I guess there's always more than meets the eye, but the explanation is simple: no one ever told me I was good, and I was never satisfied that I was good, and very often, being pigeonholed as smart means that creative pursuits fall by the wayside, to be picked up later, when you have more time, or everything else isn't so important.
Everything else is always so important, I guess.
Part of it is probably that my immigrant parents come from a culture that praises and lauds education - of the math and science variety. It was weird enough that I loved, as my father called them, "storybooks," and social studies, in place of engineering or biology, but to devote myself to something creative?
The truth is this: maybe I haven't "always" wanted to be a writer, whatever that means, but there is a part of me that loves producing, loves expressing; loves the creative process and the evocative nature of what I can sometimes produce. Bouncing around from school to school during the time when I was learning to read and falling in love with books did mean a lot of readjustment time, it meant a constant re-establishing myself as the smart kid. Which, let's face it, I was never terribly bad at. In any event, it was easy enough to tell myself that I did love stories, and that I would write them - when I had more time, more privacy, when I was smart.(1)
It always comes back to my parents, doesn't it? They thought I was unambitious, and I thought they weren't proud of me, and I ached, so badly, to do something right. I failed unambiguously at the piano, and even more unambiguously at the clarinet, the recorder, and the flute. I never had the eye or the hands for visual arts, and I didn't (and don't) have the body for the ballet-and-gymnastics crowd. (2)
This was never the point I wanted to make. Why I write - or don't write - isn't a function of my youth; not really. Through the end of high school, I had a computer in my room. I'm still relatively certain that my parents never went through those files. I had my own computer all through college, and I obviously still do. What happened was simple: I kept befriending people who self-identified as writers. Honestly, it should have made me happy; made me want to produce and share. It didn't. I was intimidated and insecure - and what's more, too comfortable in rut of identity that came from being one of the smart kids. I've shared, by posting it on the internet, exactly one essay with most of these people, some of whom I've known upwards of 10 years, and all of whom I consider dear friends.
I want to make myself a place to write that's free of this insecurity. My writer-friends are enthusiastic and sweet, but for me to truly own what I write, it needs to be what I'm writing without the mind that they, or anyone I know, will read it. While I have occasional fantasies about writing for The Atlantic or Slate or The Washington Post Magazine, I know both that will never happen, and that truthfully, I don't want it to. My output varies so dramatically with mood that my sanity and sense of self worth, in addition to my productive contribution to society, rests of a career that is both knowledge and output based. (3)
And that is the end of the introductory blog post. Except for the part where I greet any readers: Thanks for motivating me. This is gong to be a big year for me.
(1) Had I graduated in the same class as all of the kids I was in fourth-sixth grade with, I would not have underachieved. Compared to the class I did graduate with, 150 from an all girls Catholic school, I did not underachieve. Compared to the kids at the standard-issue-top-ten liberal arts college I graduated from? I also did not underachieve, though I did underachieve next to my brilliant boyfriend, who I think got like one B his entire college career. But I digress.
(2) I think they would have liked it if I had the body of a gymnast, though they might not like a sport taking time away from school. Ibid on the instruments, except for the piano, my failure in which I'm sure they're still upset about. I'm not...unupset, as the case may be. And for what it's worth, when I undertook musical study on my own and for myself, voice lessons in college, I was more successful, even if I was never great.
(3) Besides, I really like my job, even if it's not a career.