For a really long time, anytime someone asked me what I wanted to do for a career, I did my best to re-phrase my hopes and dreams into something respectable (or at least less preposterous-sounding). “I want to write.” “I want to be a freelance editorial writer.” Sometimes, I’d just lie and say something I didn’t even want to do. “I want to go into Research Neuroscience/Philosophy of Mind.” Just… something sufficiently academic or fancy-pants sounding so that it didn’t sound like I was wasting five years of my life on something that it was absurd to think would happen.
This evening, I was sitting outside my grocery store after a particularly grueling, under-staffed shift, when an older employee on his break came over and stood beside me (apparently some panhandler was bugging him at his usual spot :P). We got to talking, and he started telling me about his son, who just graduated in History and Philosophy this past May. “I was worried about how hard it would be for him to get a job with that,” he said, “But then I came to realizing… if you love what you do, really love it, chances are you’re going to be outstanding at it, if not at the top of your field. You’ll find a way.” He then turned to me, and asked quite simply, “What do you want to do?”
Maybe it was because it wasn’t prefaced with the usual “What are you going to school for/what is your degree in?” I usually get, but the answer just seemed to slip out as naturally as breathing.
“I want to write movies.”
Not “screenwrite.” Not “write editorially for magazines/websites,” nothing that had me desperately screaming “I CAN get a job with this, my dream is legitimate! You’ll see!!” in the undertones. I just said what I felt. I love writing. When I’m down, one of the few times that I feel happy again is when I’m writing something. Either here, or a book review for the Bookshelf, or something for The Rogues’ Gallery, or even something for class. I. Am. A writer. Not professionally, but the only thing separating me from that reality is the qualifier “yet.”
He just smiled. Not in the way that many older adults will with the “Oh, that’s nice. It’ll never happen, but that’s nice…” but just in this way that was entirely un-judgmental. We went on talking for a little bit, and I came to realize that regardless of the walks of life people tread in, there’s a lot of wisdom to be found in listening to those who have made the trek, whatever direction they’ve chosen. The very process of experiencing things, regardless of the actual content of the experience, is something that there is a lot to learn something from.
I walked away from that conversation feeling considerably lightened after such a hard day’s work. I’m sure the fruit and nut laden chocolate bar helped too, but what the heck.