My craving to create with words came the moment I learned to write cat, dog and all the other three-lettered words that were sprawled across the page in giant-sized kindergarten penmanship. For the duration of my elementary school career I wrote stories – notebook paper bound with thick, fuzzy yarn stories, inspired by a mix of movies and imagination. I tucked each thin manuscript away in my bottom dresser drawer that also held my diary and other “for my eyes only” items. In fifth grade, nearing the end of the year, an assignment was given. Normally when the word project slithered its way out of a teacher’s mouth moans and groans spewed out of mine but this project had my mouth closed and interest peaked. “Write to your favorite author and construct a book of your own. “The best book will be displayed on the classroom bookshelf.”
I had yet to find that passion for a certain genre or author, nonetheless, I was anxious to get started so I randomly picked a book from the library shelf. In my hand was Bailey Goes Camping by Kevin Henkes. I wrote my letter that explained my dabbling in writing and questions about what it was like being an author; then started, with as much enthusiasm and haste, on my book. I conjured a plot from imagination minus the movie inspiration and set the pages in between pink laminated construction paper bound with plastic combs. Some weeks later the teacher walked in with an envelope in her hand, she held it up and motioned for me to approach her desk.
“Your author was the only one in the entire fifth grade to write back,” she said and as she held out the envelop for me to take she delivered bigger news, “Your book was chosen to be displayed on the bookshelf.” Ignoring her and the envelope I turned and stared in awe of my pink masterpiece displayed for all to read.
That moment was the spoon that folded in the key ingredient that brought my DNA to full fruition. Adding to the tablespoon of eccentric, pinch of drama and dash of loner was a cup of writer that blended nicely to round out my personality. The recipe for my genetic code was complete and even then I knew that being a writer was more than what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was what I was made of.
For the remainder of my juvenile academic career I excelled in English classes and fell short of mediocre in the subjects that couldn’t hold my attention. I charged toward high school graduation with confidence in my plans for the future. I would start with getting into the college of my choice, obtain a degree in journalism and then perhaps work my way toward editor of a Conde Nast magazine or write the next Great American Novel. However, like with any recipe those around me had their own spice to throw into the mix trying to modify the original version to suit their own taste. After declaring my pursuit of a writing career, I began to receive what others thought of has “good” advice. “It is not steady enough; it is too hard to break into. Get into human resources or office management.”
“A writer? Why not a nurse or doctor, now that’s where you make your money,” voiced another unwanted comment.
Eventually I was convinced that my perfect ingredient wasn’t the zest I needed to make my personality robust enough for success, so I replaced writer with one of the suggested spices, Physical Therapist. I headed down the path to sports medicine a cheesecake trying to be a potpie. Needless to say, it wasn’t working and halfway through college I fell flat. Bones, muscles and the movement of one’s body left a bitter taste on my tongue and the craving for something more filling. I withdrew from my classes and waited for the next semester, like dumping the bowl and starting over with fresh ingredients.
The next leg of my journey to perfect my genetic recipe began by stirring in yet another recommended flavor in the form of a psychology degree. Three semesters into mental disorders and a growing case of paranoia from the fear of having one or more of the afflictions, I became dry and was crumbling. I dumped the bowl and sat empty again.
After I convinced myself that those possible afflictions were just normal side effects to my unflavored personality, I attempted to sprinkle in a nursing career. I sat with an admissions counselor halfway confident about my decision; after all, nurses were in demand and it was a noble profession. The counselor reassured me that I was making the right move and with the paperwork signed I was ready for the required tour of the facility. She led me into the first classroom where everything went to horror film mode. In slow motion my eyes panned the room and zoomed in on things like needles, latex gloves and the way-too-human-like dummy stretched out on the cold metal table. I don’t remember much after that point, only that after I walked out of the building I never returned.
I decided to stay in the medical department but try something a little less hands-on which led me to medical assisting. Though I marinated a whole year in this one I still came out bland. I was bored with scheduling, blood pressure and weighing my classmates, so I switched to radiology the following semester. At the beginning of my second year we started a lesson on x-raying the deceased. Immediately upon learning that the dearly departed’s’ muscles jerk making their limbs move, I was out. At this point I had been to three colleges, attempted five different majors in the course of six years- I was left a shell filled with an unflavored concoction and was well past the point of done.
I gave up on majors and let life happen. I got married, had three kids and continued to listen to the good advice others frequently dished out that was, due to my advancing age, geared toward finding a good paying job. All the while, my craving to write often surfaced in the form of daydreams about the kind of magazine I could work for and I often drooled over the writer lifestyle but out of habit I suppressed the craving so I could proceed to look for fulfillment.
I ventured through the next four years as a preschool teacher, mental health coordinator and a receptionist as well as a fitness trainer and an assistant. I did what I thought I had to do as a mother providing for her kids and in the process I was becoming a role model of unhappiness. As a result, I had gone through as many potential careers as I had attempted degrees and was no closer to finding that perfect flavor. I wish I could say that an angel came down surrounded by a brilliant light and told me that writing was what I was meant to do with my life; so without hesitation I splattered my thoughts all over the page and sent it in for publication then voilὰ, perfection. But instead, it was an office job that made me want to bang my head against the desk and run a tin cup along the bars I felt trapped behind. From the moment I settled into my oversized desk chair everything I touched fell to pieces. Office equipment broke, reservations were lost, letters vanished during delivery and well, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t feel like I was on a hidden camera show. I had no explanation for my misfortune which became somewhat of a corny joke that’s ending could be predicted but you laughed anyway. But after the charade stopped being funny and the possibility of me being on reality television passed, all that was left was reality – my life was burnt and inedible. It was time to start from scratch, this time adding what should have been mixed in originally-a writing career.
As with the writing assignment so many years ago, I was anxious to get my writing career underway but I had yet to find that passion for a certain genre, so I started by adding a little artistic flair to my resignation letter – mixing in a dash of drama and a pinch of eccentric musings into a creative, in all likelihood uncustomary, prose of farewells that made my taste buds yearn for more. After my two weeks, I was released from behind the fictional bars and was free to begin searching for freelance opportunities. My search landed me among pounds of web content gigs that for the last two years have kept me full. The cup of writer has been folded in slowly over the last two years but has already added spice to my life and flavor to my personality. Writing has always been my key ingredient, without it I would continuously be bitter, bland or crumble and suffer from writer pangs. Bon appétit.
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