So theoretically this blog is supposed to be about marriage and relationships, but it’s starting to evolve. At the moment, MR and I are going through a pacific phase where everything is very nice, but not particularly interesting. So now that that first flush of fascination with my relationship is over, I find myself thinking about other things. Like my career choices.
A friend read my last post and said that it was nice, but she didn’t really agree with it. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, a brief recap: I don’t finish a lot of things, but I finished some crafts for Christmas presents, which made me think about launching an Etsy career. But then my husband reminded me about my writing and I found a new dedication to it, and a determination to finish a freaking work of literature intended for publication.
My friend liked the post, but she didn’t really agree with it on a couple of levels, most importantly that she rails against the idea of being pigeonholed. We’ve talked about this before, and basically she reacts against the idea of having to be just one thing when she wants to be and do so many things. As the essence of my post was about cultivating a focus and following a specific dream, this got me thinking.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in 6th grade, when my teacher Mrs. Garwood wrote on the bottom of a short story I had written for an assignment “This is great! You should be a writer!” At that point I was wrestling with the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and had dressed as a businesswoman for Halloween, in an outer manifestation of my existential crisis. I had lately dabbled in the idea of wanting to be a buyer for a department store, as I loved shopping. The love for shopping hasn’t changed (at the moment I have a minimum of three browser tabs open for internet shopping), but from that moment my dream never wavered–I wanted to be a writer. Other interests came my way and I embraced them, but I never said I wanted to do something instead of writing. I took every creative writing course my high school offered. I knew before I even went to college that I wanted to major in English, with a concentration in creative writing, and I did, again taking every course involving fiction writing that I could. (I am definitely, definitely not a poet.) It was never something I questioned.
So clearly I define myself as a writer, whether I’m legitimately one or not. My friend says rather than be a Writer or an Artist she would rather be a renaissance woman, with skills and interests in a variety of areas so that she could never be called just one thing. Which is what got me thinking–does having a focused goal mean precluding everything else?
For me, the answer is no. There are a lot of things I’m interested in and skills I try to develop. I love handicrafts, like crochet and embroidery. I’m not much of a ‘modern’ crafter in that I don’t really trade in glue guns or scrapbooks. I’ve taught myself calligraphy. In high school I was passionate about music and taught myself the flute. I’m in an amateur dramatics group. When I was in college, I forewent a minor in music for a second major in French. All of these skills are things I practice at routinely and work to improve. I’m not bragging here, mind you. I’m not saying I’m fantastic at all of these things. They’re just interests, even passions, that I work hard at even as I dabble in them.
I spent a couple of years trying to write and be a secretary/ receptionist, but the corporate world and that job were not for me in the least, so I became a teacher. I absolutely love teaching. It’s challenging, fascinating, rewarding. And most importantly–it’s human. Half of teaching is about introducing kids to literature which I mostly love, sometimes hate. (If any of my former students are reading this they will attest to my feelings regarding Okonkwo and the Yam, aka Things Fall Apart.) The other half is about trying to form a bond with these funny, lively, sometimes troubled teenagers so that they trust you enough to teach them, and that double challenge keeps me excited for my job. Everyone has days where they don’t want to go to work, but in eight years of teaching, I struggle to remember a time where once I got to work I truly didn’t want to be there.
Teaching has probably come the closest to threatening my writing, because it is such a challenge, and so time consuming. And the rewards are right there in front of me, when I see kids start to care about their education, or when I hear them peer edit each other’s papers and say “But you need a stronger thesis.” Writing is much more solitary, and the rewards are a long way from harvesting, two things which make it much more arduous.
Now I interchange. I say “I’m a teacher” as much as “I’m a writer,”–more actually. But the writing doesn’t quite die. It never has. I still want to be a Writer. I think, though, that choosing a thing to focus on and really develop doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. I can be a writer who teaches, like Frank McCourt, or who is a musician, like I’m sure some writer out there is or was but can’t think of, or who acts, like Shakespeare. In Victor Hugo’s house in Paris, they have an exhibition of the sketches he used to draw of people–he was quite prolific with this. Although it is Victor Hugo–would you expect him to be anything but prolific? In the end, though, whatever their other talents, these writers are remembered for being writers. The art and music and even acting are biographical sidenotes, things they did for a living or for fun, but which are not why they are remembered. And that’s what I want for myself–for my future biography to say that I loved music and played the flute and piano (the latter which I’m trying, haltingly, to learn), and acted, possibly in am dram musicals, and did a lot of needlework (perhaps some of it will become writer’s memorabilia?–I’m kidding here. Sort of.). But whoever decides that I am a worthy subject of a biography will do so because I am a writer.