A friend and I were talking about college for our kids the other day – my friend and her teenage son have been driving around the state visiting schools – and she said to me, “It’s really competitive you know. What makes a student stand out these days isn’t GPA or test scores, it’s their deep interest in something. It’s too late for us, but your kids are still young, maybe you can help encourage them in ways we never did.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We didn’t help our kids find their passions,” she said, “the things they would choose to do on a Saturday morning when they had free time on their hands.” She gestured like she had a gamepad in her hands, pushed imaginary buttons with her thumbs. “Besides video games I mean.” She shrugged. “Our boy played soccer for years, not because he was passionate about the game but because he liked playing on a team with his friends. We didn’t introduce him to anything else and now we don’t know what his passion is.”
This conversation jump-started my husband and me to start thinking about how to provide our kids with opportunities to try new things, to see what takes and what doesn’t, without overscheduling their lives. He has been itching to introduce our son, who loves hiking and camping, to backpacking. Our daughter, on the other hand, is bored by hiking but wants to scale every rock we pass on a forest trail; my husband wants to take her rock-climbing. For now, our son reads when his screen time is finished; our daughter makes Easy Bake recipes from scratch. She spent three hours in the kitchen one Saturday making a four-layer rainbow cake with four different colors of frosting. Reading and baking: I’m on board with both of those. And we’d like to give them other options as well.
After contemplating our kids’ passions, I got to thinking, what do I do with my free time? How do I fill it up? What do I do because I love to do it, because I think it’s fun? And the answer was obvious. I write.
More specifically, though, what I do with my free time, what I do for fun, is I blog.
I love writing. I’ve written for pleasure for more than 30 years. But in this age – in the age of the internet, of the breaking the rules of form, of the democratization of publishing – what I love about writing is blogging. I love creating my own little space on the web, where I can set up my studio however I like, where I can change paint colors, decorate the background, create a mood, and publish my own little periodical. I love that. I think about blog posts when I drive, I jot notes when I jump out of the shower, I wake early so I can write because I am energized by the opportunities that blogging provides: to write, to edit, to publish, and to interact with readers, all with an immediacy and an intimacy that the traditional publishing route does not provide. I spend my free time blogging because blogging is fun.
Which is why, when I got the email from WordCamp Asheville that a wait-list ticket had opened up, I scraped my savings account clean to buy my pass and a hotel room. A Saturday and a Sunday, dedicated entirely to learning more about WordPress and the blogging world. I’ve already figured out when sessions I’m going to attend, from engaging through personal narrative with Cindy Reed, to how to troubleshoot with Russell Fair, to beginners CSS with Lydia Roberts, to building an active online community with Michael Calvert.
I am so excited! What I’m realizing from this giddiness is how joyous it is to find that thing that makes you happy, to find that thing that you’re passionate about, to find that thing that makes you wish for more free time in your life so you can do more of that thing.
I want this feeling for our children.
Soon, I hope to re-enter the workforce. I hope to re-enter the workforce so we can give our kids chances to try, to explore, to give them opportunities to find the things that make them say, “I can’t wait for Saturday so I can ___!” I want this for them not because it will help them get into college, but because I want them to know the joy of doing, and being excited to do, a thing they love. I want to bring in a little extra income so we can try out that backpacking equipment, we can pay for rock-climbing lessons, we can give our kids chances to find the things that might one day make them giddy to clean out their savings account to spend two back-to-back 7-hour days in classrooms power-learning about.
I worry about what working outside the home might mean for my writing and blogging lives. The work I do now as a stay-at-home-mom and manager of the household is flexible. I can write around it. Unless I get the job I’m hoping most for, which would allow me to work remotely, I fear I might lose touch with my blogs. It’s a really big fear, in fact. Fortunately, WordCamp has that covered. I’ve got Work, Life, Blog Balance, taught by Alicia Murray at BalancingMotherhood.com, circled in red on my schedule. I’ll find a way to protect that Saturday free time for the thing I love, and as importantly, I’ll be working to help our kids figure out what to do with theirs.
There are WordCamps going on all over the world. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, check out WordCamp Central for cities and dates of upcoming camps.