You must remember those days too; when you believed you could change the world, when the stars were only an arm’s length away, when dreams were a preview of reality, when your mind was so innocent that the possibility of failure never even occurred to you.
Those days, lodged in the sweet spot between being a child and turning into an adult, I saw the simple truths of my own being. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. I knew the kind of friends I wanted and the kind of company I wanted to keep, who to stay away from and who to confide in. It was easy to do all this because no explanation was needed. We were kids and we said as we thought, did as we wished.
Somewhere along the passage of time, while I wasn’t looking, I grew up. I assure you it wasn’t voluntary. And it wasn’t sudden either. It was a slow sneaky process that although occurred in my presence, caught me unawares.
I cannot remember the day my dreams vanished, or when I stopped saying what I thought, or at which point I stopped believing in myself. I have spent a lot of time trying to remember the exact day on which I started judging myself, or doubting my capabilities.
Because if I can pinpoint it, I will be able to remember the exact moment I forgot my first love; writing.
Last weekend, while rummaging through my draws looking for an empty folder to stow away my first manuscript, I stumbled upon some objects from many moons ago. They brought back memories of the person I was and the person I wished to be.
When did I forget? Was it when I got my first non-writing job selling mobile phones door to door? Was it when I started my first business? Was it when I became a wife or mother? Was it when I opened my first store?
I forgot. For twenty years, I forgot.
It started when I won the second prize in an essay contest in my school. I had enjoyed writing the essay so much that I decided I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I hadn’t even completed the last paper for my O Levels when I landed my first job. I had called the local newspaper (there was no google and I had to get the phone number from the yellow pages, yep, I am that old) and asked to speak with the editor. The receptionist asked who was calling and I told her exactly these words:
“I am going to be a famous writer and I need a job,”
She paused and then left me to hold for a very a long time. Looking back I am sure she didn’t understand what I had said because if she had, she would not have transferred my call so easily. It was a stroke of luck.
On came a gruff voice. “This is Mike Simms, News Editor. Can I help you?”
And me with my sixteen-year-old cocksure confidence replied, “I would like a job at your newspaper.”
Now, let me just tell you that I uttered these words as though I was doing him a favor by offering my services.
He laughed. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” I announced with pride. Come on, you’ve been there. It is very cool to not be fifteen.
“Aren’t you form fivers sitting your O Levels right now?”
“So you haven’t even completed your studies?”
“Almost. My last paper is this Friday.”
He laughed very loudly, I remember this because I had to move the phone away from my ear.
“I’m going to pass you over to my assistant who will get your details. Why don’t you come see me Monday.”
The interview went great. For me at least. No iota of my being had any self doubt whatsoever. He asked me a ton of questions. I was well read so I could answer them all. Mr Mike Simms, bless his soul, was so tickled by my arrogance that he had me start the next day as Editorial Assistant.
I did some freelance along the way, wrote for a couple of magazines. And then quit because I realized that writing and reporting are two separate things. I wanted to go back to school and do my degree. (which I didn’t complete because I was very distracted and lost interest)
Twenty five years and many other things later, I have gone back to my first love. This time I am not confident. I am not certain I know everything there is to know. I do not see myself as God’s gift to news or literature.
Instead I am realistic, I am an amateur. The road ahead is long. I have come back as a learner, as a disciple of the greats, as an empty vessel that longs to be filled. Picking up where I left off, this year I signed up to do my Bachelor’s with an Honors in Creative Writing. In four years I will graduate. I will have a degree. And you can bet I will be bragging about it.
But more importantly, I will continue to write. For better or for worse. Because excellence is not a prerequisite, passion is. I don’t have to be great, or famous, or successful at it. I just have to love it enough.
I have come full circle, crawling, albeit slowly to my first love. And here I share with you some of the glory of my past, my few moments of fame and success. They are meaningless scraps to most , lost in archives and fraying at the edges, but to me they mean the world. They are proof that I love today what I have loved from the very beginning.