Thoughts on Sophomore Year
Deep Thoughts about Scrapbooking

Bright Potential

On Friday, Kendell and I went to the wedding reception of the daughter of one of our couple friends. We’ve been friends with this family for, I don’t know…at least 25 years. This friendship was formed—like so many other friendships and families in this valley—through our being employed at WordPerfect.

I started working at WordPerfect when I was 17 and still a wild child. I went to school during the day (not to my local high school, though, but to the local community college) and then worked from 3:00-9:00, doing data entry. My mom worked there, too, and my sisters, and a year later my friend Cindy (whose dad and brother also worked at WP) would introduce me to her brother, Kendell. WordPerfect had a huge impact on our little valley; it brought so many jobs after the biggest employer, Geneva Steel, began laying off workers in droves. I was young and impressionable and probably pretty stupid when I worked there, but I learned a lot from the (actual, adult) women I worked with.

At Friday night’s reception, I sat at a table with a woman I knew from those WordPerfect days, someone I admired because she seemed so competent. Complete, somehow, a woman with a career that defined her, who seemed entirely comfortable in being who she was.

After I took off my mask, she recognized me; well, actually, she probably only knew me as “Suellen’s daughter,” but she was polite and talked to me like an old friend. She told me about her adult children and her grandchildren, and then she asked me about my life.

“You always seemed like you were so bright and full of potential,” she said. “What have you done with your life since I last saw you?”

And honestly: I couldn’t think of one single thing I could say.

What have I done with my life?

I said something about raising a family and then started talking about my kids. I was surrounded by people so I couldn’t really let her question sink in, but when I woke up on Saturday morning, it hit me.

What have I done with my life?

The Amy she knew—was I bright and full of potential?—was certain she would do amazing things with her life. When I was that person she knew, I was at a huge turning point of my life, when I tried to set down all my rebellious ways and live a “good” life. I pulled on the dress of my religion and tried to wear it like it was a skin, and I tried to wear it for the next 25 years. I was going to be good, and the blessing in being good would be achieving what I wanted to achieve.

Could I have said that?

“Well, I tried to be a good Mormon.”

But she had talked about missions and temple weddings, and if that is the metric one measures “good Mormon” with (and, let’s be frank: it mostly is), then clearly I did not accomplish that goal.

The Amy she knew was determined. Yes: I got married at 19, but I was determined to graduate from college. Eventually I did. Eventually I even got two degrees. Could that be my answer?

“I got an English degree and one in secondary education.”

I know now that a Bachelor’s degree opens some doors, but it is really only a start. After I graduated with my first degree, I wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom. Did I want this only because it was what the LDS faith told me I was supposed to want? That was a part of it, but, no: I loved the time I got to spend as a mom at home with my babies and toddlers. I didn’t want it to end when life made it end anyway, and the fact that what I wanted didn’t seem to matter to God or the Universe or Whoever was so, so bitter to me.

But the truth is, you can only choose one life. It was impossible for me to choose the two things that I wanted: have a family and get a PhD so I could teach literature and writing at a university. (One of my deepest desires.) I know many women actually DO manage those two different choices, but the particulars of my life made it impossible. Or, at least, it seemed impossible. I chose my family, and I love them with all my heart. But there is a part of me that mourns for that Amy who never existed.

So, I guess my response to Barb’s question about what I have done with my life was an accurate one:

I raised a family.

I want this to be enough, but if I am honest with myself, it doesn’t feel like it is. Maybe if I had managed to be a better mother, I would feel like it was enough. But I made so many, many mistakes. There is a saying in the LDS church that people like to repeat: “no success can compensate for failure in the home.” I don’t think I failed, per se. But I could have done so much better than I did.

So here I am. Almost 50, with three adult children and one still in high school. No longer bright, no longer full of potential. What have I done with my life?

I raised four amazing children.

I ran some races, even a couple of marathons.

I hiked a lot of mountains.

I witnessed the suffering and death of both of my parents.

I taught online scrapbooking classes.

