What fuels my fire? For me, the answer has changed over the years and stages of my life. I think it often does for many of us, unless you’re fortunate enough to discover your true passions early in life. As we learn and grow and experience the world around us, we begin to discover what “speaks” to our souls. At different times, these may be different things.
While in high school, I realized how engaging and meaningful community service could be. In college, I explored a growing passion for literature and composition. Graduate school and a budding teaching career fueled my idealism about helping the next generation.
When I became a wife and mother, my whole world then revolved around family; I threw myself into becoming informed, engaged and involved. You name it, and I did it: PTO board member, classroom volunteer, committee chair, classroom Mom, drama Mama (for son #1), baseball Mom (for son #2), and full-time chauffeur (for both). But I eventually realized that my role as an active, exhausted parent had defined me. When your children begin needing you less (and grow up and move out), it can shake your identity, especially if you have put a career on hold for many years. Who was I, in addition to being a devoted mom and wife? What other interests were still awaiting discovery?
The search for those answers led to surprising new paths in recent years. As a former English teacher, I had always enjoyed creative writing but lacked the self-confidence to fully develop and share my own work. It felt too personal, too open to judgement. The anonymity of the internet, however, provided the inspiration and support I needed to further explore this passion. I adopted a pen name and joined several fiction groups where I finally found the freedom to express myself. Like-minded writers who can encourage, support and provide helpful feedback are quite a welcome discovery! I developed friendships in writers’ circles, served as a “beta reader” to help improve the stories of fellow authors, and eventually worked as a paid copy editor for an e-book publisher.
Perhaps my proudest accomplishment was leaving the anonymity of the online world to attend a fiction writers’ retreat in New York a few years ago – having to produce and share my work with other writers in real life. It was an empowering experience that generated several short pieces and story ideas for further development.
All of which leads me to where I am today … exploring the next chapter of life as an empty nester; donating my time and resources to organizations that matter to me; writing when I can find the inspiration; and settling back into the working world, most recently at the AJT. I am proud to be part of such a top-notch newspaper, surrounded by an incredible staff who share similar passions. I also know there is so much more yet within me just waiting to be discovered.
As Chanukah approaches, I wish warmth and light and love to all of our readers. May you never stop finding the spark that ignites your own passions in life.
Jodi Danis is the executive assistant to the AJT publisher and managing publisher/editor.