A friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years mentioned as we were catching up that she wished someone she loved didn't work such long hours. I told her that several years ago, I had to re-define myself because like so many working in law enforcement (and various other careers) I had come to feel the long hours, stress and hard work had taken over my life. It struck me that one day I would no longer be a jail administrator and then what? A great many of us face this realization, sooner or later. And for many, the picture is not pretty, with results ranging from depression to alcohol abuse to loss of long-term relationships. I decided I needed a definition of who I am that is permanent, that won't change because of a job or because it is dependent on someone else, like a spouse or a child. It is not that those designations are not important but I didn't feel like they should be the primary description of who I am.
After a bit of thought, I realized that first and foremost, I am a child of God. No matter what happens tomorrow, that will not change, and that prayer and Bible study will sustain me throughout anything that does. (And as my mother used to say, the only constant in this life IS change.) Secondly, I am a child of the three cultures in which I was raised. Most folks are raised in one or maybe two cultures but when I really think about it, my childhood included three different ones. My parents raised my sisters in St. Louis, an American Midwestern city and yet, we spent a great deal of time on my grandparents' farm in southeast Missouri, which was much further away than the 120 miles of highway that separated the two geographically in the 1950s and 60s. They were truly two different worlds. I remember my father having water put into my grandparents' farmhouse as a gift when I was 11 or 12 years old. I also recall the installation of their first telephone, their particular signal being two long rings, differentiating them from the many neighbors up and down the eight party line. One room school houses were still in operation throughout their county while a decade later, I was graduating in the city from one of the largest high schools in the state, with a senior class of just under 1000 others. Two very different cultures. And then there was the whole Latin culture as we often traveled as a family in Mexico, adventures I relished, which along with later years in El Salvador, have had a dynamic impact on all the rest of my life.
After that, I define myself as a wife, mother and grandmother and finally, as whatever my job of the moment might be. That has included a lifeguard, a position that leaves life long results including training in first aid, CPR, crisis management and the ever present 'don't run' at ANY pool; a Peace Corps volunteer and school teacher; an Ozark trail ride guide, and as I tell folks, I'm still better at saddling a horse than I am at wrangling a computer; a bi-lingual secretary and office manager as well as a jail administrator and most recently, a freelance writer and novelist.
Those job titles are fun, fascinating but ever-changing, more so than any other definition and well they should be. These days, it's all about the writing, another different sort of life, I find myself thinking about in a most serious way, with the upcoming debut of my sixth novel.
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting, the fourth volume in my Bennett Spring historical series should be available in just another couple of weeks. (Yes, I've become impatient waiting for it, too!) Set in 1967, the latest member of the Darling family, Tabby Shine ran away from home as a teen to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco but quickly found out that California dreamin' is not what she thought it would be. She, too, finds she has to re-think who she really is.
What would you say if you were asked to define yourself? Write and tell me your answer. I can't wait to hear it!
Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home,
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting (March 2016),
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance with co-author Dick Dixon