Big thanks and hugs to the magical Amy Zhang for making this post and then giving me permission to post something similar.
What would your life be like if you hadn’t started writing?
Olivia is a tallish blondeish sophomore who falls under that stiff category of ‘smart’ that folks like to apply to people who get A’s in hard classes and talk about things other than Facebook and who’s dating who. She does well in her classes, better than most, but she isn’t a genius like that crazy girl in her AP Psych class who took AP Calc in her freshman year and got a 5 on the exam. She does great in math but hates it, great in Biology but not so hot in Chemistry, great in History but doesn’t like the teaching style, and her favorite is English. English is always the class she loves, because she feels like it is the one class where her opinion matters. In math, when she asks why, they tell her “Because.” In Chemistry, when she says she didn’t choose answer B. because even though that was the answer she got, it didn’t feel right, they laugh at her. In History, her thoughts about current events don’t really matter so much as The All Important 8 Characteristics of Civilizations and Who Chopped off Who’s Head In The French Revolution. In English, it all matters. She gets to do really fun stuff like write papers about what the green light in The Great Gatsby means and talk about the Latin roots of vocabulary. She secretly wishes she could have a career in English, but those jobs are capital N Not Secure and therefore Not A Good Idea. She figures she’ll be a doctor when she is older. She liked Biology so much after all,so it seems to fit. Olivia volunteers at the hospital so she’s used to the way it feels, the urgency everyone has. She even has the I-Have-People’s-Lives-To-Save-So-Get-The-Bleep-Out-Of-My-Way walk down. Sometimes she gets a little sad and feels like there is something more to life that she’s missing, something different that she could be, that she should be, that no one has told her about. Sometimes she wakes up at 4 AM having had a crazy, vivid dream about 20 foot insects who had a food fight while hovering over Paris and feels like she should do something about it. Even though she’s not quite sure what she could do with a story like that, she has a feeling that as crazy as these dreams are, no one in the world has ever had the same dreams, and that is amazing
She also has terrific nightmares where she wakes up panting and sweating and crying. Nightmares of sitting all alone in a big house, with lots of money but no happiness. Nightmares of being 25 and in her very first Gross Anatomy class and realizing, wait a second, I can’t cut into an actual person, why the heck am I training to be a doctor? She is deathly afraid of not succeeding, and equally afraid of being unhappy.
If I never started writing, that fear of not succeeding would probably still be outweighing my fear of not being happy. If I never started writing, I think there would forever be a part of me missing, a hole in my heart. It scares me how close I came to never writing.
The Olivia I am today is still a tallish, blondish sophomore who falls under the category of ‘smart.’ She still does well in her classes and will probably go to a good college and have a nice, secure job/life in a few years. But she is so, so different, so fundamentally not-the-same as the other Olivia. She is HAPPY instead of distant and insecure. (okay, maybe still a little distant and insecure. but who isn’t, really?) She loves the part of her that made her want to challenge the norm and think differently from other people seem to. She writes down the ideas she has and harbors big hopes for them.
If she hadn’t started writing, she would have smiled vaguely and answered ‘Doctor.’ when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now, she replies ‘Author’ and if they say “Don’t worry, you’re only a sophomore in high school, you don’t have to know yet.” she replies that she does know already, thank you very much, and nothing they can say will change it.