People used to love to ask me: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
But then I turned 23 and they kind of stopped, I think, because they figured by 23 you’re supposed to be grown up – yeah right.
From age 18-21, I used to make up crazy answers. Like when my journalism professor, who sat me down during office hours and told me I needed to stop writing breaking news stories like I was writing a love sonnet, asked me what my future “game” plan was, I told him without hesitation that I thought it would be rad to be the person who dressed the mannequins at Forever 21.
But then I graduated and needed to find a job and I needed a place to live and I needed to find a way to pay for all the pizza I was consuming.
The truth is we all know exactly what we want to be when we grow up. We are just scared out of our minds to admit it.
I tend to do this thing, when silence bestows a conversation, where I ask people to tell me what their dream job is. Except I make them do it in under 2 seconds. I refuse to give them time to think. I ask them to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. And they do. And I find myself sitting across from a person who, for the first time, said exactly what they wanted out loud.
More people should play this game. More people would train themselves to be honest when people ask them questions as important as that one.
Sometimes we need a person to shake the truth out of us. To rile us up a little. Or if we are lucky – to show us how it’s done.
For me, that happened when I was a junior in college taking a Women in Literature class. Not by choice. I needed an elective to finish off my creative writing major and I had a choice between that class or taking Shakespeare (and I already had a way with sonnets that was getting shot down by the journalism department).
That’s when I met Lorrie Moore. I was assigned to read and study her book, Self Help.
Studying Lorrie and her book woke me up inside. It was as if this alarm clock was going off in my head for years but I tuned it off – until one day someone snuck into my life and poured a bucket of ice water on top of my head. There was something attractive about her writing that made me wish, at the time, that I could write with such power and beauty. That made me begin trying.
When I met Lorrie Last night, like everyone else there, I wanted to thank her. But not because her stories changed my life or made me feel a certain way – they did, of course, but I didn’t want to bore her with the mundane. I thanked her because she gave me the courage to slowly admit, out loud, my wild dream of becoming a writer.
Your dream job won’t be easy. This whole writing gig gives me bouts of acid reflux. I wake up in nervous sweats, sometimes. I spend a lot of time writing, in coffee shops, and I always smell like French roast.
Everything in this world that we love will bring us some form of chaos. Show me a boyfriend and a girlfriend, who love each other, in a flawless relationship. Then show me a unicorn. Then show me a billion dollars. Try to show me whatever you want. But until then, I’ll show you the truth. And the truth is, if you’re not waking up in the morning working toward your dream career, someone else is instead.
And that should be all the conviction you need to find them. Shake their hand. And walk away knowing that you can do what they are doing, also.
You just need to start.
It was nice to finally shake your hand, Lorrie. Thank you for everything.