retire from the Army that I would support our family as a nurse while he looked for his second career. We had a plan, a solid plan.
During my first class, as I listened to the professor talk about clinical hours, assignments and course expectations, it dawned on me that I had no desire to be there. I hadn’t wanted to be there the semester before either, but I was too afraid to admit that to myself, or anyone else.
With more than half of my required courses finished jumping ship didn’t seem logical. The three hour class turned into a war within my mind. I knew that I would be content being a nurse but the passion wasn’t there. I was fighting hard to see it through because I didn’t want to appear as a failure and because I was in denial about the career I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t practical. It couldn’t guarantee a paycheck. How would my husband react to this? Could I even tell him that I wanted to throw away the last 3 years to chase after a pipe dream? What if I didn’t succeed? Or worse, what if I did?
That night I sent my husband an email asking if he would be upset if I gave up my future as a registered nurse to attempt my lifelong dream of becoming a published writer.
He hadn’t even arrived in Afghanistan yet. I knew it would take several days before he could respond, but I had to send it while I had the courage. The pragmatic side of me fought every keystroke. It argued that I was destroying the plan we had laid out for our family and that I was being selfish by chasing after something so uncertain. The most terrifying argument was a legitimate one; God forbid, if something happened to my husband, how was I going to support three children without a steady income. That fear alone almost made me hit delete but I didn’t.
Seven days, and a lot of self-torture, later my husband responded to my email.
He replied, “The only way I will be upset is if you do not attempt what makes you happy”. My eyes filled with tears thinking of him on the other side of the world, in a war zone, yet still knowing exactly what I needed to hear.
That afternoon I called the college, switched my degree and allowed myself to start writing again.
While it would make a happy ending for me to say that I have been published, that isn’t the reality of my story.
I am just getting to the point where I’m comfortable sharing blog posts, journal entries and short pieces with others. I am working on a novel but know it’s a long shot to get published.
The self-doubt is a constant battle with the nagging voices inside of me saying that I’ll never make it as a writer. They tell me that I am not good enough. Then if that doesn’t stop me they bring in the big guns; fear. They prey on my vulnerabilities; what will people think if I open myself up and bare my soul through writing. They are nasty little voices. Every day I fight them in this war to write.
I do it to show my daughters that you should never give up on your dreams. I do it because my husband is my biggest fan and I want to create something that we can both be proud of. But most of all I do it for myself, to prove that I am capable of conquering what I once was too afraid to admit that I wanted.
Kristina James is an Army wife, mother and writer. When not kickboxing, running or chauffeuring kids she’s working on her first novel. Follow Kristina at @KristinaJames and on Blogger http://armybluesandtapshoes.blogspot.com/. Her memoir essay “Home” was selected for publishing in our Our Stories journal in the Summer 2013 issue.