Why do teachers ask this? As if learning to read, write, add, subtract and get along socially weren’t enough for a little kid. Just hit them up with the ultimate lifetime question, derail their train of thought, and put the kid on a quest toward self-discovery. This happened one morning when my first grade teacher, Mrs. Velasquez, threw a curveball at me and my little folk kin. We looked around for something to answer her with. Being that we understood gender roles to some extent, most of the boys answered “policeman” or “fireman.” The girls said “teacher” or “nurse.” As a general consensus, we had no clue what the hell we were saying, or even if we really knew what such professions entailed.
I was one of the girls who said “nurse.” Now, nurses rock. My aunt is a life-long nurse. Some of my friends are nurses. And God knows I’ve counted on nurses to feed me pain meds and fluids during my multiple hospital stays. However, the moment I said “nurse” I knew it was not what I wanted to be, and that I felt like a traitor, blurting out an answer that was false. Being that I was 7, I’ve since pardoned myself of this travesty.
After first grade, I did not think about what I’d be when I grew up. I was more concerned with sticker trading, Chinese jax and Strawberry Shortcake (late 70s, early 80s, people!). It wasn’t until third grade and the careful guidance of a student teacher named Linda Harrison that I found my calling. Looking back, I think I was lucky to know this early in the game what I wanted to be. Definitely not a nurse. Or a doctor. Or a waitress. I did consider princess for awhile, given my obsession with the British Royal Family. Only when I picked up Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder did I know.
“I want to be a writer.”
It was like a frenzy as I tore through the Little House series, devouring its contents and moving on to Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. I’d write my own little books, illustrate them (remember, I was an artist first) and bind everything together. In fact, I was pretty good at bindery. My mother dusted-off the old Royal manual typewriter and gave it to me, while my grandpa (who used to work as a stationery salesman) would bring reams of paper for me to use. I typed everywhere… and even brought the typewriter into the bathroom and on long trips in the car. My passion for writing was like a hunger. Nothing satisfied me like a finished poem or story.
I’ll stop here, as you probably know I went on to become a copywriter who shoved fiction under the rug until a health crisis in 2008. However, I want to know when YOU realized you were a writer. I don’t care if you write proposals, nonfiction, fiction, erotica, magazine articles or poetry… something called you in the night, begging you to let the words out of your head and the ideas out of your soul. When did you know of your calling? Do you feel it is a must-have, like food or water? I’m interested to hearing your story.