I taught high school English.

I wrote some articles for a scrapbook magazine.

I had an essay published in a book.

I became a librarian.

I took a lot of pictures, baked birthday cakes, made meals, did laundry, weeded my flower beds, mowed my lawn.

I helped my husband recuperate from six major surgeries in ten years, not to mention survive a cardiac arrest.

I went to church. I tried to fit in there, tried my best. I taught teenagers and adults some lessons out of the scriptures.

I did a little bit of traveling.

This is the content of an ordinary life. And there is nothing wrong with an ordinary life. It is beautiful, and even if it doesn’t seem like much from the outside, there are many things in that list I am proud of.

But did I fulfill that “bright potential” Barb thought she saw in me?

You know how sometimes time slows down in your head? When she asked me that question, I had that experience. I thought “Oh, God, how do I answer that, I haven’t done anything that would impress someone like her” and my mind flashed through my life and I thought “my truest wish is that I could tell her ‘I am a writer.’”

Then time sped back up to its normal speed and I tried to answer.

Almost 50. The brightest parts of my life in the past. Unsure if I have any potential left.

Was her question a Rorschach test, the first response being the truest?

I know what I want to do with my life. It is the thing I have wanted to do since I was 15 and someone else in my 10th-grade English class stood up and read a poem she had written herself. Since I was 16 and didn’t know what to do with all of the feelings I had, and writing in my journal was one of the only ways I could find to cope. Since I was 10 and read a book I loved and thought I wish I could do that.

How do I do that?

How do I stop wanting to be a writer and actually be a writer?

How do I claim that my other roles—wife and mother and daughter and sister and friend and employee—are important but I want, I want, to do what I have always wanted to do?

Is it selfish?

Is it silly?

How do I convince myself that I deserve to follow the dream I always had for myself? How do I separate what is needed right now (helping Kaleb through high school, saving for retirement, managing the various ways my body is failing, encouraging Jacob to find his way, being helpful to Haley, Nathan, and Elliot) from what I want for the future? (writing that makes me realize: that has always been my problem, putting aside what I wanted for what was needed right now).

How do I find the courage—is it brightness? is it potential?—to say “succeed or fail, writer is where I am focusing my energy”?

Writing this and posting it on my backwater of a blog will not accomplish much. I know the answer: do the work. Try. Don't let the "yeah, but"s get in the way.

But it goes deeper than that. It is about finding courage, yes, but it is about finding that belief I used to have, the belief that I do have potential, that I do have a brightness to offer to the world.

How do I find that belief again?


Melissa F.

Well, for starters, you ARE a writer. BI enjoy your blog tremendously, even though this may be the only time I've ever commented. As someone who could have written this and shares many of the same feelings at 51, I understand these feelings so very well. And I'm struggling to find the answers. I signed up for 2 writing courses in August and completed nothing from either one. The answer, I think, is in the age-old advice people tell folks like us: schedule the time, journal, write every day, allow yourself to do shitty first drafts. But that belief thing, combined with all the other life responsibilities? It's huge.

Valerie HYDER

Amy, Your writing always resonates with me. What you put in words, so eloquently, often mirror what I am going through. This time of our lives, grown children, wondering what we did right and wrong, and who or what we are supposed to be now fill my nights with sleeplessness. My father said to me once, "You will always be the best you can be at the time." Sometimes, that isn't enough for the world, but it has to be for ourselves. Become a writer, your words are needed.

Jill McKenna

Just write. Write, write, write, write like it's the air you breathe. Find a compatible group of writers -- a writers' circle -- and submit your stuff. Listen to the critiques, think about them, consider them, and DO NOT CONSIDER THEM GOSPEL TRUTHS.

Let it pour out of you until the writing becomes automatic. Do ten-minute exercises (just write for ten minutes without stopping, even on those blocked days when you think you have "nothing to say").

You are good. I have absolutely no connection to you whatsoever and I read every blog post you make. That tells me something about your voice and the quality of your content.

I wish you nothing but the best -- peace and joy and a feeling that you're following your star!

