She sits at the table in the tiny kitchen of the house she shares with her parents and two little brothers. Books and notebook paper, colored pencils and crayons clutter the table in a colorful array. “I am writing a book!” my 10 year old self declares. This is my first memory of wrapping the writer persona around me. I look back on that innocent 10 year old little girl and I simply love her. I love her ambition, her confidence, her belief that this is something that is do-able and all it needs is the doing.
It is 45 years later and I sit on my sunporch. My laptop and cup of tea in front of me. My little dog at my feet. It is quiet here and the clock ticking is the biggest sound. That book did not get completed. There were poems written by an angst-ridden high schooler, there were starts of songs written on scraps of music paper throughout college. There were journals. Several journals, (maybe a dozen?) chronicling the life and times of a young wife, mother, middle aged housewife trying to figure it all out.
Life took a different direction. Throughout high school I told myself I was going to be a writer. My friend Mary and I wrote poems and exchanged them. She was the better writer and that may have eaten away at my confidence a bit, but I still had a plan – I would go to college and enter a creative writing program. There I would figure out how to write that novel!
I chose journalism instead. I was trying to be practical. But back in 1981 that wasn’t very practical. The kind of journalism I wanted to do was the kind that you went away to New York or Chicago to do. I dreamed about it but I just wasn’t brave enough to leave my comfort zone. It seemed overwhelming. From what I remember, my intro to Journalism class seemed to focus on the business aspect of journalism. It seemed so cut throat. I just wanted to have the freedom to express myself! I should have been brave enough to stick it out. Maybe even just one more semester would have given me the confidence I needed to see it through. But….i didn’t. I looked at my class check sheet and it looked scary and I ran. I ran to the one thing I felt successful in in high school. I ran to the music building. I switched my major to Music Ed and delved into the world of choirs and sight singing and music history and voice lessons. My plans to write a book, an article, a story were placed on the shelf.
The decisions we make when we are a scared 18 year old put us down a path. Sometimes it is an unintended path, but seriously, there are so many paths! This writer became a musician instead. And it kind of makes sense. Both music and writing are creative pursuits. I was still honoring that creative self that was so important to me, it was just with the other love of my life…music!
I became a choir director. It was actually a pretty hard gig. Music done well can be a very demanding pursuit. You realize early on that perfection is a muse that can never be totally attained. I directed high school choirs, church choirs, community choirs and musicals. I started my career rather mediocre and ended it with what many said was a successful community children’s choir program. Its hard to believe that with my retirement a few months ago I am now at the other end of that journey.
Music is something that easily fits into retirement. There are always community groups that need the wisdom of a trained musician. I could fill my days with practice and my evenings with rehearsals, but my 10 year old self is calling out to me saying, “Remember when we were going to write that book?”
I read once that if you are trying to find out who you really are you have to look back on your childhood to see who you were before life started layering its influences and opinions on you. Back in the early 70s there was a little 10 year old girl filled to the brim with stories and the confidence to tell them. It’s time to look her up, spend some time with her and see what she can teach me.