When I grow up

The first thing I ever wanted to be that I can remember was a baseball player.  I don’t think it was because I had a profound love of baseball but simply because I was in little league and thought it would be cool to play on TV someday.  Also I remember more stories from my dad talking about Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda than anything else, which is strange because he had absolutely no emotion at all when they finally won their first World Series in San Francisco yet screams at the TV when the 49ers play. 

The second thing I can remember wanting to be was a veterinarian.  I remember doing research for a project in 7th grade for our careers and this was the first thing I could think of and I stuck with it.  I loved animals as a kid and I wanted to take care of them.  When I was in elementary school I remember riding my bike home one day and hearing a faint but frantic meowing.  I stopped and looked around off the sidewalk and saw a black and white kitten a few yards away looking very ragged and terrified.  When I scooped it up and walked back to my bike I noticed the horrible scene in the street that I still can’t believe that I hadn’t seen first; three flattened marks of the same color pattern as the kitten beaten down into the asphalt.  I held the kitten in my sweater and pedaled my bike home while clutching it to my chest.  I pleaded with my mom to keep the kitten, even though we already had another cat as well as a dog.  She agreed despite my dad’s anger and hatred of cats.  I still have a soft spot for animals despite my waning interest in having them in my home as pets, but the interest in being a veterinarian died out fairly quickly as I got into high school.

The third, and last thing I can remember actually wanting to be for my life was a writer.  After switching high schools in my junior year I figured I was going to do something with computers.  It was the boom of the internet start up age in 1996 and the new high school I was going to had a computer based curriculum.  Despite that when we had our senior project I chose to do mine on writing a novel which had very little to do with anything computers if I didn’t want it to.  Still even then I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do yet.  It wasn’t until a random day driving back from Fairfield with my dad when he asked me what kind of subject I’d like to major in at the end of my senior year of high school that I was even remotely close to figuring it out.  It was the first thing that popped into my head about being a writer.  I’m not positive why I didn’t pursue it though.  I ended up taking computer science at SJSU and then general studies at Napa Valley CC a year later.  The only classes that really stuck with me were the English classes though.

Even before that there were signs that.  In grade 2 or 3 I wrote a story about a knight fighting a dragon and remember my mom saving it.  In high school I was the least involved student imaginable, practically invisible, but I remember asking about entering a writing contest for the San Francisco Chronicle for students.  I never actually did but I daydreamed about my topic and where I would steer it; how professional sports bring communities together.  I even picked an anecdote about a memorable 15th birthday at Candlestick Park watching the SF Giants play and making friends with strangers all around us.  They shy kid in me probably just thought I wouldn’t win and didn’t bother, or the video game obsessed teen in me didn’t take anything serious enough to put the controller down to write.  I still remember the fun of thinking about writing for that contest though.

Over the last two decades I would spend time picking up a pen and a notebook or opening up a word document and writing whatever came off the top of my head.  I loved letting my mind loose and seeing where it would go.  When I would go on break at my current mindless job of driving a forklift I would take a pen with me and I’d write notes and random stories in the margins of the newspaper.  I’d write for twenty minutes straight about absolutely nothing and I’d have filled up an entire side of the paper.  People would read it and look at me like I was nuts because it would be silly nonsense but I was flexing my creativity to keep my mind from going crazy in the monotony of my job.

In the last few years is when I actually decided that if I could do anything on earth I want to be an author.  I want to write.  I still have hiccups where I wonder if its what I really want such as when I’m fantasizing about winning the lottery.  I wonder if I’d still want to be a writer if I had millions of dollars at my disposal.  Do I want to be a writer so I can quit my shitty job or do I want to be a writer so I can write?  That is one I always push out of my mind because it doesn’t really matter.  I want to write now and that’s all that matters.  If my situation changes I’ll address it when it gets here, but right now I can’t stop thinking about it and its becoming an increasing force inside me.

I’m going to do this.  I have too much inside of me to let it rot away and die.  I want too much to let it go with a whimper.  This isn’t how I’m going to spend the rest of my life.  I’m going to write every day that I can.  When I’m not working on a story I’m going to be working on some aspect of becoming a better writer.  I know my posts haven’t been particularly interesting so far.  They definitely haven’t been well thought out as I’ve been writing off the top of my head.  What they have been is practice.  I’ve been writing for over a week and I need to keep going.  If I can keep this pace up for a month then I’ll be a month better than when I started.  I’ll keep going like that until my fingers fall off and finally I’ll prove to myself that I can write.  When I do it won’t be so much as wanting to be a writer as it will be when I’ve finished what I’m writing.

 

 

I don’t remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman. For me, writing is like being gay. You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away.

 

-Mark Haddon

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