“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”
Answer: A DINOSAUR!
This was probably my favorite part of being asked to join a panel of other women professionals and talk to a local Girl Scout troop about our careers. I really did want to be a dinosaur when I was really little, and when I was told I couldn’t be one, I switched to veterinarian to singer to sculptor to dancer to actress…you get the point.
All my life I’ve enjoyed being a kid. I’m still enjoying it. Make believe is a strange world that often leads us down the path to truth and ideology. I have always written, but I never actually believed that being a writer could be my job. It never seemed tangible.
Here I am now, with 4 books published, countless stories out there, and another children’s book on the way (Not to mention 3 finished manuscripts that are not yet under contract). I am no bestseller, nor am I THE GREATEST WRITER EVARRRRR, but this is not Highlander, there can be more than one and you don’t have to slaughter each other to get where you want. So I was thrilled when I was asked to sit on a panel with some very talented women to talk about what I do.
I sat between two scientists, one who sometimes has to write papers for grants (and hates it) and another who works for the military. Also included were another scientist/athlete, a nurse, a dance instructor, and a parks department naturalist who writes and sings. My small writing career seemed small compared to theirs at times, but the variety and amount of insight we each contributed kept the girls captivated.
There is something about molding young minds that has always impressed me. I appreciate what school teachers do, but I mean in a more intimate way. Teaching through mentoring or small setting discussions offers more freedom and creativity at times. I probably learned more from the panel than the children did. Haha
Talking about what you do helps you to realize certain aspects of who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you are going. I believe that writers are romanticized a bit too much, but then I run around spouting nonsense about the adventures I go on to inspire myself. There IS a lot of romance to what I do. I think any profession can have some if you love it enough.
I’ve spent so much of my life enjoying different jobs and experiencing as much as I can, that I was suited for a writer’s life even though that wasn’t my intent. I hate the introvert stereotype of shut-in writers. Yeah, there are times where we need to close ourselves off from the outside world to focus, but that cannot last. Not if the writing is to continue, and flourish.
Getting out and playing with readers is one of the greatest aspects of my life. Inspiring young girls who have a world of questions, hopes, dreams, worries, and fears, that is a gift I never imagined I would have. (See-there I go romanticizing things without even knowing it-just caught myself)
After the panel one of the girls thanked me and expressed her gratitude for being there. We chatted a little and then she asked me, ‘What is the worst thing you ever had to deal with?”
Talk about putting someone on the spot. You get all inspired talking about the struggle and success of writing and then that hits. I wasn’t ready, but I like curve balls. Always hit those better anyway.
My honesty sometimes gets me in trouble. Most people say they want the truth, but hide from it. Children are different. They respect those that respect them enough to tell it like it is. I could have pulled up some memory of when I was bullied (because let’s face it-everyone’s been bullied-and I was a pudgy tom-boy nerd when I was young so I got plenty of it), but instead I went with the truth.
I told her: Probably when I was homeless.
The look on her face was indescribable. I don’t often talk about it. It was not some Hollywood drama and it didn’t last long. I did my best to stick to the end game of what transpired.
She asked what happened and I clearly stated that there was a time when my mom couldn’t take care of me and I had to go live with my dad. He had some problems with alcoholism and when he wasn’t able to take care of me and my sis, we were put out of the house. (It was a bit more climactic than that, but not necessary to divulge to a 10 year old).
I quickly went on to explain how a friend took us in and we soon got out own apartment. I was never without a place to go. There was always a roof, always someone there and I am very lucky for that. But being without a home, a place to store my belongings was very frightening during my last year of high school. My parents are not bad people. They had their own struggles. It’s just the way that things played out.
I’ve never seen a smile so big when I finished. There is something about compassion and love that really heals everything. This Girl Scout who has her whole life ahead of her said she loves that there are always stories like that, how people are always helping each other out, that there are more good people than bad.
This is why I do what I do.
I learn more from them, from everyone, from you, than I could ever teach.