12 March 2015

What took me so long?


Lloyd Dobler on what he wants to do with his life.

“I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.”



When I was nearing the end of high school, much like the evasive Lloyd, I had little idea about what I wanted to do with my life. At 17 it's a big question right? And at that point in your development as a person the answer you choose to give has a lot of potential to be more about other people's wants than your own.

In my family there was the weight of expectation (five older siblings had done well academically and all had embarked on law degrees). I spent year 12 feeling periodically shit-scared about the day my OP would arrive in the mail - the day when my father would learn that I had no chance of getting into Law at uni. No chance. I say periodically here because I was lazy enough (as my marks would attest) that it wasn't a weight I carried around 24/7. 

So, under these pressure-filled circumstances (when I was in the mood to feel the pressure, that is) I plucked a new narrative out of the sky and ran with it. I declared that I had NO interest in studying law, marks or not. Instead my heart was set on becoming a journalist. There wasn't much, if any 'heart' in it of course...the choice was little more than a stab in the dark.

A lucky-ish one though. I did become a journalist. And my degree taught me things I still return to on an almost daily basis. This was followed with three fledgling years spent working in newspaper journalism. If I'm honest about it, I don't think I was ever a real journalist. I didn't have the instinct for it. The thrill of the chase never EVER drove me. Mostly because 90% of the time I was worried about stuffing up. Which I did. Several times.

Before long I crossed over to what was considered by my journo colleagues to be 'the dark side' of news-making: Media and PR. To my surprise (there was no grand plan involved here, remember), this proved a much better fit for me. There were more aspects of the work that I enjoyed and therefore more things I felt I was good at.

I worked in this field, on and off, for 11 years. And I liked it, well enough. For a lot of that time I was working from home and it was a job that managed to fit in quite nicely with me and the changing shape of my life (i.e. the periodic introduction of children: 1; 2; and then 3).

Then two things happened. 

1. On a whim I started writing a novel.

2. I had my 4th baby.

Both were exhilarating and addictive. But I already knew that about babies. I didn't already know it about creative writing.

I can clearly remember the day I sat down at my computer and told myself to 'just write'. The words, they came thick and they came fast. Lets not talk about whether they were good. They weren't. Let's talk about how they transported me to a place I'd never spent enough time: my imagination. Ok, so I've just typed the word imagination and, really, I think even it sells short what I'm trying to describe. The place writing took me that day - where it takes me every day - is imaginary but it's also so real and so gripping I can never seem to spend enough time there.

A passion had been ignited in me that felt so amazing I couldn't imagine ever doing anything else. I still can't. It's why I have slowly but surely grown my commitment to writing from something that I played at to a pursuit that I'm deadly serious about.

That's taken some effort and a fair amount of personal resolve. You see, I may never get there (having books in shops with my name on them) and if I do it might take another four years...perhaps more. It feels a bit like I've signed up for an apprenticeship with no end-date. Some people just never get their tradie's license on this one. That's the reality.

And yet, I turn up for work every day. Because I want to be there. No-one pays me, friends and family have long since given up asking about my progress. In fact, my kids are the only ones who characterise me with blissful ignorance. Mum writes books, they proudly tell people. Well, technically I do!

But it's all ok. Perfect actually. Because this is what I want to do with my life.

The only thing that ever bugs me is this: why did it take so long for me to work it out?