Carmen Pauls Orthner

FWIW, I find your blog posts fascinating reading, and especially like your personal musings/reflections. If you don’t have a fictional story burning to be told, what about putting together a collection of life essays??


Amen to what everybody said already. You ARE a writer. I LOVE reading your thoughts. I hope you will publish your essays. Oh, and I want to read the essay you wrote for that book. And ALSO amen to what YOU wrote about all the good and wonderful things you HAVE done. You are remarkable!


I agree with everyone above. You are a writer. I love reading what you write. You manage to convey in words what I feel but don't know how to articulate. Do what they say : join a writing group - an online one to get away from the religeous stuff around you, do the assignments, write for ten minutes everyday. Get up earlier, go to bed later, turn off the TV and use the time to write. You may have another 50 years in you. Just start. Please.

Tracie Claiborne

I kind of had the opposite thing happen recently.

We met up with our friends of 30 years, two married couples, who we hadn't seen in quite some time. One couple is very wealthy and successful. She is an RN and he is an executive. The other couple, the wife does not work and the husband is an civilian airplane mechanic for the Air Force.

When last we spent time together, I was in the corporate world so I related more to the first couple. Now that I am not, I hit it off better with the wife that stays home because she is an Instagrammar who shares her incredible gift for decorating her home.

They both asked me about my life and I was filling them in and thinking about what I have done for the last 20 years, since I've been around them. As I gave them the highlights, I felt a little bit guilty to share my story because it sounded pretty great! It went like this...I raised the world's best human (and like you, Amy, about half the time doing so I felt like I sucked as a Mom, but she's a great human), I create hand lettering, scrapbooking and art, I live for decorating, I go antiquing and wandering in the woods and I sing with my friend sometimes and I go hear Mike play music and I just have the happiest life ever when it's not 2020. As I told them all this, I could see in their faces a bit of longing for a life maybe they hadn't thought of! One not based on money - but passionate pursuits. My life seemed pretty amazing even to me as I described it and the reason I see my life in the way I described it is because I choose to find the good in the midst of all the pain. I choose to celebrate the best of my life and kind of ignore the worst.

I could have said, "well I have a new, secondary, heart condition and I own a business but I don't really do with it what I should because I'm in so much pain every day that a lot of time I don't get out of bed." But I didn't mention that because I refuse to let any of that define me. It is crucial for my peace of mind that I define myself in terms of the happiest moments of my life. I have to focus on that.

So I only told you that because as you told me today, you plan to live 50 more years and in this day of self promotion - what are you waiting for? You have this one glorious life! You're in good health, right? You're a brilliant writer! I'm sitting here at 2 am, reading your blog because it's always engaging and well written. Write!! Self publish a book. If my 16 year old can - you can! Put it for sale on Amazon. Sell it to your friends. Sell it here. As everyone above me said...just write a little each day. You know what to do.

You can do it! Then one day, you'll see that woman again, or someone like her, and when you tell them about your life, their eyes will light up in wonder that you, Amy Sorensen, are a WRITER. That sounds so mysterious and amazing.

Tracie Claiborne

PS: If someone asked me who you are, I would say, "Who? Oh that lady over there with the cute smile? That's my friend, Amy. She is a BRILLIANT writer. I love her scrapbooking too but I always enjoy her storytelling more than just about anyone in our industry. She's really kind and easy to talk to. She's super outdoorsy and healthy: I envy her discipline. She is a librarian and gets to be surrounded by books all day - can you imagine? She's also married to a great guy and has four gorgeous kids. They live near Salt Lake City where it is so incredibly beautiful. She's a lucky girl."


Catching up with blog posts. Love this one and it made me think about how I'd answer that question (have not articulate the answer though, and would never be able to do it as well as you have done). Just a thought - Mary Wesley didn't publish the first of her many novels for adults until she was 73 (she had two or three novels for children published a few years earlier). I'm not suggesting you wait that long but you'd have many years in hand if you were emulating Mary!

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