The typewriter that started it all for me
I mentioned in my last post that I’m exploring the possibilities for a future that will be here sooner or later. Our youngest has started high school. We’ve already got two teenage daughters through high school (and lived to tell about it!), so I know how fast these next 4 years are going to fly.
Thinking about the empty nest possibilities in my own future makes me feel a little bit like I’m back in those high school freshman shoes. What do I want to be when I grow up?
The experts say to mine your past for future career ideas. What did you like to do when you were a little kid? We were laughing one night at our oldest daughter, as she sat on the couch writing lesson plans and putting together folders for the students in the summer reading program for which she worked as program coordinator. When she was little, she would spend hours teaching her imaginary classroom. She had stacks of folders and notebooks, each with a made-up student’s name on it. She would give an assignment, she and her younger sister would actually do the assignment for each kid, and then she’d jump back into teacher mode and correct the assignments. I’m not kidding when I say this went on for hours, for days on end. Next spring she’ll graduate with a degree in Child, Adult and Family Services and go on for her masters in School Guidance Counseling. Given how she spent her childhood playtime, I’d say she’s in the right field.
When I think back to my own childhood, the theme of “storytelling” comes to mind. I must have been 11 or 12 when I conscripted my younger brother (the joys of being the oldest sibling!) and my best friend to write a newspaper with me. We each wrote articles, and I typed them up on my grandma’s old typewriter. My grandparents had a friend named Tom to whom they’d sold a little piece of ground, across the road from their farm next to the river. He would camp there and he called the property “River Run Campground”. Tom loved to write poetry, and editorials in the Globe Gazette, so he was excited and supportive of my young interest in journalism. So much so that he purchased an ad in my “newspaper” for 50 cents. My interest in journalism only lasted that one summer, and that one edition of my newspaper. Probably because it took me all summer to get it “published”.
I loved my composition classes in high school, and my teachers always seemed pretty enthusiastic and supportive of my writing, even sending some of my work in for contests and publications (which I never won.) But I didn’t really think much of it. Teachers are paid to be enthusiastic and supportive of their students, right?
My freshman year of college I took a class called “History of American Music”. Anyone who knows me is not surprised that this was a class I thoroughly enjoyed. The professor was a fun, knowledgeable Jerry Garcia look-alike. Of course some of the assignments involved listening to various songs and artists, and these were the days long, long before iTunes. So I would go to the library, check out the assigned album (on vinyl!), and listen with the provided headphones and turntable in the library.
The culmination of the class was an assigned term paper on any subject of our choice, as long as it related to American music in some way. I chose to write about music censorship. This was 1989-1990, on the heels of the controversial Parent Music Resource Center successfully lobbying the RIAA to slap “Parental Advisory” stickers on album covers. The day the professor handed back our papers, he asked me to stay after class. Um, what? That had never happened before, I’d always been a model student, what in the world did I do?
What he wanted was to ask my permission to use my paper as an example to future classes on how to write a term paper for his class. He liked it. And what he said next I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I want you to take this paper over to the English department and show it to them. This is a really, really good paper. I know you’re a computer science major, but I think you need to be in the English department.”
Well, I was flattered, and I even walked over to the building where the English department was housed. But once I got there I chickened out. I mean, who was I supposed to talk to, exactly? He didn’t give me a name or a contact there. And what was I supposed to say? “Hey, here’s a paper my music professor seems to really dig.” Was I really going to change my major because of one person’s opinion about one paper?
Looking back, I don’t know that I wish I had followed through with it. I don’t feel regret about the situation. Curiosity, yes, but not regret. I’ve loved being a computer programmer. A big part of my identity is in being a “nerd”.
The older I get, after all the years I’ve spent in left-brain mode, the more intrigued I am by my right brain and what might be in it. I think this blog was born as much out of my desire to write as it was about marketing the farm business. But without a farm business to market, I’m left wondering if I even have a story to tell anymore? My life has been pretty vanilla. And I’m not complaining about that. I know a lot of people would gladly trade me their life for my plain vanilla life. But what kind of writer can I be without a story?
I believe that people are placed into your life at certain times, in certain places and contexts, for a reason. This year when a lifelong member of our church returned for his annual summer visit, I had the opportunity to sit down and catch up with him when we got together to collaborate on some music for a church service. After we updated each other on what our kids and spouses were up to, he looked at me and said, “What about you? Are you finding time for your art? Your photography and your writing are gifts. You can’t ever give that up.”
It was like a slap upside the head from the universe, another in a long line of breadcrumbs scattered on the trail of my life. I felt like he had been sent to deliver that message to me at a time when I most needed to hear it.
And then school started, and I got busy with football games and musical rehearsals, and here we are. But. And. I’m just going to keep plinking away at the keyboard when I can and throw stuff out there. Because you just never know what will happen.