When I was child, I never had a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I assume various adults asked me the question, but I don’t remember the asking, and I certainly don’t remember my answers. I wanted to read, and play with animals, and sing songs.
For awhile, when I was still under five feet tall and skinny as stick, I dreamed of being a jockey. Later, I imaginined being a large-animal vet. But I worried if I could pass the required math and science classes, and, more than that, I worried that my empathy for animals would be debilitating when it came to hurting them in order to help them.
For pocket money, I did what many teens do: babysat the neighbors’ children. I never much enjoyed it; I didn’t know how to relate to children until I had my own. For a couple summers, I worked at riding stable, grooming horses, mucking stalls, teaching beginners. I loved that dusty, dirty, horse-smelly job, but I didn’t really see a future in it.
One summer, I worked at our family’s hot dog stand at a marina in northern Ontario. It was fun for a bit (free french fries!) until the rush orders came in and I got behind and mixed up who wanted pickles and who wanted onions. Multi-tasking with mustard.
All along, from the moment in first grade when I made the connection between sounds, words, and reading (and I still remember that thrilling moment, clear as a ringing bell), I’ve been doodling with words. I wrote a lot of short stories as a kid. I had a little typewriter and I clacked away on that. Later, typewriters gave way to computers. I found I had a lot of stories inside, bursting to get out.
None of my teachers ever told me I could be a writer.
My father, seeing my interest in writing but being a practical person, suggested that I be a technical writer. I shunned that idea. No way. Not for me. I told my favorite high school English teacher about the idea. She said, “You know there’s a reason they call computer terminals TERMINAL.”
I entered college as an English major with no real thought in my head of what job that would lead to. I just loved to read and write. And four years of that sounded kind of like I was getting away with something delightful.
In my senior year, I took a class called “Advanced Expository Writing” (these days, I suppose it would be called “Creative Non-Fiction”). The professor was one I adored, and feared. He made me nervous because he knew so much, had such strong opinions, and felt so deeply about the written word. I supposed I feared him because I wanted so much to impress him.
The class required us to write a lot of persuasive and personal essays. I’d never done that before (by then, I was writing a lot of poems, and a lot of research papers). It suited me. I enjoyed that new expository voice I didn’t know I had. Two times that I remember, he singled out sections of my essays to read to the class, in his slow, precise, expressive voice. It set me aglow.
One day, he asked me what I planned to do when I graduated. I said I didn’t know. I was thinking maybe of becoming a technical writer. He paused, looked straight into my eyes, and said “Why?”
Well, the answers were obvious, but I knew what he was asking. The truth is, I didn’t have the faith in myself then to be a writer. A REAL writer. A poet. Or an essayist. A storyteller. I needed an apartment, a job, a bridge from university student to adult, and writing about computers was one way to do it.
That career has served me well. You might say excellently. It made my life. Because of it, I met M, and we had H. Because of it, I could contribute financially to our life in this old farmhouse, get goats, take trips, make life-long friends. All this by stitching words together.
But the story isn’t over yet.
More and more, in the evenings and the mornings, I steal time to write those poems and essays. Someday, when I grow up, I might just be a real writer…
This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.