At the age of eight, we had to write a composition (primary-school-speak for essay) titled: What I want to be when I grow up. It probably wasn’t the only time I had to write on that subject, but this is the one I remember. All the children were busy writing while I sat, pencil in hand, exercise book open at a blank page.
“Why aren’t you writing?” the teacher asked me.
“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
The teacher tried going through the professions generally open to girls all those years ago. The fact that I had to ignore her taunting tone and the background giggles is beyond the scope of this article. “Do you want to be a nurse?”
“No.” I didn’t see myself treating sick people.
“No.” My mother was a secretary. It didn’t sound very interesting.
I shook my head in horror. My father was always telling me not to be a teacher. He was one.
My teacher didn’t suggest any of the three professions I have had. I’m not surprised.
At the age of eight, I had never heard of a computer programmer. I had never heard of a computer. Quite possibly, the teacher hadn’t either. But computer programmer is what I was for many years, advancing through different machines and various languages. I enjoyed writing in code until one day I didn’t.
I doubt anyone had heard of a technical writer when I was eight. A few might have written technical documentation at that time, but I don’t think the profession had been invented. I was a technical writer for several years. I enjoyed the work, combining technical knowledge with an ability to write, until I didn’t.
The teacher didn’t suggest being an author either, although that profession existed long before I was eight. Would I have answered “Yes” if the teacher had suggested it to me? No. Not when I was eight or nine or eighteen or twenty-five or forty. I thought I didn’t like books much. That was because I was made to read books I didn’t like or wasn’t ready for. Starting with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which my mother read to me as bedtime stories. I can appreciate them now, but as a young child I didn’t like the strangeness of it all; I wanted stories about things I could identify with.
Throughout my schooling, due to being the youngest in the class and a late developer, I was made to read books I wasn’t ready for. The idea that I could write books would have been ludicrous. Literature clearly wasn’t my thing. The teachers said so and I had no reason to doubt the wisdom of their advice.
Until I tried and found I could, over forty years later.
I wrote my composition in the end. I can’t remember which profession I chose. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what I really wanted to be. I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Now I know. I want to be an author. And that’s what I am.
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Guest posts are the opinion of that author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Gilda Evans or others posted here.