When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I rattled off a list that would make a feminist mother cringe. I aspired to be a beauty queen, a ballerina, an actress, and a mermaid.
The last choice was odd, because I am afraid of fish.
I learned this week that I’m also terrified of something else: finding something I want to do and running with it.
At the same time I was planning my career path to fairy-princessdom, my favorite thing to do was to “learn cursive,” which entailed watching my mother write and scribbling over her words when she was finished.
When I was 7, I asked for my first journal and began filling it up. By the time I made it to high school, I wrote nonstop. But if anyone had asked, I would have told them I wanted to be a botanist or study genetics.
I continued to ignore the signs that I could become a writer — the scholarship to Interlochen Arts Academy, the poetry award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts — and insisted on pursuing the psychology-neuroscience-philosophy program at college.
I didn’t do badly there, but found philosophy pretty boring. In my spare time, I kept writing and studying language, working for hours on my own translations of Charles Baudelaire’s poems for fun (I was not your typical college student).
Even when I switched my major to comparative literature, I never thought I could earn a living writing.
At some point, I had picked up the idea that doing what you love could never make you any money. In fact, there is still a part of my brain that doesn’t accept the idea of being paid to do what I’ve always done: look into things and write about them.
In that way, I’m the exact opposite of singer Dustin Lynch, who found his dream and followed it. I admire those people, like him, who know what they want and set out to get it, precisely because I’m not one of them. At least, I’m not yet.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.