On Living Passionately… by Stephanie Kepke
I was tasked with bestowing three bits of advice for women looking to reconnect with their passions and live authentically – not an easy feat, even though I wrote a novel about just that, Goddess of Suburbia. I’m grateful for it, though. This post offers me the rare opportunity to focus for a moment on how, at forty-seven years old, I finally realized a dream I’ve had since I was eight – becoming a published author.
So… my first key to reconnecting with your passions: think about what captivated you as a child; what you loved in high school; and what you were passionate about in college. Is there a thread? Did a creative pursuit; academic subject; sport or philanthropic endeavor capture your heart when you were very young and continue to bring you joy throughout young adulthood, only to be abandoned when the realities of grown up life – marriage, kids, day job – got in the way? If there’s something you’ve always loved, do it. It’s that simple.
For me, writing is the thread that’s woven through the tapestry of my existence – from childhood through today. As I mentioned, at the tender age of eight I decided I wanted to be a writer. My desire only grew over the years. By the time I had my first child, I had written about forty articles for various publications and studied creative writing in amazing workshops with renowned authors. I was on my way. But, one baby slowed my writing down a bit and two stalled it all together. By the time baby number three came along, I rarely put pen to paper. I wrote here and there, but nothing that I submitted.
I started writing seriously again when my youngest was in nursery school, launching a blog to showcase my personal essays and working on a novel. The day he started full day kindergarten, I set a goal and made my husband a promise… If I didn’t get published by the time my little guy graduated kindergarten, I’d get a “real” job. Writing felt like a hobby, even though it was the only subject I ever studied, the only career I knew I’d ever be good at. Not making money at your job can do that. But…before my youngest donned his tiny graduation cap, my essay, Kicking Superwoman to the Curb, was published in Long Island Parents magazine. After taking off ten long years, I was convinced that it was time to fully return to my passion.
It took another five years (almost exactly) before I got my first book contract – for A New Life, a short story e-book (during that time I posted many personal essays and had a few articles published). I had written it right before my decade long hiatus, during the last workshop I took when my oldest son was a year old. A few months after A New Life came out Booktrope accepted my first novel, Goddess of Suburbia (the novel I started while my son napped in the minivan after nursery school). This brings me to my second key to rediscovering your passions and living authentically…
Don’t ever give up. Even if it seems like you’ll never get to where you want to be, even if it seems like the road ahead is so daunting – surely paved with rejection – don’t give up. There were times for me that it seemed like it would be so much easier to just throw in the towel, just raise the white flag. I was done with the rejection or even worse, no response at all. I never even heard from some publishers who requested Goddess of Suburbia – not slush pile submissions, actual requests for my work. It took me a few months to work up the courage to submit to Booktrope – I didn’t think I could handle one more endless wait for a response that may or may not come. But, it was about two weeks from the time I submitted to the time a contract landed in my inbox. You just need one yes, and then every no you’ve ever received won’t matter.
My last bit of advice, which has been the hardest one for me to actually follow, is to not worry about what others think of you. This is something that Max grapples with in Goddess of Suburbia. She worries deeply what everyone else thinks of her. It’s her worst nightmare when she’s judged harshly by the other moms. I think in writing about learning to let go of the preoccupation with others’ perceptions, I was perhaps trying to work out that issue for myself. It’s very hard to just do something and not worry about being judged, but it’s the secret to living authentically. If you’re always trying to be what others expect you to be, you’ll never be true to yourself. One of my favorite quotes is, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” by Eleanor Roosevelt. So true – the most important key to living passionately and authentically is to do what makes you happy, free from the crippling fear of being judged.
Suburbia meets scandal in this hopeful and honest portrayal of that moment in every woman’s life when it’s time to make a change, even if that means risking losing it all. Goddess of Suburbia by Stephanie Kepke is a must-read for women looking to reconnect with their passions, and live authentically.
When pillar of the community and PTA mom, Max, allowed her husband, Nick, to record a sex video of them on his cell phone, she thought of it as simply a way to keep Nick interested and entertained during his frequent business trips. But suddenly, Max is trending everywhere-her video lighting up the blogosphere and Twitter, thanks to the fact that she’s a genuine, imperfect woman. Now the paparazzi are chronicling her every move; her daughter wants to disown her; and her marriage has completely fallen apart. Just as things can’t get any more chaotic, Max’s college boyfriend, shows up two decades after he broke her heart. Now Max must learn to stop going through the motions of her life on auto-pilot and start living authentically, or risk forever being a suburban lemming running towards the cliff of old age.