Crib Notes: The Meaning of Meaningful

Abigail GreenBy Abigail Green 

I am lucky enough to have some pretty amazing friends. One started a school for underprivileged kids. Another helped clean up Hurricane Katrina-ravaged communities and does volunteer work every week. Another friend raises money for pediatric epilepsy, on top of her paralegal job. While I am proud of my friends and inspired by them, I  often feel like a big ol’ slacker.

I mean, let’s face it as a freelance writer, I write essays about my belly button. I publish 200-word articles about adult braces. I pitch stories on feng shui and skirts for men. (Shockingly, that one never sold.) I am hardly changing the world through my work.

At times this really gets me down. I wonder, what am I doing with my life? Am I wasting my talents as a writer? Could I be doing something more meaningful? Now that I’m a mom I feel more of a sense of purpose, but I am still plagued by these thoughts occasionally. After all, besides raising my child, writing is my life’s work.

It’s taken me years to figure out that I don’t work solely for the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong,  making money is definitely a goal. It’s always a consideration when I take a job, especially when I was single and paying my own rent, and also now that I have a family. Money is just not the most important factor.

I’ve learned that in order to feel good about myself, I need to feel like my work is meaningful. I need to know that all that time spent writing, revising, ruminating, and revising some more is worth it. I want to touch people with my words, make them think, laugh, cry, or just react, period.

So who’s touched by the latest innovations in orthodontia? Not many people. That’s why I try to balance those writing assignments with ones that are more personally meaningful. I once wrote about overcoming my fear of fainting at the doctor’s. I was thrilled to get a letter from a woman with the same problem. She said she’d never known the condition was treatable, and my article gave her hope. Talk about touching! Another time, my story about a nonprofit sparked an anonymous $800 donation.

Not everything I write will garner such response, of course. And the truth is, I enjoy writing light-hearted personal essays, fluffy trend pieces and funny blog entries from time to time. So instead of labeling myself a slacker, I’m trying to cut myself some slack. After all, I’m raising a caring, responsible human being.  I write articles that touch people, or at least tell them how to straighten their teeth. I’ve even written about my amazing friends. What could be more meaningful than that?

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Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog Diary of a New Mom http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com/.

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