How many different people have I wanted to be in my life? Too many, and I’ve done many of them, but I think I’m about to embrace one of the paths and it’s sort of filling me with dread.
I remember being in elementary school and thinking that the secretaries had a great job. They had a nice big desk, got to play with a typewriter all day, had a never-ending source of pens and markers and tape and staplers and different kinds of paper, and they got to decorate their desks and answer phones. What fun! I could doodle all day with all the different markers, I could make posters, comic strips, draw dresses for fashion models, and talk to whomever I wanted on the phone. ( I was clearly a special child with a good grasp of what a job was!)
Teachers, too, got to do fun things. First, they were the boss of the whole class so they got to say and do whatever they wanted. If they weren’t in the mood for math that day, they didn’t have to do it. If they wanted to give us silent reading while they worked on a craft project for us, they could, and they also had lots of neat supplies. If they wanted to fill the blackboard with fancy writing in different colored chalks, they did and they looked like they were having fun. Many of us truly believed the teachers lived at the school; one horrendously bad-weather day while I was stripping off my steamy raincoat in class and wiping my wet bangs out of my eyes and pulling up the sock that always slipped down into my boot, I decided to become a teacher so I would never have to deal with bad weather again, I could just slip out of bed, get dressed, and go into my classroom. Clearly a well-thought-out career path.
Being a photojournalist seemed easy as pie. You bought a camera, wandered around wherever you felt like, took lots of pictures and some magazine or newspaper paid you to have those pictures. Wow, what an easy job! I, of course, would take pictures of kittens and pretty dresses and maybe some flowers and I like the houses on the next street so they’re on the list too. Why would anybody take a picture of a bunch of barns? Or clouds? Or just a bunch of faces? I know, I’ll sell pictures to ALL the magazines and then I’ll be rich! I already have a Kodak Magi-Cube camera, so I’m set.
Getting older meant broadening those career horizons. I didn’t understand people in high school who knew what they were going “to be.” How do you know until you’ve tried? What does that mean, exactly, that you’re going to college for “marketing?” Is that a career? What made you decided that selling things had a fancy name like marketing? And hey, business majors? What is that all about? Isn’t every single job a business? How do you major in jobs? What do you hope to get out of it? And as a passionate math-hater, I just don’t get you 17-year-olds who are planning on majoring in accounting. Really? Spend your entire life adding up numbers? (Full disclosure: I married an accountant, and no way could I ever ever do what he does. I would cry.) I didn’t understand communication majors, sociology majors, anything to do with science (see aforementioned hatred of math; science was the evil cousin) or archaeology…in fact, I was lost thinking of a college major. I was lost thinking about college and really didn’t think about it much until I said halfway through my senior year and well after I bombed the SATs “yeah, okay, I’ll go to college.”
I decided to be a music major, because clearly there was a huge need for female French horn players in the world, and I was just the gal to do it. Or, more accurately, that was what I was good at, so that’s what I should focus on as my guidance counselor explained to me. I suspect what he was saying was really “You aren’t displaying an aptitude for anything really except music and English so let’s get you squared away with music and good luck with making a living out of that.”
Except I didn’t. College made me want forty different careers which was crazy because everybody else I knew had settled on “what they were going to be” at the age of 17, and here I was at 19 wanting to be a painter, a singer, a cafe-owner, a teacher, a secretary, a college president (because let’s face it, they get an awesome house), a star of a children’s TV show, a high-powered executive with a snazzy leather briefcase doing heaven-knows-what, work for an advertising agency (again, lots of markers and paper and doodling), work at a magazine because magazines were fun, and be a writer.
Which is a very long way of getting to the point, which is that I am going to try NaNoWriMo and put together that young-adult story that’s been simmering in the back of my head. I have a rough first chapter done, but I haven’t looked at it in two weeks because … well, because. It’s like beginning a new project in knitting. I’m seduced by the colors and the patterns and the yarn choices and the urge to cast on and start knitting with the new yarn and follow the new pattern is irresistible. Then you’re in the body of the thing and you read the dread words “continue until piece measures 24 inches from cast-on edge” and you realize you’re stuck for a good long while. I’m worried that the beginning was so fresh and fun and easy and once I’m in it for the long haul I’ll run dry, hate it, do everything possible to avoid it, and realize that I just don’t have the internal drive to see it through.
Which is why I don’t make resolutions any longer and why I don’t do diets any longer. I do not have stick-to-it-iveness. I am not a disciplined person. I do not follow self-devised schedules well and so I need lists. Once I cross an item off the list, it is like being back in elementary school and getting those gold stars (although I preferred the blue ones, they were prettier and deeper in color than the flashy gold ones) and I have ACCOMPLISHED. Maybe if I do this project it might be the metaphorical kick in the pants I need. I’ve always wanted to write, without actually saying out loud “I want to be a writer” because I never saw it as a career, more as a “of course I have to write, how else do you cope through life?” and because I love reading so much that I want to create the same joy I have received.
This is way too heavy for a Wednesday. Time to leave on a lighter note: