(A note to my dear readers: As you have noticed, my website has just undergone a major remodeling. As a result, some of the old articles were deleted. This is one and as I continue to retrieve them, you may see other items that are not exactly new! Thank you for your patience and understanding.)
The second time I appeared as a keynote speaker at the American Association of University Women, a lady approached me and said, “I enjoy your writing and have heard bits about your own story at these talks. Why don’t you write a memoir?” I confessed that the thought had never occurred to me. Her question stayed with me for days. I once wrote a funny story about my experiences as a dentist and parts of me are sprinkled throughout my novels. Maybe a lifelong story isn’t due as yet but there’s one experience that readers might enjoy, especially women.
For over twenty-five years, we lived in a Chicago suburb where most of the year the clouds hang so low that you tend to forget how vast the world is. On such a cloudy day, I dropped off my son at his school and found my way back to my practice in Evanston. A tape recorder hung from my rearview mirror, ready to register another chapter of my novel so that later on my secretary could type it while I saw patients. This was how I pieced together my stories, here and there, between work and family. On that particular morning, the thought of the workload ahead made me change my mind and instead I turned on the radio. I heard a familiar voice of a motivational speaker just as he said, “If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it!”
I had heard that expression before. This time it hit me harder because I was ready to absorb its profound meaning. The shock made me pull the car to the curb and stop. What was I doing with my life? I enjoyed my teaching job at Northwestern University, but why was I going to a dental office while my stories patiently waited on the shelf? True that my family had pressured me into becoming a doctor of sorts, but that was decades ago. Who was pushing me now?
I started the car again and while driving, tried to sort my scattered thoughts. I had married a liberal man who also made enough money to support our small family. I loved my little patients, but I would love them with or without their teeth! Life was too short to do it all and I needed to focus on what was important to me. I could no longer be satisfied with writing bits here and there and needed to dedicate the second half of my life to writing. I realized that would be a huge change, but it was a change I alone could bring into my life.
I drove into the parking lot, walked to my office, passed through a full waiting room and called my office manager in. I dictated an ad for the sale of my practice to be posted in the dental journal. Some may consider this rash – I’m sure my husband did when I informed him in the evening – but this decision had been brewing for years. Somewhere inside I had known all my life that I was a writer, not a dentist. That’s why I had stolen time at every chance to write. That was why I had published one book, had another ready to go, and on my shelves sat stacks of unedited manuscripts. My family may have succeeded to push the dentist forward, but they’d failed to stop the writer and she knew exactly what she wanted from life.
My decision did not simply concern my career. I was also determined to move to Southern California, where I no longer would have to use up my prayers on a hopeless subject such as the weather. My transformation may have been shocking to my husband and children, but I think it was the sparkle in my eyes that gained their approval. I was too young to make a “bucket list,” but I had to live a more meaningful life while I still could.
We moved to San Diego in 2000, where I enrolled in a creative writing class at UCSD. True that I had been a writer/poet all my life, but I had done most of that in Persian and needed to learn the differences of writing in English. Now nearly fifteen years later, I enjoy the success of my novels and speak to societies on topics such as hope, dreams and goals. People tell me I am the poster child for the elderly, the inspiration for young writers, but what I never imagined was that fulfillment would also make me into a better companion for my husband and a happier mother to my three children. It has been a rough road and there were sacrifices along the way, but it’s a road I’m thrilled to have found. My path is testimony to the fact that a woman’s power knows no limit and that there’s no age to reach one’s goal.
As I go from town to town and speak at universities, society luncheons and conferences, my husband reminds me that my novels belong in the Guinness Book of world record as the most expensive books ever written.
“In order to write these, you’ve given up a six-figure income over the past fifteen years,” he jokes.
We both laugh at the truth within those words. “Yes, that may be true,” I tell him, “but no amount of money could have made me as happy as I am now!”