What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

When I was 10 years old, my teacher assigned an essay to the class. We were to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Immediately, like a cartoon thought bubble, “WRITER” popped into my head. This was confusing. While I was most definitely a straight A student, I didn’t consider myself a writer. After all, I had that pretty diary with the miniature padlock on it at the top of my closet for a few years by then and it only had one entry. A boring entry. Something forgettable.

Writer? Where did that come from? I didn’t know any writers. No one in my family kept a diary, that I knew of anyway. We had a lot of readers in the family and that is where I aligned myself. A reader. Someone who read the ideas and stories of other people, not someone who wrote her own stories.

In fact, I didn’t think I had anythign to say. I wrote only when assigned something like the weighty “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” essay. Really, isn’t that a lot to put on a kid? It sure felt like it to me at 10.

Some people say that we are born fully formed and then we spend the rest of our lives remembering who we are. And maybe that is true. Were you very sure at a young age that you were going to be a doctor or a farmer or a fashion designer? Did you become that? Or did life, new interests and school loans veer you onto a different path? I think that happens to many of us, we ignore that little voice inside or stray away from something that seems impossible.

And becoming a writer seemed impossible to me. Even though, I KNEW that voice inside was shouting as loudly as she could—I just couldn’t see how to make it happen. By that time in my life I had read a good many of the books in our elementary school library and there wasn’t one book on how to become a writer. There weren’t many how-to books at all. My reading preference then was historical biographies and Encyclodpedia Brown mysteries. I don’t remember books about writers or writing in our small library at all.

Just before the assignment, I had read a book about a ballerina. In my 10-year-old mind, becoming a ballerina seemed infinitely more doable than becoming a writer. So, that’s what I wrote about, not knowing that by aged 10 I was too old to begin a career as a ballet dancer. The book I’d read left out some parts, obviously.

Fast-forward thirty plus years and that thought bubble returned. In neon lights, “WRITER! WRITER!” At this point, having learned the hard way to never ignore my inner voice, I started writing a book. I wrote because I had a question that I couldn’t answer any other way except by exploring it through fiction. And now, I’ve completed it and have begun a second. I have another question I want to delve into through writing.

It wasn’t easy. Anyone who says something worthwhile comes easily is shining you on, but you know that, don’t you? No, writing a book wasn’t even in the same ballpark as easy, but it was, and is, something much better. It is what Iam passionate about, what I’m meant to do.

It has taken a long time to return to that child-like belief that I can be anything I want when I grow up. It’s as easy, and as difficult, as listening to that little voice inside.

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