I met a pretty woman the other day. I couldn’t guess her age…45 to 55, trim, well turned out. With my usual tact I blurted out, “You’re PRETTY!” She responded gracefully, as she is in a career where she often works with small children. “Thank you!”
I asked her if she always intended to hold the job she now does. She smiled and said, “No. I studied art in college. I was going to be an artist.”
The next words still haunt me.
“But then I had three kids. Y’know? That was the end of it. I was the kind of artist who would work straight through a weekend on one sculpture, never stopping, but you can’t do that with kids, you know? So I decided to be a mother instead.”
I have had a fear for years. It started when a woman in her 50’s picked up on of my literary magazines that I had no hope of ever getting into because I can’t decipher the rhythm of a genre where all the stories are about people who eat pears or fix fences in the rain and then contemplate the mud as it relates to an ex-wife for 15 pages….where was I. Picked up one of my literary magazines and said, “I always wanted to be a writer.”
There is one thing, ONE. THING. I know how to do well. Everything else I do; every activity that composes my active life, from cooking to card games to picking out clothes to motherhood to scrapbooking (I don’t scrapbook but if I did this would apply)…I know 15 people in my own immediate circle who do that thing better. In general, I am a schlub.
I can put words together. Given enough time to edit and refine, I can slide exactly what is in my brain into your brain. I can write.
That pretty woman could make art. And she wanted that ability to be the masthead of her identity. She wanted it in her life so deeply that it’s shrapnel is still inside her, and comes to the surface, 25 years later, with the only the slightest push. “I always wanted to be an artist.”
Do you have to stop when you have children? Or when you lose your job? Or when your class-load is heavy? When you’re diagnosed with fibromyalgia? Are our deepest desires that disposable?
I always wanted to be a writer. I’ve never been able to stop wanting it.