While I was expecting my son, I worked full-time. I was the de facto supervisor in the Checking Collections department of a large, local lending institution. Two years earlier, I had earned my graduate degree. While gainfully employed in a position I hoped to soon vacate, I attended evening classes at the branch campus of our state university. In only two years, I surpassed being a mere Pennsylvania-certified teacher holding a Bachelor degree in Secondary English Education…I had become a Master of Education.
Unfortunately, blinded by my pursuit of myriad certifications and degrees, I had not realized public schools have little to zero interest in hiring individuals who possess too many qualifications (we cost more). And so I remained in a bank, in possession of a faux-wood laminated name plate. Affixed with Velcro to the wall of my cubicle.
It provided co-workers the perfect surface on which to tap their knuckles, a preface to the astonishingly witty statement: Knock, Knock
Thankfully, along with the birth of my son came the loss of my job. It seems a large, local lending institution is an attractive acquisition for an even larger, local lending institution and so, my bank was gobbled up and a couple hundred of us lost our jobs. If I had not recently been graced with the title mother, I would have become known simply as unemployed.
During those first few years of motherhood - during naptime - I wrote a book. To be precise…I wrote a 110,000-word novel. I joined the Writer’s Block Party, an online forum hosted by Writer’s Digest and every afternoon I engaged in daily shop talk with other dreamers. I even entered my completed manuscript in the first-ever Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, which earned me a pretty neat Official Proof copy of my novel in-print. At the time I considered myself: a writer. Keep in mind, the distinction between being a writer and being an author is clearly made when one’s work becomes published. My collection of gently-worded rejection letters remind me I never became known as an author.
As my son grew, my writing transformed into blogging; my content focused on you guessed it: motherhood. I joined the growing legion of mommy bloggers. Armed with sub-par digital photographs of our children, wielding basic HTML-skills, we all built a following. And, the most fortunate of us built friendships, too. The most tech savvy among us aligned with companies, attended nationwide conferences and became influencers and content creators. I keep in touch with a handful of the ladies I met in my early days of blogging and while not one of us ever reached Pioneer Woman status by sharing the ups and downs of our day-to-day lives with strangers, I smile when I think back to the years I was known around a few virtual circles as a mommy blogger.
I began to think critically about blogging when my son was in elder childhood and I quickly decided I had no intention of sharing his adolescence online - the teenage years are awkward enough without momarazzi following you around. I chose to buy a domain and re-focus my blogging to encourage child-led learning. I had earned the degrees in Education, right? Well, I had a pretty good run…a couple of years holding workshops, offering consultations, pulling together field trips and nature walks…but it soon felt as if it was monopolizing the really relaxed child-led learning that had been going on for so long in my own home. So, after years of being known for my home education philosophies, my relaxed evaluation-style and my encouraging advice…I took a break from the local homeschooling community. I railed against being known as the unschooler.
When I chose the domain name Cattails & Cobwebs I did so with two things in mind: the focus of my writing at the time (home education) and the future I knew I would pursue: nature photography. When I joined Instagram in 2017 my profile bio looked like a LinkedIn profile, promoting me as a Naturalist, Educator and Photographer. If I am honest…I most wanted to be known as a photographer.
In early-2018 I went to great lengths to open an online shop. I procured a sales tax license, secured a dedicated bank account, researched shipping options and spent months designing wildflower notecards and writing a 20-page journal dedicated to spring ephemerals. I wasted hours trying to navigate social media. At the end of the year I had so little interest shown in my work- and only a handful of sales - I closed up shop.
It was too much, too hard and the whole unending process, the self-assigned task of trying to be known - too perpetual. I miss being a part of the world. I want to pause to look up at the sky. To spend my days walking with my son in the woods. Living.
I am not known and I think…I quite enjoy it. ♥
Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.