Letter 16: Yes, but what do YOU want to be?

13 Sep

Dear me at 18:

Your Mom really, really wanted you to be a doctor.

Like, really badly.

Your Dad is a doctor, so he probably would have gotten a kick out of it too. Although he’s such an easy-going dude, he’d probably be alright if you became a trapeze artist or a mime.

You struggled with this doctor issue. You liked the idea of taking care of people all day. Making people healthy. Keeping people healthy. But the idea of spending ten more years in school made you want to poke your eyes out with a fork. And the fact that you had just gotten 19 percent in Grade 12 math wasn’t helping you either.

So there you stood. What to do?

You started to explore other “MD-like” options. Like psychology. What if you got your masters and did some counselling? Slightly less schooling… Still would make Mom happy… So yes, that must be it. Yes, let’s do that.

You felt like you could breathe a little sigh of relief. Your life path had finally been established. Now all you needed to do was stay the course.

But then something funny happened. You took a creative writing course in your final semester of high school and you really, really liked it. You liked it so much that you left with a 94% grade. On the last day, your teacher inquired about your post secondary plans, and essentially told you “F*#$ psychology. You need to write.”


“Thanks a lot, a-hole. Way to ruin my life path,” you thought to yourself.

You shoved this comment to the bottom of your soul and kept moving forward. You told people you were excited to become a psych. major and you almost believed it.

But try as you might, your teacher’s words kept bubbling to the surface. Become a writer? A what? Do people actually get paid for that?

The answer is yes. And no.

Some people get paid to write. They are a very lucky, very small group. It’s a very competitive industry. The ones who thrive have to be very keen, very driven, and very talented.

But you, you are none of these things, right? You are a psychology major. You like writing, and you may have a talent, but certainly you could not make a career out of it.

You were again at a crossroads. And again you decided to take the middle ground. Instead of transferring to the Creative Writing or Journalism program, you decided to major in English.

You will spend years reading other great writers’ work. You will fall in love with every word. And your little heart will leap every time you are handed a creative writing assignment.

Here is the thing: You are making a big mistake.

You have found what you love to do, and instead of just doing it, you are allowing your fear of failure and concern over other people’s opinions to guide you.

Yes, it’s tough to make a living as a writer. For each project won, there would always be one hundred other writers nipping at your heels to take your place at the next. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote about a similar industry, it’s “a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

So maybe it’s a tough nut to crack. Maybe you’re not driven enough. Maybe you’re not keen enough. Maybe you’re not talented enough.

But maybe you are.

And then what?

In nearly 10 years time, you will be writing this letter while your beautiful baby sleeps. This rare “sleeping baby” event will have given you some time to rediscover your passion for the written word. And you will once again sit at the crossroads, again wondering whether to take the dive and follow your dream.

So I guess I’m talking to both of us here, when I say: “Just do it, already.”

Just take the leap. It might be scary. It might be tough, but who knows where it might take you? You are a smart cookie, and if you put your mind to this, you can absolutely do it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go upstairs to see about the stirring baby. I’m busy teaching her to read, you know, so that someday this blog might have a little more traffic.

11 Responses to “Letter 16: Yes, but what do YOU want to be?”

  1. briannagoldberg September 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    Most awesome. Most awesome!

  2. Sugar Mama October 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Loved this post, I can DEFINITELY relate! I really had to kick myself in the pants this past year to, as you said, “just do it already!”. Thanks for inspiring us all to take the leap!

    • thehindsightletters October 10, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

      Thank you! Isn’t it funny what a struggle it is to follow a dream? Shouldn’t following your dream be the fun part? Glad you liked the post- and congratulations on following yours!


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