The Road So Far: School Days

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When I was a kid, I was a natural over achiever.  I was probably the kid most people hate, not probably, I was. I always got high grades without trying hard, did every assignment even if it was extra credit, was well behaved and liked by teachers. I enjoyed learning in school and always did my best. It gave me a sense of pride, pleased my parents and impressed others that I did well in school. My high grades got me accepted into a gifted program in middle school. There was a lot of pressure to do well but most of the work was easy to me. I managed to slack off and still get pretty good grades. I focused on the things I wanted to learn realizing I didn’t have to be great at everything. English had been my favorite for a long time. I spent a lot of time outside of school at the library, still going with my mother most of the time. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I quickly exhausted the kids section and would wander through the rest of the library. I started reading poetry and a lot of random non-fiction. At one point I started reading about different religions out of curiosity. It made me happy to be able to learn about the things I wanted to. I was often bored at school, studying things that I didn’t care about or see a purpose for.

When deciding on high schools I applied to some vocational schools to study business. It was something that interested me and I always liked working with computers. Since most school work bored me, I wanted to focus on gaining skills and learning about things I was more interested in. I ended up at Chelsea Vocational High School, a small school located in SoHo. I wouldn’t say it was a bad school but I probably could have gone to a better school. Most of the teachers seemed to have low expectations and not many students wanted them to raise the bar.  But for the most part, it wasn’t such a bad place. There were a few teachers that seemed to care, did what they could and encouraged us to work harder. The small environment helped me be less introverted and I learned to be more outgoing. I was on the honor roll, worked on the school paper and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America club. At a larger school, I would have faded into the background, never really gaining confidence to be more social and outspoken. Though the lack of a challenge and relaxed atmosphere encouraged my slacker mentality. I stopped taking school so serious, it just seemed like a hurdle to getting a job.

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A quick look at my high school days.

While I had dreamed of being a writer it wasn’t something I took seriously. I figured I needed to find a real job. Through the school I got a part-time job as an office assistant at a small company. Though at first I was given trivial task like organizing the bosses office and filing, I enjoyed working and making my own money.  I was challenged to learn new things and I had to show up to get paid. I began working on important bookkeeping tasks. Not too long after, the office manager left and I basically took over her job. I dealt with the responsibility well but eventually became bored and frustrated with the job. While the owner took his time replacing her, I was basically responsible for all the company’s bookkeeping. That was a lot of responsibility to place on a sixteen year old. He finally hired a replacement, I trained her. A couple months before I was going to graduate he decided to downsize and I was laid off. I was upset but I got over it really quickly. I wasn’t happy there and only went in to do what had to be done.

Although I became unhappy with the job, I still enjoyed the work. I started to imagine working on the business side of publishing or working in marketing and advertising. I also contemplated business journalism. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I considered a lot of different possibilities. While I still had hopes of being a writer, I didn’t really pursue it too actively. I began to read about writing, and discovered magazines like Poets & Writers. I entered a few contest and maybe tried submitting to a magazine. Mostly I only received offers to be published in an anthology I had to buy, in other words scams. Becoming a writer seemed like a lot of work for very little payoff. Intimidated by the idea that only best selling authors made enough money to survive off writing alone, I didn’t think I’d have a chance. While I started contemplating other career paths it was the dream job, if it came easily enough. By that time my full slacker attitude had been cemented. School was a breeze and socializing had become more of a priority. Being more social I was able to connect with kids outside the classroom and make some close friends. I felt I had missed out when I was younger and made up for the loss time. I frequently cut classes to hang out at the handball courts on West 4th street and spent time outside of school hanging out with friends. I let writing and working fall into the things I had to worry about later on. I wanted to enjoy being a kid, instead of rushing to grow up and figure out what I wanted to be. I thought that eventually things would just fall into place. I’d go to college figure out what I wanted to do, then get a job. Things didn’t really turn out that way.

The Road So Far

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The Road Ahead

Photo by MysticMoon14 via Flickr

They say you can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you came from, or something like that. Not a fan of cliches but it fits the theme of this series of posts. As I feel the progress in my writing career has stalled out, taking a look at how far I’ve come might help. I feel no closer to my goals than I did when I first began to envision a future as a writer. Reflecting on how I got to this point and the work that I’ve put in may just reveal how far I’ve actually come. Hopefully, it will also encourage me to keep putting in the work.

I’ve always been fascinated with writing, asking my parents what every sign we drove past said. I learned to read early, about three years old. Once able to I proudly read every sign out loud to anybody that would listen, or not in most cases. One of the fondest memories of my childhood were weekly trips to the library with my mother. I’d go through books, reading the first page to decide on my book for the week. One of my favorite show’s as a kid was Reading Rainbow. I loved books, reading and writing. Once in school, I loved English class and it just encouraged my voracious reading appetite as I grew.

I can’t really say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, because even as a child it was more of a daydream. I don’t remember ever thinking of it as a real possibility. I didn’t put much thought into what would be required to achieve the status of published writer. I didn’t even realize how many different ways you could make a living writing. The idea of being a famous writer was simply a fantasy. The kind of thing little kids think up and you continue to fantasize about as you get older. It felt similar to the dream of being a famous singer. Something to this day I still dream about as an alternative life that might be cool, though I doubt I’ll be starting a singing career anytime soon. I discovered in middle school I have terrible stage fright and am not that good of a singer.

But writing was something I could do and it didn’t matter if I was good. I still have stories I wrote in elementary school and notebooks of horrid heart wrenching poetry. I wasn’t very sure about letting others read the things I wrote. I wrote mainly because I enjoyed it. It felt therapeutic, a way to get out all the emotions from childish drama. It was something I thought of as a hobby, to pursue while I worked away at a job I tolerated. Even in adolescence, I was much too practical to think that I could make a living off writing. I got over the fear of showing my work to others, and submitted work for publication. I thought it was always worth a shot and might be cool if I did get some work published. But it still never really occurred to me to make it a career.

I never really pursued it out of fear. There was the fear of rejection and failure. I was also afraid to venture into the world of publishing, it seemed so foreign and unknown to me. I had no idea where to start even if I wanted to pursue it. My biggest fear however was of losing my love for writing. I thought that if I turned the thing I loved so much into my job, I might not love it so much anymore. I liked writing because it was for me. I didn’t have to do it. There were no deadlines, no directives, no guidelines, and it wasn’t an obligation. My biggest fear was that once it became an obligation, something I had to do to survive, I would ruin the one thing that I loved doing.

Until a couple of years ago, I still never thought of pursuing writing as a full-time career. Even now I question myself and am unsure of my future plans. I’ve overcome most of my fears, but I still worry about losing my passion for writing. I have multiple back up plans and am not ready to fully commit to writing full-time. I have realized though that if I don’t at least try I’ll never know.