here's a heckuva long blog post...
I haven’t publicly announced this yet, but here goes…
I don’t know when I decided I wanted to be a writer. To be honest I’m not even sure that I chose writing as much as writing chose me. I learned to read when I was, I don’t know, like three years old or something ridiculous like that. My parents bought me Hooked on Phonics and I read At Play, which was full of those simple Dick-and-Jane stories, and I saw stories that had nothing to do with me or my life or the dirt road I lived on or the cousins I was always with.
I saw something different, and somewhere inside of me I knew that there were a trillion other “differents” if I could only imagine them. Stories untold, characters unimagined. Worlds unbuilt.
I devoured books. Amelia Bedelia, Laura Ingells Wilder, Berenstain Bears, the Curious George books my mother brainwashed me into liking. At night when I was older and had a little sister, I would lay in bed and tell her stories as she fell asleep, imagining people and places that didn’t exist except in my mind.
I wanted to be a writer.
I had to be a writer, even if I never made any money, even if I was never any good.
I just had to write.
And then I got a little bit older and did some research in those When I Grow Up books that the school library held. It turned out that writers didn’t make much money. I had no idea what the numbers meant really, but I understood when they said most writers have another job too. Something that lets them, you know, eat and stuff.
Fifth grade. My class took our weekly trip to the school library, sat listening to the librarian read a book to us, and then were let free. I headed over to the nonfiction section - this was my big “reading biographies” year that happened when my dad told me I read too much fiction. That year I read biographies of Amelia Earhart, Michelle Kwan, the Wright Brothers, Florence Nightengale, and Charles Lindbergh. (Do we sense an all-encompassing theme here?)
But that day I pulled out the books about careers, flipped through them, and decided to be a teacher. It was such an easy choice. I’d first thought about teaching back in second grade, thanks to the most incredible teacher ever, who was the epitome of what an elementary school teacher should be: kind and caring and smart and interesting and interested. I wanted to be all of those things. And I loved kids. Always had. Still do.
I don’t know if I chose teaching because I liked school, because I loved kids and wanted to help them, or because I wanted to be like my second grade teacher. But I know the over reaching idea of it was This makes sense. I can teach and I can write. I’ll like it. It’s practical.
I was a weird fifth grader, sure, but those thoughts stayed with me always.
I was going to write, but I was going to teach. Getting published, making money at writing, was this huge abstract what-if. The kind of wish you make when you see the first star at night. Teaching, on the other hand, was solid. It was concrete.
I could go to college, I could get my degree, and I could get a job. I could be a teacher.
Eleventh grade and oh-wow-I-graduated-early.
First-year of college.
Second-year of college.
And then… how do I put this? I don’t know how to say it so that it doesn’t sound so completely stupid and childish and immature, but…
I realized that maybe teaching isn’t what I want to do.
Because I hate school. I mean, not school itself - not my classes or learning for the most part. But the whole school system. Standardized tests, teaching the test, No Child Left Behind Except For All Of Them, gearing up to get into college, omg, and then once you’re there you’re just learning more stupid stuff you don’t really need to know just so you can have a degree.
Because I have no idea where I want to live once I get done with California and I have have have to know that in order to get the right certification and not have to either go back to school later on or waste time now.
Because I see what it takes to be a good teacher. I see that you have to care, you have to be selfless, you have to really put your heart and soul into it. You have to be there, one hundred percent, or it just won’t work. Students (and this is just my opinion, informed though it may be) are pushed into a school system that is against them for the most part - recess is being taken away from elementary schools, art and music are being cut because of funds, everything is about testing, talents and interests aren’t explored. So much is against these kids that, being totally serious here, it makes me sick to think about. Teachers should be the one thing that’s for them, and they need to really, really be for them.
Teaching isn’t a “plan B” for something else. It’s not a backup career or anything else. It’s a commitment, and a huge one at that.
…and I don’t think I can do it.
Which puts me, officially, in the College of the Undecided and Hopelessly Adrift.
So what am I doing?
I don’t know. Writing, of course, goes without saying. But my fifth-grade self was entirely right: I need something else. Because writing is the sort of career where you can work for years (and years and years and possibly forever) without seeing any monetary payment.
Right now I’m thinking something in the publishing field. I seem to like books quite a lot (note: understatement) and am getting interested in - not agent, that would be too messy trying to be on both sides of the fence in that way - but maybe publicist, or something editorial.
I don’t know, is what I’m trying to say.
And it’s the first time in my life, ever, that I haven’t known.
(Okay, I mean obviously I just sent out a bunch of queries and am working on my second novel so I know something, but I don’t know what I’m going to college for right now, or how I’m going to be supporting myself. It’s really scary. I don’t think I like it.)
Oh, and also? Thanks a lot to Becca for making me realize all this. It’s basically her fault I’m hopelessly adrift right now.