Last month Eden Baylee discussed how diversity makes life meaningful and how fortunate we all are to live together in this unique world. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, lovely individuals of the world share how life inspires and energizes them.
Today I’m happy to bring you babies the fantastic Jilanne Hoffmann from San Francisco. Reading Jilanne’s blog always makes me smile, because she’s a smart cookie with a rambunctious spirit. A children’s book author, she brings a sense of play to everything she writes.
I also love our blogging conversations, and I will never forget the time she left me a comment with a link to a video about Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest Yoga teacher. I cried in my coffee that morning.
Jillanne is a natural Life Enthusiast, so it’s a real treat to have her here.
Connect with Jilanne on Twitter.
At the beginning of my career, I used to let life carry me along, take the path of least resistance. I excelled at math and science and was raised by two pragmatists: a nurse and a phone company lineman.
“You can always find a job as an engineer,” they said.
So that’s what I did. Eight long years of staying the course—working, studying, and taking out student loans, left little room for soul-searching—until my final semester.
I took an elective called “Oral Interpretation of Literature,” the only class in my undergrad career involving neither math nor science, a class where I performed poems and short stories. My spirit soared in the wildness of it all—
Too late! I graduated and accepted a job at IBM.
As an engineer and then marketing rep for “Big Blue,” that wisp of creative impulse went into hibernation. I wore suits, pumps, and pantyhose. Gave presentations, measured sales figures.
Two years later, the wisp won and hibernation ended. I left IBM, sold my stock, broke up with a guy I’d been with for five years, and took off to see the world.
First stop: Peru during the era of the Shining Path.
As a blonde, single woman traveling alone, I was harassed, tear-gassed during a demonstration in front of the Palace of Justice (note to self: see angry crowd yelling, go the other way), and mugged by two men in Barranco, Lima’s Bohemian neighborhood where artists and writers lived.
I fought the men and fled into a government compound guarded by soldiers. The Ministry of Defense.
The soldiers demanded my passport because they thought I was in cahoots with terrorists. Saved from the slammer by a sympathetic secretary returning from lunch, she cut a deal with the guards and escorted me and my passport off the grounds.
Later that day, I fell out of a bus, my spine raking the washboard steps all the way to the ground.
That night, sore and scared, I stood outside my room, gazing across the hostel courtyard toward a mysterious woman standing in her doorway. She beckoned me over. I don’t know why, but I trusted her.
She told me a series of stories, some of them about brutal things she had experienced while traveling. She told me I would be faced with challenging situations, that it would take every ounce of courage and optimism I had to continue.
My guardian angel.
If it hadn’t been for her wisdom, I would have headed home, never having felt tropical breezes or eaten Poisson Cru in Tahiti, trekked the sounds or sailed in New Zealand, hiked Uluru in Alice Springs, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, mingled with dolphins in the Indian Ocean, been entranced by Gamelan music and the Kecak and Legong dances in Bali, studied Buddhism in Thailand, devoured the best curry of my life in Singapore, witnessed the unrest in Hong Kong before it returned to Chinese control, walked the Great Wall of China or chatted with students in Beijing a few short weeks before the Tiananmen Square protests.
My life would have been much less rich if I had abandoned the journey.
Of course, I faced other challenges. My backpack was stolen in Australia, but I chose not to replace many things. Traveling lighter felt good.
When I returned home, I hurtled down the writer’s path, a journey that continues to this day. I earned an MFA in creative writing for adults the year after my son was born. So, of course, I then fell in love with children’s literature.
Turns out, I now have two parallel paths—one writing for adults, the other for children. Can’t give up either, despite the rejection, because I LOVE BOTH!!
I’ve got an agent, determination, and enthusiasm—everything I need to succeed.
I wrote a portion of this post while sitting in a cabin at the Highlights Foundation compound, a phenomenal retreat and conference center for kidlit writers. I am so fortunate that my path is paved with words that make some wee sense of this thrilling-exquisite life.
What is your fortunate path? Listen to your angel, the one that speaks to your heart and gives you courage to face the tough stuff.
Find “the thing” that makes you sing. Best wishes on your journey!