I race to the computer. But first I furiously open a bottle of wine. But first I tear off my skinny jeans and thrust my legs into a pair of worn out, fraying “sweatshirt” shorts, the ones with a drawstring. But first I pee.
I race to the computer to say this: that I am a writer. That I wish I had listened to that pull of the words on paper that I remember first knowing when I was seven years old, when I won the city’s contest for creativity. The prize was a $50 bond. I think I still have it, pockmarked with thumbtack holes from all the places I have lived – my first prize for writing, on display. I wore a white turtleneck studded with multicolored shapes that looked like Good ‘n Plenty when they gave me the award.
Tonight I sat in my child’s third grade classroom, a monster of an adult perched on a tiny child’s chair, listening to his teacher describe the many ways that her students, her bright, inquisitive students, surprise and delight her. I heard a mother whisper to another “We’re so lucky.”
They’re so lucky. We’re so lucky. I’m so lucky.
I’m so lucky that even after decades of redirection, somehow I found my way back to writing, to the struggle of identifying myself as a writer even when nobody is paying me to write words. I’m lucky that I do this even for myself, so that when I want to remember what it was like to smell my newborn baby, or dig a steamer clam out of the Bay of Conception in Mexico, or throw a rage-fueled punch that puts a hole in a wall, I can look back on these digital bits, and remember.
Somewhere between age 7 and my stellar performance in high school, I decided that I would be a doctor. It was a great detour, a misstep, a wrong turn. I wrote during all of that. I kept a journal, a cringeworthy Moth-worthy journal of angst and teenaged love in a composition notebook in high school. I kept a journal in college, when it was now my job to process thought and spit it back out in an organized fashion. I wrote about world events like the Berlin wall coming down, the Rodney King riots, the earthquake. I wrote about young love and betrayal. I wrote about my friends. I wrote about my dying grandmother.
And then I didn’t get into medical school, and I lost a great love, and I wrote about all of that in my paper journals, too. I moved across the country to find myself and have a grand adventure, and here I am now, living in a suburb, heating up chicken nuggets before the babysitter gets here, sitting obediently in a third grade classroom at Back to School night. I’m on the board of the PTA. I wear my dyed blonde hair in a ponytail. I am a stereotype.
And I love it.
Because I have had rejections, because I have taken time off, because I have stalled at selling my story, I have been feeling like a poser, a fraud, a mother who is “working” with air quotes formed by fingers when someone asks me what I do. Still, I read books about writers, I am in a writers’ group, I am on a writers’ message board. After being a student again just for one delusional moment, I came home and picked up a book about writing, and I felt an electric moment of recognition. “Yes!” I screamed silently. “I know this! I am this!”
So that’s it. Whatever I’m doing, however successful I am at it, this is the truth. I am a writer.
I’ve always been a writer.
It’s nice to say and mean it, even if I have to keep doing this. When you’re in love, and you say “I love you,” you don’t only say it once. You keep saying it. Your lover needs positive affirmation, maybe sometimes, maybe often. So I’ll say it again.
I am a writer.