“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” -E.E. Cummings
As summer slips into cooler days, I stand at the bus stop with fresh-faced children hoisting heavy backpacks filled with sharpened pencils and smooth-covered textbooks. Watching the yellow bus pick them up and pass by me, I remember my own bumpy ride when I traversed cafeteria-seating negotiations, painful picks for team sports, endless questions and unsure answers.
The most common of these questions was always, “What do you want to do when you grow up?
Except for a brief flirtation with archeology (I don’t have the patience to use a four inch trowel to unearth an ancient bead necklace), I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Pages of maudlin poetry, trite short stories, and literary musings filled notebooks kept and closeted from everyone.
I’d learned at a young age and after years of unsolicited opinions regarding my career choice that becoming a writer wasn’t a vocation to proclaim. So I learned how to stealthily duck and dodge the question regarding my chosen profession. My passion to write didn’t diminish, but my admission of it definitely did.
Even now, it isn’t uncommon for me to avoid the subject of my occupation (this makes marketing my book difficult). It’s usually friends who excitedly announce what I do in a manner similar to announcing a winner on a game show without realizing the prize is a year’s supply of off-brand tuna.
Recently I had coffee with a friend in a small local bookshop. While discussing the idiosyncrasies of four-year-olds, another woman approached. My friend recognizing her, smiled, and introduced me. Soon both women were discussing their current reading list. My friend eagerly added that I’d written a book.
After asking for the title, the woman offhandedly said, “I was going to write a book.” The rest of the sentence seemed to trail off as she placated her small child with a chocolate as he pulled on her arm. She gave us a wave over her shoulder and walked out, leaving her admission open-ended and unanswered.
It isn’t the first time that someone, upon learning that I published a book, responds that they were going to write a book. No matter how many times I hear it, I never know what to say. However, there are a couple of questions I always want to ask.
One—Why didn’t you write a book? Were you too busy having babies, working a corporate job, or did you just find the endeavor frivolous and not worth the time?
Two—Is it so easy to write a book? Is it something one does when they can fit in a few extra minutes into their day? Is the arduous years-long process of writing, editing and proofing to try to perfect every painfully placed word on an overwhelmingly white page simply a hobby never started?
Perhaps I should sympathize with their lack of time to pen the great American novel. Instead I find myself simultaneously trying to hide and defend the fact that I have dedicated all of my time to trying to do the same.
Maybe most people are just trying to make conversation. But possibly many don’t know what they want to do. And just as these people still need to answer the timeworn question, “What do you want to do when you grow up” I still neeed to accept my answer.
I want to be a writer.
No, I am a writer.
Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.