Real People Empty Nesting:

An Interview with Linda Wisniewski

By Robin Bonner

It’s All About the Journey
Linda C. Wisniewski has traveled a long and winding road since her childhood growing up in a Polish Catholic community in upstate New York. She’s weathered an abusive father, an emotionally distant mother, a diagnosis of scoliosis at age 13, and a lifetime of getting to know, love, and accept the true “Linda.” Today, her success as a librarian, writer, and teacher proves that the journey has been worthwhile. Linda’s first book, Off Kilter (Pearlsong Press, 2008), tells of that winding path—and finding of Self—that strikes a chord in all of us.

Linda writes for the Bucks County Herald and teaches memoir classes for <> Bucks County Community College. A graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, she holds a master’s degree in library science from Villanova University and a certificate of advanced study in information resource management from <>Drexel University. Linda is regional representative of the International Women’s Writing Guild and a board member of the Story Circle Network.

EN: Linda, what are your earliest memories of wanting to write, to make your living in the information business? Did you write as a child? Describe your career path—was it a straight path to the library sciences and writing, or were there some detours?

LW: As a little girl, I had a blue diary with a key, and in eighth grade, I won an essay contest, but I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was over 50. In the interim, I worked as a caseworker and vocational rehab counselor, and counseled myself into library school. I was a corporate/medical librarian for about 10 years. When my second child was born, I decided to stay home with him and do freelance online research. This was just as the Internet became widely available. One of my industry contacts asked me to write for a trade journal, and from there, I began to work on more creative, personal stories.

EN: When did you first realize that your childhood wasn’t a healthy one—that there was a bigger, possibly saner world waiting for you outside your community? When did you move away, what gave you the courage, how did you feel about it, and how did your family react to your decision?

LW: Reading was an escape for me, and I learned quite early that other homes were happier, through books and by visiting friends and relatives. After high school, I took a few “baby steps,” living at home during the first year of community college, then moving into an apartment the second year and transferring to Buffalo as a junior. I knew other people did this, and their parents were okay with it. Plus, looking back at those who stayed close to home, I knew I didn’t want that kind of life. My parents didn’t want me to go “so far away” (200 miles), and it was tough to get over the guilt of that. Not sure if I’m over it yet!

EN: Describe how you learned to deal with your own children in light of your early experiences. What are you doing differently now that you’ve learned so much?

LW: Interesting—I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, as my second and younger child is in his sophomore year of college. When both my boys were young, I encouraged them to follow their dreams. I never told them anything they wanted to do was too far, too expensive, too hard, or too crazy. And I probably pushed them a little harder to stick with what they started and not give up too soon. But in striving to not make the mistakes of our parents, we make different ones—like pushing them too hard! Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

EN: When did you first realize that you needed to come to terms with your childhood and heritage? Was this an “empty-nesting” event, or did the process begin earlier? What first steps did you take to begin your exploration?

LW: Way earlier, I’m sure. My college days were in the Sixties, the time of “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” protests, and sit-ins. We thought we knew it all and questioned everything we’d been taught. I changed my major from medical technology to sociology and just fell in love with all kinds of social justice issues.

EN: How many children do you have? How old are they and what are they doing now? How much do you share with them about your spiritual and emotional journey? How much do they grasp and how do they react?

LW: I have a 33-year-old son from my first marriage who has an English degree and was runner-up for Bucks County (PA) poet laureate a few years ago. He has been an editor and email marketing manager. He read my book and liked it, and has always been very supportive. My younger son is almost 20 and majoring in computer science at Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate NY. He’s a math and science guy, but supportive, as well. Both of them knew my mom and dad, and we’ve talked about some of my family’s issues, so they have always understood where I’m coming from.

EN: Is there anything else you would like to share with your fellow empty nesters about your life journey? What advice might you give that might help them in their own path to self-discovery and peace?

LW: It all comes down to this: We create our own happiness. Writing helps immensely with discovering the patterns and paths we follow. But in the end, nobody else can make us happy. It’s a wonderful, powerful moment when we claim the freedom to make our own choices.

Robin Bonner is editor of Empty Nest. For more about Robin, see About Us.

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