I can’t remember when I decided that I wanted to be a writer more than I wanted anything else in life. It must have been really early on, way before the complicated choices in life had to be made. I know this because I remember precisely when I had to make my first very complicated decision regarding my future and my writing. I was in third form (for the Americans that is around 9th grade) and had to decide what I wanted to do when I got out of school. This came in the form of trying to figure out what I degree I wanted to get in University. The main thing factoring into that decision was the knowledge that eventually I’d have bills to pay. We weren’t all going to be like JK Rowling, John Grisham, Neil Gaiham or James Patterson.
I protested that I didn’t want to be like JK Rowling. Making billions of dollars off of my writing would be nice but let’s admit it… writer’s do not strive for that. We are in love with the craft. We are addicted to the craft. We’d do it without being paid. At the age of thirteen I decided that the struggling writer image might not work very well with me. It was time to find a career path that would feed me.
One of my favourite poems by Thomas Hardy is called ‘Dead Man Walking’. It was written in his old age as he looked back at how he was just a shell of the man he was as a child and how he lost bits of himself as he lived. One of the lines states: “… when I practiced eyeing. The goal of men,. It iced me, and I perished. A little then…” I think that aptly describes the way I felt when my thirteen year old self decided that I needed to put writing on the back burner, relegate it to a ‘hobby’ in the pursuit of a better and more stable life. I think, like Hardy, I lost a little bit of myself then.
I continued my search for the appropriate career choice. I went through Forensic Pathology (hated Chemistry), Medicine (refer to previous) and Psychology (too emotional and it required a semester of statistics) and settled on Law. I figured in that moment that arguing was my second favourite thing in the world and because I loved to read catching up on case law couldn’t be so bad (boy was I wrong).
I started by Bachelors of Law in 2008 and the following three years were a struggle in every sense of the word. It wasn’t that I wasn’t making the grades because I ended up doing really well but my heart was somewhere else. I spent most of Contract II writing Poetry and just about all of Caribbean Integration Law (when I showed up to class) reading something that was not the notes or the slides. I often compared the way I felt during those years to a woman who abandoned her poor love for a man who was richer and more stable but whom she could barely tolerate. Shessh. I could completely relate to how Isolde felt in Tristan and Isolde.
I went through many phases of wanting to drop out and enroll in a Literature of Arts degree but my mother stealthily (or maybe I was just clueless) managed to trick me into staying in the program by promising me that if I still hated it at the end of the next year I could quit the following year. By the time I caught myself it was my last year and too much money and time had been spent to just quit.
Things are a bit different now. I’ve managed to move from a mere tolerance of the rich, stable man I chose to a true affection. However, the passion and love for that poor rich suitor rages within me. In most of the last two years I’ve decided that I can have my cake and eat it too or I’d be damned while trying.
I’ve learnt an important lesson from all of this. Dreams are hard to chase. They are slippery, fast and can hide in some pretty tight places. It’s like trying to catch a butterfly that flutters off every time you were close enough to hold it. It is up to us to determine how much and what we are willing to do to fulfill them. My answer is short and unequivocal: everything!